(Taiwan is strange and new to foreigners. Many things in Taiwan take foreigners by surprise. As Americans we want Taiwanese people to know what kind of questions foreigners have when first coming to Taiwan. This is by no means a complete list, but is written with the intent to help Taiwanese and Foreigners have a better understanding of one another’s culture.)
10. 怎麽這麽多機車？ Why are There so Many Scooters?
(In comparison, there are very few mopeds or scooters in foreign countries, especially in places with vast amounts of land such as the U.S. and Canada. Foreigners coming to Taiwan for the first time may be taken aback, and may feel that scooters in Taiwan are too loud and pollute the environment.)
9. 爲什麽到處是哈比人房屋？Why are there Hobbit Homes Everywhere?
(Taiwan has many intrastate tombs scattered throughout Taiwan, that look different from typical gravestones in other countries. Foreigners unfamiliar with Taiwan’s traditions and culture may misinterpret these tombs as actually being houses, houses that look a lot like hobbit homes from the Lord of the Rings.)
8. 怎麽到處都沒有垃圾桶？Why are There no Garbage Cans Anywhere?
(For many foreigners one of the first places they go sight-seeing is a night market. Some night markets do not mark trash canisters well if at all. This in addition to the foreign tourist always having to hold garbage in their hands can lead to some frustration and complaining.)
7. 爲什麽你的名字叫“Apple?” Why Is Your Name Apple?
(“Apple” in English is not a name. Despite this, there are still many Taiwanese children with the name “Apple” or similar non-names such as “Seven” or “Taco.” These are the Chinese equivalent of being called “warm drinking water” or “wood forest.”)
6. 我爲什麽一定要吃臭豆腐？Why do I Have to
Eat Some Stinky Tofu?
(For people that have never eaten stinky tofu, it really stinks, like raw sewage. But still Taiwanese people insist that ever new foreigner try this tasty delicacy, even though it is torture for most of them.)
5. 大家戴口罩是因爲…? What’s the Deal With Everyone Wearing Masks?
(In Taiwan it is courteous and polite to wear masks in public if one is sick to prevent communicable disease from spreading. My Taiwanese friends this trend started with the outbreak of bird flu a few years ago. It is also common to wear masks when riding a scooter to prevent breathing in pollutants. However, foreigners don’t know about this trend. In western countries it is common to wear surgical masks only in a hospital, so when they come to Taiwan and see so many people on the street wearing surgical masks, they may get confused.)
4. 爲什麽穿牛仔褲去海邊玩水？Why are so Many People Wearing Jeans at the Beach?
(Many western people come to Taiwan to enjoy its tropical beaches, wear a swim suit, get tan, and swim in the ocean. But many Taiwanese are more conservative when they go to the beach, hiding from the sun in long sleeves, long pants, and under umbrellas. Foreigners seeing Taiwanese people stomp in the ocean with long pants and umbrellas might shake their heads in curiosity.)
3. 大晴天爲什麽有人帶雨傘？Why do People Have Umbrellas out When it's Sunny?
(Foreigners with lighter skin tend to want to tan themselves and make their skin darker. Americans spend thousands of dollars a year in tanning salons, and umbrellas are almost never used for blocking out the sun’s rays. So when foreigners come to Taiwan and see people with umbrellas in the 30 degree weather, they might think it strange.)
2. 怎麽到處都沒有厠所？Why are there No Restrooms Anywhere?
(In America there seems to be a bathroom in every shop or store, however in Taiwan foreigners might be shocked to find that not every restaurant or store has a restroom. I’ve known a few foreigners who because of this have dirtied their underwear. I’ll stop there.)
1. 臺灣不是泰國嗎？Isn’t Taiwan the Same Thing as Thailand?
(It’s really sad but many foreigners don’t even know that Taiwan exists, or think that it is another name for Thailand, or simply know very little about the geography of Asia. But on the other hand I doubt the average Taiwanese citizen can name all 50 states.)
Like we said in the beginning, this list is not a complete statistical analysis with scientific data. It is just some fun things that foreigners think about when coming to Taiwan. If you feel like we missed anything, please let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to like and share!
1. Taiwan is Not Your Home Country; Don’t Compare Them 臺灣不是你的家鄉; 不要比較
You are not in Kansas anymore. One of the initial stages of culture shock is to look at all the negative aspects of a new culture by comparing it to one’s home country. If you do compare, try to find the good things about Taiwan that your home country lacks; this way you will have a much happier and fulfilling experience in Taiwan. Taiwan is a separate country with different history, customs, and beliefs than your home country, so you should forget everything you know about your culture and accept Taiwan for what it is. Come to Taiwan with a good attitude, and you might learn something!
The best advice I can give is when in Rome, do as the Romans do. If you mimic what other Taiwanese people do, you might find that they do things better than your home country, and you will discover new things about the human experience.
2. Taiwan is Not China; Don’t Even Go There 臺灣不屬於中國大陸; 別提
If you are a foreigner in Taiwan claiming that Taiwan is part pf the PRC or Mainland China, you are going to offend a lot of people here. Even if this is a view that you truly believe because Taiwan is not in the U.N. or whatnot, just keep it to yourself. Taiwan is an independent Nation for all intents and purposes. If you respect democratic freedom, you should also respect Taiwan independence.
3. Taiwan is Not Taipei! 臺灣不是臺北
Many Foreigners come to Taiwan only to visit sights around Taipei, and then leave not seeing all that Taiwan has to offer. Chinese Taipei is a fake country. It is the country of the sky dragon 天龍國, full of many idealistic and westernized Taiwanese that have been abroad and are rich. The South and East are the real Taiwan. Taipei City is only one city in Taiwan and only has less than 12% of its population and .01% of its land area. New Taipei, Keelung, and Taipei city only account for 33% of Taiwan's population and 7% of its land area. If you have only been to Taipei City and call yourself a Taiwan expat, you are not; you are a sky dragon expat. There is much more of Taiwan to be explored.
4. Taiwan is Safe 臺灣很安全
Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world; it was named in the top global peace index and was named the safest country in the world in 2016. People are not allowed to own guns in Taiwan. You don’t need to worry about getting mugged in the street when you are here. People here are nice to people they don't know, especially if they are from a vibrant foreign country. Also, Taiwan is politically stable, even with pressure from China.
5. Taiwan is Cheap 臺灣的東西很便宜
Take a look at some of the commodities above! The cost of living in Taiwan is relatively low, and Taiwan has one of the best standards of living in the world.
6. Taiwan is Convenient 臺灣很方便
Taiwan is one of the most convenient countries in the world. There are almost 10,000 convenience stores, putting them in walking distance for most people. It is hard to tour Taiwan without seeing a 7-11, Family Mart, OK Mart, or Hi-Life everywhere you go. These stores also let people pay their bills with cash, purchase travel tickets, print pictures, ship and receive packages, buy everyday items, and much more.
Also, health clinics are everywhere, and even if you don’t have insurance a checkup is very affordable. A normal checkup is no more than $30 USD, and if you are enrolled in NHI, the copay will range from $2 - $8 USD.
7. Taiwan Has Great Public Transportation 臺灣的交通設施非常好
Taiwan has an extremely convenient and efficient public transportation system. In Taiwan it’s easy to go anywhere on the island within hours. There is a railway that encompasses the entire island, as well as high speed rail along the west side connecting the major cities. Most major cities in Taiwan also have airports, with 4 international airports in total. Freeways and expressways also cover most of the island, which makes it easy to get to place to place by car or bus. It is so easy to travel in Taiwan that one can have a business meeting in Taipei in the morning, and travel via high speed rail for a relaxing afternoon on a tropical southern beach.
8. Taiwan Food is Delicious! 臺灣食物好吃！
We love Taiwan food! Don’t be the expat that eats at McDonald’s for every meal. There is so much delicious food everywhere! For lists of our favorite foods, click here: www.foreignersintaiwan.com/blog-posts/category/food
9. Taiwan is fun! 臺灣很好玩！
Because Taiwan is so convenient and has such a developed transportation system, it is easy to travel and have fun. Taiwan is home to many tourist destinations, from beautiful mountain scenery like Taroko Gorge, to Kenting’s tropical beaches, to Hot Springs in nearly every county, to night markets and endless shopping.
10. The Majority of Foreigners Here are Blue Collar Workers from Southeast Asia 大部分在臺灣的外國人是從東南亞的勞動
As you can see from the above chart (sorry it's in Chinese), most foreign blue collar laborers are from Indonesia, Vietnam, The Philippines, and Thailand. According to Taiwan's government database, there are 657,983 foreign blue collar workers in Taiwan as of July 2017. Most of these people either work in manufacturing or caring for Taiwan's elderly.
Most of your fellow foreigners in Taiwan are from Southeast Asian countries coming here to do blue collar jobs that nobody else wants to do, for very low wages. We want to give them a voice and hope these people are not forgotten.
Please like and share! If we forgot something, please tell us in the comments below!
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.