The People of Taiwan When I first arrived to Taiwan, there were some customs that seemed strange. But I realized it was part of their culture. The first thing I noticed was that Taiwanese are very friendly and open, especially towards foreigners. During my and my other foreign exchange friends’ first week, other Taiwanese girls in the dorm would come to us. Once, one girl even threw her arm around my friend’s shoulder, asking about where we were from. We were startled at first, because we had never met them before. But they were very friendly and just wanted to get to know us. Flora, a local from Taoyuan says, “Taiwanese just like to make friends with foreigners. It’s a privilege to them to meet some one from another country.” Other Taiwanese locals also like taking pictures with us. When my friends and I went to the south of Taiwan, we had many pictures taken with locals. It felt like being a celebrity when they asked for permission. I even often saw some people taking pictures of us from far away. Sometimes they would try to be in the background of pictures we took. Lucy, one of my roommates and a local from Taipei, says “Foreigners are not seen so much in the south of Taiwan, unlike the north. That’s why you all received so much attention.” I once asked another local why they wanted to take a picture with us, and I was told “Because you all are unusual!” But I knew she meant to say we were a rare sight. They also like taking a lot of pictures of with each other or even just of themselves. The younger generation, teens and college students love going out together in groups. I rarely see just one of them going out alone. If I try to go out alone, I always get caught, then I get accompanied to wherever I go. They go in groups to the store, restaurant, outside, or anywhere. It is part of Taiwan’s culture to be very family and friend oriented. Amongst friends, girls call each other ‘jie’, older sister, or ‘mei’, younger sister. Some of the locals I got acquainted with did that with me as well. I felt closer to them when they called me mei mei or jie jie. Even one of my classmates’ mothers had me call her Lin Mama, instead of Lin Xiaojie (Mrs. Lin). She told me, “We don’t want you to feel like a foreigner, we want you to feel like family.”It was strange at first calling some one else ‘Mama,’ only after meeting her one time, but its common between friends and their parents. A common greeting that I thought was strange at first is “Ni hao! (Or ‘wei’ on the phone,) Chi fan le mei you?” (Have u eaten yet?). It’s a greeting to say hello and a conversation starter, even if the answer is a simple yes or no. I like how Taiwanese are friendly and like to make friends, not to just be acquaintances.
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