It would be impossible to comprehensively describe Taiwan, or even this one trip there. I will save the long rambles on national identity and social reform for later! For now, here are ten fun facts about Taiwan:
1. Despite the fact that Taiwan is a small tropical island, water isn’t a big deal here. In fact, there’s kind of a low-key fear of water here. It’s definitely not a beach-going culture. No one can swim! My dad grew up by the seaside (in Hualien), yet balks at the prospect of wading into a shallow pool.
2. Taiwan has the world’s highest density of convenience stores. There are 7-Elevens everywhere (as well as 7-Eleven competitors FamilyMart, OK Mart, Hi-Life, etc.), and they are not your typical American 7-Elevens. They are the most amazing places in the world.
3. 2% of the population are Taiwanese aborigines, the Austronesian peoples who originally lived here. There are 14 federally recognized tribes, but several other unrecognized ones as well. The other 98% are ethnically Han Chinese.
4. Taiwan was colonized by Japan from 1895-1945 (until the defeat of Japan in WWII). There are still many aspects of Japanese culture in modern Taiwanese culture.
5. Bubble tea was invented in Taiwan. I’m very proud of this fact, heh heh.
6. There is a compulsory military conscription, which is currently in the slow process of being removed.
7. Taipei is one of the world’s most connected cities. Amazing Wi-Fi and 4G service everywhere. Taiwan offers free Wi-Fi for tourists too. (I’ve been using it, mostly on buses, and it’s awesome!) Perfect service, even on top of a mountain.
8. Taiwan has one of the world’s lowest birth rates. A few years ago, it was the lowest. People often remark on my parents’ massive brood of three kids.
9. Taiwan has the highest recycling rate in the world. It’s also the first country in the world to implement plastic recycling as a nation-wide program. I’ve mentioned the musical garbage truck system before. My parents hate having to run after the trucks, but I think it’s pretty cool.
10. Taiwanese people are incredibly friendly and welcoming. Hospitality is everything here! If you ever visit, you will definitely be warmly received. 🙂
My trip is about to end… alas, back to reality! The last week of September will be super busy. We’ll be adjusting to our normal work schedules, plus moving into a subleased apartment. Then we will have three months (October, November, December) in Seattle before we depart to Morocco. Everything’s fluttering past so fast, ahh!