Taipei, Taiwan/ J Russell Mikkelsen

What’s Weird About Taiwan

Taiwan is weird. No seriously, like, really weird. 

Taiwan is weird. No seriously, like, really weird. Okay, every country and culture has its weirdocities that make it unique; its unwritten rules and habits that seem as natural as breathing to the locals but mind-bendingly bizarre to others. Here are some of Taiwan’s:

· Respect the heck out of rules. Rules are, like, revered in Taiwan. Such as escalators, stand on the right, walk on the left. Late one night, I stood next to a Taiwanese friend on an escalator. There was no one in sight. She yanked me to the side, “You should stand on the right!”

· Young men don’t sit on the subway. It doesn’t matter how many empty seats there are, young men do not sit on the subway. Sitting is for girls and people over 60. (This is a neat unspoken rule, but sucks if you’ve been carrying a 40lb backpack around half the day, or just finished a 12 mile hike.)

· If you are tall and white, or just white, people want to look at you. But they don’t want to be caught looking. So, if you keep your head turned to the left as you walk and look at people just as they pass you by, you will make eye-contact with every single person.

· Helpfulness is next to godliness. Say hello to a Taiwanese person and you’ve made their day, so they will repay you with a constant barrage of helpfulness until you part. Walk through an open-market with a Taiwanese person and they will offer to buy you every item for sale at every stand, and some items not for sale. Sleep in the same room as a Taiwanese person and they will approach you as you read in bed, half-naked under the covers, and explain how to visit every tourist location in town. “Go away, I’m trying to sleep,” is considered an inappropriate response and will be ineffective.

· Rain is deadly. If you don’t cover yourself in a full body rainproof plastic bag, you at least need an umbrella. If you insist that a little rain will actually not kill you, be prepared to deal with shock and denial.

· A lot of things are impossible in Taiwan, especially in the service industry. Until you ask four or five times when, “Okay, fine.” And they do it.

· Pavement is necessary to enjoy nature. Trails are dangerous and should be used by no one.

· Swimming is dangerous. The ocean is dangerous. Viewing the ocean may cause drowning.

· The only thing that is not dangerous is driving. Driving is the safest thing in the world. No one ever got hurt driving a car so you can pretty much zip through the city as you please. Green means go. Yellow means go. Red means go while honking.

· Pre-meal rituals include photographing your meal. No one may begin until the host has uploaded the photo to facebook and tagged all present.

· You should wear a doctor’s mask if you are sick to prevent the spread of disease. You should wear a doctor’s mask if anyone in your home is sick to prevent the spread of disease. You should wear a doctor’s mask in the metro to prevent the spread of disease. You should wear a doctor’s mask during flu season to prevent the spread of disease. You should wear a doctor’s mask during cold season to prevent the spread of disease. You should wear a doctor’s mask if anyone, anywhere is sick to prevent the spread of disease.

· There is bird flu in China. Did you hear that there’s bird flu in China? You shouldn’t go to China. There’s bird flu in China. People can die from bird flu. You should wear a doctor’s mask because there’s bird flu in China.

· Distances over 0.4 miles are too far to walk. Distances over 0.5 miles are impossible to walk. You’ll probably die of bird flu before you arrive. It’s going to take you hours. At least bring an umbrella. And wear a doctor’s mask.