In my preparations to come to Taiwan I was bombarded with impressions and advice from all walks of people who have been to Taiwan: the Taiwanese who serve at the embassy, the officials who have been on stately visits, the business man who has been to trade shows, even the students who have paved the way for me and one thing all of these snippets of advice resounded in common was that “they are really nice people”. “Ha!!” I kept on thinking because I really expected no less from any one of them. You’re supposed to say these things I thought, who would admit publicly that a particular race or people were selfish, superficial, and rude or even the dreaded racist. I decided then that I would just ignore all of that and board the plane with an open mind.

 

 

From the moment the guide picked us up at the airport I began to understand this “niceness” that everyone spoke of. He was so helpful ensuring that we all got our monies changed and that we were all okay, ready to go out of his way to do as much as he could to make us comfortable. This was only the beginning.
The welcoming sounds of “Ni hao” or “Ni hao ma?” greet you everywhere you go. There is the quaint little dumplings shop I same across while spending my first two weeks at ShiDa and rest assured by the time the owners saw us approaching they would be out to welcome us in. One may say that they were just welcoming the business but there was an unmistakable sincerity in the way we were greeted and ushered in.
Taiwanese people are so friendly. The children in their carriages on the bus constantly dish out warm smiles whenever they see us. It may be that they are fascinated by the difference in our skin colour, but the innocent smile of a child is warm enough to bring a smile to your face even when you are faced with the toughest of days. Do not get me wrong, it does get lonely here sometimes, missing home and all that one is used to but between the smiles and warmth in the hearts of the people, you tend to forget your loneliness, if only for a moment, and smile back.
It’s remarkable when two or three people gather around you at a store to help in whatever way they can with whatever little English they know to help translate to the sales clerk your desires. Or the way an elderly couple on their own business would stop to give directions or even go out of their way to walk you as close as possible to your desired destination. Many a time I have been saved, by kind hearted people like this, from being lost in the streets of Taipei.
As a people, Taiwanese are very proud of who they are in that they preserve and cherish whatever history and customs that they have. From the abundance of museums to the manner in which everyone participates in tradition, for example the recently held Mid-Autumn Festival, the most beautiful part about it is that they share in these customs and traditions with all. Learning about the legend of Chang O fleeing to the moon and receiving so many gifts from Taiwanese acquaintances and friends, at the end of it all I had more than enough moon cakes and fruit to share with others.
I have been here for a month and half now and I am still amazed by the willingness of the Taiwanese people to serve and share. They are a very selfless, giving and humble people.