Taiwan has a very free and liberal press. There are three daily newspapers available in English:
China Post (http://www.chinapost.com.tw/),
Taiwan News (http://www.etaiwannews.com/)
Taipei Times (http://www.taipeitimes.co...),
Other news sources:
Central News Agency (http://www.cna.com.tw/cnaeng/)
Government Information Office's periodicals (http://publish.gio.gov.tw/)
RTI Radio Taiwan International (http://english.rti.org.tw/)
the Taiwan Economic News (http://news.cens.com/)
Taiwan Headlines (http://english.www.gov.tw...)
Taiwan Journal (http://taiwanjournal.nat....)
Taiwan Sun (http://www.taiwansun.com/)
Highway 11 Magazine
(http://www.highway11.net) - a free east coast travel & lifestyle magazine in hualien county - bilingual
(http://www.xpatmag.com) - a magazine dedicated to promoting arts and culture in taiwan - english.
(http://taiphoon.pristine....) - a magazine dedicated to promoting peace and environmental awareness in taiwan - bilingual.
(http://www.journeyeast.url.tw/) - a travel & lifestyle magazine for northern taiwan - bilingual.
Medicines are available for minor ailments at drug stores. You may also find common drugs requiring a prescription in the west like asthma inhalers and birth control pills cheaply available from drug stores without a prescription.
Taiwan has both Chinese physicians and Western doctors, both of which are taken equally seriously. However, as a foreigner, the assumption would generally be to direct you to a Western doctor. The quality of the hospitals in Taiwan is excellent and on par, if not better, with those found in the West. Taiwan's health care program is considered as one of the best health care in the world. Legal residents with a National Health Card can avail themselves of the very convenient and efficient national health service, which covers treatment and medication using both Western and traditional Chinese medicine. However, this service is not available to short term visitors on tourist visas; nor does it cover major hospitalization expenses. Still, hospital visits and medicine in Taiwan tends to be far less expensive than in the west. For minor ailments and problems flu, broken bones, stitches, etc. Note that outside the major cities, it might be difficult to find a doctor who speaks English, so try to learn some basic Mandarin before heading off the beaten track.
Taiwanese society is rather polarized by allegiance between supporters of the two major political blocks informally known as "Pan-Blue Coalition" and "Pan-Green Coalition", although there are large numbers of people who are either centrist or who don't care. To simplify a very complex situation, pan-blue supporters tend to be more favorable toward the idea of reunification or maintaining a status-quo with China and pan-green supporters tend to be more favorable toward the idea of establishing a formally independent Republic of Taiwan, among other differences.
Although there are some correlations, it is highly unwise to assume anything about a particular persons political beliefs based on what you think you know about their background. Also, the very brief sketch of Taiwanese politics obscures a large amount of complexity.
Unless you know your listener well, it is unwise to say anything either positive or negative about the current government, about historical figures in Taiwanese history, about Taiwan's international relations, or about relations with mainland China. Some political figures such as Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Ching-kuo are generally seen positively, but others Chiang Kai-shek, Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian in particular arouse very polarized feelings.
Some Taiwanese will get very offended if you imply that Taiwan is part of China. Others will get very offended if you imply that Taiwan is not part of China. Referring to the PRC as "mainland China" ä¸åå¤§é¸ zhÅngguÃ³ dÃ lÃ¹ rather than simply China will tend not to offend anyone as the term is generally used to exclude Hong Kong and Macau as well, making it less subjective. Referring to the Republic of China as a whole as "Taiwan Province" will draw a negative reaction from most Taiwanese. "Greater China" may be used in certain business contexts. Keep in mind however, that there are so many subtleties and complexities here that if you are talking about these things, you've already wandered into a minefield.
However, simply referring to the island as 'Taiwan' is fine, as that is the name used by the locals, regardless of their political persuasion. Titles such as 'Republic of China' are reserved for official matters only.
Internet cafes are plentiful, although you may have to wander around before finding one. Rather, Internet cafes in Taiwan should be called gaming cafes. These are often found on the first or second floor of a building, and equipped with very comfortable chairs and large screens. Although people do surf the Internet, most people primarly go there for a smooth experience of online gaming. Each hour of Internet access/game play is cheap, coming in at around $20. Some machines in the internet cafes are coin operated. For free internet access in big cities, try out the local libraries. In addition, a wireless internet accessing net covering all of Taipei City is available it was free before May 2006 and is now payable at convenient stores in Taipei City and Kaohsiung City is currently under construction; it already works in some huge MRT stations and on some special points. You will need some sort of login. There is also a common wifi network available at every McDonald's. The login is partly in English.
If you want an internet connection to your smart-phones, you can purchase a prepaid 3G data sim card from Chunghwa Telecom at a cost of TWD250 for 3 days, or TWD450 for 7 days. Just walk in to any official Chunghwa Telecom office counters to apply. They need your passport and identification documents of your country of origin. Driving license or identification card
The standard prefix for international calls from Taiwan is 002, though some other companies may use alternative prefixes at lower rates. Check with your telecom operator for more details. Calls to mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau require international dialling. For calls to Taiwan, the country code for Taiwan is 886.
Mobile phone coverage is generally excellent in Taiwan, with the exception of some remote mountainous areas. Among the major providers are Chunghwa Telecom ä¸è¯é»ä¿¡, Taiwan Mobile å°ç£å¤§å¥å¤§, Vibo å¨å¯¶é»è¨ and Far EasTone é å³é»è¨. Taiwan has both GSM 900/1800 and 3G UMTS/W-CDMA networks and roaming might be possible for users of such mobile phones, subject to agreements between operators. Most payphones work with telephone cards (é»è©±å¡ï¼which are available at all convenience stores.
Numbers Starting With 0800 are commercial toll-free numbers, just like the 1-800 numbers in North America.
Taiwan shares several cultural taboos with other East Asian nations.
Some Taiwanese are superstitious about anything connected with dying – unlucky things should never be mentioned. One thing to note is that the number 4 four, pronounced 'si' sounds like the word for death in Mandarin.
Do not write people's names in red. This again has connotations of death. When writing someone's English name, this is not a problem, but avoid writing Chinese names in red.
Do not whistle or ring a bell at night. This is an "invitation to ghosts".
Do not point at cemeteries or graves. This means disrespect to the deaths.
There are numerous taboos dictating that certain objects shouldn't be given to others, often because the word for that object sounds like another unfortunate word: Umbrellas, which in Mandarin sound the same as the word for "break up". Friends should therefore never give friends umbrellas. Instead, friends will euphemistically "rent" each other umbrellas for a tiny amount $1, for example. Clocks. The phrase "to give a clock" "song zhong", in Mandarin, has the same sound as the word "to perform last rites." If you do give someone a clock, the recipient may give you a coin in return to dispel the curse. Shoes. Never ever offer shoes as a gift to old people, as it signifies sending them on their way to heaven. This is acceptable only if by mutual arrangement it is nominally sold, where the receiving party gives a small payment of about $10. Knives or sharp objects, as they are made for or could be used to hurt the person.
The Taiwanese are certainly not puritanical and enjoy a drink, especially the locally brewed Taiwan Beer and Kaoliang. However, Taiwan does not have a culture of heavy drinking and is rare to see anyone drunk on the streets. While over indulging in alcohol is not a social taboo as such and some people do so at weddings, it is considered a sign of lack of self-confidence and immaturity, and doing so certainly won't gain you any respect among Taiwanese friends.
You are expected to remove your shoes before entering a house. You will find some slippers to be worn by visitors next to the entrance door. It is likely to be the same ritual for bathrooms and balconies where you will be expected to remove your slippers to wear a pair of plastic sandals though it is less shocking not to use the sandals by then.
As you will get along with Taiwanese people, you are very likely to receive small presents of any sorts. This will be drinks, food, little objects... These are a very convenient way to lubricate social relations for Taiwanese people, and are specially commons betweens friends in their 20s. You should reply to any such presents with something similar, but it does not need to be immediate, or specific to the person i.e. keep it simple. As a teacher you are not expected to offer anything in return i.e. in a classroom environment as long as the relationship stays formal. However beware of the sometime overly generous parents who can go as far as offering presents running in the thousands of NT$ and who will then expect you to take special care of their child understand that their expectations will be considered as fair in Taiwanese culture.
You are not expected to tip in hotels, restaurants and taxis, though bellhops may still expect 50 TWD or so for carrying your luggage.
If you should need to use a temple's washroom, bow to any statues of deities you see on the way whether or not you believe in them. While most people will not mind you using the temple's washroom, they expect you to treat their place of worship with respect. If you plan to offer gifts such as simple fruits to the statues of deities in the temple, it is expected that you wash the fruits and your hands prior to offering. In addition, upon entering and leaving a temple, do take note and avoid stepping on the extra step a single raised step, similar to that of a stair's, often found at the gateways that divides the outside and the inside of the temple. Always try to step over it instead of on it.
As with mainland China, swastikas are commonly seen in homes and Buddhist temples. They are a religious symbol and do not represent Nazism or anti-Semitism.
As the People's Republic of China PRC does not allow other nations to have official diplomatic relations with both itself and the ROC in Taiwan, many of the world's major nations do not have official embassies or consulates in Taiwan. However, as the PRC allows recognition of Taiwan as a separate economy, many nations maintain a "Trade Office", "Institute" or something of similar nature such as American Institute in Taiwan AIT or European Economic and Trade Office and these usually perform limited consular activities such as issuing visas. For more information, visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (http://www.mofa.gov.tw) web-site.
Russian Federation Representative Office in Taipei for the Moscow-Taipei Coordination Commission on Economic and Cultural Cooperation: (http://www.mtc.org.tw) 15 Fl., Aurora Building, No. 2, Sec. 5, Hsin-Yi Road, Taipei, Taiwan. Tel.: +886-2 8780-3011 Fax: +886-2 8780-2511
United States of America American Institute in Taiwan: (http://www.ait.org.tw/) No.7, Ln. 134, Sec. 3, Xinyi Rd., Da-an Dist., Taipei City 106-59. Tel: +886 02 2162-2000
You say Zhongshan, I say Chungshan...
The romanization of Chinese used in Taiwan is not standardized. Most older place names and personal names are derived from a simplified version of Wade-Giles. The government established Hanyu Pinyin the same system used in the mainland and the international standard as the official system in 2009, but most local governments that did not already use the system have not switched over, and highway signs are only being gradually changed from the formerly 2002-2008 official Tongyong Pinyin system, leading to much inconsistency. Some local governments, such as that of Taipei and Taichung, have already converted their street signs to Hanyu Pinyin and New Taipei is implementing the switch to Hanyu Pinyin. However, there are still street signs posted by city governments next to signs installed by the national government having different romanization conventions, as is the case for Kaohsiung, where Tongyong Pinyin, not Hanyu Pinyin, is the local standard. For example, Zhongshan, Chungshan, Jungshan and Jhongshan can easily be the same.
This article attempts to use the romanizations most commonly used in Taiwan on street signs, buses, tourist maps, etc.. People know romanisation as 'Roma-Pinyin'.
A mix of Taiwanese Minnan, Mandarin, Hakka and other Asian languages are spoken on the island, as well as several aboriginal Austronesian languages. Mandarin is the lingua franca, but Taiwanese is spoken as the primary language by some 70% of the population. In the North where there is a large concentration of so-called "mainlanders" those whose families came to Taiwan from mainland China in the 1940s as refugees of the Chinese Civil War, most people speak Mandarin as their primary language although Taiwanese is spoken in abundance, but in the South of the island, Taiwanese is far more common. Mandarin, Taiwanese and Hakka are all tonal languages, which make them difficult for most foreigners to master. On the Matsu islands, the dominant Chinese dialect is Mindong or Eastern Min also known as Hokchiu or Foochowese, which is also spoken in the area around Fuzhou and the coastal areas of northern Fujian.
Although standard Mandarin in Taiwan is nearly identical to standard Mandarin in mainland China with differences mostly in technical and translated terms invented post-1949, most people in practice speak a distinctly accented version known as Taiwanese Mandarin. For example, Taiwanese Mandarin tends to not differentiate between the "S" and "Sh" sounds in Mandarin. All people schooled after 1945 are generally fluent in Mandarin, although it is sometimes not the first language of choice. Mandarin is fairly popular with young people. Some in the older generation are not fluent in Mandarin as they were schooled in Japanese or not at all. Universally the Taiwanese are very accepting of foreigners and react with curiosity and admiration for trying the local tongue. Generally, most people in Taiwan converse using a combination of Mandarin and Taiwanese by code-switching. Mandarin is spoken more commonly than Taiwanese within Taipei City, and less commonly outside of it. Taiwan continues to use traditional Chinese characters, the script also used in Hong Kong and Macau, and not the simplified versions used on the mainland.
The Taiwanese dialect is a variant of Minnan which is similar to the dialect spoken across the Taiwan Strait in Xiamen. Unlike Xiamen Minnan, Taiwanese Minnan has some loan words from Japanese as a result of 50 years of Japanese colonization. Taiwanese Minnan and Xiamen Minnan are both mixtures of the Zhangzhou and Quanzhou accents so as a result, Taiwanese Minnan sounds highly identical to Xiamen Minnan.
All public announcements in the transportation system will be made in Mandarin, Taiwanese and Hakka, with the exception of the Matsu islands, where announcements are made in Mandarin and the Mindong dialect.
Especially in Taipei, younger people generally speak a basic conversational level of English. The children often understand more English than their parents, especially with the emphasis on English language education today, and English being a compulsory subject in Taiwanese schools. However, attempts to speak Mandarin or Taiwanese will be met with beaming smiles and encouragement, by and large.
Quite a few people, especially in Taipei, are proficient in Japanese due to the high number of Japanese visitors. Staff for tourist attractions such as the Taipei 101, museums, hotels, popular restaurants and airport shops speak Japanese in addition to English, Mandarin and other local languages. In fact, if you are a visitor of East Asian descent who cannot understand Chinese, when a worker realizes this he or she may try speaking to you in Japanese before trying English. In addition to this, some older people still understand and speak Japanese having lived through the fifty year period of Japanese rule.
Taiwan is very safe for tourists, even for women at night. This is not to say, however, that there is no crime, and you should always exercise caution. In crowded areas such as night markets or festivals, for example, pickpockets are a known problem. However, it is fair to say that the streets of Taiwan are generally very safe and that violent crime and muggings are very rare.
In addition, it is also very unusual to see drunks on the street, day or night.
Like anywhere else in the world, women should be cautious when taking taxis alone late at night. Although they are generally safe, it's a good idea to arrange to have a friend call you when you get home and to be seen making the arrangements for this by the cab driver. It also helps if a friend sees you being picked up as taxis have visible license numbers. As an additional safety precaution, tell taxi drivers just the street name and section instead of your exact address.
Police departments in most jurisdictions have a Foreign Affairs Police unit staffed by English speaking officers. When reporting a major crime, it is advisable to contact the Foreign Affairs unit in addition to officers at the local precinct. Police stations are marked with a red light above the door and display a sign with the word "Police" clearly printed in English. For more information see the National Police Agency website (http://www.npa.gov.tw).
Foreign victims of a major crime in Taiwan are also advised to report the matter to their government's representative office in Taipei.
Also, remember that you call 110 for police in Taiwan, and 119 for Fire Dept. or Medical Help. Most of the public telephone booths will allow you to call 110 or 119 for free. See "Emergency Phone Numbers" section below.
eating and drinking
Westerners should be cautious of relatively undercooked food. Many Taiwanese restaurants offer plates of raw, sliced red meat and uncooked seafood that are brought to the table and either barbecued or simmered in a pot of stock. As this constitutes a staple of the Taiwanese diet, any bacteria that may remain doesn't affect the locals, but it can wreak havoc with foreigners. The best policy is to make sure you cook the food in a manner to which you are accustomed.
Don't drink tap water without boiling it, though it's safe for brushing your teeth.
Taiwan often experiences typhoons é¢±é¢¨ during the summer months and early fall, especially on the East Coast. Heavy monsoon rainfall also occurs during the summer. Hikers and mountaineers should be sure to consult weather reports before heading into the mountains. A major hazard following heavy rainfall in the mountains is falling rocks åç³æµ caused by the softening of the earth and there are occasional reports of people being killed or injured by these.
Taiwan is also located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, which means that earthquakes are a common occurrence. Most earthquakes are barely noticeable, though the effect may be slightly amplified for those in higher buildings. While the local building codes are extremely strict, general precautions should still be observed during an earthquake, including opening the door for preventing it being jammed, taking cover and checking for gas leaks afterwards.
Taiwan's wild areas are home to a variety of poisonous snakes, including the bamboo viper, Russel's viper, banded krait, coral snake, Chinese cobra, Taiwan habu, and the so-called "hundred pacer" ç¾æ¥è. Precautions against snake bites include making plenty of noise as you hike, wearing long trousers and avoiding overgrown trails. Most snakes are scared of humans, so if you make noise you will give them time to get away. Walking quietly means that you may suddenly startle them around a corner when you appear, and trigger an attack. The Russel's viper, one of the most dangerous snakes in Taiwan, is an exception...it generally prefers to take a stand against threats.
Local drivers have a well-deserved reputation for being extremely reckless and downright immoral. It is possible even normal to obtain a driving license in Taiwan without ever having driven on the roads, and this may be a reason along with the overcrowded roads why courteous or defensive driving is definitely not the norm. The guiding principles seem to be that the right of way belongs to the larger vehicle, i.e. trucks have the right-of-way over cars, cars over motorcycles, motorcycles over people, etc. Despite traffic's chaotic appearance, it is viscerally intuitive to yield the right-of-way to a much larger vehicle barreling towards you. It is advisable to use slow and smooth movements over quick or sudden ones. Local drivers regularly cut in front of moving traffic into spaces that seem too small, try to change lanes regardless of the fact their destination is already full, etc. Be aware that during busy traffic i.e. nearly always two-lane roads will spontaneously become three-lane, an orange light will be interpreted as 'speed up', and the smallest moment's pause in oncoming traffic will result in everybody that's waiting trying to turn across it. Drivers routinely enter a junction when their exit is blocked, and are therefore frequently still there long after the lights change, blocking traffic traveling in other directions. Many motorcycle riders also have a tendency to zip through any space, no matter how tiny. Also be aware that motorcycles often travel through areas typically considered as pedestrian-only spaces, like the night-markets.
If you happen to drive a car or a motorcycle, the obvious rule is that if someone turns in front of you, you should be the one to adapt. To avoid collisions, drivers need to be extremely vigilant for other vehicles creating hazards and always be willing to adjust speed or direction to accommodate. Do not expect drivers to yield way, or respect traffic lights in many areas, especially in central and southern Taiwan. Sounding the horn is the usual way a Taiwanese driver indicates that they do not intend to accommodate a driver trying to encroach on their lane, etc, and does not necessarily imply the anger or criticism, as it does in other countries. One bright side of Taiwan's chaotic traffic is that drivers tend to have an exceptional awareness of the spatial extents of their vehicle, so that even though it continuously looks like somebody is about to drive straight into you, it's relatively rare that they actually do so.
Be extra careful when crossing the road, even to the extent of looking both ways on a one-way street. When crossing at a pedestrian-crossing at a T-junction or crossroads, be aware that when the little green man lights up and you start crossing, motorists will still try to turn right, with or without a green feeder light. Even on roads where traffic is infrequent and the green light is in your favor, bike-riders are still strongly advised to check the opposite lane.
Watch out for mosquito bites when hiking in the mountains. Especially in the summer, the humid and hot weather makes mosquitos very active. Most mosquito bites only cause skin irritation and itching, but in some areas of Taiwan it's possible to contract Dengue Fever or Japanese Encephalitis though they are both on the rare side in Taiwan. Mosquito/insect repellent spray can be found at convenience stores such as 7-11 and Family Mart and local pharmacies. If you are bitten by mosquitos, apply a small amount of ointment for irritation relief.
emergency phone numbers
For those who need assistance in English, the Taiwanese government (http://iff.immigration.gov.tw/) has a 24-hour toll-free foreigner service hotline at 0800-024-111, which you may call for assistance.