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Culture Shock in Taiwan

July 3, 2015

I shouldn’t have any shock, I am from Singapore, and I was here in 1986.  But that was so long ago, maybe it is natural I get a shock.

Coming out of the airport, there was a Mr. Li who came to pick us up.  After loading the luggages into the back of the car, I walked to the driver side wanting to get in.

不,你不能開車

I think that was what he said.

“I am sorry, I thought that was the passenger side.  i came from Indonesia/Singapore, I forgot the Taiwanese drove on the other side.”

That would be my first shock.

This is after all one of Asia’s Four Economic Tigers (四小龍).  But upon my friend’s reminding that “Singapore surged past Taiwan while I was asleep in the last 30 years”, I started to realize how much this place resembled Johor Bahru or KL.  Yes, Malaysia has always mentioned that they should be the Fifth Asian Economic Dragon (亞洲”第五”小龍).  That explained why everything here appear so cheap to me.   We must really have surged past Taiwan economically.  I do not mind this kind of shock.  With this, I had a very decent dinner (四菜一饭加两个三) for only NT$100.  ( ~S$4.45).

I knew Taiwanese likes to put a character or two of Japanese hiragana.  Like の in replacement of “之”, and “押してください” on every glass door that will open when you “press” the front button.  But I wasn’t surprised most Taiwanese speaks little or no Japanese.  That ‘s why BIG huge sign on “學美語, 學日語” appeared everywhere especially near to 東門 MRT station.  They were ruled by the Japanese since 1895 for more than 50 years, but still few people speak that language.  TAIWAN has huge political influence from America   (蔡英文 their most promising presidential candidate went to America to make connection with the US. The Soong sisters, one of them married Chang Kaishek, were all born and brought up in America) and still few people speak English.  The place is not even English friendly, far from Hong Kong or Macau who are Chinese cities but at least tourist  (I mean English) friendly.

Taiwanese are very polite.  I never thought they will be more polite than the Thai or the HKers but they are.  Nobody sits on the priority seats in the MRT.  Until they are really sure no handicap or old person is needing it for a few stops then would they gingerly sit down on those DARK BLUE seats.  They stand in line for everything and never cut in front of you in the MRT when taking the escalators.  And they automatically stand on the right side so people in a hurry can take the left side.  In my mind, I would never imagine them more well behaved than Singaporeans.  (But Singapore situation in the SMRT is getting worse, there is no more courtesy to mention about them.)  Also nobody seem to be at the entrance to blockyou whenyou want to gt out.

The MRT has two things Singaporeans can learn besides their being considerate and orderly.  Their MRT toilets are really clean, almost as clean as those of the main National Library.  They provide charging stations for phones at every MRT station.  And they refund the tourist the money on store-value MRT cards if requested (actually you can do that on machines too).  That’s actually 3 things, not 2.

Taiwanese are very friendly people.  And extremely trustworthy.  Once someone asked what dialect I am using when he overheard my conversation with my wife/daughter in English.  I explained to him that we were using English and not any dialect, and he immediately chalk up a conversation with me.  And then I peppered my Mandarin with a little Taiwanese and his eyes lighted up and continued on more friendly talk with me in more Taiwanese then Mandarin.  This later happened again in Shulin(树林) and also in Hualien(花莲). —- 有可能是我用台语,他们马上感到比较亲戚哟!

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