I arrived 3weeks ago and i was really impressed to see the difference between France or even Europe and Taiwan. I was really expecting to learn more about this country and of course about people way of life.
As a visitor in Taiwan, it was obvious that i had to respect their social customs and cultural differences. Some of them seem old but they are a part of their life and culture. Particulary, in visiting religious institutions.
Customs / Cultural habits
The first thing i noticed when i arrived in Taiwan was the " romoving shoes". In practically every taiwanese home, as in Japan, guests are requested to remove their shoes even though the host sometimes insist that you don't have to ( but that is just courtesy).
I noticed that when I mooved into my appartment, i was wondering why the shoes were in front of each door in the building. I thought that it was weired to do that because someone can still the shoes, you will never see that in France and i will be scared to live my shoes outside my appartmement!! But my french way of thinking is obviously different that taiwanse!
Every host has slippers lying right at the door after removing their shoes. Taiwanese pride themselves in maintaining a clean floor at home!
A few weeks after my arrival, i started to have a lot of different taiwanese friend. And one day, one of them invited me to a wedding. I didn't really know what to expect about it because it's such a different culture that i wasn't sure of anything. I asked her if i had to bring something special or even to dress in a special way..
Fortunately i asked her information, i didn't know that for Taiwanese weddings you have to present yourself with a red envelope. When you are invited to a wedding, you will be expected to bring money when attending the wedding. So, i had to place the money in a red enveloppe and the typical amount should be about NT600 to NT1000 in cash. This entitles you to a wonderful 10-course meal during the wedding party and you are not expected to bring other gifts.
Taiwan is a great gift-giving society. When you visit someones house for dinner, it is customary to bring a gift. This may be some fruit, a box of chocolates, somes pastries, or a bottle of wine.
When you present a gift, tradition dictates that it be presented with two hands and received with two hands. The host will usually not open the present in your presence unless you request them to do so. When opening the gift in the host's prensence, it is important to open the package carefully to ovoid ripping and crumpling the paper. The wrapping paper should be folded up and put aside.
One day, i was talcking to a taiwanese friend and in the discussion i pronounce the number "four" and she looked at me strangely. At the beginning i thought that it was because my accent was not that good so i repeated another time and she started laughting! I asked her why and she explained me that in chinese culture, the sound of "four" is similar to death and you try to never pronounce it.. I asked her more explications about it and I learned that for exemple hospitals never put patients on the fourth floor and some pople do not fell confortable about having an office on the 4th floor of a building.
That's funny because after she told me that, i observed in a hostel where i stayed in Taipei that there were no 4th floor in the elevator, directly the 5th floor! I thought it was really funny and impressive how much there believe in bad omens.
But there is more! In Chinese, white is as well associated with death. In giving presents, i advise you to never use white wrapping paper or white envelopes ( like the French people always do!). Chinese are usually hesitant to open it because it indicates the writer is going to die soon.. ( Lucky i am to had heard about it before going to that wedding!!)
All that kind of topic disussion like death or talcking about accidents are generally forbidden in taiwanese culture.
Symboles of Taiwan
The "white sun in a blue sky" portion of the ROC's national flag was origanally designed by Lu Hao-tung, a martyr of the Chinese revolution.
The 12 points of the white sun in the emblem represent the Chinese conceptualization of a day's being divided into 12 two-hour periods, symbolizing unceasing progress. At one level, the three colors of blue, white and crimson stand for the Three Principles of the People : nationalism, democracy and social well-being.
At another level, the colors embody qualities that evoke other concepts enumerated in the Three Principles : The blue signifies brightness, purity and freedom, and thus a government that is of the people; the white, honesty, selflessness and equality, and thus a government that is by the people; and the crimson, sacrifice, bloodshed and brotherly love, thus a government that is for the people.
The plum blossom, was officially designated by the ROC Executive Yuan to be the national flower on July 21, 1964. The plum blossom, which produces shades of pink and white and gives off a delicate fragrance, has great symbolic value in Chinese culture because of its resilience during the harsh winter. The triple grouping of stamens ( one long and two short) represents Sun Yat sen's three Principles of the people, while the five petals symbolize the five branches of the ROC government.
New Year's Eve and Chinese New Year
Beginning in mid-December, families all around China start preparing Chinese New Year, creating an atmosphere of joy and renewal.
A time of gratitude and family togetherness, New Year's Eve is spent by bidding farewell to the old year and thanking one's ancestors and the gods for their blessing and protection. Children who have left their hometowns return on this day to share New Year's Eve dinner with their families, and for those unable to make the journey, a table setting is placed to symbolize their presence in spirit if not in body.
At the end of the dinner, the parents and older generation give New Year's money to the children, who have been waiting with growing anticipation for this moment to arrive. Finally, to watch the old year out and bring in the new year, families stay up.
With the arrival of New Year's day, life is renewed and the new year begins to unfold amidst to noise of firecackers.The Chinese begin the day by worshipping their ancestors, following which the streets become filled with poeple making New Yeear's visit to friends and relatives and with the lively display of dragon dancing, lion dancing... and other folk activities.
On the second day of the new year, married women return to their natal home to visit family; on the fourth day, the gods return to the world of the living; and on the fifth day, many new stores and old businesses open their doors for the first time due to the auspiciousness of the day !
Preserving and incorporating the values of these New Year traditions into modern day life is a goal Chinese people strive for...
lantern festival, also known as Shang Yuan Festival, takes place on the fifteenth day of the first moon. Last in a series of springtime celebrations, this " second New Year" is widely celebrated by families all around Taiwan.
On the night of the festival, decorative lanterns depicting birds, beasts, historical figures, and any of number of different themes are carried by children or adorn temples. To highlight these glowing works of art, competitions are held. The Taipei Lantern Festival, held annually at Chiang Kai shek memorall Hall Plaza and the largest and most famous of these competitions, is attended every year by thousands of lantern-watchers. The lantern festival is further enriched by the customary lantern riddle parties that are held on this night.
Each year around the 15th of the first month on the Chinese calendar is the " Start of spring", marking the passing of winter and the arrival of spring.
This national event is to encourage farmers to finish preparations for spring plowing. the main activity is "whipping the spring Ox" , supervised by a lot of government officials to show the importance of agriculture.
The "spring Ox" is a colorful paper cow stuffed with "the five grains". While hitting the spring Cow, the following words are said " With the first hit comes timely and favorable weather; with the second comes fertile land and warm rains; with the third comes a peaceful start to a new year; with the fourth comes peace throught the four seasons; with the fifth comes a harvest of the five grains; and with the sixth comes springtime to the Six Unities or universe"
Just a the West has Halloween for ghosts, so also does Taiwan have a holdiay to fete the departed spirits of the underworld : Ghost festival, a popular occasion celebrated throughout China on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month.
In Taiwan, Ghost festival is passed by slaughtering a pig and sheep, wich together with a prodigious table of wine and meat is offered to one's ancestors and ghost from the underworld.
The Chinese believe that the dead become ghosts roaming between Heaven and earth. Spirits without descendants to care for them are prayed to during ghost Festival so that they may also enjoy the warmth of life among the living.
Family habits in taiwan
Most Taiwanese live in urban areas, particulary modern apartments. They tend to wear western clothing, saving their traditional clothing for certain festivals.
Women enjoy a higher social status since industrialization along with more freedom. The underlying values that form the base of traditional values in Taiwan are proper relationships, practical wisdom, along with proper conduct.
The values come from Confucian ethics and since Confucianism was basically developed in rural areas, modern Taiwan is facing the challenge of adapting these values to modern time.
Some of the values have not lost any strengh such as keeping "face", faithfulness to parents and ancestors worship as well as having a strong work ethic.
Popular activities include traveling to other parts of the world, singing with family and friends, watching TV, and moutain climbing.
In the morning, the taiwanese like to get up early to practice exercices in parks or in front of their house.Young professionals like to frquent bars, restaurants and discos at night!
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