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6 American Habits That Save My Ass in Taiwan

Taiwan Student Work
by Hannah Smith Jun 18, 2015

1. Not trusting other drivers

I don’t ride a scooter here, but I am definitely in the minority. Most people zip around like chickens with their heads cut off on ancient 50cc 2-strokes, making the roads not the safest place to be. As a pedestrian and bike rider, I never trust that anyone will stop for me or even give me the right of way. It may not be the most open or adventurous attitude, but it has kept me alive.

2. Being willing to eat at any hour of the day

Taiwanese food is delicious, and Taiwan is an ideal place for a foodie. Streets are packed with food stalls that serve soy milk and fried dough first thing in the morning, and every city has at least one night market where you can have dinner number two or three. The convenience stores are open 24/7, offering steamed buns, meat and rice triangles, and hot dogs just waiting to be devoured by drunken partygoers (or, let’s be honest, yourself) at 3am.

3. Knowing that there’s no shame in downing a convenience store beer

Cheap beer is often the best beer for travelers, especially when you’ve got a long night ahead or some day drinking planned. 7-11 and Family Mart have the one-and-only Taiwan Beer for about a buck a can. It might not taste stupendous, but your wallet will thank you when you just need to get ‘er done.

4. Faking a smile

The Taiwanese are all about “saving face” or not letting their embarrassment or shame show. So, even when a co-worker completely pisses me off or does something overtly wrong, I know to grin and bear it. If I were to yell or make a snide comment, I would hurt their dignity and our communication would totally shut down. A lifetime of practice of smiling and answering ‘Fine, thanks’ to the question ‘How are you?’ when in the states, no matter how I was feeling, trained me well for this.

5. The ability to laugh at myself

Some Taiwanese are clueless about Americans and can be almost rude when questioning us about ourselves. I’ve had a strange man in an elevator tell me my nose was big, a student tell me all Americans are fat and eat sandwiches all day, and have had multiple incidents where someone runs after me yelling, “America!” It’s best to just see this as curiosity and laugh it off.

6. The desire to explore

Taiwan is a small island in the grand scheme of things, but living here it feels massive. There is Taipei, the capital city, and Yangminshan National Park in the north; Kenting and its gorgeous beaches and the laid-back attitude of the city of Kaohsiung is in the south. Plus, with all the incredible jungle hiking, waterfalls, cherry blossoms, and rivers in between that are just waiting to be explored, Taiwan is a wonderful place to take the American pioneer spirit and go get lost for a while.

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