As a whole, Americans aren’t particularly cultured people. Our knowledge of geography is questionable, many of us think everyone in the world speaks (or should speak) English, and one of our favorite vacation past times is getting drunk. But alas, we’ve got a pretty strong passport so you can find us almost everywhere. We may be seen as obnoxious tourists to many, but I believe there are six American habits that can be useful, especially for living in Taiwan.
- Being willing to eat any hour of the day
Taiwan is a good place for a foodie. From the smallest alleys to the widest streets, there are food stalls that serve soy milk and fried dough in the morning and various meats on a stick at night. Every small town and city has at least one night market, where I can have dinner number two or three, and the convenience stores are open 24/7, with steamed buns, crispy seaweed rice triangles, and even ol’ American-style hot dogs waiting to be devoured by drunken party-goers at 3am.
- Knowing that there is no shame in a convenience store beer
Cheap beer is the best beer, especially when I’ve got a long night ahead of me or some day drinking planned. 7-11 and Family Mart have the one and only, Taiwan Beer, for about 1 buck a can. It might not taste stupendous, but it does the job and my wallet thanks me.
- Not trusting other drivers
I don’t ride a scooter here, but I am the minority. Most people zip around, on their crotch rockets, like chickens with their heads cut off and the roads are not a safe place to be. As a pedestrian and bike rider, I never trust that someone will stop for me or even give me the right of way. It may not be the most open attitude, but it keeps me alive.
- Faking a smile
The Taiwanese are all about “saving face” or not letting their embarrassment or shame show. So, even when a co-worker completely pisses me off or does something wrong, I have to grin and bear it. If I were to yell or make a snide comment, I would hurt their dignity and our communication would totally shut down.
- The ability to laugh at myself
Some Taiwanese are clueless about Americans and can be unknowingly rude when questioning us about ourselves. I’ve had a strange man in an elevator inform me my nose was big, a student tell me all Americans are fat and eat sandwiches all day, and have had multiple incidents where someone runs after me yelling, “America!” It’s best to just see this as curiosity and laugh off their ridiculous notions and antics.
- The desire to explore
Taiwan is a small island in the grand scheme of things, but living here, it feels massive. There is an abundance of diverse places to visit. There is Taipei, for the ultimate city life, and Yangminshan National Park in the north, for hiking and hot springs. Kenting and its beaches and the laid-back attitude of the city of Kaohsiung in the south are perfect for relaxing and beach days. Plus, all the incredible jungle hiking, waterfalls, cherry blossoms, and rivers in between that are there for you to explore. Taiwan is a wonderful place to get lost.
So, embrace these American habits (maybe not the habit of screaming, DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH at confused waiters) and enjoy your travels 🙂