I left Taiwan with many new impressions. I really had to get used to that totally different lifestyle but it was worth exploring it. So here are some of the most funny and interesting facts about Taiwan:
traffic: traffic rules simply don’t exist. Everyone drives everywhere but somehow there is a system. Scooters are the kings of the streets and cars have to watch them. Many scooter drivers just turn around on a big crossroad. 2 lanes going left will be made 3 or 4 lanes. Just because. But the system works somehow.
pavement: most of the time you need to walk on the street. Pedestrian walks either don’t exist or are used as scooter parking or shop enlargement.
toilets: I was always happy to find a sign “Western toilet” in public toilets at restaurants and so on. As Taiwanese toilets are built into the ground… I don’t know how they manage their “bigger business”. I guess they have very trained legs…
showers: In many homes or hostels the whole bathroom is the shower. There is no extra cabin. There is a sink on the ground and a shower head and then you just stand in the middle of the bathroom and try not to make a mess. That’s why everyone takes off the shoes right in front of the bathroom door.
food: Taiwanese eat a lot of meat. It is not easy to find vegetables Western people know. So it’s kind of a surprise when you order vegetables. Street food is normally cheap but most of it is meat. My stomach got sick after a while as I don’t eat that much meat at home and I wasn’t used to all the new tastes. Especially ginger is not my taste but it is often used in Taiwanese cuisine.
rubbish: I don’t know why but it is hard to find bins to put rubbish in. It is just not common to have bins around public places but you can find many signs that tell you to clean up after you.
rubbish truck: If you are outside and hear a very funny childish music playing – this is the rubbish truck. It tells everyone to bring the rubbish outside so the rubbish truck can directly collect it.
air conditioning: as it is hot outside and a bit humid, it is cooled down very much when going inside somewhere. If using a train, metro, bus, plane or being at restaurants, hostels or any other building it is totally cooled down to Antarctica temperatures. So I got used to always take a thin jacket when leaving the hostel. And wear a thick jacket when driving in a train for a longer time.
openness: Asian people are not reserved at all. They are totally curious about tall Western people which I learn every day. Taiwanese or Asian tourists take photos of me without asking and point at me or just say “Hi” when passing me. It is annoying after a while and really exhausting. Sometimes I prefer to stay in because there is no one annoying me.
religion: It is about 50/50 with Taoism and Buddhism and a small percentage of other religions can be found in Taiwan. So you can find many different kinds of temples and depending on the religion also different “gods”.
EasyCard: it is a recharge card that people use to pay train, bus, metro, bicycle rent and also they do payments in several shops with it. You only have to hold the card on a machine and the money is transacted.
7eleven: THE shop. It sells daily use items but also food. You can go there, buy some instant noodles and heat it with boiled water or buy some dishes from the fridge, that can be heated by microwave, which is offered in the shops. Sadly I dscovered this service only after two weeks. 7eleven is a very cheap alternative to restaurants and a welcome change to the street food.
hostel kitchen: As generally there is street food everywhere you can find many hostels that do not have a kitchen. So there is only the possibility to eat outside.
breakfast: There is hardly any possibility to get Western breakfast. So if you want cereals and don’t have a hostel kitchen: sorry, not possible. At least I found some sandwiches with jam or peanut butter at 7eleven (yes it has nearly everything).
free Wi-Fi: I found many free Wi-Fi networks for example in train stations but I wasn’t able to log me in as the page wasn’t working on my mobile phone. So not really useful.
online bookings: It is also not possible to book train or bus tickets online, as foreign people can’t book the tickets even if the page is in English. The reason for that is that some Taiwanese internet pages ask for the passport number but doesn’t accept foreign passports. I have no idea why the page is available in English then.
trains: The trains in Taiwan are just extraordinary. For exampl if you choose standard seats on trais in Germany you don’t have much legroom. But in Taiwan you can even put your seat back and place your luggage in front of you. It’s awesome for tall people.
crossing streets: Always pay attention when crossing a street. No one cares for pedestrians. Even if the pedestrian lights change to green you have to watch the traffic.
coloured contact lenses: many Taiwanese want to make their eyes look bigger so they use coloured contact lenses to get bigger eyes.
language: English is known as the world language. This doesn’t include Taiwan. Only a few can understand at least a bit of English, even at McDonalds I wasn’t able to order a salad or a Sprite. I could only point at the picture that was closest to me, which was a Big Mac instead of the salad I wanted.
helpfulness: Though many don’t understand English they try hard to help me. When I wasn’t sure which bus to take there were 4 Taiwanese telling me instantly which bus to take. If I walk around looking helpless I get help very soon.
internet: I was thinking about getting a SIM card so that I have internet everywhere. Well I did survive 3 weeks in Taiwan by only using free Wi-Fi in Hostels, friends’ home and train stations. But I would have definitely reduced time wandering around having no clue where to go as nearly every sign is only in Chinese Characters. What I missed mostly: google maps and a dictionary. So in a country where English is difficult a SIM card with internet wold be quite clever.