Throwback to May 2018
Picture this; last May, Salford University Library, exhausted; half flicking through my University emails, half trying to plough and few chapters of ‘How Nokia Failed to Nail the Smartphone Market’, slurping away at my iced-Americano, (probably moaning at how much of a joke my commute home is), and seconds away from closing my laptop until…
I receive an email reminder, notifying me about the Post-graduate Careers Fair at 4pm. It was now 3:45pm…..hmm…I’ll pass.
….15 minutes later (after a dramatic/ thorough episode of contemplation, I kid you not) I find myself stood in front of a stall; 2 big Chinese banners either side, speaking to Rosey, representative of Intern China, telling me about their Scholarship program.
Fast forward 7 months; in Taiwan, sat in a restaurant, 3 unfamiliar dishes in front of me; confused, curious, half attempting to eat with chopsticks, half contemplating whether I should ask for a spoon; definitely dropping food down me whilst I’m at it; thinking to myself, ‘what’s ‘spoon’ in Mandarin?’
Fast forward to day 7, now having learned the word ‘spoon’ in Mandarin, ‘Sháo’, I can safely say that I have learned a great deal since my arrival; such as downloading the Google Translate APP to avoid situations such as the above.
So.. to the point; here are a few things that I’ve learned since being here. Some culture shocks, some useful tips for anyone who intends to visit (or just curious).
Taiwan Culture Shock #1
It’s illegal to cross the road without the green man
… and didn’t I just show myself up at the first chance. ‘Breaking the law’ so to say within 10 seconds of setting as much as a foot in Taiwan. Having departed from India 24 hours before where the traffic system is pretty much a ‘free man for all’ / run and hope’ situation, Taiwan was possibly one of the worst follow-on destinations as far as complying with foreign traffic systems go.
Taiwan Culture Shock #2
Pedestrian Crossings are not as danger-free as you would hope
The green man for you is also a green light for the car to the left/ right of you; don’t cross the cross with your head in the clouds/ to your phone in that case. I’m trying to get my head around Taiwan’s traffic system and I can’t for the life of me understand the logistics behind it, but hey, I’m just gonna keep my side-vision game strong.
Taiwan Culture Shock #3
7 Eleven and Family Mart are everywhere.. I mean EVERYWHERE
A disease you could say, but I’d go further. I mean if I walk out of my apartment, I see a Family Mart, If I look right, I will see a Family Mart. I’m sure if I turn right again, I wait I just did, and there’s a Family Mart. What’s more… both 7 Eleven / Family Mart sell/ offer just about everything; you want a coffee? 7 Eleven; you need to post something? 7 Eleven; you need to nap? 7 Eleven; need a prescription? 7 Eleven. The ultimate, hybrid and most geographically reliable ‘convenience stores’ you’ll ever come across. The upstairs closes pretty early too and I’m sure its to stop people from mistaking them for Air BnB’s.
Taiwan Culture Shock #4
Drinking alcohol in the street is perfectly legal
Tourists are easily recognisable; identified by the ratio of beer bottles to the number of people in a group (usually walking with a smug look on their face too- myself include.) The excitement of doing something so unlawful and deemed really quite distasteful makes it too much of an experience to miss. Oh wait, 7 Eleven even top the lid off for you.
Taiwan Culture Shock #5
Don’t be shocked if someone burps when speaking to you.
Day 2 -‘Hello, nice to meet (burp) you Charlotte.’ Me *Awkwardly smiling* ‘Nice to meet you too’ (Ok, I’ll just pretend that didn’t happen and remind myself that this is going to be perfectly acceptable and even in some situations polite for the next few months.)
Taiwan Culture Shock #6
Expect non-western toilets
No surprise, non- western toilets come with the not so pleasant challenge of ‘doing things differently’, making toilet experiences a new ball game. Your squat game will become suddenly somewhat stronger and your tolerance to no toilet roll situations will become second to none. Advice: carry toilet roll with you just in case.
Taiwan Culture Shock #7
Everything is cute
From Hello Kitty wine bottles, teddy bear stickers on garage windows, to larger than life teddies laying around convenience stores. Don’t be shocked if you see Minnie Mouse on a pack of condoms.
Useful things to know
Taiwanese people are very friendly
Excuse the cliché (and the generalization) but Taiwanese people are THE NICEST people I’ve ever met. Having traveled Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam earlier this year, I feel I have something to back this statement up with. From helping me out with directions, offering to carry my suitcase, to really going out of their way to help me in whatever scenario, Taiwanese people are up there in my list of friendliest countries.
Currency –Taiwanese Dollars : GBP = 40:1
You’ll know your 4 times table in no time.
Branded stores are Expensive
Quality clothing aka branded items are heavily taxed and therefore expensive. I was caught out straight away after carelessly buying a packet of cotton underwear from H&M for 350 NT (around £8). It doesn’t sound like much but considering the cost of living in Taiwan, it’s on the upper end. Tourists usually resort to buying lower quality clothing from the local shops or buying online.
Local food is cheap
Taipei is full of night markets restaurants in various parts of the city, offering cheap and ‘go-to’ food. The food is typically fried and you frequently experience a wiff of ‘smelly tofu’ as you walk around.
There are also many restaurants tucked away in side streets along with fresh fruit stalls which are relatively cheap in price. I especially love the ‘buffet culture’; my most common meal is a rice box with fresh vegetables that I hand-pick myself. A normal lunch time meal (locally sourced) costs me around 60-100 NT (£2-2.50) although sometimes, I’ve come away with a bad stomach, so take care.
Taiwan is actually renowned for its food, and it actually considered a hub for ‘Foodies,’ bringing food fanatics from all over to try everything out. Dumplings, or ‘Xialongbao’ , beef noodles and bubble tea are all very popular and if you type in ‘Taiwan Foodies’ on Google, you’ll see why people go nuts for the food here. (Lol that pun was not intended but quite effective.)
Here’s a few pictures of what I’ve been eating.
So there you have it. Quite different from the UK and a fair bit of readjustment to go I’d say.
Thanks for reading – Plenty more to come.