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Mainland vs. Taiwan

January 18, 2012

Disclaimer: These are my opinions and observations. I would like to hear any comments you may have.

Taiwan 101

Spending about six months in Beijing has made me forget about how different Taiwan is compared to China. In China, I am usually told that I look Chinese, and I respond by telling them that my mother is from Taiwan. The other person, in turn, states that I am a zhongguoren, which basically means, I am Chinese. At this point, it is easier (and less mafan) to agree that I am Chinese, instead of disagreeing as Chinese people firmly believe that Taiwan is still part of China.

So when I landed in Taiwan, besides some of the differences I already knew, I recognized so many differences between the two people. Some of the differences start with the language: Taiwanese still use traditional Chinese characters and learn it through bo po mo fo method, while the mainlander use simplified Chinese characters and learn it through the easier pinyin (especially for westerners) method. In addition, there are many Japanese words such as kawaii (cute) that are frequently used and understood by the Taiwanese. Some of the older generation Taiwanese still use and understand Japanese. Whenever I meet older folks, I generally communicate with them in Japanese. Taiwanese generally have no animosity towards Japanese, in fact, it’s the complete opposite of the mainlanders.

I can keep on going about the differences, however, I would like to share the biggest differences I observed during my time here.

  1. 1/14/2012 was voting day for the Taiwanese. It was so strange to watch how enthusiastic the Taiwanese were about the political parties. If one usually asks a mainlander about political situation, for obvious reasons, it’s usually a robotic and bland answer, however, the intensity of the Taiwanese people’s thoughts and beliefs was a fresh view. More than 80% of the people voted! It was so intense, that after the winner was announced, many people from the losing party cried.
  2. There are less anti-Japanese sentiments in Taiwan. There are many Japanese products. In fact, the foreign language section at bookstores is broken down to Japanese language, and then all the other foreign language sections. Most signs are in Chinese, English, and Japanese.
  3. People recognize that you may not understand or speak Chinese. When this occurs, they will take the time to have extra patience with you and attempt to communicate with you in your native language.
  4. No unnecessary honking. There is less traffic; there is also an emphasis on pedestrian and bikers first. Drivers will wait for pedestrians to walk before attempting to drive forward. In addition, honking is at a minimum from both bicycles and cars.
  5. Since I have been in Taipei, I haven’t seen or heard one person spit. I haven’t seen spit droppings in random indoor places. I’m not saying it’s perfect…in Kaohsiung, I saw about a handful of cases of people spitting…outside.

It seems spending time in China has brought out my cultural identity as a Taiwanese as in so many aspects, we are so different from the mainlanders.

“When a person has an accent, it means he can speak one more language than you”

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