In this very diverse world, we have many different languages, traditions and customs. We all have different beliefs and ways of doing things. It is always a humbling and fun experience to learn about another culture. In this blog, we will discuss some interesting facts about Taiwanese culture.
Everyone is called uncle, aunt, big brother, big sister, grandma or grandpa.
It is not polite to address people who are older than you by their first names. For example, we call our parents’ friends aunt (first name) or uncle (first name). We don’t call our bosses, professors, or even colleagues, (unless they are the same age or junior) by their first names, either.
The number four is unlucky
The pronunciation of the word “four” is similar to the pronunciation of “death.” Therefore, it is extremely unlucky to have four of something in your life. Hospital buildings normally do not have a 4th floor (seriously, who wants to stay on that floor?). Our mobile carriers even offer a discount to people whose phone numbers have the number four in them.
Never give someone a clock as a gift.
The pronunciation of the word “clock” is the same as the pronunciation of “end” or “termination.” Giving a clock as a gift has the implication that you are wishing one’s life to end and you are paying your last respects.
It’s not polite to open gifts in front of the gift-giver.
It is considered rude to open gifts right away in front of the people who brought them. You should do it after everyone leaves. The only exception is when attending a wedding. It is customary to give a red envelope as a wedding gift to the receptionists. They will open it right away and count the money inside the envelope in front of you.
Shoes are not allowed inside of the house.
Shoes must be taken off before entering a house, so you don’t bring any dirt, bacteria or other mysterious creatures inside. You can wear slippers in the house if you prefer, but those slippers are for indoor use only.
Showers are taken at night.
Showers are taken at night, before we go to bed, so we are clean and cozy before laying on the bed. We are never allowed to go to sleep without taking a shower. That’s not hygienic at all!
Food needs to be cooked.
We like our food to be cooked thoroughly and served hot. We do have some cold dishes, but most of the ingredients are still cooked. I remember when my mom came to visit me in the U.S., and she was so shocked when she saw me eat a plate of salad. She said, “you are like a horse eating grass.”
We use a different calendar.
In addition to the Western calendar, we also have a lunar calendar. This is the calendar we refer to for our traditional holidays: Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Festival, Chinese Valentine’s Day, Ghost month, Full Moon Festival, and so on.
July is our “Ghost month”.
According to our traditions, the gate to the “underground” opens on July 1st and closes on July 31st every year. During this month, all ghosts will come to the earth, and people need to be extra careful. For example, it’s dangerous to swim because there might be ghosts of people who were drowned looking to take people’s spirits away as they swim. We also prepare food for the ghosts, so they are well-fed and satisfied.
As you may have noticed, many of the items listed above are extremely different from the Western cultures. Cultures are fascinating in a way that they provide us a different lens to look at the world. It is the different cultures that make the world a place that is more fun and colorful!