Although I was born in Taiwan, I have Western mindset because I was raised in America. Inevitably, even with a bi-cultural background, I still experience a lot of cultural shocks and encountered a lot of interesting things about Taiwan.
Culture Shock can range from light to severe because it's something unfamiliar from a person's knowledge and experience. The more you are 'shocked', the less likely you'll freak out about every little thing, it's a powerful therapy that'll help distract you out of your misery and could be potentially addictive.
The thing about traveling is that you get to learn different cultures and see how history has brought so much influence on everything. It wasn't until several years ago, I finally revisited Taiwan and learn about their culture.
Taiwan has been rated as one of the desired travel destinations for Asia in Trip Advisor.
Just what makes Taiwan one of the traveler's favorites?
How is it different from other Asian countries?
Here I show you 11 interesting things about Taiwan foreigners rarely know.
Taiwanese People Is 'Interesting' In Their Own Ways
In general, Taiwanese are passionate friendly people.
Throughout the years, Taiwan has grown in population with foreigners all over the world.
Many younger Taiwanese generation traveled abroad and has been influenced with new novelties from other countries.
Young families seek convenience, name brand stuff, electronic gadgets, luxury living, travel or live abroad and fun.
Wealthier parents make sure their kids has whatever other kids have or even better and never have to worry about money. They would tell their kids there's no need to work they'll provide them things they need.
Radio talk show has been discussing this phenomenon as Ma-Bao (媽寶), which is usually referring to guys.
It's a fairly new term, literally translated as "mother's precious".
Diyeh-Bao (爹寶) is another term used but not as common. It means "father's precious".
Not hard to guess their meaning, but the extend these parents spoil their kids is so...interesting.
A Taiwanese friend of mine told me, one day at work there was an orientation for the new hires.
This mother came in with her adult kid, chaperon him to his company orientation to make sure he understand and that nothing is wrong.
Let me repeat that, a mother came in with her son, attended company orientation together. Interesting eh?
Another incident was reported on the talk show by the host.
A new college grad just moved in the college dorm, her mother asked the teacher, "Teacher, who will be cleaning my daughter's room now that she lives in the dorm? Who will celebrate her birthday with her?"
In a way, it's kind of like the Fuerdai, which is the filthy rich 2nd generation Chinese kids, but I think Fuerdai is drowned with money more than parental attention.
So yeah...people are definitely interested in Taiwan.
Local Taiwanese whom never left the country are very friendly and passionate too.
Some of them have their special way of expressing humor and just very...Taiwanese.
Taik would be the term for these people.
Huh? Taiwanese too Taiwanese?? What the hell does that mean?
Years ago, it would've been a negative view used to describe someone as Taik. It means that this particular type of people act, think and talk like a native Taiwanese who portrays themselves in a way that's hippie, rough, improper, vulgar...Taiwanese redneck if you will; like a southern countryside farmer who chews tobacco, spit out sputum and cuss loudly in thick Southern accent (a little extreme but you get the point). However, the other way to look at it, Taik is just simply someone who acts in a very Taiwanese way. Like, 'only in Taiwan will people do this'.
Like these Taiwanese construction workers taking a nap on the side of the road.
Apparently power nap is very important in Taiwan, I like that:)
Modern days, it has been acknowledged as the characteristics of Taiwan. They made Taiwan unique and the whole country a very interesting place.
Never Get Bored Pleasure Island
Taiwan is the country version of Pleasure Island.
Whether you want indoor activity, outdoor activity, art, music, wild, calm, ancient, modern, river, mountain, sea, eat, drink, sightsee, fishing or even indoor shrimping, this Pleasure Island has got it all. Yes you heard me, indoor shrimping is a thing.
Also, there are lots of 24-hour hangout places.
Nightlife includes a surplus of Karaoke, lounge, bars, night markets, arcade and more.
It's hard to get bored here.
※ Warning: Once arrived, you'll probably never want to leave.
You've been warned.
All In One Package Nature Wonders
High Tech Hospital, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Taiwanese Priest To The Rescue
Taiwan's hospital is very high tech, has great service and can solve a lot of health problems.
Taiwan's Chinese herbal medicine is quite advance too.
Instead of the traditional way where the Chinese Doctors give you batches of dehydrated ingredients to boil into black bitter soup, they now come in powder form, packaged in a way that's easy to ingest or simply blend with water.
Aside from modern hospitals and Chinese Doctors, Taiwan also have priests that can do rituals to cure you, rid of the evils, sanitize your body and perform science-could-not-explain-things to make you better.
Fantastic Service Everywhere
Taiwan's service quality is something noteworthy and interesting.
Most customer services are incredibly polite.
I bought a soy milk from 7-Eleven, the clerk asks me if I'd like to have it heat up.
I said yes, please.
He then asked me, "Would you like it lukewarm or hot?"
Then, he heats the drink up for me in the temperature I approved, hands the drink and napkin to me with both hands, bow to me and said "It's warm now, please be careful don't spill it. Thank you for your purchase, please enjoy."
All that for a $28 NTD (.86 cents) soy milk. I was about to tear up with gratefulness.
If you go to the mall in the morning when they open, the customer service rep will line up on both side and bow to you as you walk in, greet you with a warm "Welcome and thank you for shopping with us.". Also, They gift wrap anything you buy for free.
In the mall they have elevator assistant (it's a real job) that will bow to you as you enter the elevator, thank you for using the elevator, navigate the elevator for you to whichever floor you desire and thank you after you exit.
Almost anywhere you go, people are just super friendly and nice.
Even though it's their job, their attitude is really amiable, making the experience truly pleasurable.
(Japan too, I'll praise their above-and-beyond-service next time)
Spoiled By Convenience
This island has lots of convenient services that spoils everyone.
★ You can buy almost any Japanese, Korean, American, European goods or foods here.
The only thing that's scarce, or I have yet to discover, is hummus and falafel.
But that's okay, to travel is to submerge into the culture and eat like locals, local fresh produce and vegetables are also favorable for me.
★ Their delivery and shipping time is super quick and convenient.
If you order something online today, most likely it'll be delivered next day.
★ Carrefour supermarket at certain area offers their private mini bus that gives you ride to their supermarket for free.
★ Transportation is convenient.
High-speed rails, cabs, buses, scooters, flights, rental bicycles, some areas even have ferries...all conveniently available. You can use an app to get a taxi. You can borrow bike easily with a credit card. You can use your phone to buy high-speed rail tickets and scan the QR code at the gate, no tickets required.
★ To simply a lot of things, all you need is one single card called I-pass. It's a smart card that serves as a debit card, but no bank account attach to it. This system helps reduce counterfeit money, lower bank operation cost and saves time.
You can deposit money on the card in different locations and pay with it wherever they accept the card.
So far, lots of restaurants, convenience store, supermarkets, cinema, theme park, malls, gas station and all public transportation allows you to use Ipass all over Taiwan. You can even borrow books from the library with it too.
I can do my morning jog in style and buy breakfast in convenience store afterward, thanks to this card.
No more clunky wallet. Hallelujah!
★ At Family Mart convenience store, you can convert your Bitcoins to cash certificate and use it for purchase.
★ If you bought something over a certain amount at the mall, they will deliver your purchase to your house, for free.
Taiwanese culture doesn't normally tip. Restaurants will usually include 10~15% service fee in the bills, however, the waiter or waitress still don't get tips. Nevertheless, they still give fantastic service that'll make you think about tipping system in other countries.
★ You can buy and sell used books using this Taiwanese website called TAAZE.
All you need to do is send in your old books with the flat shipping fee, they'll sell the books for you and deposit the money to your account when the books are sold. You don't even need to take pictures or anything, just select the price you wish to sell.
It's like early days of US Amazon.com, in Taiwan version. Insanely convenient.
★ There is a special barcode on every receipt from the store when you purchase items. These barcodes are a free lottery that can win you anywhere from 200 NTD 10,000,000 NTD ($6~$305,847 USD). You don't even have to spend money out-of-pocket to purchase lottery, you just purchase goods as usual and spend some time to go over these numbers periodically when they announce the winning numbers. This is the most incredible thing about Taiwan I couldn't find anywhere else.
Tons of coupon where the arrows are pointed.
Convenience Stores Symbolize Civilization
Adding on to the convenience topic. Taiwan's convenience store has earned its reputation for convenience.
Not only the service clerk is super friendly and helpful, the store is equipped with almost everything you need.
If 7-Eleven opens up somewhere, the real estate around that area will go up, that's how valuable they are.
With its multi-functional kiosk, You can buy tickets for domestic airline/high-speed rail/concerts/events/bus.
You can print, copy, fax documents, pay bills, withdraw money, buy warm/cold food, fruits, receive or mail out domestic packages, use their WI-Fi and so much more. I need to write a post on just what you can do in Taiwanese convenience store. They are the pride of Taiwan and represents civilization.
Food Culture Is No Joke
From street food to upscale restaurant, Taiwan's food industry is competitive and fierce.
Creative or traditional, foreign or local, Taiwan got cuisines from any country you can think of.
Taiwanese are very creative and can innovate new types of food that'll give your taste buds a whole new different level of extraordinary devouring experience.
Taiwanese baker Chen Yung-hsin uniquely created Bull Demon King masterpiece that won him and his team the biennial World of Bread (World Pastry Cup) in France.
Taiwan is the birthplace for one of the best Xiao Long Bao (pork buns) in the world.
The most famous one is Din Tai Fung.
They are famous for their thin, chewy skin Xiao Long Bao that wraps soup inside so when you bite into it, the tenderness of the pork and the soup greets your taste buds with nutritious broth taste; you'll feel the juicy tender texture from the skin and the pork meat melts in your mouth after few flavorful masticating.
Cuteness Overload Is Not A Crime
In Western culture, cuteness would be considered 'immature', 'naive', 'too girly', 'child-like', 'kidstuff', 'premature'.
Rarely do you see American adults of any kind will use Hello Kitty notebook or Rilakkuma stationary.
Remember, how you perceive an object, place, idea or people is from your own perspective, which is driven by your background, knowledge, belief, personal value and what you've been taught. To some people, certain things are desirable, to others, not so much. As for Taiwanese, cuteness overload is not a crime.
Isn't it interesting how our perception towards cuteness has been altered by the society?
I once asked a friend if he is interested in going to Disney World, to which he responded, "Isn't that for kids?"
Kids know nothing up until parents stuff them with things they assume kids will like.
Yes, I'm aware kids are more stimulated by colors and sounds, but so are the adults.
All the products are created by adults, if they don't have kid's perspective to look at things, how would they be able to sell?
Growing up doesn't mean you can't enjoy the same things kids enjoy.
Play is the key to success, learn the wisdom.
Go listen to Freakanomic's Radio podcast on "Think Like A Child"
Life is short, why ・ so ・ serious?
Put your hands in the air and party like a rock star:)
A Lot of Beautiful Ladies and Cute girls
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The standard varies in different countries, people and social norms.
To me, beauty is not just the appearance, being smart & confident is a big part of being beautiful.
In general, beauty characteristics for Taiwanese is: very skinny, small face with pointy-chin, good size boobs, long legs, beautiful long hair, luminescence pale white skin, large manga-alike eyes, acts cute and have very sweet demeanor.
Beautiful girls and cute ladies are everywhere.
Asian girls have their way to reverse aging it is truly remarkable.
Some Asian girls age so well they don't appear like their age, sometimes 5 or 10 years younger than their actual age.
The girls in Taipei are very fashionable, girls in Kaohsiung are more laid back.
Taiwan copies a lot of fashion from Japan and Korea, rarely do I get to observe what "Taiwan fashion" is.
Taiwanese girls know their assets for sure.
It could be the culture norm, where the men are working hard and about outside and women is an indoor precious doll.
Women devote a lot of their time to look beautiful, have the perfect skin, perfect body, beautiful hair and most likely to be a beautiful housewife or mother for their future. (That concept has been taught worldwide, embedded in all womanhood)
Of course, not all Taiwanese girls will just focus on being beautiful.
A lot of Taiwanese women are extremely smart. They invest in themselves by taking classes, travel abroad, connect to foreigners and actively improving themselves.
Tradition Lives On, No Questions Asked
Taiwan definitely holds on to its tradition very well.
Many times during my visit, I often encounter some of the weirdest rituals that are just...so interesting to me.
It's too interesting I had to share it with you.
Before construction, they will hire a priest to "cleanse" the property from any devils, lost souls or spirits.
They will have very loud music parades with techno Taiwanese songs.
They will do a speech, prayers to the local Gods, prayers to the other Gods, prayers to the ancestors, do acrobats, do Chinese lion dance, entertain the investors and I don't know what else for a whole day or two, then they'll start the construction. Some interesting stuff.
Certain time of the month or special holidays, Taiwanese burn paper money to honor the Gods, the dead, the ancestors or all of them.
There are still a lot of business and households that follow this norm. The ritual usually involves a group of people who prepares a bunch of dishes, fruits, paper money and snacks on a table. They'll prepare a burner, lit it with fire, lay out all the goodies and start the ritual with everyone praying with incense and bow to the sky.
All these interesting things about Taiwan are pretty rare and known mostly to the locals.
And just like anywhere in the world, it also has its 'dark' side, which, I shall share next time.
If you want to learn more about Taiwan, you can buy this comprehensive guide I made from after living in there for quite some time. It has all the interesting stuff along with tips, tools, and best recommendations so you can check out this interesting country yourself.