If I heard anything at all about Taiwan before I even applied to study abroad, it was that Taiwanese people are a tad different from mainland Chinese people. I was told several things: that they cherished traditional Chinese culture a bit more than their Mainland China counterparts; that they are “warmer” and more enthusiastic; that they are more liberal and open-minded, etc. In this blog entry, I will not try to support or disprove any of these points of view and opinions, I will only speak from my own personal experience, which could deviate a lot or very little from other foreigners/westerners visiting and studying in Taiwan. Heck, it could be “a world” of difference in Taipei!
My experience here is that people are very kind and warm-hearted (if that’s even a word?). There have been times at which I needed help, or I was completely lost, and people, random strangers, went out of their way to help me.
I was looking for the library a few days ago late at night (when it was still open until 9:30 pm- did I mention they close it much earlier during the summer term?) and I was completely lost. On top of that, I had not purchased the prepaid sim card I was supposed to buy to get internet access, and free Wi-Fi spots are not as reliable as in the United States. It was a while before I found someone, who looked like they were in a hurry, and asked them how to get to the library. Instead of giving me directions to find the library myself (which would have been futile since I was still struggling to understand the Taiwanese accent), he kindly talked to me while he walked me there–a walk that took about 10 minutes. He also added me on Line (everyone’s go-to social network in Taiwan), and sent me a map of the campus, and told me to text him if I ever needed any help.
Some other time, I nearly broke my friend’s friends’ bike, which I had borrowed since it takes an eternity to go anywhere here. I went to the place where my language partner told me to go to if I had any bike-related problems. The “shifu” there fixed it and even though I tried to pay him for his work, he refused to take my money (“shut up and take my money” meme? anyone?).
The other part of this entry is the open-mindedness of people here, but I feel like I should touch on that in a completely different blog entry. So that’s it for today. I will be off to Taipei for the weekend and see what’s up in Taipei’s “New York” (no one calls it that, just me).