It has been a few weeks since I landed at Taoyuan airport and I finally decided to sum up my first impression of Taipei. Although I have never been in Asia I thought I was prepared for the culture shock after arrival. I met a lot of Taiwanese people before I also hosted many Asians on Couchsurfing. But the truth is, nothing can prepare you for the transition.
The first thing that you notice is the smothering omnipresent heat. Because of the humidity it gets really hot during the summer. There is, of course, air conditioning everywhere. Taiwanese favorite thing to do is to go to overcooled shopping centers (sometimes 15 °C!). How they don’t get cold every other day is beyond my comprehension. On the other hand for the few winter months the outer temperature can go down to 16 °C but there is no heating at dorms.
There is an old Chinese proverb “The chinese eat everything with four legs except tables and everything with two wings except airplanes”. I think the same goes for the Taiwanese people. There is some amazing food you can find at night markets. There are great selection of noodle soups, dumplings, rice cakes, sausages, fruits and many, many more. But there also some stuff for people with stronger stomach. They say it’s best to follow the strongest smell of unwashed socks to get the best stinky tofu. The chicken leg is apparently also consumable thing in here.
But the night markets are only part of the Taiwanese food culture, you can’t walk 10 meters not passing one of the restaurants. The main problem is how to order stuff. Many of the waitresses doesn’t speak English so you are forced to point at things and hope to get lucky. Or you can always learn chinese. The only thing I can say in chinese is unicorn and fried rice. Though I haven’t find it on the menu yet.
There is also a cafeteria at our dorm. It’s basically a big buffet where you are trying to guess what each of the ingredients is. Of course, everybody eats with chopsticks. You can surely use your own cutlery, but nobody wanna look like a dork. Though I have quite practice with chopsticks, eating fish or noodle soup is true challenge.
What I love about Taiwan is the people. They are always helpful, nice, sometimes shy to speak in English, but in the end you will get where you want to. They don’t drink alcohol that much in here, I envy them ability to get drunk after one bottle of beer. I was a bit surprised by the restrictions at the place I am staying. There are some ridiculous rules about the dorm. Besides of forbidding usual stuff like cookers, heaters and Mahjong( yep, you can’t play Mahjong at the dorm) you also can’t drink wine (but nothing about beer) or bring visit to your room which is not your relative. I also heard that if you are a guy and you wanna visit girls dorm you have to wear orange safety vest. And when you are late in the evening more than 10 times school is going to call your parents. I would love to hear that conversation. The big event of the day is around 10pm, the crowds gather in the dorm entrance and wait for the the waste collector to come in. Outside trash bins aren’t really a thing here, you have to wait for the trash car yourself. There is also a rule that you shouldn’t flush toilet paper in the toilet, because it might clog the toilet. Where to throw the paper is left to your imagination. There is no wonder people are so eager to throw away their trash bins at the end of the day.
Although Taiwanese are quite crazy drivers, riding their scooters with a death in their eyes, always trying to run you over when you are crossing street on the green light, the government is obsessed with health and safety in every other aspects. On MRT (Taipei subway) you can find many helpful signs. Besides obligatory Mind the gap, there is also signs about no Sexual harassment (shit … I just wanted to harass someone), not wearing flip flops on escalators, not chewing gum at the stations and many more.
I don’t want it to look like I am hating on Taiwan, yes – some things really drive me crazy here, but otherwise I absolutely love it here, and I wouldn’t change my destination to any other country. There are many other things I wanna talk about and I will continue in other articles. Lets end the article with picture of another fluffy resident of the Taiwan.