Taipei: Up close and personal
Taipei, the capital of the island nation of Taiwan, is known as one of the Asian ‘tiger’ cities that throb with life, day and night. The city is overwhelmed with excellent restaurants (it is renowned among gourmets), magnificent hotels, glitzy shopping malls, wonderful museums, temples, spas and peaceful gardens.
Since World War II, Taipei has grown from a swampy farming settlement into a modern metropolis within an extraordinarily short time. The latest engineering feat to grace the city’s ever-rising skyline is the soaring Taipei 101 tower (named because of its 101 floors), which opened in 2004 and is currently acknowledged as the world’s tallest building. (However, when completed, the Dubai Tower in UAE will officially be the tallest building in the world).
The city skyscrapers reach up from a basin in the north of Taiwan, which is separated from the Chinese mainland by the narrow Formosa Strait. For decades, the recognition of the independence of Taiwan has been an issue domestically and internationally, and the dispute is still simmering. But, a territorial dispute aside, Taipei attracts millions of visitors each year.
Formerly called ‘Formosa’ (Portuguese for ‘beautiful’), Taiwan is relatively small, although its population numbers almost 23 million, making it the second most densely populated country in the world after Bangladesh. Economic and political developments have driven Taipei’s internationalization, increasing the bustle in this ultra-dense city. Although rice paddies have given way to skyscrapers, Taipei still retains the warm hospitality of the Taiwanese people.
Taiwan is one of the most unsung destinations in all of Asia, its modern emergence as an economic and industrial powerhouse still overshadowing the staggering breadth of natural, historic and culinary attractions this captivating island has to offer. A fascinating mix of technological innovation and traditional Chinese and aboriginal cultures and cuisines, Taiwan is one of the only places on earth where ancient religious and cultural practices still thrive in an overwhelmingly modernist landscape.
On any given day, the casual visitor can experience this unique juxtaposition of old and new, witnessing time-honoured cultural practices while still taking in technological milestones such as the world’s tallest building and the new High Speed Rail that links the island’s two largest cities.
A gateway to the massive Chinese market, Taiwan has a strong relationship with the West. The political issue of its relationship with China has eased somewhat and direct flights to the mainland have been introduced. Taiwan has plenty to offer, from truly unique scenery to exciting sporting activities and colourful festivals, not to mention the most varied Chinese food on earth.
Beyond the narrow corridor of factories and crowded cities along Taiwan’s west coast is a tropical island of astounding beauty, with by far the tallest mountains in northeast Asia and some of the region’s most pristine and secluded coastline. Add to this the impressive array of cuisines – with specialities from all corners of China as well as authentic aboriginal and Japanese fare – and you’ve got one of the worlds most well-rounded and hospitable holiday destinations.
Despite Taiwan’s complex ethnic and cultural mix, its way of life is predominantly Chinese, steeped in tradition and marked by superstition. As such, ancient customs and festivals are celebrated with fervour, and traditional holidays are closely observed. Taiwanese people are extremely friendly, and standards of hospitality are high.
Did You Know?
- Taiwan is Chinese for terraced bay.
- Taiwan’s train system is excellent, with stops in all major cities. Train stations are often located in the centers of most cities and towns and serve as a convenient hub for most types of transportation. The new train backbone is Taiwan High Speed Rail, a bullet train based on Japanese Shinkansen technology that covers the 345km route on the West Coast from Taipei to Zuoying (Kaohsiung) in 90 minutes.
- Taiwan has an annual Hungry Ghost Festival that occurs throughout the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. It is believed that the gates of hell open during this period and hungry ghosts are allowed to roam freely into our world. In order to appease the ghosts and prevent misfortune, many Taiwanese will offer food and burn joss paper for them. In addition, traditional Chinese performances such as Chinese opera and puppet shows are held to appease these wandering spirits.
- Taiwan’s geographical location between an oceanic trench and volcanic system makes it an ideal hot springs vacation spot. There are several hot springs destinations throughout the country, including Wulai and Yangmingshan.
- Taiwan is particularly famous for its oolong tea and this is available in at many tea shops. Tea tasting in Chinese culture is akin to wine tasting in Western culture and you will find many grades of this same type of tea, with different methods of treating the tea leaves.
- There are many styles of kung fu taught in Taiwan, largely by masters who came here with the Kuomintang in the late 1940’s. Styles include Ba Gua, Tai Chi, Wing Chun, Praying Mantis, Shway Shiao and various weapons systems. Many of the students are westerners in these classes, which has led to the rise of several NHB Allegra schools, as well as Ju Jitsu and Aikido from Japan. Taekwondo is also extremely popular and is often a mandatory part of school children’s physical education.
- The English daily newspaper in Taiwan is the Taiwan News.
How to Get Here
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) is one of the two airports that serve northern Taiwan, including Taipei. The other is Taipei Songshan Airport located within the Taipei City limits, which serves only domestic flights.
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport formerly Chiang-Kai Shek Airport) is Taiwan’s main international airport. Located 40km to the southwest of Taipei, it has good connections to major Asian cities and North America.
The airport has direct buses to Taipei, Taichung and other nearby cities. Alternatively, the U-Bus company operates shuttles to HSR Taoyuan (Jhongli) station for high-speed train connections, and to Jhongli Transit Station, for mainline TRA train and southbound bus connections to Tainan, Hsinchu and other destinations.
Several bus companies serve city centre destinations (Journey time – 50-60 minutes), as well as Taipei Rail Station. There are also buses to Taoyuan, Chungli and Taichung (Journey time – 2 hours), as well as other areas.
Taxis are available from the Arrivals Hall 24 hours a day to Taipei and Taichung.
There are car hire counters in the Arrivals lobby of both terminals.
New Taiwan Dollar
The New Taiwan Dollar is the currency of Taiwan.
There are no private money exchanges in Taiwan, so foreign currency is best exchanged upon arrival at the airport, where there is a foreign exchange counter that is open 24 hours. The currency that is preferred in Taiwan is US dollars.
Taiwan provides the facility of exchanging foreign currencies and traveler’s cheques at banks and some hotels. When such cases of currency exchange occur, receipts are given that must be presented prior to departing.
There are many ATM’s located throughout the country but not all of them accept international bank cards. ATMs are available in the major cities. For locations of ATMs you can visit these VISA and MasterCard Web sites. Major credit cards are generally accepted at banks and larger hotels.
What will the seasonal weather be like?
The weather in Taipei can change drastically in the span of a day. Unless it is summer, you are advised to carry a light sweater or jacket if you travel outside the city. The most pleasant time of year to visit is between October and March, when the weather is least humid and temperatures average around 25 C.
At higher elevations the temperatures are about 7 degrees C cooler. Almost two-thirds of Taiwan is covered by mountains, with 258 peaks over 3,000m, most of them heavily forested. The highest of these, Yushan (Jade Mountain), is northeast Asia’s tallest mountain at 3,952m.
May through September in Taipei can be rainy, hot and very humid. The island tends to be humid year-round and receives rainfall during all seasons, particularly April through July.
The typhoon (hurricane) season is between June and November, and you should take note of typhoon warnings issued by the Central Weather Bureau, as there can be high winds. Corresponding flooding in Taipei is possible, but not likely.
Those using public transport have two options in the capital, the bus or the metro. Taipei has an excellent, fairly comprehensive subway system called the MRT that makes getting around the city quite easy. The MRT Mass Rapid Transit System has eight lines covering the major areas of the city. Trains are frequent and run all day until midnight. The system is efficient, inexpensive and not too crowded, and there are signs in English. A one-day pass is valid for unlimited Taipei MTR rides valid from first use until midnight.
Buses are plentiful and services frequent, reliable and comfortable, although during rush hour buses can be crowded. Public buses are operated by the Taiwan Bus Company, while the largest private bus company is Tonglien Bus Company. A pre-paid EasyCard can be used on buses and MTR.
Taxis are the most convenient way to get around: they are inexpensive and plentiful. They can be hailed on the street, picked up outside hotels, or a dispatch taxi may be called via an English-speaking radio calling system from almost any destination. Taxis are all metered. Writing destination addresses in Chinese is essential as many drivers do not speak English.
Taipei’s street numbering system is very confusing and traffic is congested, making driving in the capital difficult. As a result, hiring a car and driver is preferable to driving yourself. It is only worth hiring a car to drive out of Taipei, although traffic congestion means that it may take a long time. An International Driving Licence is required to hire a car, which needs to be taken, along with passport and a passport-sized photograph, to the nearest Vehicle Registration Department to apply for a ‘Driver’s Licence Visa’. All vehicles need Compulsory Automobile Liability Insurance.
National and local car rental firms are represented at the airport and in the city. Free city maps are available from most car rental firms or Taiwan Tourism, but, investing in a handheld GPS system featuring turn-by-turn voice directions could be invaluable. GPS systems also feature points of interest that are nearby your location, and many other features that will provide a level of confidence while navigating in an unfamiliar destination.
What Not to Miss
Taipei, Taiwan’s crowded capital has a unique personality. Both old and new are well represented within the city. While older neighbourhoods, on one side of the city, have narrow alleyways and traditional Chinese architecture, Taipei’s other half is aglitter with malls and office complexes. In between are the hectic roadways and nonstop commerce of this vibrant city.
Sightseeing in Taipei can be a 24 hour proposition. Chinese culture is very much alive and celebrated beneath the modern veneer of Taipei.
Located in the verdant hills on the outskirts of Taipei, the National Palace Museum is home to more than 650,000 priceless Chinese artefacts – the world’s largest collection. The main exhibition follows an interesting and easily interpreted timeline through China’s dynasties to the present day. Those who want to soak up some Chinese culture in serious style will be awed by the vast collection of ancient artefacts and artwork at in the museum. The collection forms the bulk of what was once on display at the Forbidden City in Beijing, moved to Taipei as a result of the Chinese Civil War. Recently re-opened after extensive renovations, the museum houses some world-famous exhibits like the ‘Jade Cabbage’ (a piece of jade carved to resemble a cabbage head), and a valuable copy of the Qingming Scroll.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is an imposing tomb and shrine to Taipei’s most famous leader, and also houses the National Theatre and National Opera House, Taipei’s main venues for the performing arts. Pride of Taipei, the magnificent Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Park is a walled complex built in memory of the former Taiwanese President. It contains an impressive pyramid-shaped majestic white monument to Chiang Kai-shek, capped with a blue-tiled roof, as well as the National Concert Hall and National Theatre. All stand inside a lovely park, fronted by a vast plaza where there are often folk performances or other events being held. The Memorial is also the main venue for Taipei’s famed Lantern Festival, Shang Yuan, which draws thousands of lantern-carrying revellers to mark the Chinese New Year.
The Guinness Book of Records certified Taipei’s grandiose financial centre, known as Taipei 101, as the world’s tallest building in October 2003. It will soon be overtaken by a new building under construction in Dubai, however (due for completion in 2009), but at more than 509m high, designed to resemble a towering pagoda, this building will likely remain not only the city’s major landmark, but also an awesome tourist attraction, for generations to come. A trip up and down in one of the super-fast lifts takes only minutes, and the view from the top observation deck is of course spectacular. The lower levels are crammed with shops and restaurants.
Lungshan Temple is the city’s most atmospheric Taoist temple, curling with dragons, wafting with incense and burning paper ‘ghost money’. Of the many temples in Taipei, the Longshan Temple, dedicated to Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy is one of the most popular and represents an excellent example of the architecture commonly seen in older buildings in Taiwan. It was built in 1738 to serve as a place of worship for Chinese settlers, and has had a troubled history, being destroyed several times by earthquakes, fires and even American bombers during World War II. Undaunted, Taipei residents have rebuilt it each time, and it is now still very much in use.
The Wisteria Tea House is an authentic Chinese tea house. The Wisteria Tea House, where Ang Lee filmed Eat, Drink, Man, Woman is Taipei’s most historic and has wisteria in its garden.
Taipei Zoo is where to meet local Taiwanese animals like the flying fox, Asiatic Black Bear and the Chinese Pangolin. All these species, and hundreds of others, are happily housed in the zoo, which provides a fun day out for everyone. Arranged in habitats like an Asian Tropical Rainforest section, desert area and even African savannah, the zoo, founded in 1914, covers 165 hectares and includes an extensive indoor area.
Many visitors, while in Taipei, head to Yangmingshan National Park, where you can enjoy hot springs, cherry blossoms, hiking trails and viewing an extinct volcano. The park was originally named Grass Mountain because much of the area is grassy, but in 1950, Chiang Kai-shek changed the name to Yangmingshan to honour Chinese scholar Wang Yingmang.
In Taipei you can buy almost anything you can think of from designer names to antique curios, electronics, original jewellery, hand-painted scrolls, fragrant tea and quality toys for children.
Shopping in Taipei may include department stores, malls, transit malls, night markets and shopping districts. Taipei’s main shopping districts are Simending, Jhongsiao and Sinyi. The trendy shopping district of Ximending is a popular gathering place for young people.Theme streets such as the jade markets and computer lane found at Guanghua Commercial Plaza make shopping for one item convenient.
Taipei has many night markets. These are bustling with browsers and bargain hunters, whose persistence can be spectacularly rewarded. It is advisable to take a pen and paper to assist in the bargaining process, as most vendors speak only Chinese. Shilin Night Market has become the largest and most well known night market in Taiwan, especially for foods, and is a favourite focal point for Taipei’s night life among residents and visitors alike. The night market encompasses two distinct sections sharing a symbiotic relationship: a section formerly housed in the old Shihlin Market building containing mostly food vendors and small eateries; and the surrounding businesses and shops selling other non food items. The surrounding streets by Shilin Market get extremely crowded during the evening. Most night markets in Taiwan open around 4 PM. Crowds reach their peak between 8 and 11 PM and businesses continue operating well past midnight and close around 1 to 2 AM.
Other market areas of note include Taipei Underground Market (with multiple entrances to/from Taipei Railway Station, K-Mall, and Shin Kong Mitsukoshi), Zhongshan Metro Mall, Dihua Street and Guanghua Bazzar.
Core Pacific City, also known as the Living Mall is a shopping centre that has a total floor space of 204,190 square metres. Built in 2001, the structure is a complex of two buildings – an L-shaped building which contains specialty boutiques connected to a sphere which contains the Mira Department Store. The complex consists of 12 above-ground stories and 7 underground levels. The mall is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As one of the first of several large-scale malls in Taiwan, Core Pacific’s planners expected it to change local consumer behaviour to Western-style one-stop shopping. During the mall’s development and construction, it was touted as the world’s first truly 24 hour mall and Asia’s first “city within a city” complex.
Taipei after dark
Taipei dining is, in a worldly perspective, rich in international diversity. You can find every imaginable cuisine just around from wherever you may be. The most common places for outdoor dining in Taipei are found at Taipei’s famous night markets. There you can find anything from a simple running kitchen to indoor dining rooms. Or you can visit Wulai Taipei or Peitou for hot springs and then visit one of the restaurants there for a romantic dining experience. Another famous destination is Tamshui Taipei near the beach. This night market has many indoor and outdoor dining places. From there a boat can take you across the Tamshui Taipei River and you’ll find some of Taipei’s most original seafood restaurants.
Generally speaking, the foods of Taiwan are derived from mainland Chinese cuisines. It is possible to find Szechuan food, Hunan food, Beifang food, Cantonese and almost every other kind of Chinese cuisine. Taiwan also has many of its own local specialties. Most cities and towns in Taiwan are famous for special foods, because of their passion for food and influences from many different countries. Taipei also has remarkably good bakery items.
You can also sample both traditional and modern tea houses open all day and in the evening. In the tea-growing countryside around Mucha, it is possible to visit all-night tea houses and sip locally produced teas such as ‘iron Buddha’ tiehkuanyin tea. High-quality meals and snacks are also provided. These tea houses are popular with local families, particularly on special occasions.
And after dinner, you may well want to step out to The National Theatre and National Opera House, which are both situated on the grounds of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (whose wide open plaza is often used for large scale shows and folk performances) is the most important venue for the performing arts. Eight hundred performances annually feature both local and international performers in programs including dance, theatre, Chinese and Western operas, dramas and ballets, as well as vocal and instrumental concerts. The Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan hosts the world-famous Chinese contemporary dance company.
Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is the largest indoor auditorium in Taiwan and is used for large scale dance and musical productions. Shih-Ming Hall houses Taipei Eye, which is Taipei’s main theatre and dance troupe, and is quite well known internationally. Huashan Cultural-Creative Park showcases works by various theatre groups, painters, wood sculptors, writers, movie producers and directors from Taiwan and abroad.
Warner Village Cinema Multiplex, Shin Yi District, is also a great area for eating, drinking and shopping. Spot, Taipei Film House shows art house movies and hosts film festivals. It has a dedicated film-centric bookshop and a cafe.
Sports / Outdoor Adventure
Taiwan can offer visitors outdoor activities that are either “Calm” or “thrilling and chilling” it is a mountainous country, with terrain ranging from beautiful forested hills to soaring peaks.
Whether you are hill walker or a mountaineer, you can find the perfect trek or hike according to your levels of fitness and experience. Prime trekking areas include Alishan, where there is an extensive network of hiking trails that offer everything from day hikes to serious ascent trekking. Highly recommended is the 10 hour circuit to Fengshan, or the easy dawn hike to the summit of Chushan to watch the sunrise.
The spectacular Marble Canyon in the Taroko Gorge is the most popular day excursion. It includes a walk through tunnels and across a rope bridge below towering cliffs and visits to Taiwan’s most picturesque temple.There are also good hiking areas in the hills around Wulai, in Tungpu and along the Southern highway. The sheer cliffs near keeling on the North East Coast are popular with technical rock climbers.
For experienced climbers, bagging the peak of Mt.Yushan will be the main aim of a trip. This is the highest point in Taiwan with an elevation of 3952 metres. There are eleven separate peaks, all of which are steep and rocky. This makes Yushan an extremely challenging climb for Mountaineers. The best time to climb the mountain is from October to December during the dry season. From January to March, there are deep snows on the upper reaches of the mountain. A Yushan climb takes you through a subtropical zone at the lowest levels, a temperate and humid belt, then a cold and damp belt, and finally to an extremely high altitude zone. Note Before entering any restricted mountain areas, foreign mountaineers are asked to apply for entrance permit. If necessary, the ROC Mountain Association can arrange an English guide for a group of 4 or more members. But for those mountain areas less restricted, the local police stations are responsible for the issue of B Class entrance permit. The applicants have to provide their personal IDs or passports.
Rafting The many narrow gorges and winding rivers of Eastern Taiwan make for perfect rafting country, and the Hsiukuluan is the best white water in the area. Well organized and fully equipped rafting trips are run from the nearby town of Hualien. With 22kms of fine grade rapids to run, a white water expedition is a full day event, carrying rafts along a twisting course of challenging water with unforgettable scenery along the way. This is a must for any adventurous traveler in Taiwan.
The Laonung River is the second most popular spot for white water rafting. It is located in Liouguei Township in Kaohsiung County in the south of the country. Although it doesn’t compare to the volume of activity on the Hsiukuluan, rafting along the Laonung River can be more thrilling than on the Hsiukuluan River because there are lots of riptides and a winding course. The river is also popular with Kayakers looking to run rapids. More sedate kayaking can be found on the rivers throughout Wulai, south of Taipei.
Scuba Diving Taiwan is one of Asia’s undiscovered and great dive destinations, with diving to rival neighbouring dive spots in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia. With its subtropical location directly on the Tropic of Cancer, it’s not surprising that the waters around the island are rich in sea life and spectacular reef. PADI, NAUI and SSI qualifications are all recognized in Taiwan, and there are numerous training schools for new and novice divers.
Some of the top dive spots include Kenting on the southern tip of the island; the area is a National Park, and local dive guides can show you the best spots for a direct shore dive. Coral reef Green Island and Penghu Island. Most dive shops offer gear hire and airfills and boat hire varies from place to place.
Golf is one of the world’s foremost travel-friendly sports, and there are 37 golf courses in Taiwan, all within easy reach of major West coast towns and cities. Day membership and club hire is possible at many of the clubs, and a round of golf is a popular social and business networking activity in Taiwan.
Hot Springs Taiwan’s volcanic past has left abundant reserves of geothermal energy all over the island, and there are over 100 hot mineral springs scattered around the island, many of which are in the Datun Mountains of the Yangmingshan National Park. These springs, heated and charged by the earth’s own energy, are believed to soothe, revitalize and reinvigorate the body. The nearest springs to Taipei are at Beitou which is accessible on the main MRT line. Visitors can see the source of the springs in the bubbling sulphur of “Hell Valley”, then visit the Bathhouse Museum, an original spa once used by the Japanese (including World War II Kamikaze pilots who were given a luxurious break at Beitou before being sent on their final missions).
Eco-Tourism Taiwan’s natural heritage is protected in six National Parks: Kenting National Park, Yushan, Yangmingshan, Taroko, Gorge, Shei-pa, and Kinmen and 12 designated scenic areas. Bird lovers can also admire rare species of birds. Boasting the second-highest concentration of bird species per square kilometre in the world, Taiwan is also home to 15 endemics, as well as a host of near-endemic and rare species. Every year over 70 species of birds migrate to Taiwan, several of which are world-famous endangered species.
Local Customs and Etiquette
The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese, but because many Taiwanese are of southern Fujianese descent, Min-nan (the Southern Min dialect or Holo) is also widely spoken. The most popular foreign language in Taiwan is English, which is part of the regular school curriculum.
Taiwanese People, Society and Culture
Taiwan’s population is mostly Han Chinese who were born on the mainland or have ancestors that were. They are divided into three groups based on the dialect of Chinese they speak: Taiwanese, Hakka, and Mandarin. Taiwan also has a small population of aborigines who comprise about 2 percent of the total population. Most people in Taiwan have traditional values based on Confucian ethics; however, pressures from industrialization are now challenging these values. Still, some traditional values remain strong, including piety toward parents, ancestor worship, a strong emphasis on education and work, and the importance of “face.” Since industrialization, women enjoy greater freedom and a higher social status.
Some tensions exist between social groups. The majority of people in Taiwan came from or have ancestors who came from mainland China before 1949. They are known as Taiwanese and enjoy the highest standard of living in Taiwan. Because of their wealth and numbers, they also have the greatest influence on economic and political issues. Mainlanders are people who arrived in Taiwan after mainland China fell to the Communists in 1949. Many Mainlanders work for the government. Tensions between Taiwanese and Mainlanders have eased substantially. The aborigines, who live mainly in rural villages, are the least privileged social group in Taiwan.
The teachings of Confucius describe the position of the individual in society. Confucianism is a system of behaviours and ethics that stress the obligations of people towards one another based upon their relationship. The basic tenets are based upon five different relationships: Ruler and subject; Husband and wife; Parents and children; Brothers and sisters and Friend and friend.
Confucianism stresses duty, loyalty, honour, filial piety, respect for age and seniority, and sincerity. Due to the Confucian tenets, Taiwanese culture is a collective one. There is a need to belong to a group larger than themselves, be it family, school, work group or country. Taiwanese treat people with respect and dignity regardless of their personal feelings. In order to maintain a sense of harmony, they will act with decorum at all times and not do anything to cause someone else public embarrassment. They are willing to subjugate their own feelings for the good of the group.
The Concept of Face / Mien-tzu
The concept of face is extremely important to the Taiwanese. Face is difficult to translate into words but essentially reflects a person’s reputation, dignity and prestige. Face can be lost, saved or given to another person. Companies, as well as individuals, have face and this often provides the rationale behind business and personal interactions.
Giving Face – Face can be given to people by complimenting them, showing them respect, or doing anything that increases their self-esteem. Specific examples include.
Losing Face – You can cause someone to lose face by causing someone embarrassment, and/or tarnishing their image and reputation.
Saving Face – In the event that you cause someone to lose face, or someone is embarrassed by circumstances that arise, the best recourse is to appropriate blame for problems that arise.
Meeting and Greeting – Greetings are formal and the oldest person in a group is always greeted first. Handshakes are the most common form of greeting with foreigners. Many Taiwanese look towards the ground as a sign of respect when greeting someone. You need not follow their example as they understand that westerners tend to smile warmly when introduced. Most greetings include the rhetorical question, “Have you eaten?” The Chinese traditionally have 3 names. The surname or family name is first and is followed by one or two personal names. Chinese women do not change their names when they marry other Chinese, and the children’s last name will generally follow that of the father. Often their personal names have some poetic or otherwise significant meaning, so asking about the meaning is a good way to break the ice. When you are first meeting a person, address the person by their academic, professional, or honorific title and their surname. If those you are meeting want to move to a first name basis, they will advise you which name to use. Some Chinese adopt more western names in business and may ask you to call them by that name.
Gift Giving Etiquette
Gifts are given at Chinese New Year, weddings, births and funerals. The Taiwanese like food and a nice food basket or a bottle of good quality alcohol make nice gifts. A gift may be refused the first time it is offered out of politeness. Attempt to offer the gift again; however, never force the issue. Do not give scissors, knives or other cutting utensils as they traditionally indicate that you want to sever the relationship. Do not give clocks, handkerchiefs or straw sandals as they are associated with funerals and death. Do not give white flowers or chrysanthemums as they signify death. Do not wrap gifts in white, blue or black paper. Red, pink and yellow are considered to be auspicious colours. Elaborate gift wrapping is imperative. Do not give an odd number of gifts, since odd numbers are considered unlucky. Four is also an unlucky number. Do not give four of anything. Eight is the luckiest number. Giving eight of something brings luck to the recipient. Avoid giving anything made in Taiwan. Present gifts using both hands. Gifts are not opened when received. Gifts are generally reciprocated. Do not give a lavish gift unless it is to reciprocate an expensive gift that you have received.
The Taiwanese prefer to entertain in public places rather than in their home, especially when entertaining foreigners. If you are invited to a Taiwanese home, it will happen once you have developed a relationship and should be considered a great honour.
More About Taiwan
If you intend on visiting other areas in the country, Taiwan is divided into several regions: Central Taiwan includes the Central Mountains, central western coastal area, scenic Sun Moon Lake and Taichung city. Eastern Taiwan, cut off from the rest of the island by mountains, contains the country’s most striking natural scenery, including the famous Taroko Gorge (Tailuge Gorge) and the cities of Hualien and Taitung. Southern Taiwan is more tropical than the rest of the island, with many beaches and coconut palms. Taiwan’s second largest city, Kaohsiung, and oldest city, Tainan, are located in the south of the island.
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