Dos and Don't's
Dos and Don’ts
Taiwan is a fairly tolerant country for the most part and as such it is not a particularly daunting place to visit. It is crowded but the people are friendly and helpful for the most part. There are some things you should avoid during your stay but that doesn’t mean that if you unwittingly break a local taboo outraged citizens will descend on you like locust. To avoid any possible unpleasantness here is our list of Dos and Don’ts:
1) Do accept things with both hands. If someone is giving you a present, a document, or handing you their name card it is polite to not only offer it with two hands but also accept it with both hands as well.
2) Do wave at people to say “hello” or “goodbye.” When Taiwanese people meet they don’t usually come into physical contact with one another (shake hands). Waving at your friends even if they’re in close approximation is very common.
When in a more formal setting it is common to shake hands. Taiwanese don’t bow except on special occasions, such as addressing an audience or accepting an award.
3) Do get a copy of the local MRT guide. You can download the guide from the Metro Taipei website or pick it up at almost any MRT station, where you can usually find it in a number of different languages. MRT is extremely popular and arguably the most convenient mode of transportation in Taipei. Even though it can get very crowded during peak hours, the trains are not subject to traffic jams on the surface. When you actually look into the MRT guide, you’ll discover that many of the local tourist attractions are best accessible by the MRT, which will also save you a pretty penny on transportation expenses.
4) Do compliment the food excessively when you’re invited by someone. You should also try to serve yourself at least a little bit of every food that is on the table.
5) Do dress appropriately. It is very humid in Taiwan and depending on the time of year it can be very hot or very cold. Don’t be misguided by the fact that the coldest temperatures in Taiwan are around 10°C (50°F). Houses in Taiwan are not insulated and there is no central heating either, which means that when it is cold, it is cold everywhere. The humidity seems to intensify the impression of cold or warmth on your skin as well.
1) Don’t stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl. This is inappropriate and may even be offensive to Taiwanese as it symbolizes offerings to the dead. When you visit a local temple you will often see burning incense sticks standing vertically in a large bowl-resembling holder.
2) Don’t forget to take your shoes off when you enter someone’s home. This is more or less universal in Taiwan and your host will most likely provide you with slippers.
3) Don’t feel obligated to tip. Tipping is not part of the culture in Taiwan. You may be expected to do so in big international hotels but not elsewhere. Some restaurants may include a 5-15% service fee instead, which will simply be included in your bill.
4) Don’t throw away your receipts. This is a matter of potential savings. Receipts in Taiwan are a part of the Taiwan Receipt Lottery, which means you can win a considerable amount of money just from doing you regular shopping. The reason for the Receipt Lottery is the government’s desire to motivate merchants to keep things on the books. With millions NT on the line as potential winnings it is thought that customers will demand receipts with every purchase, which would in turn put pressure on the merchants .
5) Don’t give people umbrellas, clocks, handkerchiefs or flowers as presents. They are all considered bad omens. An umbrella, for instance, is a sign that you’ll never see each other again, especially when you’re just getting to know someone. For most of this kind of superstitions its root can be found in the language itself. In Mandarin Chinese the word for umbrella - sǎn - sounds like the word for "to break apart."