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42. The most touching experience of Taiwanese hospitality

 

Since I came to Taiwan there has been countless time where people has shown hospitality to me, but I have to said the first time I encountered myself in a difficult situation was 3 years ago when I was freshman and I got lost in the middle of Pingtung city without Chinese knowledge, so that time I was standing at a bus stop wondering and from all of sudden one Taiwanese boy came to me and asked me are you student from NPUST (national Pingtung University of Science and Technology) and I answered him yes, he said you look kind of lost I’m a student at this university as well if you want I can help you to get your bus, and he took me all the way to the bus station and that day I remember it was the Moon Festival and he had a whole package of Moon cakes and he gave it to me he said this is traditional in Taiwan so you can have them, I was so grateful that someone save me that day and plus he was so kind of giving me the entire package of moon cakes, Since that time I understood how polite and kind people in Taiwan is, even though I have been away from home, the hospitality that people offer you here in Taiwan makes you feel this is your second home.

From the moment that I landed in Taiwan I heard nothing, but amazing things from everyone I met gave me an idea of how hospitable the Taiwanese people are. I was a little bit skeptical at first and the intimidating language barrier did not help my confidence with locals and others. After more than one year and a half I have been living here, has been there any experience of Taiwanese hospitality which touched me the most? 

However, very soon I experienced it for myself when I met a Taiwanese lady who has an English name Joyce and a Chinese name 吳姿逸 (Wúzīyì).

In that time with my new friend named Joyce, we hung out quite a few times together so that we could enjoy the culture and the sceneries of different cities. For instance, there was a day she texted me and asked me that If I were available for a one day trip together with other friends. As it was planned, we visited some places such as: Houdong, Xifen Waterfall Park and Jiufen night market. Honestly, after visiting those places, I felt so tired and the only thing I could do was to go back home to take a rest. And unexpectedly, my friend asked me to go visit one of her friends. Honestly, I did not expect anything that could be impressed on me and inspired me that much since I have been living here, in Taipei.

My name is Samkeliso Mathunjwa from the beautiful, landlocked kingdom of Swaziland. I’m currently doing Medicine at I-Shou University. Swaziland is a small country where smiling faces and hearts are very common to find, bringing out the warmth out of them. Here in Taiwan I found out it’s even more. There is warmth everywhere, and my experience here is just a “wow.” Taiwan is indeed my second home.

From the moment I landed in Taiwan I heard nothing but amazing things from everyone I met about how awesome the Taiwanese are. I was a bit skeptical at first and the intimidating language barrier prevented me from making much of an effort with the locals. I was shocked at the way they are welcoming and accommodating. Taiwan is a country blessed with rich culture, flora and fauna. There are lots of experiences that touched my heart in this beautiful Island. I couldn’t have asked for more.

I’m enjoying myself in Taiwan. Often times, it leaves me emotional and teary-eyed, as I’m touched first of all by the generosity of the Taiwan government in offering scholarship to study in this beautiful Island. My stay has become more than studying, but fulfilling in almost all aspects of my life. Every day you learn new values from Taiwanese people, and for us as foreign students, Taiwan offers a more relaxing and welcoming environment.

Before I came to Taiwan, back in my country, the Kingdom of Swaziland, I had the opportunity to meet some Taiwanese people, and they used to say “Ilah Formosa, Taiwan will touch your heart”. When I got the opportunity to come to this beautiful island, I had the longing to get the first-hand experience of what they told me about Taiwan. As I write this article, I have completed about 10 months of my stay in Kaohsiung City, and I can write a book about the hospitality of Taiwan. Indeed, Taiwan has touched my heart.

There is so much to say about the hospitality of this island, although I have stayed in southern Taiwan for a few months but I have felt the warmth and comfort of this place. In this article, I will just give a brief account of my experience in Taiwan; in as far as hospitality is concerned. When I landed at the Kaohsiung International Airport last August, the warm welcome we received from the I-Shou University members of the Volunteer Organization was so immense.

Given such a topic to write on took my mind to all the people and places where i have received hopspitality in Taiwan during my 10 months of being in this wonderful country full of wonderful people. It goes without saying that its so difficult to just pick one special moment when i have had dozens of such experiences while here.

I have tried to find the best definations of hospitality and managed to come up with the following;  “the act, practice, or quality of being hospitable; friendly and solicitous (showing care, attention, concern) to others.”. I also found that Hospitality must come from the heart otherwise it is nothing more than entertainment. I can boldly say that I have seen such a kind of hospitality not also seeing but also experienced it as it touched my heart.

Now let me just draw you to this particular day which amoung other days i think I was offered some kind of touching experience of Taiwanese hospitality. It wa a hot day in January as most days are hot here in Taiwan and we were invited by another Taiwanese friend to go and watch some stunts in her home town in a certain place.

My name is Astrid I am from Guatemala and I am studying a Master in Cultural and Creative Industries in Taipei National University of the Arts. Before applying to ICDF scholarship and coming to Taiwan I did a little research of the culture, food, landscapes, but I remember I was impressed with all the positive comments about the kindness of  local people and today I can say that I agree with them.  I think Taiwanese people are very kind and are always willing to help. During the time I have been in Taiwan people have helped me when they have the opportunity, I have three little stories about Taiwanese hospitality that I want to share with you.

1) The last year I decided to go with a huge backpack to the airport by MRT, everything was nice until I arrive to the MRT Station which was very full, I was feeling embarrassed because my backpack take a lot of space in the train, but suddenly a girl told me that she will give me her seat so I can be more comfortable with my luggage, I feel very grateful with her.

It’s hard to pick only one “hospitality history” when it comes to Taiwan. Taiwanese people have been so nice and gentle around me since I landed here almost two years ago.

I’m an almost-graduating master's degree student at TNUA in Taipei, and a few months after landing here, I developed a strange problem in my brain (something related to congenital predispositions) which has led me to weird mind reactions in some environments (crowded places, stress moments, etc) and at the worst-case scenarios, it leads me to seizures, which has happened a few times during these two years in Taiwan. It can be triggered up in any place, any moment.

So, in one of those times, I was in a restaurant with a taiwanese friend, and I unexpectedly had a seizure, I lost my consciousness and fell down from my chair into the floor. Immediately, my friend held me and all the other people in the restaurant came to help and called an ambulance. I ended up in hospital, with a truly nice service by nurses and doctors, and other of my taiwanese friends came to visit me and one of them even paid the bill of hospital service for me without telling me while I was asleep. When I woke up, several hours later, I felt like in family.

Taiwanese hospitality is a living process on how to always take the best of you. At first when I arrived to Taiwan I had no expectations whatsoever about anything. It was simply a blank paper for an upcoming adventure in this chapter of my life. Despite the language, everything seemed to be so strange and odd to me. I felt pretty much as an alien who just landed in a different planet (if that’s what is like going to another planet!), couple of weeks later for my tranquility I was officially an alien.  Nevertheless, in spite of my great sense of adaptation to different environments residing in Taiwan is extremely easier thanks to locals’ hospitality. And I say locals because even other foreigners have being touched so much by the culture that somehow have ended up residing in the island for years, blending their native behavior with the local one.  

“It’s the same everywhere” people say, and it’s true! However, Taiwan has something different, politeness here is even more evident than the one I have found so far in other countries –except Japan, I must say!

Telling a story about my own experiences of Taiwanese hospitality, and having to choose the most touching one, is actually a bit hard because I am glad I have plenty of experiences to share about it. I think most of Taiwanese people are extremely kind with foreigners. Maybe not all of them are willing to let you enter into their homes and share the table with them, but in a general picture, maybe you just need to have a little faith to believe you could actually end up having a close friendship with the locals. 

In my country, I also like to treat the foreigners as family and I strongly believe that everything that goes around comes around. So it was that way for me, living in Taiwan as a foreigner. This is my second year here and I will be graduating this semester of the Master Degree Program. I can certainly say that my perception now about Taiwan’s culture is not as superficial as it was last year. Even though I have to come back home after finish my studies, I can say that I finally managed to live as a local within Taiwan people and I loved it.

To talk about a single touching experience of Taiwanese hospitality is absolutely impossible for me. When family or friends ask me to describe Taiwanese people, what first comes to my mind is generosity and friendliness. Over the two years I´ve been in Taiwan, I encountered several situations which Ieft me “speechless.” I have many stories to share; every story involves some kind of adventure. Here is one of the many adventures worth sharing, exemplary of the Taiwanese hospitality:

Last winter I went with my classmates on a field trip to Nantou. I packed a few things in case I would find a place worth to stay overnight. After visiting different interesting places, I decided to stay in Sanyi; a small town in Miaoli County. This town is very famous for its woodcarving industry. I walked along the main street and its surroundings, admiring the stunning work. Late in the afternoon, it started to get very cold and windy. I walked up and down searching for a hostel, but the one I found was full and the hotels suggested online were too far or too expensive. It was already dark and there were no more buses going to Taipei or any other place.