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Let's just say — it wasn't love at first sight

I used to associate myself as an American, proud of being raised in California and not in Taiwan. Having lived in a dry and sunny climate for almost my entire life, it was a pain to come back to Taipei every summer. In my eyes, Taiwan was a suffocating and polluted country, and I dreaded the humidity and smog that clung to my skin.

But when I really opened up to the culture and daily lives of the Taiwanese, I saw something extraordinary. The vendors on the corner of the streets were no longer blank faces selling food to passerbys. The chattering teenagers picking out clothes and makeup were no longer the annoying girls I rolled my eyes at. I saw the deeper side to the Taiwanese. The elderly lady selling bao zhi near my grandma's house worked from 6 in the morning to 9 o'clock at night, never failing to smile at her customers and chat up her regulars. That group of girls, they're coming out of a 4-hour cram-school session, happy to finally take a break from studying and to be surrounded by their closest friends.

I've come to realize that I was wrong about Taiwan. The hard exterior of this country does not define it as a whole, and in order for one to truly understand this fascinating place, they need to get to know the people. We're friendly, we're open, and we all have a story to tell.

And as it might not have been love at first sight, I'm sure that my growing attachment to this beautiful little island will make up for my years of ignorance. Taiwan may not look as breath-taking as Paris, or Guam, or even New York; but this little Island has a down-to earth charm that will bring me back every time.

Eye on Taiwan invites you to share your reflections and observations regarding Taiwan. Please send submissions to alice.li@mail.chinapost.com.tw and include your (1) real name, (2) nationality, (3) contact number, (4) photo, and (5) profile. Specify Eye on Taiwan in the subject line and ensure your submission is at least 350 words long. Writers whose pieces are selected for publication will receive one month's free subscription to The China Post.
April 3, 2013    carcasonne@
@ "Taiwan may not look as breath-taking as Paris, or Guam, or even New York ...."

Please enlighten us. How does Paris, Guam or New York look "breath-taking", whereas Taiwan falls short?

I sense that someone still is unconvinced and thus "need to get to know the people."
April 4, 2013    olichu@
@ Vivian

I like the description, "The hard exterior of this country...."

It really is hard and gets harder to penetrate, the further out of Taipei. Especially for people who grew up outside of Taiwan. Many people of Taiwan put up a wall, as a defensive mechanism, and it is hard to get to know people. This is not unlike people who live in any metropolitan city, i.e. New York, Paris, Hong Kong, etc. But I agree, once you connect with someone or group in Taiwan, it becomes much easier.
April 4, 2013    curtisakbar@
I think most people will say they either love Taiwan or hate Taiwan, it is pretty clear cut, you either love the hustle and bustle or hate the pollution and over-crowding. Love the languages or hate all the different tones. Taiwan is what you make it, either get annoyed and frustrated or relax and enjoy yourself. If there is a problem, either be negative and say I hate it or try to fix it. I for one, hate markets, so instead of being angry and going to them with my family, I stay home or go to the park and enjoy myself.

Yes, Taiwan isn't a beautiful country but what it lacks in beauty it makes up for it in other ways, like having mild winters. Either love it or hate it, depends on what you make of it.
April 9, 2013    edann77@
Move to Danshui. The air is really cleaner and the temperature is on average 1-2 degree centigrade cooler than Taipei city. Do not be confused. The new district of Danshui that's developing now, and not the touristic old district most people are familiar with. The streets are wide with pedestrian friendly sidewalks and the air is really fresher, at least for now. The population of Danshui will probably double in the next five to ten years.
April 15, 2013    ranksbxm@
"I used to associate myself as an American"
Nothing wrong in saying such sentences.
There are many selfish people who run away from there responsibility even after getting well educated in their native land or country for batter pasture other side.
Think, what you did for your country and not what your country did for you.
Try give back to your country in some form.
It is cycle process of give and take.
Look at your self in the mirror.
If any one wants to racially abuse you.

You know what they will call you...

Of course not "AMERICAN".

HOLD ON TO YOUR ROOTS

Talking about pollution....Just visit Bangkok, India , Iran , Vietnam , Cambodia, New York.........
April 15, 2013    curtisakbar@
Mentioning places with worse problems doesn't make the actual problem go away. Yes, Beijing is more polluted than Taiwan but the thing is Taiwan is still polluted. We need the government to enforce their environmental laws and for the common person to stop being selfish and stop littering.
April 16, 2013    edrulyn@
I love Taiwan
April 16, 2013    joesun369@
No matter what, I am proud to be a Taiwanese.
April 17, 2013    carltanong@
Vivian said "I used to associate myself as.......and I dreaded the humidity and smog that clung to my skin.”

Remember Vivian, wherever you were raised, wherever u are residing now, still your former home country is your home sweet home like your later new home country.

Your love of America is a must, but one thing for sure you will never forget your former old home country China (R.O) Taiwan is.

But remember. Love ur old home country just like u love your new home country America, likewise I do love my country that all have the bloodline in my vein.....
_R.O.C Twn (my birthplace),
_Kwangtung (my dad birthplace) then move to Twn to PH,
_PH (my mom birthplace),
_and my 外公 birthplace@@@@@@@.

You are lucky enough to have two places to travel for family reunion in some special occasion. As for me, four places to travel. But that is ok. I received four big angpao plus now my 3g Taiwanese and our three kids. Isn't it nice to remember to have more home sweet home. Old and New.

So, just avoid a little to criticize your home country China(R.O)Taiwan pollution. In other words, pollution is everywhere.

Enjoy ur stay in our beautiful island of Taiwan. Me will travel soon to Taipei to attend my @@@@@ birthday anniversary. Big Angpao again. One + one + three = big five angpao. Nice hah!!!
April 17, 2013    jaques@
CARLTA, Vivian or anyone cares one ^$&* about your personal rants.
April 23, 2013    mario@
Just returning from a 50km bicycle ride from Neihu to Danshuei along the river bank with well organized bike lanes. Cannot remember of another big city with such a nice asset. I love Taiwan...safe, best food in the world at reasonable prices & nice friendly people.
November 27, 2013    jae_zann@
Compared to West Europe here, Taiwan is super clean, come to Belgium, France, Italy, England and you'll be surprised Taiwan is BETTER ORGANIZED, at least the streets are much cleaner than above mentioned countries..

If you are talking about the air, Taipei is just the same as other international big cities, which cars make air less clean than in the country side, so please do not use pollution this word to describe your home town.

And why don't you mention Taiwan has the MOST clean metro ON THIS PLANET?
November 27, 2013    jae_zann@
Big city is normal that the air is less fresh than country side, but I think Taipei is not polluted at all.

Compared to most of European countries, Taiwan is very clean. European they will be shocked if they see the streets in Taiwan are so clean, and look at Taiwan Kaohsiung, & Taipei metro, and train, transportation..... so clean, they are far better than Europe's, I must say.
November 28, 2013    curtisakbar@
@Jae

You must be smoking something pretty strong if you think Taiwan is clean and organized.

I have no idea what countries you have visited or what countries you have been to, but in my vast travels, I rank Taiwan as one of the dirtiest countries I have visited.

Taiwan has so many positives but being clean and beautiful isn't one. Yes, I can't fault the metro systems, as they are clean, all with disable access and are safe. But once you step outside the stations you return to the real Taiwan and are hit with the filth, pollution and smells.
November 28, 2013    miller.henry641@
Eh...she's young. She'll wake-up to reality soon enough.

Let the child indulge her fantasies and get posted in the CP.
November 29, 2013    freeman70@
curtisakbar@ wrote:
Mentioning places with worse problems doesn't make the actual problem go away. Yes, Beijing is more polluted than Taiwan but the thing is Taiwan is still polluted. We need the government to enforce their environmental laws and for the common person to stop being selfish and stop littering.
I agree. It is just another way of avoiding responsibility for the problem. We also need the government to ban the burning ghost money on streets. Why should I have to breathe toxic fumes because of someone's beliefs? Just another act of selfishness.
November 30, 2013    weiweineworleans@
I have visited Taiwan several times and have come to enjoy the street vendors and other special places that Taiwan has to offer, but I can not come to love Taiwan until it decides to legalize gay marriage. I am legally married to a man from the ROC and we live in a country that allows gay marriage. We have considered retiring to the ROC, but with no legal standing how can we?
December 3, 2013    curtisakbar@
Totally agree with you freeman70, and have you noticed lots of people throw the yellow paper into the fire and walk off leaving it unattended. So much for honoring the dead and what-not.

I'm not against religion and traditional beliefs but go to a holy sight such as a temple or designated area not the streets or other public areas.
December 3, 2013    taipeir2001@
jae_zann@ wrote:
Compared to West Europe here, Taiwan is super clean, come to Belgium, France, Italy, England and you'll be surprised Taiwan is BETTER ORGANIZED, at least the streets are much cleaner than above mentioned countries..

If you are talking about the air, Taipei is just the same as other international big cities, which cars make air less clean than in the country side, so please do not use pollution this word to describe your home town.

And why don't you mention Taiwan has the MOST clean metro ON THIS PLANET?
What rubbish. Most of Taiwan is a mess, missing pavements, bad traffic, scooters everywhere, trucks, rotten houses...open your eyes.
December 7, 2013    Leiduowen@
Taiwan, for whatever it is - a country, province, island, you name it - is one confused place, confused about its identity, language, position, direction. You ask a question or point out an issue but people here don't listen, taking you for just a babbling foreigner and answering according what they think you SHOULD or MIGHT be saying. Words with their meaning are used to mean something slightly different in Taiwan (e.g., Protestantism vs. Christianity, Soviet Russia vs. Russia, or tomato sauce vs. ketchup, just to name a few), while no one seems to care about rectifying names, a 2,500-year old proposal first brought up by Confucius. Then it takes forever to explain even the simplest thing like when you're ordering a meal in an unfamiliar place. Sure, it is convenient, somewhat polite and cultured (at least compared to China), full of food and, last but not least, very cute, but I am afraid that doesn't make it any more livable for me. Many of us who've been living here for a few years have shared this kind of feeling - Taiwan is a dream, an out-of-this-world peach orchard, a nice one but still just a dream.
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