Rantlets #4: Things We Just Don’t Understand

So, when you live abroad you must learn to take on, deal with and accept countless differences, both large and small, in order to live your life.  At first it can be understandably difficult.  After a while, though, it just becomes part of life and you do what you are meant to: live.  But, there are things that you do realize in life when you live abroad, and some about where you’re from, that just make no damn sense to you no matter how hard you try.  Here are a few things that we just don’t understand:

  • We just don’t understand why in Taiwan people always seem to be in such a hurry until they come up to an escalator.  Consider this example:  You are walking at a normal, yet brisk pace on your way to work.  Suddenly, a shoulder bumps you out of your way as a person rushes past you, presumably to somewhere extremely important.  Now, we lived in Chicago for five years before moving here, so, as annoying as being bumped is, we get it.  Sometimes you’re in a hurry and nothing can stand in your way.  But, that’s not what we don’t understand.  Let us return to our scenario: the aforementioned person in an extreme rush closes in on the escalator and, we presume, is set to leap down the whole length.  Nope.  The pace slows immediately to a near dead stop as said person gets IN LINE FOR THE DAMN ESCALATOR.  Umm…ok.  We walk down the escalator past the culprit, down to the platform and onto our train.  After alighting the escalator the rush is, again, transformed into an awkward sprint onto the train where we are waiting.  This sort of thing happens in rushes to get to the train as well as rushes to get off the train.  Are we missing something?
  • We just don’t understand squeaky shoes for toddlers.  End of story. (Video example: here)


  • We just don’t understand the odd obsession Taiwan seems to have with poop.  Yes, that poop.  Everywhere you go you see swirled piles of shit on signs.  Every person of every age is perfectly ok with discussing their bowel movements.  Every person of every age seems to think it is a hilarious joke whenever “poo poo” is involved.  Now, maybe this is due to the fact that this is a tropical island and, thus, dysentery is and has always been a very open and real difficulty.  We get that.  What we don’t get is the “cuteification” (just go with that word) of it.  Maybe, though, we in the West just suffer from what a friend of ours once aptly described as “shit shame.”  Totally possible.  Either way, we just don’t get it.
  • We just don’t understand why all of the food in the United States has all of these magical preservatives in it, yet all of the food there must be put in the refrigerator to preserve it.  Are we missing something?  For example, eggs: whether it be Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Scotland, Taiwan (in many cases), or really any other place in the world we’ve been, eggs are rarely refrigerated.  Or, at least, it is not something that is deemed necessary.  I guess we just wonder why we must “preserve” all of our food in the U.S. using chemicals and additives that may or may not harm us, but then proceed to use the refrigerator as well.  It seems like we missed the point.  U.S. you’re doing it wrong!
Good luck walking on that when it's wet. Via: www.skyscrapercity.com

Good luck walking on that when it’s wet.
Via: http://www.skyscrapercity.com

  • We just don’t understand why in a country where it rains consistently, and at times seemingly constantly, all of the walkways are covered in TILES.  Yes, those tiles.  And, yes, we’re looking at you Taiwan.  Walking down a sidewalk or storefront in Taiwan during or after a good rain is akin to ice skating.  Maybe it is some kind of subversive way of training the people here to have out-of-this-world balance.  Maybe it is for the amusement of whoever the hell is watching on the other end of the ever-present video cameras dotting the city.  Maybe they just really, really like the look of tile.  Like a modern day cobblestone.  Tilestone?  Regardless, we don’t understand what the hell was going on when that decision was made.
Note the difference. Oddly enough, the person's blog where this picture is from has the exact opposite problem.  Who'da thunk? Via: http://yayayoy.blogspot.tw/2012/07/this-is-thailand-and-that-is-not-1.html

Note the difference.
Oddly enough, the person’s blog where this picture is from has the exact opposite problem. Who’da thunk?
Via: http://yayayoy.blogspot.tw/2012/07/this-is-thailand-and-that-is-not-1.html

  • We just don’t understand why so many people in the U.S. confuse Taiwan with Thailand.  It is as if every time we say we live in Taiwan, our interlocutor’s inner-monologue goes, “This asshole can’t even pronounce ‘Thailand’ right.”  In an effort to not hurt our feelings, the speaker just works the name Thailand in there, “T-H-A-I-L-A-N-D, ya.  That’s amazing.  I love Thai food.”  It is a very gentle and polite readjustment and reminder of what we are talking about.  Only, we’re not.  We mean Taiwan.  (If you’ve done this, don’t feel bad.  We may have done it at some point as well.  Taiwan is a pretty small place.  We love you anyways.)


In all honesty, we jest and poke fun about all of the above-mentioned things.  We love both Taiwan and the U.S., but, still, we don’t understand some of this stuff.  Please help us below.


2 thoughts on “Rantlets #4: Things We Just Don’t Understand

  1. Loved this one, Shay. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Having grandparents that ran a functional farm for most of my childhood, the egg thing has always confused me. The other thing that Americans refrigerate all the time that no one else does is butter. I’ve had friends come over to my place and be like, “OMG, YOU LEFT THE BUTTER OUT!!” to which I calmly respond, “Yeah. In the butter dish. How else do you spread it on anything?” People had butter without refrigerators for thousands of years. The milk is pasteurized, it has a low water content, sometimes salt, and ours is overloaded with preservatives anyway. It’s not going to spoil if I leave it on the counter overnight.

  2. It’s like you both wriggled inside my ear to my brain, lived there a little while and then wrote a blog about it!

    TILES! it is so embarrassing trying to walk in the rain here! you’re too busy looking up to dodge the next umbrella spoke that threatens to leave you reading brail for the rest of your days that you dont even notice that you have allowed yourself to walk on the over polished tiles and before you know it you are feigning the breaking of an ankle in a display that can only be similar to throwing a giraffe onto a frozen lake.

    And the poop thing, go to Taipei zoo and head to the loos I think near the hippos. Each urinal gives you a cartoon poo to look at that teaches you about your bowel system???

    once you leave the loo it has a whole step by step animated version on the wall.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s