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Destination Profile: Taiwan

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Taiwan may be one of the smaller Asian nations, but it has larger-than-life offerings. This island nation emerged from a past riddled with disputes to solidify its place as one of the best countries in the world for international residents. Its high quality of life and low cost of living make Taiwan a great place to live and work, especially for families. Pour yourself some tea and grab a pineapple cake as we present Destination Profile: Taiwan!

Today, the population of Taiwan is about 23.5 million. Taiwan shares no land borders with other countries since it is an island, but it shares maritime borders with China, Japan, and the Philippines. The capital city is Taipei. Other major cities include Taichung City, Kaohsiung City, and Tainan. Taiwan is a beloved nation by both citizens and tourists, thanks to its welcoming people, wonderful food, and diverse attractions.

Social Climate

In Taiwan, there is little physical gesturing and if you tend to speak with your hands, be conscious of this and try to reduce it. Winking, whistling, etc., is considered vulgar and is typically seen only between teenagers expressing affection toward the opposite sex. During conversation people stand approximately an arm’s length apart. 

Image of a vista of Taiwan

Language

Taiwanese Mandarin is widely spoken throughout the country. In Taipei, English is spoken and understood due to the large expat population. The Taiwanese are very polite and proper greetings are a sign of courtesy. Taiwanese will greet by giving a head nod, a short bow, or may wave to someone that they know. It is important to always greet the eldest person first out of respect. Names are very important and knowing the person’s name is important. Most Taiwanese have three names: the family name first followed by two given names. It is also common to use honorifics such as Xiānshēng (Sir) or Tàitai (Madam) for married women.

When talking to people outside of friends and family, the Taiwanese are always very proper. It is important to avoid direct eye contact and look slightly downward when meeting people for the first time. However, Taiwanese usually adapt to western cultures and will greet individuals with a handshake, smile, and eye contact.  

In order to say hello, the Taiwanese say "Ni Hao" and good bye is "Zaijian." The Taiwanese are usually happy to talk about most subjects – popular subjects include current events and politics. Avoid asking personal questions or questions related to one's family. 

Image of a night market in Taiwan

Image by 3005398 on Pixabay

Doing Business

Taiwan's business culture is similar to Chinese business practices, yet with a strong western influence. Taiwanese business professionals are usually familiar with western business cultural norms as their economy is based on foreign investment and trade. 

Confucian values and Chinese traditions greatly influence Taiwanese practices. The concept of mianzi (saving face to society) is vital in business. Saving face is solely based on avoiding shame or the appearance of being wrong. Never correct a superior or coworker as doing so would cause him or her to lose face. In addition to mianzi, the other important cultural concept to heed is guanxi, which is a term used to explain the importance of the relationships that tie Taiwanese to one another. A lot of business is conducted with friends and family in Taiwan and building relationships is a key aspect to successful business partnerships. 

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Housing

As with many island nations, real estate is highly coveted and therefore quite expensive. If you do not speak Mandarin, you will need to be sure to have a liaison during the rental process, since it is so different from many other countries. Appliances or features that you may think are typical are seen as luxuries or unavailable in Taiwan. Apartments are generally small and expensive. There are large pockets of international communities throughout the city. Rental properties have a faster turnover if they are occupied by transient global residents. 

Food

Taiwanese food is similar to Chinese food. Taiwanese food staples include fish, rice, chicken, pork, beef, and tofu. Vegetables are hard to grow because of Taiwan's geography; however, cucumbers, carrots, and squash are available. Typical flavorings include pickles, fermented bean paste, rice wine, and soy sauce. Although not all Taiwanese food is spicy, chilies and chili paste are found in many popular dishes.

Food brings Taiwanese together for casual meetings and traditional celebrations. Restaurants in Taiwan typically have their own proper dining etiquette based on the meal prices at restaurants. In night and day markets, street food is eaten with the hands, and many people eat and walk at the same time. Making noise while eating or eating with your mouth open are not considered rude in Taiwan. An interesting fact about dining out in Taiwan is that the menu and receipt are placed on the table faced down. This way, customers don't see the price they have to pay and feel guilty.  

Here are a few favorite Taiwanese foods to try during your time there:

  • Dumplings
  • BBQ Pork Buns
  • Noodle dishes with sesame or peanut 
  • Onion pancake 
  • Stinky tofu 
  • Beef noodle soup
  • Sticky rice with mango 
  • Bubble tea
  • Pineapple cakes

bowl-chopsticks-cuisine-955137

Photo by Buenosia Carol from Pexels

Schooling

School is compulsory for twelve years in Taiwan. Students begin at the age six and attend school until the age eighteen. Since Mandarin is the country's national language, it is the official language of instruction. The mandarin spoken in Taiwan is referred to as "Taiwanese" because it is slightly different from mainland China's mandarin. Girls and boys learn in the same classroom in a very strict educational system. Uniforms are worn by all students.  

Transportation

Cars, trains, and the metro system all criss-cross to connect the nation. Taipei, people enjoy biking. The city has purpose-built infrastructure for cyclists and the paths are maintained with government investments. 

Taxis and ride-sharing apps are also available. The airports with the highest traffic in Taiwan are Taoyuan International Airport (TPE), Kaohsiung International Airport (KHH), and Songshan Airport (TSA).

joel-fulgencio-720412-unsplash

Photo by Joel Fulgencio on Unsplash

Attractions: Museums and Nature

Some of the top attractions in Taiwan are:

  • Taipei 101 
  • National Palace Museum
  • Lungshan Temple
  • Shilin Night Market
  • Taipei Zoo

Some of the most beautiful natural features of Taiwan include:

  • Taroko National Park
  • Sun Moon Lake
  • Yangmingshan National Park
  • Kenting National Park 
  • Shifen Waterfall

Image of Taiwan's natural beauty

Photo by Tsang Chung Yee from Pexels

Security

Make multiple copies of your documentation and keep these materials in a safe place. These documents should include the location of your nearest home country embassy in case of emergency. When you travel, always be sure to provide at least one other person with your itinerary.

As in every country, there are places that are dangerous to go to if you are unfamiliar with the area. Ask the locals where they do not go, and try to avoid traveling alone and at night. Whenever you travel to a new place, remember that it is best to avoid large crowds when possible. Always trust your instinct; if something feels wrong to you, leave the area immediately. If you decide to explore the natural beauty of Taiwan, be sure to go with a knowledgable guide and obey all posted signs and warnings. Also, vigilantly pay attention to typhoon plans. Be sure you know the proper safety procedures in the event of an earthquake.

Image of a dragon in Taiwan

Image by tillahrens on Pixabay

Facts about Taiwan

  • Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China (not to be confused with the People's Republic of China). Most governments around the world do not recognize Taiwan as an independent nation. 
  • Free wi-fi is available throughout the city of Taipei; simply register upon arrival and you'll always be connected.
  • Garbage trucks play different jingles to alert neighbors to bring out their trash. 
  • Convenience stores offer a variety of services (like bill-paying, printing, package mailing, and more) in addition to picking up essentials. 
  • Taiwan is a highly educated nation and most children are encouraged to learn an instrument and play sports.

Is relocation in your future? Explore the world via our other Destination Profiles, which include:

If you are anticipating a global assignment, or if you work at an international company with culturally diverse coworkers, intercultural training is essential to success. Click the button below to see which option is the best fit for your individual needs.

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