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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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!