Top 3 Tips on Being Polite in Taiwan

One of the most difficult things to get accustomed to in a different country is the differing standards of politeness. Something that is OK in Taiwanese culture might seem offensive in American culture and vice-versa. How can you avoid being offended or making a horrible faux pas? Just keep these three tips in mind during your travel to Taiwan.

1. Don’t be offended by personal comments

One thing that many foreigners are somewhat shocked and taken aback by is what seems to be bluntness on the part of many Taiwanese. It’s not unusual to be asked how old you are, or to hear comments about your weight and be asked personal questions about your health. This isn’t considered tactless or rude in Taiwan; older people in particular consider it their right to comment on these things. In fact, some claim that it’s a way of showing they care, that they tell you how to improve your health or appearance.

Clothing stall vendors may also comment on your body type, but this is also not meant to be offensive in any way–usually remarks like these are followed by accurate advice on what kind of clothing or color would look best on you. In any case, don’t be offended if this happens. Just remember, they’re being helpful!

2. Watch your feet

Taiwan crowd

Another aspect of culture in Taiwan and Chinese culture that many foreigners struggle with is the attitude toward crowds. While in a crowded area, it’s easy to get pushed or for someone to step on your foot. However, while in America the person would immediately turn around and say something like “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry,” in Taiwan this is considered exceptionally polite. Many people will just keep walking, assuming that because the offense wasn’t intentional, no apology is necessary. Because there are so many crowded areas, like the MRT and night markets, this that can be frustrating and annoying. Some advice: just accept it as part of the culture–these people are usually NOT trying to be rude or offensive, they simply have a different attitude than Americans do.

3. Don’t tip at restaurants

Finally, one crucial and, from the American perspective, positive difference between Taiwanese and American society is that in Taiwan, you are not expected to tip. In fact, trying to tip at restaurants or in taxis will often just result in confusion, especially if you are not fluent in Mandarin. The only time when this might be acceptable is if a bellhop carries your luggage into a hotel, or in some sort of spa. So don’t worry about tips! If a restaurant really wants to, they may add a 10% service charge to your check, but usually only large or specialty restaurants do this.

Sarkozy Talks About Greece

If you haven’t been following the recent problems Greece has been having with paying off their debts, basically the story is that Greece is on the verge of bankruptcy and has to decide whether it is going to stay with the euro or not. Their decision will not only affect their own debt, but also the value of the euro (so every country in the eurozone would be affected).

The BBC has a good summary of what it would mean if Greece left the eurozone. You can read about it here.

As part of the eurozone, France has a lot at stake here, so French president Sarkozy has also commented on the situation. Check out his response below (with English subtitles). He speaks slowly and clearly, so this is also a great way to practice your French!

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Putin Tells a Joke

Jokes, anecdotes, and tongue twisters play a huge role in Russian culture. Their topics and form vary as widely as those of American jokes, but political ones which make fun of Russians themselves or the Russian government are fairly popular. Despite being the current Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin is not above telling a quick Russian joke about the Soviet KGB!

Laugh at yourself

Laughter is good for the soul. You can get brownie points by making jokes about your own culture when you are visiting Russia. However, you will want to avoid making fun of Russian culture, even jokingly. It’s ok for a Russian to make fun of Russian culture, because they are making fun of themselves. It’s not ok for someone else to make fun of their culture — this could be deemed offensive.

“I’m a spy, and I want to surrender!”

Watch and listen carefully! Can you figure out these words?

  1. Человек пошел на Лубянку и говорит:
  2. — Я шпион, хочу сдаться.
  3. Ему говорят:
  4. — А Вы, чей шпион?
  5. Говорит:
  6. — Американский.
  7. — Ну, тогда в пятую комнату.
  8. Он пошел в пятую комнату.
  9. — Я американский шпион, хочу сдаться.
  10. — А у Вас оружие есть?
  11. — Есть.
  12. — В седьмую, пожалуйста.
  13. Он в седьмую.
  14. — Я шпион, хочу сдаться, у меня есть оружие.
  15. — В десятую.
  16. Ну, в десятую.
  17. — Я шпион, хочу сдаться, у меня есть оружие.
  18. — А средства связи есть?
  19. — Есть.
  20. — В двацатую комнату.
  21. Пошел.
  22. — Я шпион, у меня есть оружие, средства связи, я хочу сдаться.
  23. Его спрашивают:
  24. — А задание то у Вас есть?
  25. — Есть.
  26. — Ну, идите и исполняйте. Не мешайте людям работать!

Adorable Music Duo, Elli et Jacno

Oh the 80s! Time of big hair, ray-ban sunglasses, skin-tight miniskirts, electro-pop… well, everything that is in this video, actually! I think it’s time for another sing-a-long.

A quick tip…

Don’t worry if you don’t know all the words. This is a happy song about love and not caring what other people think. So take the song’s message to heart — grab your friends or significant other, throw caution to the winds, and get creative! We’d love to see a video of you singing along. After all, the point is to practice your pronunciation of French and to have fun!


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Paris, The Center of World Music

Music in France is thriving, and Paris is in the center of it. If you turn on the radio in Paris you will hear some top forty songs, like Lady Gaga or Jay Z, and some cheesy French pop. But go outside and you wont hear that homogenized pop culture. You WILL hear music from Mali, North Africa, the Middle East, Spain, Sweden…you’ll hear the world!

Free Live Music

Because the mayor of Paris and the ministry of culture in France finance free concerts (spending around €12.6 billion a year on the arts and culture), live music is readily available there, and the locals take advantage of it. In the 19th arrondissement the first urban park of Paris, Le Parc de la Villette offers free live music every Sunday in the summer and other events throughout the year. Musical entertainment here is not just for the youth of France; it’s a family affair.

On a Sunday in July families, friends, young couples and old couples picnic while watching Vieux Farka Touré of Mali. They dance to the reggae music of Ray Lema from Congo.

Paris as a center of world music

So are the French so passionate and open to music because they’re government promotes it? Or does the state spend so much money on culture because its population is so passionately artistic? One thing is for certain– a population of 5.7 million immigrants in makes Paris a center of creativity and attracts artists from all over the world.

Sources: L’institute National de la statistique er des études économiques www.insee.fr

Want to dive into French language and culture?

Check out our France ForeignIQ service. Make the best of your trip to France by learning how to communicate and what (not) to do when you get there.

ForeignIQ is a unique subscription service that shows you how things get done in foreign places. Need to shop for clothes? Get directions? Schedule a meeting? ForeignIQ will get you ready.