Squatty; it’s the other kind of toilet – learn to use before attempting.
As promised, here’s a bit of what to expect when you get to Taiwan. It can be frightening to go to another country, but hopefully being prepared in advance will help stop most of the culture shock.
What to expect when you arrive –
- Some notes on bathrooms, since that might be one of the first things you use – there are two kinds in Taiwan; Western, and what’s known as ‘squatties’ – so make sure you check to see you get the one you want. Some bathrooms don’t have soap or paper towels or toilet paper, so a good idea is to bring tissues and hand sanitizer with you everywhere. You can buy little tissue packs at any convenience store.
- Squatties aren’t hard to use, and can be more sanitary than Western styles, so if you want to know how to use it, go Youtube it. Just be careful – some of them may be explicit. *eheh
- If you aren’t of Asian descent, you will be stared at. Just accept it. No one is going to jump you or even probably talk to you. They just stare. Deal with it, don’t be rude, don’t stare back or say anything, just go about your own business. It’s much worse in rural areas, but it does happen everywhere.
- People are not as, uh, sterile-minded, I guess, as in America or Europe. You will see food vendors washing meat in outdoor faucets, cutting up meat next to a car’s exhaust fumes, selling some very suspicious looking fruits, and generally not living up to panicky Western standards. It’s fine. Unless you see something as blatant as maggots in your sandwich, most of the food won’t harm you. Everyone I talked to who ate weird food from questionable vendors were just fine.
- Stores are small, varied, and everywhere – for real. Taiwan is tiny, so space is precious, and they pack things tight. There are shops and restaurants crammed on every street, with living quarters for the owners generally above. A lot of shops and restaurants are also multi-level, so keep an eye out for extra seating on second and third floors.
- There are lots of mopeds, bikes, and pedestrians. Cars are expensive and a bit of a nuisance when parking is rare, so you’ll see a lot of smaller transport or people just plain walking. Cars yield to them, and you should be perfectly safe walking on streets. Just don’t be an idiot with your eyes closed. Accidents are rare but they do happen.
- Lots of strays – cats and dogs. All the dogs we saw were small though, and stayed away from us, but I have heard of some people in rural areas being barked at or chased on bikes by packs. Just be wary. And don’t touch.
- A lot of places only accept cash – the big places and chains will accept credit or debit cards, but if you want to sample the smaller eateries or shop at the touristy places, make sure you have a lot of cash.
That’s all I can think of at the moment, but that should be enough to warn you of some of the strange things you might encounter. Just remember, you are a guest in a foreign culture, so even though it might be weird to you, respect it, try to fit in and don’t laugh or gawk, and just be polite. Honestly.