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31. The Culture Shock I've met in Taiwan

As a foreigner there are many things that can shock you when you are in Taiwan, but there are some things that specially shocked me, for example, I never thought language could be so different and difficult, I found myself doing charades, speaking the most basic English words and sometimes I even forgot to change from Spanish that is my native language to English to be able to communicate. You find yourself using the most basic ways of communication when you cannot speak the local language.

Once I started learning Chinese I was excited about trying to put into use all those new words that I had learned in class, however once I went out I found nobody understood me, so again, I would go back to my charades and basic English for people to understand. Living outside of Taipei made it no easier, it was hard to find people who could speak English, however, people was always patience enough to listen to me and try to understand what I wanted or what I was saying.

On my arrival to Taiwan last August, I was overwhelmed by its beauty and its rapid expansion of its highways and its metro railway train stations. I was fascinated by all its developments, airport, buses, and tunnels. I felt as if I were a kid experiencing Christmas for the very first time. For that moment I felt, I was in paradise. I felt free. I could go anywhere I wanted without asking permission or informing others where I wanted to go. I felt completely independent. But nothing prepared me for the overwhelming uncertainties between the language barriers and a new culture. However, traveling in Taiwan at the very beginning was a little scary, worst the thought of getting lost was unavoidable. This is my culture shock! At that very moment, a million things will pops into your head—who would I call for help; how do I explain where I wanted to go; how do I catch a taxi. It is at that very moment that you realize you are completely lost and what do you do?

You realize that you are no longer independent! Dependency syndrome became my worst culture shock; the ability to rely on others. I was predisposed to others time, experiences, and choices for mobility. My ability to make baby steps hindered my new found freedom. However, I was a determined to conquer my fears and regain my freedom. No matter what! Onto the train I went listening to my favorite reggae artist Bob Marley: “there is a natural mystic blowing through the air/ if you listen carefully you will hear.” What happens next is a traveler’s worst nightmare; you are lost at the Taipei Main Station.