Culture Shock in Taipei, Taiwan

When traveling the globe there are things that may cause you to ask yourself this question “Why do other people live this way?”  In Taiwan, I encountered some culture shocks that caused me to do some double takes.  Here are some of the cultural differences that caused me to look twice

  1. Some people in Taiwan wear surgical masks on a daily basis.  I asked why this was so and apparently ever since the SARS epidemic people will wear them to prevent catching anything.  The Taiwanese are germaphobes to the extreme.  Even though some people wear the surgical mask, it may not be helping them as much as they think because many do not wearing the mask correctly.  A good chunk of people wear them under their noses instead of over, completely defeating the purpose of a mask.
  2. If you speak United States english you may be offered a job.  I visited a cousin that was teaching in Taipei and while I was in her classroom I was offered a teaching job.  Who knows if they were being serious, but it made my day anyway.
  3. If you’re a tourist, you can look forward to STAMPS!  🙂  Stamps are a unique thing in Taiwan.  You can find them at a lot of different landmarks for FREE!  Just make sure to take the time to look for them and you will have some free and fun souvenirs to bring home.  Don’t forget to bring some paper.
  4. If you are visiting a tourist spot and people rudely budge in front of you in the line, they are a part of the mainland Chinese population and not Taiwanese people.  They are rude and pushy and will cut right in front of you.  My cousin had to physically push them away from the bathroom stall and pull me in so we could use it otherwise I would have been in the same spot in line all day.
  5. Speaking of bathrooms, they don’t give you toilet paper in Taiwan.  You have to bring it yourself and you’re not suppose to throw the toilet paper in the toilet once you’ve used it.  You’re suppose to throw it in the trashcan next to the toilet.  This is especially true if you visit some of the locals at their house, unless you want a clogged toilet.  Always make sure to ask a local if you’re unsure.  Also note that sometimes their toilets look like a urinal in the ground for females, also known as a squatty potty.  At a teahouse I had to pee standing up/squatting and let me tell you that it is a nightmare if you’re carrying a heavy backpack.  You’ve been warned!
  6. Taipei, Taiwan’s garbage trucks play Beethoven’s Fur Eliese.  It’s awesome!…unless of course they drive by while you’re trying to sleep.  Fun fact, in other cities in Taiwan the garbage trucks play different music.
  7. If you are walking and smell something nasty it’s most likely just stinky tofu.  For the longest time I though lots of people were farting in the streets, but nope it’s just stinky tofu.  They also have a lot of other…interesting eats.
    Tea Eggs - Eggs that have been hard boiled in tea
    Tea Eggs – Eggs that have been hard boiled in tea

    Thousand Year Old Eggs
    Per Jodi (see comment below) these are ‘Thousand Year Old Eggs’. Traditionally they are duck eggs that are wrapped in mud, horse urine and feces and buried for a couple of months to ferment…Gross!

    Snails
    Snails
  8. Temple knowledge – 1) ALWAYS step over the step when entering a temple.  It is considered disrespectful to step on the step when entering.  2) Lights are bought by patrons who are trying to honor past loved ones.  The more lights a temple has, the richer they are.  3) Temples have their own version of a magic 8 ball.  You pray to the corresponding God and ask them yes/no questions, then throw the two half cylinders to the grounds and depending on how they land, you get your answer.  Depending on how the pieces land the answer could be yes, no, try again, or rephrase the question.IMG_0422
    IMG_0474
    Temples version of a Magic 8 ball.

  9. Asian tourists – I’m not sure if this is a Taiwanese tourist thing or an Asian tourist thing, but many of them take pictures with the peace sign.  There’s no definite reason as for why it came about, but they never fail to throw out the peace sign close to the face while taking pictures.  So I decided why not join the locals.  
  10. They are avidly against tanning – They will do whatever they have to to avoid getting a tan.  This includes wearing long sleeves and pants on a sweltering day, wearing hats all the time, and my personal favorite, buy make-up or supplements that make you pale.
  11. Men carry around what I like to call the murse, or man purse – The men use these instead of duffle bags, briefcases, or book-bags.
  12. Taxi’s have wifi – Shocked?  I know I was when I found out I could connect to facebook and catch up with people on the way back to the airport.  Although in this day and age I probably shouldn’t have been
  13. Metro – Normally you’d either be disgusted or terrified by having to take the metro, but Taipei, Taiwan has one of the cleanest, prettiest and safest metros in the world.  There’s no reason to be frightened while take the subway here as Taiwan has some of the most trusting people.  Just don’t eat or drink on the subway or you might have some old ladies yelling at you.

    Artwork in the Metro station
    Artwork in the Metro station
  14. HVAC – I know not very many people reading this will find this little tidbit interesting, but I had to include it since I work at a heating and air conditioning company.  In Taiwan they use more zone heating, or a mini-split, which is a singular unit that will heat and cool a room.  Whereas, in the United States we use central heating and air conditioning.  In simplified terms we have two separate units to heat and cool the whole house, but the Taiwanese will just cool (and possibly heat) a specific room with one unit.
  15. Hello Kitty – They love their Hello Kitty.IMG_0445
  16. Language and money – Obviously the language barrier can occasionally cause a problem.  For example, where am I?  And money can do the same.  This is 300 NT for a shirt?  A currency converter will save your life.
    Taiwan currency
    Taiwan currency

    IMG_0233

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4 thoughts on “Culture Shock in Taipei, Taiwan

  1. Wow, it’s been a year already! This spring break I’m off to Myanmar, super excited about exploring a country that only opened to tourism in 2012.

    #4 Ah, yes. The mainland tourists. Or plague of locusts. #7 Those aren’t quail eggs, they are ‘Thousand Year Old Eggs’. Traditionally they are duck eggs that are wrapped in mud, horse urine and feces and buried for a couple of months to ferment. #9 The peace sign over hear just means ‘cute’.

    Liked by 1 person

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