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Showing posts from November, 2012

Making Friends in Taiwan

If you're not just a backpacker or on a business trip, but you plan to stay in Taiwan for a long time, one of the questions that you'll inevitable ask yourself is: how can I make friends? 
I guess almost every expat blog has at least one post about this subject, so perhaps the world doesn't need another guy to discuss the issue. But since I lived here for a year and have my own personal experience and thoughts, why not share them with others who live here, or are about to come, or are just curious? 
First of all, the obvious thing is that, as a foreigner, you are different from the rest of the people here. Which means that your way of socializing cannot possibly be the same as local people's. That I believe to be the reason why my experiences with friendship have had many highs and lows.
How Do Locals Make Friends?
Huge topic. Sure, I am a foreigner and definitely don't have enough knowledge to answer such a complex question. But I'll just make a simplistic su…

Culture Shock - From Honeymoon to Mastery (Part II)

Concepts of Politeness
A few years ago I went to a bookstore in Italy to buy a book for a lecture at my university, in Trieste, a city close to Venice. The shop had two counters, one for normal books, which was to the right of the entrance, and the other only for university books, which was at the end of the store, opposite the main door. As usual, there were many people in the queue. We were all students except for a man who looked very old (Trieste is known for having one of the oldest population in Italy). He was very tall, haggard and hunchbacked, and he wore a dark-green suit. For some reason, he kept on smiling all the time.
The man told the shop assistant - a young, bold guy who looked like an emaciated version of Mike Stipe - what book he was looking for. The shop assistant shot at him a furious glance, "You are in the wrong section," he said angrily, "this counter is only for students. Don't you see?" and he pointed at the big sign that said "Uni…

Culture Shock - From Honeymoon to Mastery (Part I)

One of the most amazing and at the same time challenging experiences in a foreign country is the surprise, the shock and distress you feel when encountering unexpected traits of the host culture. The way people act, their speech, their body language - to name only a few - are unfamiliar and may prompt in you reactions that range from curiosity to amusement, from disappointment to anger.
First impressions, I think, are unlikely to stir strong emotions. But if you choose to go deeper into the culture and the life of a place, you start a long and often hard journey, a process of learning and - as  it is often called - "broadening your horizon". I met quite a few foreigners in Taiwan who have very different attitudes towards the country. Some are enthusiastic. Others feel interested in things they consider strange and unusual and try to know more about them. Others, on the contrary, are completely indifferent, or even contemptuous. 
In the first part of this post I will briefly…

How it feels to be a foreigner in Taiwan

Before going to Asia, a few friends of mine told me about their experience in China. A German guy said that in China he felt for the first time what it means to be a foreigner. He is blond and has blue eyes, so it was easy for him to be spotted among the crowds of Chinese.

People looked, even stared at him, sometimes for minutes. Someone asked to take a picture with him, as though he were a tourist attraction, children pointed at him on the streets. He didn't seem to be very happy about receiving so much attention from passers-by. Neither would I have been.
I am not blond, so at least I am not as conspicuous as he is. However, it's still easy for Asians to notice me, of course. And I was afraid of being stared at on the streets or in public places, which makes me feel quite nervous.
When I arrived in Taiwan, I was positively surprised. I never saw anyone staring or pointing at me. Strangely enough, I felt here even more relaxed than in Germany. When I was in Berlin I often fel…

Why I decided to go to Taiwan

When I meet new Taiwanese friends, the question they invariably ask me is: "Why did you choose Taiwan instead of Mainland China?" Sometimes I tell them the truth, sometimes I just say that I am interested in Taiwan. I thought for a few days whether I should publish this post on my blog and tell strangers about my private matters. At last, I decided to share my experiences with you guys.
I've always been interested in East Asia. Not for rational reasons, such as future career prospects. My interest was born out of a feeling, which I cannot explain. I think every country has its own aesthetics. When you see the image of a city or a landscape, sometimes you feel fascination, you want to go there. The way people look like, behave and get dressed, the architecture, the nature - there are many reasons why a place might attract you. 
As far as I can remember, my interest in East Asia dates back to my teenage years. At that time I had no internet at home, and my access to knowledg…

First impressions of Taipei

It was the 4th of November when I arrived at Taoyuan International Airport. In Europe already time to wear jackets and prepare for the imminent snow. In Taiwan, instead, the weather was hot and humid. People wore short-sleeve shirts and short trousers. Taking off my jacket didn't help. I still felt really hot. No wonder, there were around 30 degree Celsius outside, and my warm jeans and water-proof shoes were not exactly ideal.
There's no underground connecting the airport to the city centre, so I took a bus. There are many bus companies that take to different places of the city, like Xindian, Nangang, Zhongxiao Dunhua and so on. So be careful to go to the correct counter and ask. I bought a ticket for Taipei Main Station. When the bus arrived, the bus driver got off and began to shout in Chinese, announcing the destination of the bus. Then he asked passengers where they were going, just to make sure they didn't get on the wrong one. Fortunately, I could already speak some …

An Introduction to the History of Taiwan

When I told my mother that I was going to Taiwan, she asked me: "Where is Taiwan?" I was surprised by her question, but on second thought I should have expected it. Many people in the West don't know much about Taiwan, some of them even think that Taiwan is Thailand. So I think that if I write a blog about my life in Taiwan I should at least give you some background information about this place. 
First of all, a state called Taiwan doesn't exist. In fact, the official name of Taiwan is Republic of China. Taiwan is just a geographical term that defines the island of Taiwan. That the official name of a country is not the same as its colloquial name, is nothing unusual. We know that Germany's official name is "Federal Republic of Germany", but we never say: Hey, I'm going to fly to the Federal Republic of Germany tomorrow. We just call it Germany. The same with the United States of America. We usually say US, America, or the States. What is unusual abou…