Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

The Differences Between Taipei and Kaohsiung

In Taiwan there are many international students who have come to learn Chinese. In my Chinese class alone, the students were from Japan, Korea, England, Argentina, Canada and the United States. So on the first day of a Mandarin Chinese class, the teacher naturally asks her students where they are from and then introduces herself.

In Kaohsiung the teacher tells the class:

“Wo se Taiwan ren.”
(I’m a Taiwanese person)

“Zai Zhong guo tamen chang chang shou ‘er’.”
(In China they often say “er” or in other words in China it’s customary to add “er” as a suffix to many words, as in the rolling of the tongue "er" sound- spoken in Beijing or Shanghai)

“Zai Taiwan wo-men bu yong ‘er’.”
(In Taiwan we rarely add “er” to the endings of words in Chinese)

A Mandarin Chinese teacher in Taipei will tell the class:

“Zai Taiwan mei yo Taiwan ren.”
(In Taiwan there aren’t any Taiwanese people. Or there’s no such thing as a Taiwanese person)

“Wo-men se Zhong guo ren ciong Fujian lai.”
(We are all Chinese from the province of Fujian).

Taking a taxi in Taiwan:

When I get in a taxi and speak in my accented Taiwanese to a taxi driver in Kaohsiung he says: “Huh?! What did you say? I don’t understand what you’re saying! Where are you from?!”

When I get in a taxi and speak in my accented Taiwanese to a taxi driver in Taipei he says: “Wow that’s great that you speak Taiwanese. Most young people these days don’t speak much Taiwanese. It’s incredible that you are able to speak well enough to get around Taiwan. Where are you from?”

When people hear I’m learning Taiwanese and Chinese:

In Kaohsiung they say if you can learn how to speak Taiwanese sufficiently you’ll have no problem getting around Kaohsiung and getting things done.

In Taipei, they say no one really speaks much Taiwanese here. It’s necessary to learn Chinese.

Going to the gym:

In Kaohsiung if I workout at the gym during off peak hours, there always seems to be some middle aged women dropping in for the first time. They always manage to hone in on me, since I’m one of the few people working out at a comparatively furious pace. I suppose that I must look like I know what I’m doing. It’s clear that they don’t know how to operate basic gym equipment like treadmills or stationary bikes because they can’t read English. This never happens in Taipei. People who workout at the gym seem more savvy and trendy.

I’ve seen people running around barefoot in a five star hotel in Kaohsiung. Mind you this man was probably not a guest at the hotel. But I doubt that I’d ever see that in Taipei.

I’ve seen taxi drivers and bus drivers driving barefoot in Kaohsiung. But I’ve never seen this in Taipei.


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