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Random Thoughts on Taiwan

Wrapping up my trip in Taiwan, I’m struck by a thousand random thoughts…

  • Taiwanese fashion iterates more quickly than the United States! At a breakneck pace — and even me, fashion-challenged as I am, can see this. Before, I thought it was the result of less expensive clothes that can be bought for less and wear out more quickly. Now I am not sure… are they closer to the source/origin of new trends?
  • Taiwanese architecture also iterates more quickly. There’s more adventurism in building design here (with the associated successes and mistakes that you’d expect!). Maybe there’s some other cultural aesthetics (desire for quick change?) at play here.
  • my fingernails grow 2x faster here; cause unknown.
  • Taiwanese is a dying language, sadly (it has a warmth and down-to-earthness that mandarin lacks). even as far down south as taichung, kids listen to their parents talk to them in Taiwanese, and then answer back in Mandarin. In the office, no one spoke Taiwanese to one another. While there is some cultural preservation backlash (early into my visit, I attended a play that was intentionally set in Taiwanese), but I’m afraid it isn’t enough.
  • my mind staggers at Taiwanese economics. For lunch one day I had a $20NT ($0.8 USD) fatty-pork-with-sauce-atop-rice. followed by a $150 ($5) coffee. That’s a greater-than 6x ratio. Imagining a typical cheap $5 lunch in the US, can I imagine following it with a $30 cup of coffee?

    There are other interesting economic forces at play. Service fees are substantially cheaper compared to the US. As are locally manufactured goods and foods. Gasoline is about 2x as expensive, I think. Luxury goods are about the same price as in the States (but this is absolute price… relative currency strengths make them about 3x as expensive). How does this all shape society?

  • There are far too many binglang (a carcinogenic nut chewed by the working class) trees here for local consumption. I see way more groves than could be consumed. Do they, then, export? To where?
  • While job types are divided largely along race lines in the US, I see them more divided along age lines here. “The old man the machines”. The old are the ones who work in the factories, in construction, etc. The young are in the cleaner, air-conditioned stores. I don’t know which injustice/imbalance (tw or us) makes me more sad =(.
  • Public vs private: On one hand, Taiwanese keep their private lives very private. On the other hand, they literally air their laundy where everywhere can see it. The public turns an obligatory blind eye. Is this necessary to being short on space, or are there different sets of aesthetics and decency here?
  • Android phones are very common here! On the street, and in commercials.
  • City governments could easily use mechanical turk / crowdsourcing to translate signs and notices. Wonder if they are agile enough to do this? (America’s governments would not be).
  • My favorite game on the street: distinguish the european foreigner from the american foreigner. Or, distinguish the ABC from the local Taiwanese. It’s interesting. There are subtle differences in clothing, mannerisms, that most of the time the conscious mind doesn’t catch but the unconscious mind can pick up on.
  • Tainan restaurant traffic is shaped by information cascades