In honor of my trip to Taiwan one year ago today, I’m going to be sharing some posts about this oft-overlooked travel destination! And with Donald Trump highlighting the fact that for all intents and purposes, Taiwan actually is not part of China, it seemed like a good time to highlight some of the differences between these two countries!
English is More Common
Note that I say “more common,” not “common.” Everyone in Taiwan speaks Chinese first. You will find menus, street signs, and hellos made in Chinese first. This isn’t Europe, where you are just as likely to be greeted in English as you are in the local language—if you don’t speak Chinese, you will feel out of your element in Taiwan. But a concerted effort has been made in the younger generation to learn English. Because of this, any Taiwanese person you talk to under the age of about thirty is likely to have at least some English— and often they’re thrilled to be able to use it.
The Taiwanese are super friendly
As a white person in Taiwan, you’ll stand out. This is unavoidable. Even in Taipei, the capital, you will be lucky to see a handful of other foreigners in a day—unless you’re hanging around a big tourist site like the Taipei 101. Because non-Chinese travelers present as so exotic, you’ll often find people are eager to talk to you, learn about where you’re from and why you’re in Taiwan.
To visit mainland China, US citizens need to apply for a visa in advance of their trip. This is a bureaucratic hassle, and additionally, a Chinese visa costs $140! Not a small chunk of change. (Non-US citizens can get their Chinese visa for only $30). US citizens (and citizens of many other nations) who want to visit Taiwan can get a free 90-day visa exemption upon arrival in Taiwan. No wait, no processing time, no hassle! Just show up at the airport, get your stamp, and go!
(Slightly) Less Pollution
Let’s be clear here: many areas of Taiwan suffer from air pollution and haze issues. The country is, after all, where your iPhone is made. You will have the opportunity to witness some of this industry on your 40-minute bus ride into Taipei from Taoyuan International Airport.
But compared to mainland China, Taiwan’s pollution is small potatoes.
The Food is Amazing
The food in Taipei (and Taiwan as a whole) is amazing and oh, oh so cheap. Check out my photo essay on the foods of Taipei!
No Internet Censorship
For digital nomads, or even those of you who can’t go a day without updating Facebook, access to free and uncensored Internet is extremely important. China restricts access to many websites with a “Great Firewall”—meaning that without the use of a VPN, you can’t access many popular websites. In Taiwan, the Internet is free, uncensored, and usually—very fast!
That’s just scratching the surface of what makes this tiny island nation so great! I’ll be dropping a few more posts about Taiwan over the next few weeks, so be sure to follow on WordPress or sign up for e-mail updates using the box in the sidebar!