Annoyances


To paint a rosy picture of Taiwan, or any country for that matter, would be unfair and biased, and as such shouldn't be rated trustworthy. On the other hand I do not intend to voice annoyances only to have a go at this place. One needs to admit however that there are certain situations when patience runs thin and one wishes to boil over.

Take punctuality for instance. It is not at all uncommon for Taiwanese to pay little attention to others' time, so it seems at least. Most of the time, it takes a complete fool, to be at the most of the classes on time, as is the case at the time of writing this piece, which has this silver lining that I can put together this article. As for now the teacher is half an hour late and I seriously doubt if my waiting is even half way over. Of course this feature is not unique to Taiwan. Spaniards could easily match them on punctuality, but what is surprising, and yes annoying too, is that at the time of making an appointing with Taiwanese they would stress the need for you to be there on time. As if on purpose intending to check if you are either dumb or stay in the country short enough to actually care. It seems even more surprising that such a behaviour - of lack of punctuality - is advised and seems acceptable to a degree, during business meetings, as numerous web pages advise business people to not be late for the meeting by more then ten minutes. To be on a safe site I will not follow this somewhat doubtful advise but I must admit that the schedule of a business meeting is nothing more then a draft. Therefore planning successive business meetings, based on a assumption that the first will end roughly on time, is a certain receipt for a failure.
Being fair on that account it must be said that even if business meetings are little to the point, which must be a torture for those of Protestant working ethics, they serve well the purpose of establishing and deepening personal relationships, which in turn are vital for success here. The length of any discussion is directly related to the fact that straight-forwardness is not valued, especially if it involves some uncomfortable truths. These should be avoided at all cost, sometimes bordering drollery.

Then there are dining manners. First I can hardly imagine any University where teacher, when he eventually shows up, doesn't mind students eating stenchy food, or for that matter eating in a first place. So there will be MacDonald's sets, pizzas, soups, whole chickens being brought to the lectures. It never cease to amaze me how relax people are here, and Chinese in general, with food consumption. It seems as if the atavistic urge to eat surpasses any social convention which by nature must be secondary to hunger. Slurping and belching habits are difficult to accept regardless of my numerous visits to China. My upbringing must have been rigid enough for me not being able to not to squeak at those sounds. I have managed to refrain from judgemental comments directed at the culprits and correcting those failing to admire the food in somewhat awkward manner and simply accepted that as an inevitable part of a dining experience here. Having said that I must admit that such a behaviour is not common and more widespread in Mainland China then here in Taiwan.

Another thing of a great potency to have my nerves racked is total lack of concern for fluent pedestrians movement. Often, for some reason, and this not being the height, it seems easier to jump over a person in front then bypass them or take them over. As if walking straight on the pavement is not something highly valued here. But even more annoying is the constant rush to be a few meters ahead, jump in front of somebody before the queue is established, because then no matter what, won position will not be ceded as the queue seems sanctimonious. Good example of that is boarding the tube or train. The second the train stops and the door opens the on-platform would-be passengers crowd the door without much concern for those inside. Them, the proper passengers, equally crowded inside, one on top of the another, are totally affixed with setting feet on the platform. And of course no matter how much would-bes want to get in the propers need to leave first – physics is merciless.

Finally there is a habit of repetition. Of course a repetition is a key to learning, but Chinese, and Taiwanese also, in fact sharing the same language, tend to repeat every thought or sentence, couple of times before moving on with the argument as if the listener is retarded. This situation becomes physically painful to neck muscles, especially at the lectures, due to constant head nodding motion, serving as non-verbal confirmation that the argument has indeed been understood and the notion at stake, explained properly, probably at the first, or surely no later then at the third attempt.
On the other hand for a foreigner willing to master Chinese this habit is a bliss, as it gives an actual chance to decipher what has been said.

The above list is by no means exquisite and likely, on some accounts, not fair either, as the annoyances may simply result from my personal lack of understanding of society's fabric – history, customs, traditions, etc. Nor I intend to offend my hosts and hope I managed to balance my opinions and criticism. But I am pretty sure that the above views, at least partly, are shared by others visitors to Taiwan.

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