The Good, The Bad, and the Just Plain Weird

I love Taiwan. I love it a lot. It is one of the most stunning places I have ever been and the people are far and away the kindest I have ever met. But…some things in Taiwan are just weird. As a fair warning if you are reading this as a potential expat, I literally adore Taiwan. These were just too funny not to list...and it's always better to be prepared, right?! 1. Squat toilets. A squat toilet is literally a hole in the ground in a bathroom stall…and you have to use it to go to the bathroom. We learned that in the process of culture shock there is a phase called, “rejection” where you compare everything to your own country and you think your country does it better. You wonder why this country doesn’t do it your way. Well….I don’t reject much of Taiwan…but I reject this. Even when I have fully adjusted and am over culture shock….I will still reject it. America totally does it better. Toilets just make so much more sense…especially when you’re wearing pants. 2. Speaking of toilets…you can’t put toilet paper in the toilet. You must throw away your used toilet paper…EW. 3. Speaking of toilet paper…there isn’t any. Public restrooms do not supply toilet paper. You have to bring your own. 4. Traffic laws…or lack thereof. As my LET put it, “We consider red lights to be a guideline.” Umm…excuse me…what?! Red lights are not a guideline! But here, they totally are. I have watched at least one person every day just drive through a red light like its no big deal. So to that end…driving, walking and biking are terrifying. 5. “Fluid Time”. Fluid time is exactly what it sounds like. Being 45 minutes late? Fine. Not following through with plans? That’s okay. Ugh no its not. 6. Being foreign. Being foreign is a concept I never really understood until I came here because in America, everyone kind of looks foreign. You never know where people are from and we really are the big melding pot. Here, everyone knows when you don’t belong. And they stare. Staring isn’t rude here. So I will sit on the train on the way to school for 25 minutes and have the same woman staring at me non-stop for 25 minutes. You look back, they just keep on staring…… 7. FEAT. Aka fake meat. Being a vegetarian means I don’t like meat and don’t want anything resembling meat on my plate. Well….too bad. Feat is ever so popular here in Taiwan. Almost all vegetarian dishes have fake meat in them. It’s gross and I don’t want it. Rejection!!! 8. Overly ripe fruit. My LET gave me a mango and told me to wait two weeks to eat it. A pomelo? Wait a month. Ummm…if you left fruit sitting out for a month in America it would be rotting and fruit flies everywhere would rejoice. Well, apparently that’s how they like their fruit here. 9. Sanitation. Things here are just less….clean. The health standards are not the same. The open markets are covered in flies and I watched a man sort lettuce on the sidewalk, and then put it in a basket to sell…. 10. Etiquette. Table manners are lacking here. I watched a woman spit food back out on her plate. I’m sitting there about to throw up having just seen this and no one else is phased……ewwww. Slurping and chewing with your mouth open is also totally normal. And napkins are hard to come by. 11. Beatel Nut. Beatel nut is like the Taiwanese equivalent of chewing tobacco. My LET told me that only working men use it…never women and never businessmen. You chew it, just like tobacco, have to spit out the gross stuff, just like tobacco, but grosser than that….it turns your mouth bright red. It looks like your mouth is bleeding. So I’ll be walking down the street, a man doing construction will smile at me, and I feel like I should call an ambulance because his mouth is dripping in blood. No…just beatel nut. 12. Microphones. All teachers here use microphones in class. The classroom is tiny and has 20 kids in it…I think they can hear you…. 13. KTV. KTV is a giant karaoke place. It’s really fun when we go as a group because you get your own room, free food and drinks and can sing hilarious 90s pop songs. The Taiwanese people use it to “sing what they cant say.” Taiwanese songs are really emotional and sad and they use karaoke as a way to get their feelings out. Hmm… 14. Saving face. Why can’t they just say what they are feeling you may ask….because they must “save face”. Taiwanese people are painfully indirect. They will never tell you if they are upset, bothered, or sad. They don’t want to talk because they don’t want to be embarrassed. And they don’t ever ever ever want to give you a direct answer. “Hey, can I go downstairs for a second?” “…Well, maybe.” Umm….what does that even mean?! We will never know. 15. Personal space. There is none. People breathe on your face and that’s supposed to be fine. 16. Deodorant. There is none. And yes….it’s 100 degrees here with 90% humidity for months at a time. And yes, they smell awful. But, it doesn’t seem to faze anyone but us. DEGREE, I BEG YOU TO COME TO TAIWAN! 17. Cockroaches. The cockroaches here fly. They are huge. It is terrifying and awful. Nightmares are made of these roaches. 18. Stray dogs. Stray dogs are a huge problem in Taiwan. There are tons of them everywhere and it’s because people “throw away” their dogs when they grow up. Not even when theyre old…just when they are not puppies. Mortifying and beyond sad. I want to save all the puppies! ): 19. English. Everyone here really likes Americans and the idea of English. But, not many people can actually speak it. You go into any store and there are about 40% of the clothing covered in English words….or are they? One shirt reads, “Lo understand prover and theinterpretatlon: the wprds of the ndse. And their darksa yings When chou Gest down. Wher shalthor baofrald yea thog shaltfle doun.” Hey….looks English if you and no one you know actually knows English…..and then everyone just thinks your cool for having an English shirt so….why not? 20. Playboy. I think this one has something to do with the lack of English speaking and Taiwan’s love for cute bunnies. Because Playboy is everywhere. When I say everywhere, I mean I saw a 7 year old girl wearing a Playboy helmet on the back of her mom’s scooter. Three of my third graders have Playboy pencil cases, five of them have Playboy folders. Stores proudly advertise they sell Playboy memorabilia. Shoes, shirts, skirts, glasses, folders, pencil cases, pillows….who knew they made so much merchandise?! Taiwan apparently….and they have absolutely no idea how gross it really it. 21. Clothes. Clothes in general are just super weird. Like fluffy skirts with pants attached to the bottom…and people buy them and love it. 22. Knock off brands. Because of Taiwan’s love of all things American, they want to sell American brands. But none of them are real. Everything here is definitely copyright infringement and if they were in America they would get sued before they could sell anything. But here, it works. Apple, The North Face, Jansport, and Patagonia are everywhere….but not. So, back to my posts about how great it is here! And it really is I promise….I just couldn’t go without sharing these.

©2019 by Sammie Herrick | sammie@sammieherrick.com