Cultural Shocks is something that we all have to experience when we are moving from our normal environment to a strange and new inhabitant.  While we will all experience some sort of a shock at different levels and in different areas, I would like to take the opportunity to share with you some of the things that stood out most to me.  

I have always believed that the best way to experience a new city is to get lost in it.  However, this proved not to be a good idea in Taiwan as 1) I don’t speak the native language and 2) I DON’T SPEAK THE LANGUAGE.  Despite only knowing 你好   and 歡迎光臨, my friends and I went running around Taipei, like a crazy people not knowing how to get anywhere.  Normally when you are lost you stop and ask for help, but it is very difficult to communicate with others when you don’t speak the native tongue. We always had to resort to hand gestures and I’m positive we looked like Mimes performing a skit.  Even though we didn’t speak the native language, it doesn’t stop people from helping us. 

I have noticed that in general Taiwanese are shy, but this shyness doesn’t inhibit their willingness to help you.  Case in point, I was in the grocery store one day just looking at some products when a worker came to me and started speaking in Chinese.  Quickly realizing that I was a foreigner, and I caught a slight glimpse of the “lose your face” effect, she quickly apologized and left.  After 3 minutes, she came back with another worker and he asked if I needed help, I replied no and they left.  After 3 minutes the 2 of them came back with another person, and this continued until I looked up and over my shoulder and saw about 5 people staring at me wondering “does she need help?”  After I assured them I was fine they all laughed and moved on.  As I laughed to myself I thought this would never happen in my country.  But what should I have expected, when you arrive at every store they always yell “歡迎光臨”

The night life in Taipei is something that stood out the most to me.  In my home country, majority of stores close at 5 the latest would be 8:30, after that it is hard to find a store open especially during the weekdays.  Taipei is very different however.  Night markets, well, operate during the night, and everything you need is here!  My first night market was a little bit intimidating due to the huge crowds and…Stinky Tofu.  Who and why created this? Was it some form of torture for the noses of their enemies?  Honestly, it was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever smelled, however, the taste was not so bad, it’s pretty good.  Every time I’m in the night markets and I get a whiff of it my first instinct is to run!  But have no fear not all foods in night markets have this smell. One of my favorites are guabao, a.k.a Taiwanese hamburger, goose noodle soup and beef noodle soup.

The enforcement of rules and regulation of the MRT was my biggest shock.  We’ve all heard it, don’t eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum on MRT.  If you are caught doing any of these you will be fined.  I never thought that these rules were meant to be taken seriously as I’ve always seen rules like this in my own country and others as well, but no one seems to enforce it.  Well that’s not the case in Taiwan.  How do I know?  I was caught by the MRT POLICE.  It’s not a good feeling to be pulled out of the line in front of everyone to get a scolding.  The officer went off in Chinese, but quickly realized I was a foreigner.  “Where you come from?” she quickly asked.  “Belize” I said as I gave her my best puppy dog eyes.  She explained that I will have to pay a fine of $7,500 NT…if I was caught again; this time is just a warning.  After she left me I didn’t know whether to laugh or…laugh.   Could you imagine, being fined for chewing a gum!  Taipei keeps surprising me from day to day, but I must confess that I am in love with this crazy upside down town.

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