I was originally born in China and moved to the Bay Area when I was five. Since then, I’ve visited cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong in various summers and speak fluent Mandarin Chinese at home. I consume copious amounts of Chinese food, and my parents named me “Sida Lu,” for crying out loud.
Going into this trip, I thought I knew what to expect. I assumed that Taiwan would be very similar to all the all cities in China that I had already visited, and that I’d get acclimated right away—no culture shock here!
Man, was I wrong.
Cities like Beijing are fairly polluted, with smog that blocks out the sun and simulates cloudy days. There’s also a lot of foot traffic everywhere, with bikers and pedestrians jostling for position near the sidewalk, and cars honking at each other on the streets. In general, theres a lot going on and it always feels muggy, dirty, and crowded.
Taiwan, on the other hand, was like the perfect balance of East and West. I was extremely surprised at how clean it was everywhere, despite the fact that there are very few trash cans lying around. I guess the Taiwanese citizens all just held onto their trash, rather than litter— self control rare in the States, even with so many public trash cans around.
The people in Taiwan were also extremely nice and helpful to strangers. Most of our cab drivers were really knowledgeable about the city and were always willing to share and answer questions, leading to some interesting conversations.
Unfortunately, we had one cab driver that dropped us off at the wrong location, a few blocks down from where we actually wanted to go. But this was quickly fixed by the fact that literally everyone we stopped on the street was more than willing to take some time and point us in the right direction.
And lastly, perhaps the thing I appreciated the most was the customer service everywhere we went. In America, I’ve ran into some pretty bad service— people with bad attitudes who look like they hate their jobs, but still expect a generous tip. In Taiwan, it was the complete opposite. The cleaning staff cleaned our messy rooms twice a day, and refused to take any tips the entire week. The front desk was available 24 hours a day and once spent an entire hour researching an offhand request of mine. Servers check in on you regularly and make sure all of your needs are met, no matter how strange; considering that they were serving American college students, there were definitely some strange requests.
All in all, I learned a lot about Taiwan during my time there. From the efficient public transportation to the unique night markets and who could forget the breathtaking memorials like the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial and how the city just burst into life at night…I’m definitely going to go back the first chance I get.