10 Quirks I Love About Taiwan

1.         Tea bags floating inside water bottles – I always find this an amusing thing to see. Seeing a tea bag willfully floating inside a water bottle always makes me wonder, how many times has that bottle been refilled? Sometimes I also get to see an assortment of herb-looking stuff inside. This makes me think that all those thermos bottle locals also carry around may have been filled with more unique surprises. Hmm…I hope they invent transparent thermos bottles soon.
2.         Old folks declining an opportunity to take a seat – Most comfortably seated locals seem to have an automatic ability to detect an old folk standing inside the MRT cab. Never mind that grandma or grandpa is meters away. But distance isn’t the real issue. It’s the fact that most of these respected old folks sometimes refuse the offer. This tendency to refuse makes me think about the pitfalls of offering a seat, since the supposed recipient would talk back in Chinese and I would resort to my default tim bu dong routine which these days are getting really old I didn’t intend a pun.
So I’ve asked a local about this and she said that it’s actually a silent protest—grandpa (usually) or grandma’s way of saying, “I’m still young at heart…with sturdy bones.”
3.         Being served with chopsticks and hot tea by default – You come in at a restaurant and get seated at your table. What happens next is that you are served with chopsticks and hot tea by default. If you ask for fork, sometimes you will get it sometimes you won’t. If you ask for spoon, they will likely give you this or simply end up with a soup spoon.
Hot tea is the usual drink that would accompany you as you wait for your food. It’s either black tea or green tea. If you want water, you’ve got to request for it. Sometimes they would give you warm water and I used to think that that’s because they expect me to have my own tea bag? I dunno. Either way, it’s a healthier alternative and if you get served with warm water consider that a compliment. It means the wait staff thinks you’re a health buff or is silently implying it’s healthier for you *discreetly eyes your waistline.*
4.         Aggressive recycling – The waste disposal system here is inspiringly aggressive. Taiwan segregates their waste like a boss. If you want to get lazy, you need to pay for it. When I used to live in New Taipei City, I needed to buy these expensive pink plastic bags which give me the freedom to stuff all my garbage in one bag. When we go to the streets to take the trash out to an oncoming garbage truck (which plays classical music), most of the people who spot my plastic bottles ask for it. There’s an unmistakable twinkle in their eyes when they see my gold mine of PET bottles.
And everywhere you go, you will find not just one trash can but usually 2-3 cans side by side: for paper, for general garbage, for plastics. Please segregate smartly or you get a look—something between “can’t you read?” and “tsk, foreigners.”
5.         Long lines on Cold Stone during autumn and winter – I think the longest line I’ve ever seen on Cold Stone is during winter. A friend said it’s because ice cream is best enjoyed during cold weather and from actual experience, my friend’s wisdom is proven. The creamy cold goodness stays with you longer unlike in the summer time. Also, I don’t know, maybe we’re just a bunch of sadomasochistic foodies here who wouldn’t mind to chill a little more during chilly weather with a cup of Like It in our hands. It doesn’t hurt to balance brainfreeze with handfreeze or go for the full-on facefreeze. What are bubble jackets and gloves for anyway, right?
6.         The line-up culture and respecting traffic – It’s in Taiwan that I learned the importance of paying attention to long lines. If there’s a line, it must be good. That truth extends beyond the literal aspect. I suspect locals also line up here because it’s an inherent quality they have. I’m not saying they are perfect but on the discipline scale, I think they are pretty much up there.
People also fight the good fight against walking ahead on pedestrian crossings on a red light even if no vehicles are passing by. I tried to catch some people break this rule, only to discover that red would turn green at their second step. Like a boss moment #2.
I would also like to note how the MRT just really teaches you a lot of good manners. You queue up behind the white line, you line up to the right to let people hop off the cabs first, you stand at the right side of the escalators to let people walk hurriedly on the left, you don’t fight to get into the elevator first and sometimes end up waiting on each other.
You respect people’s space and they, in turn, do the same. Taipei, thanks for teaching me how to become a better citizen.

Even while having a siesta, locals still maintain their well-organized, space-respecting lines. 
7.         Free Wi-Fi all over the island for everyone – By everyone, I mean each and every person on the face of Taiwan. THAT IS SO COOL. All you have to do is click on the network name iTaiwan on your mobile device and then sign up using your mobile number.
It doesn’t matter if you’re using your home country’s SIM card, as long as you can receive the confirmation text message that will be sent to that number. The internet speed here is also amazing! It clocks in at around 1Mbps and some say that’s still slow. Have you ever tried G****?
8.         Grammatically incorrect statement shirts – I used to think that this is funny even kind of embarrassing but now due to desensitization I have started to get amused with this too. I think the statement shirt award should go to Taiwan. They don’t even try, you know. The cloth is irrelevant. The statements say it all.
And trust me, that’s not even half of what you’d see here. These statement shirts are everywhere. From night market stalls to sidewalk shops to high-end boutiques, the possibilities of making a statement are endless! I’m thinking about giving them out as gifts. Should be statement-worthy for the holidays.
9.         Being encouraged to have a siesta – This is included in this list because this encouragement comes from…drumroll please…my boss. It’s actually a culture ingrained among the Taiwanese and part of their health-conscious thingy. Just to make it clear, this encouragement is only within the lunch break time frame, okay? Still, how often do you get to be advised and sometimes insistently so that you need to nap at least 30 minutes every day?
The last I experienced this constant reprimand of taking advantage of naps was from my grandma. Used to hate it, but now I think sleep is so precious. Oh yeah, Gollum-level precious.
10.     Efficient government offices and health care system – I have gone to the OPD once and it was a good experience. I was even assisted by some elderly folks when I needed to take my weight and height measurements. The  fee that I paid (500 NTD) already covered doctor’s fee plus medicines. I was able to use my health card which is the Philhealth equivalent back home.
My colleague recently had a dental emergency in which two of her teeth needed to be removed. She only paid 100 NTD and presented her health card. That fee already covered doctor’s fee, medicines, and the dental x-ray.
Also last year, I needed to pay my annual income tax. I was clueless about the computation and initially went to a Taipei tax bureau thinking I could pay there. Turns out I cannot, because at that time I was living in New Taipei City. Though the government workers told me this, they still helped me out by teaching me how to compute for my tax and giving me soft and hard copies of my income tax statement as recorded under my file in the tax system.
When I finally went to a tax bureau in New Taipei City, the assistant only asked me to give her the paper works I have (income tax declarations from my employee, hard copy from Taipei’s tax bureau) and she computed everything else by herself. Her computation and mine only had a difference of 5 NTD. The whole tax filing in Xindian district, New Taipei took me just around twenty minutes (waiting time and paying at 7-eleven included) AND IT WAS THE LAST DAY OF FILING.
Kudos to all the government/health workers I’ve encountered. So far, so very good. Taipei must be proud of you, efficient citizens.

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