I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?
General topics on weather, cuisine, entertainment and travel are good conversational choices to break the ice. Weather is the most typical thing that your Taiwanese business partners or counterparts may ask you about. They know that Canadian winters can be very cold and Taiwan is an extremely hot and humid place for westerners to live. You can talk about your experience of living in a cold climate or inquire about the tips to stay cool in hot days.
The food and entertainment industry is highly developed in Taiwan. Italian, French, Mexican, Japanese, and all types of Chinese cuisine are very popular in Taiwan, especially in highly condensed business areas. You can ask about the availability of different types of food, or the particular one you would like to try in the city you are in. Taiwanese are also proud of their specialty, which is different from general Chinese food. A night market is the place to find out more about Taiwanese cuisine, and a place where people go to after work or to hang out.
It is also common to talk about family and children, especially with women who are mainly responsible for their children’s education and upbringing. Don’t be surprised if you are asked “Have you eaten?” “Chi bao le ma” in Mandarin or “Jia ba be” in Taiwanese. It is the equivalent of “How are you” in English. Taiwan transformed from an agricultural society to an industrial one long ago, yet people still greet each other the old fashion way by asking if the others have had their meals.
Politics are sensitive issues, especially the relation between Taiwan and China. Don't ask “What do you think of Taiwan, is it part of China?” You may just want to know your Taiwanese partner’s opinion but he/she may be offended by your interest in their political views. A sense of humour is highly valued however, never make fun of Chinese names, even if they seem novel or amusing to you.
People in Taiwan are very understanding, and are very inquisitive. When you meet them, you can impress them with an adopted Chinese name. Get this from someone who speaks Chinese. Good topics are where you come from - my trump was the Niagara Falls. Family is also a good topic. If you have photos of your family, don’t be shy in showing them off.
Do not be insulted if they call you fat or skinny. In Chinese it is not an affront, but just an accepted adjective in describing people. Compliment them on the clean and efficient subways and taxis and the way people behave with civility (as they do), or anything else that is complimentary. There may be some cultural norms that you may need adjusting to, like street side spitting.One topic to avoid is politics unless you are well versed on the topic and know where your colleague stands. There are KMT supporters, Taiwanese separatists and everything in between. You will hear different arguments about which one is best.
Do not talk of money or finances or compare anything you see to what you know back home. A faux pas is, “How can so many people live on this small island?” People do not necessarily live in crammed quarters and there is enough space for everyone. They may ask personal questions and if you don’t feel comfortable, make a joke out of it. For example, “Why are you not married?”, “I have been waiting for the right Taiwanese tai-tai (wife)”. They will appreciate your humour.
What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?
Handshaking is the most common way for greeting. Hugging and kissing on cheeks are not common practise for greeting in Taiwan. Sometimes, a nod is enough to express “nice to meet you.” The golden rule is to be observant before you do what you are used to do. Due to the limited space in Taiwan, people are used to less personal space. When two are talking, the space is usually less than arm’s length. People stand closer when they are taking to you. However, in Taiwan, when a worker is talking to his/her supervisor/manager, a good distance is kept to show and to respect authority.
Eye contact is very important in business and in day-to-day communication. Especially in a meeting, eye contact should be given to whoever is talking. However, Taiwanese facial expression is limited compared to westerners, so try hand gestures and body movement. In a high context culture, blinking, or a raising an eyebrow can be coded with agreement or disagreement, or confirmation of information.
It is also common that people touch same sex friends or colleagues while speaking, especially when they are close to each other. Female friends walking down the street or shopping hand in hand or arm in arm is also very common and considered as an expression of closeness and friendship. In business and working environment, high context communication is valued. For Canadians who are used to directness, “high context communication” can be described as indirectness or implicitness. For example, someone says “it’s cold,” he/she very likely means that “please close the window” in a high context. To avoid confusion or misunderstanding always ask for clarification.
In the workplace, speaking distance is similar to what Canadians are accustomed to. If you are asked out with the “guys”, they may seem overly friendly, walking closely beside you or even touching your arm or talking too close. This is not because they are attracted to you; rather, they are just showing their friendship and trust in you.
Make sure you do not touch colleagues or flirt at the office, even light-heartedly, because it is just not done unless you want an affair on your hands. People are usually soft-spoken and very polite. “Do not lose face”, means do not lose control or be too loud at the office. I have seen a car accident where nobody got excited or screamed. They just calmly exchanged their contact information and drove off. Facial expressions are a hard call, as Chinese are very stoic and if you see emotions, they are either very happy or very angry. You will know which one. As eye contact is concerned, no need to stare the person down, but you can have eye contact with men or women. You will quickly recognize the normal way in Taiwan society.
Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?
Displays of affection (kissing particularly) and negative emotions in the workplace or in public are not common. People tend to hide how they really feel, especially their complaints and negative feelings, and only reveal or discuss them with close friends and family members. Exceptions are younger generations who are more open about their feelings and emotions. However, people do openly show dissatisfaction of products or service and demand improvement or explanations.
Speaking loudly in public is considered rude and ill-mannered, except in traditional markets and night markets where vendors shout to attract customers.
Public displays of affection were frowned upon a few years ago, but now it has changed. Taiwan is a progressive country, which mirrors western culture. Equate Taiwan with the US, as Hong Kong is with the UK, despite the fact that the English language in Taiwan is not as prevalent as in Hong Kong.
There is such pressure on students to do well that they do not start dating until after high school and into university. Do not judge the naivety of the youth. Sometimes a twenty-five year old will act like a teen with giggling or shyness. Remember you are in their culture. Do not judge this as immaturity, but as an evolved form of traditional Chinese society that is not around any more in China due to Communism.
If you are angry, please do not show it, as this accomplishes nothing. They will even make it more difficult if you do. I tried the calm approach on a flight once when they would not let me board due to too much carry-on luggage. I did not get upset and eventually they let me get on with all my belongings. The only time you will hear loud and boisterous noise is at festive functions, like restaurants or festivals or even in night markets. This is called “Ruh Now” in Chinese.
What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?
In Taiwan, people dress professionally when they go to work, men in suits, and women in suits and skirts. In a working environment, appearance is highly valued. Conservative dress for men is changing rapidly to a more open style, due largely in part to the younger staff.
Taiwanese are very sensitive to status and titles, so use official titles whenever possible. Address people using their title first, and then their family name (for example, Dr. Wang). If speaking Mandarin, the order is reversed (for example, Wang Dr.) Use Mr., Mrs. Ms. or Miss plus the family name for someone without a professional title (for example, Mrs. Wang). Only use a first name if you are very familiar with someone.
Making appointments in advance conveys respect. Be punctual as being late or cancelling appointments is a serious affront and causes loss of “face.” Deadlines are strictly followed. Taiwanese are proud of their economic development and see themselves as hard workers. Not taking time off for vacation used to be considered diligence. However, such non-stop working values is changed but still appreciated by elder generations.
Your dress should be professional and each workplace may have their own standard, but shirt and tie with polished shoes is a start for men and a smart outfit for women is always appreciated. People are very chic dressers in the downtown areas. You are not expected to wear your jacket all the time at the office, but do have one. Foreigners (Canadians) seemed to always look sloppy to me in Taiwan.
To address colleagues, please try to memorize the Chinese names. It is taken for granted that foreigners remember John, Bill and Tina better than Mei-Lin, I-Chun and Pei-Jun. Family names are said first and then the other names follow. For example Lin Mei-Chun, Lin is the family name and Mei-Chun is her given name.
Marriage does not change your name and children take on the father’s family name. You will gain respect if you try to capture the essence of their names, meaning proper pronunciation. It is also a privilege if you find out their nickname. This will come only with trust and hard work with your colleagues. The best way to accomplish this is to take some crash course language lessons in Mandarin. Two good schools are Taipei Language Institute (TLI) and “Guo Yueh Ruh Bao”, everyone in Taipei knows this one. I recommend learning even several phrases, as well as the four-tone structure of the language.
There is a strong hierarchy at the office and much respect that goes with positions. Everybody knows their place. Try to fit in and work just as hard as the local staff. I remember hearing resentment over an international leasing company with the “lax foreigners living the good life”. There may be some resentment on foreigner salaries. Do not discuss money. A firm handshake and eye contact are also important. Do not forget to smile.
Do not be late; there may be some tardiness on their parts, but do not do it. In a meeting, show patience, as they may not discuss the actual meeting topic until much later. They are cultivating a relationship, so be tolerant, as they will get to the punch. Nowadays, much is done through paper contracts and fine print, but it is not uncommon to have multimillion-dollar deals agreed on a handshake. Mean what you say and hold your word.
What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will I know how my staff view me?
In Taiwanese society, a job is more than what you do but also who you are. Usually, a promotion is given to the one who is the best in everything, such as experience, education, seniority, leadership, problem-solving, etc. The expectation changes when the manager or supervisor is a non-local, because Taiwanese see outsiders differently. Most of the time, outsiders or non-local employees are experts and they tend to have qualifications that locals don’t have. It is hard to know exactly how your staff views you. For example, if you are younger than your Taiwanese colleagues and you are their supervisor, they may think that you are extremely smart to be in your position.
There is much respect for education and teachers. Teacher’s Day equates to Confucius Day. As for educational degrees, people with foreign accreditation, especially US, British or Canadian degrees are highly respected. Experience relates to people who have worked hard with little time off. A friend visited me in Canada for 3 weeks and said that it was the first time in fifteen years he had gone on such a long vacation from his family business.
All local superiors are hard working. They would not attain the position otherwise. This means it is taken for granted that they are good. One of my friends (and employer) was a partner and accountant of a prestigious firm in her mid thirties. She was a mathematics child prodigy and followed her childhood passion. Everything is ranked and must be shown to be better than anything else. People, who hold high positions are exceptional thinkers and are coupled with good reasoning and leadership qualities, yet know when to relax and appreciate their staff. Unfortunately, work comes before family in many cases. Do not judge their choices. If you do, they will only smile and listen, but not take it in. Do not distort their life perspectives, but learn from them.
How staff members view an employer should not be a worry. As long as integrity and fairness, but also work accomplishment are seen, you will be well liked. As the expat, you may need someone to help you in some decisions. You may trust a colleague who is from Taiwan, but has lived abroad for a few years. You will almost always find a co-worker with foreign training.
In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?
Business structure works similarly to the western way. Decisions are made by management and high position managers. However, employees at lower levels, such as secretaries, have limited or no authority. Suggestion and ideas are welcome but submitted and processed in a company’s own way. If you are not sure about whom to ask for answers, ask your local colleagues – they may better know how to solve a problem.
Decisions always come from the top down, no matter what happens. Strict hierarchy is a throwback from Japanese times in Taiwan. Directives are taken unquestionably and even wrong decisions are not doubted. Workers have been trained never to question the teacher or the employer; they must have complete faith in their decisions. Many companies may take a foreign attitude of listening to all employees’ ideas, but ultimate choices are always from the top. For answers and feedback., I saw no problem in going to the immediate supervisor.
Briefly describe the local culture’s attitudes regarding the following: Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?
Gender: Equality is emphasized at work. The status of women is elevated and respected in government agencies and industries. The best example is the vice president of Taiwan, Madam Annette Lu.
Religion: The most common religions are Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity. Quite a number of secondary schools and post secondary institutes are established by religious groups.
Class: The difference between classes is minimal.
Ethnicity: Issues and relations between ethnic groups in Taiwan (Taiwanese, Hakka, and aboriginals) are still on-going. Identity and political preferences are often linked to ethnic groups.
Women are quite progressive in Taiwan as they are the growing working class and realize that they do not have to rely on men. The divorce rate has drastically gone up in the last decade. Men still have priority though, as a woman loses all custody of her children and property in the event of a divorce. This is just one example of the male dominated society. This is rapidly changing though.
Your hosts are very tolerant of other people’s faith. Only a small percentage are Christians with the majority being Buddhists. Do not consider it a religion, but more of a way of thought. They may go to temple, but will definitely go during the Chinese New Year, as superstition with good and bad omens weigh in very heavily on their psyche. Traditions of offering food to ancestors and giving money to temples are prevalent. Family is very important in many ways, but now the hard working ethic is stretching the values of family reverence.
Many Taiwanese have maids or live in nannies looking after children and parents. Their workers are either Indonesian, Filipino or Vietnamese. There may be some animosity in which generation your family came down to Taiwan. Please refer to the ethnicity question.
This topic is touchy as there are Aboriginal Taiwanese who are citizens, but awareness of them is at around the same level as Aboriginals in Canada. The local maids or seasonal workers are not looked at as worthy. The differentiation of Chinese is the KMT 1949 “exodus people” and the others who were there either 100 to 400 years. People who came during 1949 were the ruling class and the wealthier families for the past 50 years. The people who trace their roots back 100 to 400 years are usually from Taidong, Taichung and other southern cities or from the farms, which has undertones of class distinctions, but really it is not seen so much now. The Japanese culture is also revered even though Japan was Taiwan’s occupier for almost half a century. The old people in middle to south Taiwan may only speak Taiwanese and Japanese...no Mandarin!
This would have little impact, if any, as you will have little contact with Aboriginal workers or neighbouring labourers. People from Taipei or from other parts of Taiwan are hired on their educational merits and hard working habits and not on their political leanings or heritage.
How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?
“Guanxi” (pronounced gwan shi), loosely translated, as “connections”, is one of the terms that epitomizes Taiwanese values and practices. Guanxi plays an important role in Taiwanese society as a way of reaching the right people with whom to transact business. With good Guanxi, you can achieve positive results.
Guanxi can be summed up as who you know and what they are willing or obliged to do for you. It is a reciprocal relationship: you are obliged to return favours to those with whom you have Guanxi, with the relationship remaining largely in balance over time. These favours don’t need to be monetary, but could be the provision of help in resolving disputes or making introductions, for example.
Taiwanese believe that working with friends is better than working with strangers. Taiwanese think that if they conduct business with someone they know, all terms can be discussed within the context of the relationship or friendship.
A personal relationship is very important. The local host may even shower the client with expensive gifts. They are trying to be hospitable, similar to the Japanese etiquette. Show reciprocal favours such as a bottle of expensive ice wine or a bottle of brandy or anything that is precious and represents Canada. It is a given fact that if you travel anywhere on the island for a quick tour there are specialty token gifts like a unique peanut brittle, or (muo jee),a sticky sweet dessert, or even tea leaves from specific regions of Taiwan.
If it also means going to a KTV (karaoke bar) or attending a reception, this must be done. The word (guang shee) is a form of close networking and trust that must be cultivated by time and patience. The hosts may forgive, but they do not forget. You have a chance of just being a foreigner working in Taiwan or being a trusted colleague, so make the correct choice.
To establish such a connection, you must prove that you work hard, but are also open to new ideas, such as meeting the family and trying the stinky tofu. People in Taiwan are very genuine and if they promise to visit you in Canada, they will try, but their professional lives keep them always working. Right now, Taiwan faces the same challenges that Hong Kong faced in the 1970s until 1997; the pressure to make as much as possible and as fast as possible. To understand the mercenary attitudes of getting contracts are fascinating too. I found that Taiwanese companies would outdo Mainland companies and somehow be able come out cheaper and with better quality than China.
Would a colleague or employee expect special privileges or considerations given our personal relationship or friendship
Taiwan was a society that traditionally favoured nepotism in the business world. Nowadays, such values are challenged. However, Guanxi, that is “networking” is still the key to the success of business. “Guanxi” is based on respect, specialty, and trust.
Be careful on the hong bao (red envelope). It is a tax-free gift (not bribe) that is expected and foreigners are seen as cheap in this case. It is usually given in the New Year. Ask a confidant about the appropriate etiquette on this. Usually one month’s salary is the gifted amount. About special privileges to certain employees, it is best to give everyone a chance to show their abilities and offer the carrot of the prize to the best staff as a team effort and not pit one worker against the other.
I never saw any nepotism, except if it was a family-owned business. All major companies selected on education, experience and of course, networking. Recommendations from employees, who may have friends or family interested in a job, may be acted upon, but they must go through the same screening process as everyone else.
I have a work-related problem with a colleague. Do I confront him or her directly? Privately or publicly?
The Taiwanese way to resolve conflict is to seek third party consultation in a private matter. It is preferred to avoid direct conflict and discomfort. A third party can be someone that both parties respect or a source of authority. Since westerners in Taiwan are not perceived and evaluated by Taiwanese standards, it is not completely inappropriate to express yourself directly with your colleague. However, it is better to find out the culture of the working environment before you proceed with your way.
Work related issues are very sensitive. The most possible problem is that there is a cultural barrier where you have offended them and your colleagues will not tell you until it escalates. When you notice something is not right, approach them directly, but privately, and if this does not alleviate the problem, then go to a mediator, probably a superior. You will not really know about the barrier at work until it is highly evident. It is based on some misunderstanding, so do not be wary of what you do or say, but be careful not to offend or assume your colleagues understood your actions.
What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?
Money and fear of failure (losing face) are the key values to inspire workers in Taiwan. Loyalty was once an important value but not anymore.
You must be genuine and show that you are just like them. If they are business people, they work very hard since there is real competition from China. Do not leave work on time or arrive late, but leave when the work is done and set a good example for your staff. Incentives of treating them to a KTV evening or a paintball session and of course, a short trip to a local island is always great incentive to work harder. Personally, I taught English at an international accounting firm and that is how they treated their workers. The firm even had an entire company Olympics.
Do not be surprised by the siesta (recess-nap) that they may take right after lunch. Taiwan is a high adrenaline society with much pressure to perform. Keep morale high by giving token incentive gifts, buying lunches once in a while for staff or even having improvement seminars so that they don’t constantly have work on their minds. This could boost productivity in the office.
To help me learn more about the local culture(s), please recommend: books, films, television shows, foods and web sites.
This is an official site providing information on Taiwan. Lonely planet and Frodo travel guides are also very helpful.
Books: To understand modern Chinese history and know where Taiwan is coming from, The Soong Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave is a good start. It discusses the struggle of the KMT and the Communists in China and why Taiwan was formed. The Lonely Planet also is a good source.
The Four Little Dragons by Brian Kelly and Mark London is also a good book. One of the four dragons is Taiwan. It is a little dated, but gives true insight on Taiwan’s economy.
Twenty Million Chinese Made in Taiwan by Jules Nadeau is also a good book on describing certain ways in Taiwan with societal norms and cultural etiquette. This book is originally in French.
I cannot recommend any movies, but anything that is a contemporary “Made in Taiwan” film will illustrate the way life is there. The same applies for television programs. Just by channel surfing, you will appreciate the Chinese style soap operas and the comedy shows and learn to appreciate the cultural outlook on life. Do not judge!
Food: Do not be afraid of anything that is given to you. Your hosts will be pleasantly surprised if you take a genuine interest in their food. The seafood is excellent. Do not be afraid to try shredded jellyfish, fish gills, shark, congealed pigs blood, “BBQ chicken butts” or the infamous stinky tofu or 10,000 year old eggs. It is not disgusting and you will be commended for trying it. You may acquire a taste for it! Seriously, I am not saying this just to gross you out. Also there is no dog or cat served in Taiwan, so no jokes on that topic. At a restaurant, your hosts may want to treat you to a western meal, try to persuade them to take you to their favourite local places. Do not be surprised at the noise levels at the restaurants, as this is the ambience of a good place. Let your host order and try to pay, although they will not let you. Make sure that you are able to reciprocate in some way like paying for the next time.
Learn a few key phrases: I am full, “Wo che bao le”, or thank you, “Sie sie nee”. Follow their lead on leaving food on the plate or drink in the glass. Empty means you want more.
Websites: The Taiwan government has done an excellent job in giving as much information to foreigners about their country. For a great start, go to http://www.gio.gov.tw or http://www.chinapost.com.tw/ or http://tpe.gov.tw
When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?
Cultural interpreters are not common in Taiwan. The best way to obtain information on Taiwan is through newspapers, books, and travel guides. If you need formal assistance, Taiwanese government agencies are a good place to visit for a more comprehensive resource.
Both the China Post (good general paper) and the Taipei Times (business oriented) are great newspapers. If you have a residency permit, the local library is highly recommended, as there are many with English language literature.
Concerts are of course a given, especially at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall Theatres. There are also private theatres and small galleries, but you can find out about these through local magazines and newspapers.
With regards to movies, it is best not to go to the standard Warner Village theatres, but the smaller ones hidden in the neighbourhoods. This gives the authentic way the films were shown decades ago and will usually be English language movies with Chinese subtitles.
Museums and galleries that are highly recommended are the Aboriginal Museum and the National Palace Museum in northern Taipei. There are many museums, parks and galleries that must be explored. Do not point your finger, especially at a cemetery, as there is much fear of afterlife and ghosts. Never call people over by bending your pointing finger with palm facing you. They equate this to what you do with dogs. Instead, hold your palm down and wave your four fingers downwards. Counting is also different as the thumb is one and a sign for very good. Pinky and thumb is six, pinky and pointer is seven and both pointers forming an X are ten.
Restaurants are truly incredible in Taiwan as they are cheap, delicious and you will not get sick. Even the Chinese night markets are a great attraction, just go see Snake Alley once and leave it for the tourists. As restaurants go, huo guo (hot pot), teppanyaki, teahouses, and other specialty places, like Shanghai, Thai or Szechuan restaurants. I urge you not to go to western places. If you need a fix, they have COSTCO there and other huge western supermarkets. Learn how to use chopsticks and do not criticize eating habits, as slurping and burping is not inappropriate.Do not fear the hygiene of the restaurants, as I only got sick once and that was where the tourists eat. Do eat the local fare as you can always have mediocre western food at home. That includes fast food chains. The only thing good about McDonalds was their iced coffee and their sundaes. You will see business meetings or old people gathering and even children playing at McDs. It has become a popular loitering place. There is a big coffee culture with thousands of cafes with different themes and prices. Do try to the bubble milk tea stands too.
Another popular past time is to go to the teahouses in Mucha or to a KTV or a private karaoke salon with friends. They are very good singers and are not afraid to make their voices heard.
About crude public activity; you will see much spitting and people will not necessarily open a door for you. This is not considered rude in Taiwan. You may see blue-collar people chewing a common stimulant called betelnut (Binglang). It stains their teeth and they spit it anywhere.
Who are this country's national heroes?
Zheng Cheng-gong 1624-1662
A military general under the Chin Dynasty who successfully defeated the Dutch, who had occupied Taiwan for 50 years, in 1662.
Dr. Sun Yet-sen 1866—1925
A Chinese revolutionary leader and statesman who is considered by many to be the "Father of Modern China". He had a significant influence in the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and establishment of the Republic of China. A founder of the Kuomintang, Sun was the first provisional president of the Republic of China in 1912 and de facto leader from 1923 to 1925. He developed a political philosophy known as the Three Principles of the People. Sun is uniquely admired by almost all Chinese. Yet, his life was one of constant struggle and frequent exile as few of his visions for his country materialized.
Chiang Kai-shek 1887-1975
He was a Chinese military and political leader who assumed the leadership of the Kuomintang (KMT) after the death of Sun Yat-sen in 1925. He commanded the Northern Expedition to unify China against the warlords and emerged victorious in 1928 as the overall leader of the Republic of China (ROC). Chiang led China in the War to resist the Japanese, during which Chiang's stature within China weakened but his international prominence grew as one of the "Big Four" Allied leaders. During the Chinese Civil War, (1926-1949), Chiang attempted to eradicate the Chinese Communists but ultimately failed, forcing his government to retreat to Taiwan where he served as President of the Republic of China for the remainder of his life.
Chiang Ching-kuo 1910-1988
A politician and leader, he was the son of Chiang Kai-shek and held numerous posts in the government of the Republic of China (from 1949 on Taiwan). He succeeded his father to power, serving as Premier of the Republic of China from 1972 to 1978 and President of the Republic of China from 1978 until his death in 1988. Under his tenure, the government of the Republic of China, although still authoritarian, became much more open and tolerant of political dissent. Towards the end of his life, Chiang relaxed government controls on the press and speech and put native Taiwanese in positions of power, including his successor Lee Teng-hui who furthered the course of democratic reforms.
One revered hero is Sun Yat Sen (Guo Fu, meaning Father of the country). He is looked at as the founder of modern China. No need to tell them that the KMT lost China in 1949. They see themselves as the rightful owners of China.
Of course Chiang Kai Shek is the true father of Taiwan and is very much revered due to the resistance that he put up against China for so many decades.
In the Buddhist religion there are many heroes too that are worshipped to many degrees by the locals. You can find out more about them when you are there. Visit temples.
Sports are very popular, especially baseball and basketball. Many movie stars and singers are also seen as larger than life pop icons. This path should also be explored too, as this will give you something to talk about at work. “Did you hear A-Mei’s latest hit?”
Are there shared historical events between this country and Canada that could affect work or social relations?
Christmas and New Years, both are celebrated not on religious grounds but because of their popularity.
One of the major topics of Canada and Taiwan is that the populations are similar, 30 and 23 million respectively, but Taiwan is the size of Vancouver Island. As historic events are concerned, I cannot think of any except that Sun Yat Sen once travelled through Canada, stopping in Ottawa, Saskatoon and Vancouver to collect money from overseas Chinese for the cause of defeating the Empire.
Remember the term CBC and ABC, as it means Canadian born Chinese and American born Chinese. Many Taiwanese also live in Vancouver, Houston and San Francisco, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. They want to secure their family’s safety in case China does do something brash against Taiwan. Taiwanese who have not been to Canada may see it as a huge wilderness, which it is, but not understand that there are also large cities here. At a quick glance, any white person will be pinned as a “Mei Guo Ren,”, which means an American. The retort is “Bu shuh, Jia na da ren”, meaning, no Canadian!
What stereotypes do Canadians have about the local culture that might be harmful to effective relations?
Canadians are seen as honest and straightforward. From Taiwanese point of view, honesty can be the synonym of naiveté. It is to the Canadian’s advantage to be as explicit and as clear in terms of communication to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.
That they are the same as Chinese from China. It is like saying Canadians are the same as Americans or Hong Kongers as Mainlanders. About food, do not talk about eating dogs and cats. It was outlawed quite a while ago and it is an insult to their culinary traditions. As I mentioned before, when Canadians hear that so many people live on such a small ‘island’, that they must be tripping over each other. That is obviously not the case as public transit is very organized and people have a good standard of living. I had a spacious apartment and people live comfortably there.
Your cultural interpreter was born in Taiwan, the eldest of three children. She was raised in Taipei until the age of 7. She moved to Kaohsiung with her family and stayed until her early twenties. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from National Sun Yat-sen University. In 2000, she moved to Canada to continue her graduate studies. Your cultural interpreter is a freelance interpreter and translator. She is currently living in Ottawa and completing her doctoral degree in Linguistics at the University of Ottawa.
Your cultural interpreter was born in Burlington, Ontario and is the youngest of two children. He was raised in the city of St. Catharines, studying Art History at Brock University and at the State University of New York. Afterwards, your cultural interpreter went to Taiwan, where he lived for three years, teaching English to small children, university students and business executives. He is currently living in Canada and is a third generation Ukrainian Canadian, who speaks fluent Ukrainian, English, as well as passable French and Mandarin.
Country Insights - Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.
You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.
The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.