China and Taiwan have shared a long history. There is still on going issues today that have separated both the countries and it’s people.
I am not going to go into the politics of the situations since I am just a traveler and not in tune enough with both societies to make those kind of statements but I did find it interesting to visit both China and Taiwan in a short space of time. There were lots of quirks that separated each country and there were also many traits that showed their important linked past. This is a a few things we noticed that differed between these two incredible countries .
The Train Stations
China is one of the most populated countries in the world so you kind of expect their public transport to be packed to the rafters, but nothing can really prepare you for the game that is getting onto the subway. The elbows, pushing and craziness that accompanies every trip is a little over whelming but it is quick and it is efficient. The other weird aspect of being in China is having to go through security every time you enter a subway station. You can’t take certain items on board. It’s a strange thing to get use to even if it does mean the subways are safer. Taiwan on the other hand is like a different world. Straight lines everywhere, queues to get on trains, queues to get on escalators and even queues to queue. It’s fantastic. As British people who have lived in Korea for a while and got use to the pushing and shoving, it was heaven. The etiquette on the trains is also fantastic. There are signs all over asking you to text instead of call and reminders for you to be courteous…it actually says ‘courteous and thoughtful’ on the poster. We felt like the rude ones. Taiwan public transport is like a dream.
Oh China and Taiwan, how happy you have made me. It isn’t much of a secret that Lee and I LOVE food and for me at the top of that list is Chinese food.
I had always grown up being warned that food in actual China isn’t like the Chinese food in the UK. I was worried that the tastes i’d come to love were an illusion and I would be eating nothing familiar but you know what, it was the same but just ten times better. We started in Beijing , the home of Peking duck then made our way to Shanghai for noodles and pork galore. We ate so many dumplings that I had to re buy my entire wardrobe. We boarded the plane, leaving China behind and headed to Taiwan wondering what we would find. Taiwan did not disappoint. A combination of night markets, breakfast restaurants and mango ices made our bellies very happy. Each day it was tough trying to decide what we would eat since we didn’t want to waste our bellies. The only reason I’m glad I don’t live in China and Taiwan is that I would weigh three million stone.
The Traditional vs The Modern
China has history everywhere. The buildings, the people and the traditions can be seen on every inch of this country. The Great Wall, The Temple of Heaven and The Forbidden City ooze history. It is a shame that so many touristy things have been built up around them but they are still beautiful and you can imagine what it was like to be there when they were first built.
Taiwan has a lot of history too but it also has a huge modern artistic influence that wasn’t as prominent in China. When people left Taiwan they wanted a bit more freedom (It’s obviously a lot more complicated than that but for simplicity sake….) this meant they were probably the artistic, creative people. This can be seen everywhere, from the animated road signs to the statues that litter the streets. Art is a way of life here.
There isn’t one place I prefer more than the other because tradition has always influenced the modern so it’s impossible to separate them. It was great to go to China first to see the history and then be in Taiwan to experience what people had done with that knowledge. It was a great blend of worlds. I think seeing these two countries in close proximity to each other made each one better.
Chinese people and Taiwanese people have been through a lot .They have seen extreme poverty, strife and change but they have come out as happy and kind people. The Chinese as a whole were a little more pushy and sometimes rude but after being there for a period of time and meeting many lovely individuals it became clearer that what we interpret as rude is actually just ingrained culture.
China is a collectivist country which means it puts a large importance on the family and sharing. Taiwanese people are individualists which means they see the importance of being your own person. Both of these have their merits and their downfalls. The best analogy I can compare the good and bad aspects of a collectivist society is this:
Imagine a large family with lots of brothers and sisters. If things go wrong you have a massive support system and people to look out for you, you all have something in common. The flip side to this is that it also means you have to fight to be heard. If you are sat with your family for dinner and your mum puts a plate of pizza on the table, everyone grabs for it to make sure they get some. Everyone is equal so there is no one apart from grabbing for the biggest piece to decide who deserves it. The smallest person normally doesn’t get a look in….but this may just be my experience from being the youngest cousin in a very large family.
This is sometimes the feeling in China. When you get on a bus it definitely is every man for himself and when you see people driving it is definitely a competition. In Taiwan , like the US or the UK I imagine people can be more lonely since family isn’t the centre of the country as much as it is in a collective society, but it also means people have more personality shining through and tend to express themselves a lot more. Individualism sounds like it might be a selfish society but from my (very little experience) it seems the exact opposite. It seems to follow the line of ‘how would I want to be treated as an individual?’…or of course there is the old adage ’treat others as you would like to be treated’.
Both are really interesting ways to live, neither are wholly bad or wholly good. I love the people in both countries and it was an honor to experience their ways of life.
This lovely Taiwanese man heard Lee’s accent. Found out he liked rugby and that we are from the heart of rugby country….he ran off at full speed to bring Lee a Taiwanese scarf to wear and to have some pictures.
This is one that mainly concerns China but twins are EVERYWHERE . I slowly started to notice it when we were in Beijing and then I couldn’t not see it. Lots of the littlest, cutest kids you’ve ever seen in matching clothes and squeaky shoes. So cute. The only theory Lee and I had on this is that since Chinese people can only have one child that IVF must be quite popular. (this is based on nothing but our odd brains though so don’t take that as fact).
The other thing that China likes to do with its babies is give them little arse-less chaps…yes you read that right. They don’t wear nappies (diapers for all you American lovelies out there) they save the environment and let the kiddies go to the toilet when they need to. It was an odd thing the first time I saw it but after a while I got use to it. It’s just another one of those weird things you discover when you travel. Although I have heard from Chinese people that this is more of a Chinese country tradition and is dying out. It was definitely more popular around the tourist attractions like The Forbidden City and things, which would make sense.
There isn’t a photo of the babies in arse-less chaps but believe me it’s true
So there are many differences between each country. Some born out of being far away from each other and other from their history and past but they are both fantastic places with fantastic elements to get excited about. If you are looking for something to add to your 2015 travel bucket list then China and Taiwan will not disappoint.