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First thoughts

I’ve been trying to update this post as I see new things or think about how different things are here compared to the US. Here are a few things I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that I find a bit strange…

  • There are whole blocks that smell amazing. I don’t know if it’s the trees or some kind of plant or maybe the city in general? [Update: I found the plant, it resembles a jasmine plant, but the smell is sweeter with a citrus note. I wish the internet had scratch and sniff… but then again that might be a really bad idea.]
  • Foreigners stare at each other more than the locals.
  • Old Asian men are the only ones who strike up random conversations with me in English.
  • People are super helpful. They’ll sometimes even go out of their way, literally, to point you to the right direction or to find another person that can help you if they can’t.
  • If you’re driving, you don’t turn right on red.
  • Even toddlers have special helmets to ride the scooters with their parents.
  • People lock their bikes up very strangely. They just put the lock around the frame and the back wheel, or even just around the tire… not to another solid object, just the bike to itself.

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  •  You can find a liter of water for as cheap as $7nt=$.23usd

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  • They have flavored beer: strawberry, banana, chardonnay
  • You can drink in public.
  • It’s a cash city. From 7-11’s to grocery stores, almost no one takes plastic, neither credit nor debit. If you don’t have cash there are a zillion ATM’s everywhere though.
  • No eating, drinking, or chewing in public transportation.

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  • Wait until the pedestrian signal tells you you can cross, never cross on red.
  • Learning my new size (clothes and shoes).
  • Taiwan is the Canada of Asia. Where else could you leave your expensive camera set up unattended in public while you go to the bathroom and know that it’ll still be where you left it when you come out a few minutes later?

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  • Ride your bicycle on the sidewalk, not on the street.
  • Scooters can’t turn left. They stay to the right when the light turns green and stop in front of cross traffic in a special boxed off area in front of cross traffic and wait for THAT light to turn green and go.
  • Local food is very cheap: $30-45nt for a bowl of delicious something or other, while in comparison foreign food is very expensive $160-250nt for a burrito.
  • There’s umbrella etiquette. When walking down a covered sidewalk and you don’t want to repeatedly open and close your umbrella, you carry it to your side, with the handle across your body.

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  • All of the bathrooms in the metro stations that I’ve been to have small plants on all of the sinks.

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  •  There are also breastfeeding rooms everywhere.

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  •  Squat toilets. Squat toilet signs.

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  • You use a special racket looking thing to kill mosquitoes. [Update: Learned that it’s actually electrically charged and zaps the little buggers. Best thing ever.]

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  • There are special waiting areas for passengers in case they want to feel extra secure. They include “safety zones” on the metro and special waiting areas for female passengers in a few train stations.

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  • You always stay to the right, and usually a step away from the person in front of you when taking the escalator or walking up the stairs.

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  • Even babies wear masks.

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  •  The map orientation is not with based on the idea that north is at the top or “up”. The map orientation is based on which way you are facing while looking at the map with “up” being the way you are facing or forward.

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  •  A restaurant or cafe’s wifi password is 99.99% of the time their phone number.

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