I lived in Asia for nearly three years in my 20’s. It was an enlightening, beautiful, frustrating, crazy-making, fun-loving time of my life.
I’ll share just a little bit of what it was like with you, at least what I can remember.
In 2007, I decided to ditch law school and head to Taiwan for my first experience overseas.
They overbooked my flight, and I was a little late so I got bumped up to business class.
I never wanted to get off that plane. This is free? This too? I highly recommend Malaysian Airlines, by the way.
Upon arrival, they threw us all in a hotel together. Tons of single 20-somethings and 30-somethings all there to have an adventure in a foreign land. We had a blast that first of training.
They taught us basics about teaching and Taiwanese culture. Of course, I learned a lot more from living there for a year and a half:
Things I can remember about Taiwanese culture:
Ah, delicious street food. So greasy, so cheap, so salty, and so fattening. I remember getting fried chicken, fried tofu, milk tea, and other delicious treats. If you weren’t careful you could easily pack on the pounds. I know that I did.
I miss my scooter. It was 90cc, black, and I only crashed it twice. There are more scooters than cars, and you have to learn how to drive in a completely different way. One of my friends described driving in Taiwan like skiing or snowboarding. “You just look ahead of you and go,” he said. I also enjoyed seeing entire families on scooters.
I believe Taiwan is its own country. I learned later that this was offensive to mainland Chinese but it was a common thought in Taiwan. They have their own territory, culture, language, and more though. It’s pretty confusing because half of the country wants to be a part of China and the other half wants to be independent. It’s inevitable that they will be a part of China but I love that they are holding onto to their last glimpses of freedom.
Nowadays, the west has the SquattyPotty™, and people are starting to get on board. The first time that I saw a hole in the floor where the toilet should be, however, was quite shocking. Now, I actually miss them in public restrooms. If you think about it, who wants to share butt prints with total strangers. It’s pretty gross and I think we’ve all been there wiping up a toilet in a public restroom just so we can use it. The squat toilet solves all of this. Get in there, squat, get out. It can take some getting used to as far as aim goes but overall it’s a better system for public restrooms.
24-hour fruit stores
I always found these to be hilarious. They were located on corners all over the city that I lived in and they were literally just fruit but they were open 24/7. I can’t imagine a moment where I would absolutely need fruit at 3ambut, hey, it’s not my culture to judge. Also, I may be guilty of drunkenly picking up a watermelon after a long night out. Maybe.
Of course, there is a whole lot more to Taiwanese culture than what I’m describing here. The above list is just some things that I found interesting or quirky from a foreigner’s perspective.
Although I was not a “lifer” as we say about ex-pats who never leave, I enjoyed my time in Taiwan. Towards the end, I did go through weird depression that a lot of people go through when they live in another country. You go to a dark place at times because you’re not around close friends and family, everything is different, and you don’t see a future for yourself.
If you’re willing to have a totally different experience for a while, then I’d recommend Taiwan to most people out there. You have to be extremely open-minded, willing to learn a little Mandarin, and also a bit crazy to fully enjoy the experience.
If you’re interested in teaching in Taiwan, I did write a book about it which you can pick up here.