It’s funny the things that you can learn about a new place in your first 24 hours of being there. When I’m on the move, I like to write down little observations about a new place and look back at them again on the end of my trip. See if my original perceptions still hold true and assess how good a judge of character I really am!
If there’s one thing I can say about Taipei (and that I can’t stop saying), it’s that Veeran and I both felt very at home there. We both agreed that it’s a place that we could see ourselves living in at some point in the future. We loved the food, the green spaces and, most of all, the kind and pleasant people we met along the way.
These are some of the things that stood out to me most after just 24 hours in Taipei!
This is the first thing that stood out to me and something that still continued to surprise me towards the end of our trip. Every time we got to a subway station, I noticed people queueing in an orderly fashion. I was in awe.
We’re not in South Korea anymore, Toto!
One of the things that constantly “grinds my gears” in Korea, is the pushy, “bbali-bbali” (hurry up, hurry up) culture. After 3 years living there, it still doesn’t feel right pushing my way onto a bus, and it probably never will.
Another weird thing that I loved about Taipei? People stand to the right and walk to the left on escalators. I probably did Veeran’s head in going on about this but I really feel this rule should be highly enforced in all countries!! In London, you’d pretty much get mauled if you did any differently at rush hour! Plus, it’s common sense and common courtesy, right?
It’s the little things like this that make a city seem more liveable, and the politeness and thoughtfulness of Taipei’s citizens definitely made a huge impression on me.
It’s a Very Liveable City
As I mentioned, during our first day in Taipei, we both kept saying how much we could see ourselves living there. For starters, the city is extremely bike friendly with huge cycle lanes and an awesome bike-sharing system. Plus, the it’s full of green spaces and close to mountains so it’s easy to feel like you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle without being too far from all the conveniences.
Things were reasonably priced and it’d be easy to eat out on the regular, especially if you head to the night markets. Plus, what really struck us is the variety of things to do around Taipei. Especially things to do that don’t really revolve around drinking which can be the norm in big cities. The drinking culture in Taipei is nowhere near as big or in your face as what we’ve experienced in Korea and this was a refreshing change for us.
English is Widely Spoken
Coming straight to Taiwan from Korea, we inevitably made a lot of comparisons between the two countries. One huge difference that struck us was the ease in which people communicated with us in English. By this, we are in no way stating that people in Taiwan have superior English skills to Korean people. As English teachers, we can both safely say that’s not the case at all.
What we have observed, though, is that people are much more confident speaking English. Even if they can just say a few words to communicate, they make the effort (and don’t start giggling because they had to speak to you.)
Having people communicating with us in English is absolutely not something that we expect when we travel. We spent most of our trip complaining to each other that we were embarrassed by our complete lack of mandarin skills beyond the usual”ni hao” and “xie-xie.” Our grasp of the Korean language is good enough for us to be able to get by without relying on locals to speak English to us (although it could certainly be a lot better!) But still, this is something that, as a tourist, made our trip much easier and more convenient. (Especially when you find yourself in a sea of Chinese writing that you can’t understand!)
This one is a bit silly but as soon as we jumped in our first taxi, my face lit up when I saw the “Wear your seatbelt or you will be fined” sign in the back. I like knowing that the government has my back and wants me to be safe. I hate getting in taxis and there being no seatbelts in the back and getting told it’s fine because I’m not in the front. Safety first, guys!
People are Proud of their Island Country
This was evident by the way that people took care of their country. We hardly saw any rubbish on the streets and everyone that we met was kind to us and really welcomed us to Taiwan, hoping that we had a great stay and glad that we decided to visit.
The people that we spoke to seemed proud of their rich history. They had no problem referring to some of their food as “Chinese” food, they didn’t speak bitterly of their colonisation by Japan. Instead, they were happy to bring attention to the colonial buildings that make up their city and the remnants of Japanese life that have stuck with them. The Taiwanese people seemed to be proud of their rich, cultural make-up and this is something that I found really refreshing.
There can be a fine line between patriotism and xenophobia, and the Taiwanese people we met were simply proud of their country. When we saw young people protesting against mainland China on the street, it was evident that the rallies were spurred more from love for their people than hate towards another country. Of course, we just spent a short time there but, on the surface, there seemed to be no feelings of superiority and we were made to feel welcome there.
Taipei is a city that a lot of people overlook when they travel in Asia. Before I visited, all that I’d heard was that it was like “a more laidback China” but there is much more to it than that. Taipei has a vibe and culture all of its own that, truthfully, I can’t really begin to compare to any other Asian city that I’ve visited. This is one underrated metropolis that you need to spend, at the very least, a few days in!