5 topics to avoid when talking to Taiwanese people | Irvin Fang – Grade 10

Taiwanese people riding the MRT Certain topics are sure to make for an awkward MRT conversation.
  • Taiwan’s status is often confusing for tourists
  • Better not ask a Taiwanese woman what her age is
  • Insult people in Taiwan can result in a hefty fine

When you travel to a new place you will meet and talk to people, but sometimes you will say the wrong things, and it will cause misunderstandings. Here are five things you should avoid talking about with Taiwanese people:

1. Is Taiwan part of China?

Taiwanese people will hate you for bringing up this topic, because Taiwan is it’s own free, independent nation, but sometimes it may be confusing for tourists. Technically Taiwan is called the Republic of China, which is close to the People’s Republic of China (the official name for China). Some people may wonder; does this mean that Taiwan is its own country?

The answer is yes and no; Taiwan isn’t officially a country yet, but if you look at it in every aspect, it is. We have our own president, passports, military, and they can take part in sporting events such as the Olympics and FIFA World Cup, although they participate under the name of Chinese Taipei.

2. A woman’s age and weight

Taiwanese women who are over the age of 25 years old will try to avoid this topic every time you ask them. For some reason, they feel embarrassed when people ask their age and weight because it makes them feel old and fat, but in reality, they are not like that at all.

Some women want to stay young and beautiful forever, so even if they are getting older, they still feel young inside their hearts. If you ask them about their age, to them it’s like destroying their dignity, and they may feel like they’ve been insulted by this question. A person wouldn’t normally ask someone about their age and weight, unless they think that person is too old or fat. So remember, do not question woman about these things.

3. Income and salaries

It isn’t wise to mention your salary in front of people, especially when you are a foreigner, because oftentimes Western salaries are often two or three times higher than that of local workers. By mentioning your income in front of Taiwanese people, it will make them feel uncomfortable, and they may think that you are showing off and boasting.

People will feel uncomfortable when you mention this issue in front of them; not only is this bad professional behaviour, but it also establishes a comparison between two people. Comparing yourself to others isn’t wise, considering the fact that you are not the best at everything, there will always be someone who’s better than you, and another one who is worse. Of course you will feel good if you earn more than the other person, but how would the other person feel? Ask yourself this question before you ask someone else about their income.

4. Politics

People in Taiwan love to discuss politics, and you can see political activities everywhere: on the streets, in the news, or even on your tissue boxes! Everyone has their own political opinions, especially during elections, and the most common issue Taiwanese people will fight about is whether you support the Greens or the Blues, led by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Kuomintang (KMT) respectively.

However, it is probably best for everyone to avoid this topic to make sure no one gets upset. The best way to stay out of this is not to answer political questions and let people know you are on the “neutral” side, so you can avoid conflict.

5. Insulting Taiwanese people (especially using swear words)

For whatever reason, if you insult people in other countries it isn’t illegal, but in Taiwan, you cannot publicly insult people, and you can be fined $10,000 TWD for doing so. The main reason Taiwanese citizens tend to insult each other is because of traffic problems, owing a debt to someone else, or personal issues. Although sometimes you may let loose a swear word or two and think that it’s nothing, Taiwanese people take it really seriously because they will feel like they’ve been badly shamed and insulted.

Last October, a TV show host called Hsu Nai-lin insulted and yelled at one of the show stars (Tang), and Tang said that he felt like this is the most serious insult he has ever felt, he also said that he was preparing to take legal action against the TV host. So learn from this example: do not insult Taiwanese people, or else you may get into a lot of trouble.

Everytime you travel to a new country, you are unfamiliar with the environment and culture around you, and even if you say one wrong word, it is enough to start a fight between you and the people there. Make sure that you remember these tips the next time you’re in Taiwan, or else you might find yourself in a messy situation.

About Taipei Teen Tribune (104 Articles)
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