Seeing as my time here is now coming to an end I have decided to make this blog post about weird things that are very unique to Taiwan or at least I find them unique to Taiwan or at least Asia.
So, let’s start this one out with a peculiar story and that was a month or two ago when I walked along a police line at the university. It was a peculiar situation to find ones self in. At the time I had no idea what was happening on one side there were a bunch of Taiwanese students and faculty locking their arms together at the front gates, clearly in protest. Opposite the students outside the university campus was situated a police line and to the side were mob of reporters and onlookers alive with discourse. Although it sounds tense, when I describe it now, it really wasn’t, Tiananmen square this was not. Anyway, I ended up walking right through the middle of the thing, walking through the mob and under the arms of one of the students (I’m annoyed now that I didn’t take a picture to show), after all I had a class, it didn’t really strike me until later on in the day to question what on earth I had walked through prior. After a few questions to the English-speaking faculty I discovered it was a situation of president VS president, well more specifically the president of the government did not approve of the recently elected president of the university as he was a supporter of one of the old political parties that had supported Taiwan to be the true china back in the day. Anyway, what I’m trying to convey with this story is the difference in interplay that exists here in Taiwan. For instance, although universities like Oxford and Cambridge are important within the UK, the government does not take such a dramatic and serious interest in them. This is largely because Taiwan is a very small country and NTU, the university in question, is seen as interconnected to the nation as it is considered the best university and because there are far fewer universities. Ultimately this is something that I found to be very different in Taiwan compared to living in the UK, that the pond as it were is much smaller and the politics are very different. As was the case here Taiwan is so concerned about their international policy towards China that they would refuse to allow the leader of one of the universities to have publicly held a semi-controversial belief.
Moving on to the second unique thing about Taiwan and its culture, which I discovered when my computer broke earlier this year and it had to go into the shop for two weeks or so. The unique discovery was that of the computer café’s here in Taiwan. Now when I describe computer Café you’re probably thinking of a Starbucks or a café with a few computers. No when I say computer café I mean more like office type spaces jam packed full of high-spec computers. Computers are often expensive and so many of the locals (especially students and teenagers) go to these computer café’s. It costs about 50p for an hour, the computers are all installed with the latest version of windows, as well as many video games and TV apps. Many teenagers use them for work as well as relaxation. These gaming cafés are often really busy (especially after uni/school finishes). Overall, although a little peculiar these computer cafés are actually pretty useful, especially if you play videogames a lot or don’t want to pay for Netflix as the computers are top of the line and all have access to a defiantly legal Chinese streaming service (does play in English, I did a lot of checking). However, if I were to give any word of advice find a modern one with air conditioning, air fresheners and windows as 100 people crammed into a building together in the heat tends to create a lot of sweat. However, in general although I’m aware these do exist in the west they are not nearly as commonplace, and what was unique about the experience was the fact that it was so much more communal, and was an entire business model set up about providing a need that would not be needed in the west.
The third unique thing is definitely the influence of anime and manga on this part of the world. It’s very normal to be sitting on a train with everyone around you reading manga on their phones (yes manga is black and white cartoons being read backwards). However, the moment I realised just how mainstream it was, was when I was walking through campus at the university and found it a little odd that everyone around me seemed to be wearing slightly more colourful and eccentric clothing than usual (I’m talking brightly coloured wigs, angels wings, staffs…etc). It wasn’t until I passed the gym/main hall that it became abundantly clear that there was some kind of convention as there were hundreds of people all standing around in ques, taking pictures…etc.
Finally, there are the pachinko machines, claw game machines and the mystery box vending machines. So, if you didn’t know the previously mentioned things are super common in this part of the world, in fact there are entire buildings that just have these things in them. They are often put into buildings that are in between owners i.e. restaurants that have shut down. I mean there isn’t really much to tell with this one, just that they exist you’ll see them everywhere, they are super popular. It’s just something you don’t really see in the UK. So, what could I say about these things well personally I stayed away from the claw machines as we have many in the UK and I have been burned in the past by them, however, I did try the mystery box machines. So, these machines are basically vending machines filled with black cardboard boxes which contain things and you buy one like you would buy a drink from a regular vending machine. They advertise all sorts from a message about the future, to food, to desirable things. The one I found was a white one that had written on it ‘’good for you rubbish’’, I’m not sure the translation was what they thought it meant. Anyway, I was expecting like maybe one of the big-ticket items like keys to a motorbike or a phone…etc. What I got a 2-dollar watch, which was basically a terrible fake of a fit bit, so lesson of the story, I guess try them, but they aren’t great. Probably find one of the fortune telling ones as there isn’t really a better or worse prize.