I love Taiwan a lot and there are certainly more things that I like than that I grumble about. That said, there are 5 things that really get me about life in Taiwan. These mostly come from being born and bred as a sensible, picky-eater and weather-conscious Brit.
- Scooters Driving on the Pavement
This really comes under a big umbrella grumble about bad driving in Taiwan. It’s not uncommon to see helmet-less scooter drivers running a red light with their family and dog crammed on board too. As hazardous as this makes driving, my real grumble is people driving on designated pedestrian areas. Why drive on the sidewalk when the road is parallel to it? And where are pedestrians supposed to walk scooters are running them down on the pavements? Scooters driving through night markets makes me equally grumbly.
- Gloomy Overcast Weather (and no sympathy from the Taiwanese!)
Part of the reason I moved to South-East Asia was to escape the British weather. I am no stranger to grey overcast days and like all Brits, this kind of dreary end-of-the-world weather gets me down. But there’s no conversation to be made about it here! To the Taiwanese, the weather is an irrelevant factor and not a topic for small talk. Cloudy, overcast days make up about 5 months of the year here in Yilan.
- The Bubbles in Bubble Tea
Anyone who knows anything about contemporary Taiwan will know that all the young people are crazy about drinking bubble milk tea (also known as pearl milk tea). While I quite like milk tea, I just don’t understand the fascination with the fatty, starchy tapioca balls (fěnyuán) that block up your giant straw and make your jaw ache from all the chewing. They’ve also been the subject of a few food scandals because of carcinogens. Bù yào fěnyuán, thank you.
- Eateries closing early
Taiwan has a huge eat-out culture. Food on the streets and small eateries is much cheaper than cooking at home and a big bowl of noodles will only set you back around NT$60 (£1.20). But everywhere closes at 8pm. Maybe this is just because we live in a small town, as I’m sure Taipei and the larger cities cater for later eaters. But when you finish work at 6.30pm or even 8.30pm then dinner is either a rush or you’ve completely missed it.
- I’ve not met a Taiwanese person who likes Taiwan Cinema
Devastating but not unsurprising. After studying Taiwan New Cinema at university with a group of students who hated it, I was sure that I was going to meet proud national cinema enthusiasts all over Taiwan: turns out not. In fact, most people I’ve spoken to don’t even know who Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Tsai Ming-Liang are. Admittedly Taiwan’s cinema is known as ‘the cinema of slowness’ and if you think paint drying is slow, then you have no idea how slow it is. But it has a certain charm.