Social customs in Taiwan

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Social customs in Taiwan

REMOVING SHOES

    In practically every Taiwanese home, as in Japan, guests are requested to remove their shoes even though the host may insist that you dont have to (but that is just a false courtesy). The host has slippers lying right at the door after you remove your shoes! Taiwanese pride themselves in maintaining a clean floor at home.

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GIFT GIVING

    Taiwan is a great gift-giving society. When you visit someones house for dinner, it is customary to bring a gift. This may be some fruit, a box of chocolates, some pastries, or a bottle of wine. One shared gift is acceptable, and maybe some small items for the kids will be enough to score some brownie points. While most small gifts can be bought in Taiwan, it may be a good idea to bring a few small gifts with you form home to give special friends you will develop. It must be noted that the Taiwanese are generally big on brand names and 'designer' items.

    When you present a gift, tradition dictates that it be presented with two hands and received with two hands (the same is true for name cards and anything else exchanged at a social occasion). The host will usually not open the present in your presence unless you request them to do so. When opening the gift in the host's presence, it is important to open the package carefully to avoid ripping and crumpling the paper. The wrapping paper should be folded up and put aside, not ripped open and promptly disposed of as is usual in other cultures. For nice presents it is recommended to wrap it carefully as appearance is important. There's plenty of wrapping paper available in Taiwan. You can find some as well as gifts at Watson's stores or at a bookstore. When giving a gift, it is often customary to demean it's value by saying something like, "It's just a small gift to show my appreciation".

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BAD OMENS

    Avoid talking about accidents and death;talking about it implies that it might occur. In Chinese, the sound of "four" is similar to death; so hospitals never put patients on the fourth floor and some people do not like to live or have an office on the 4th floor of a building.

    In Chinese, white is associated with death. In giving presents, never use white wrapping paper or white envelopes. Chinese are usually hesitant to leave a will because it indicates the writer is going to die soon. Generally, death is a forbidden topic of discussion.

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GUANXI

    Guanxi can be roughly translated as 'relationship' or 'connections' built up by doing favours for people and having the favors returned. Although it is pretty common in the west, it has become an integral part of social dealings and a sort of unwritten law.

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FACE

    The concept of 'face' or 'lien' in Chinese is similar to the western idea of prestige. The opposite being to 'lose face' or 'dio lien' in Chinese sheds more light on the concept and can be more closely translated to mean 'shame'.

    Face is very important in Eastern cultures, and is especially so in Chinese society. What may simply seem like an obsession with materialism to the western observer is really an integral part of gaining face.

    The big black Benz, the designer clothing, even the private English Teacher, all add to one's face in modern Chinese society. Yet, in apparent contradiction to all this, it is part of social protocol to be self deprecating and to flatter others.

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BUSINESS CARDS

    During your stay in Taiwan, you should carry your business cards with you. You will present them to your business acquaintances with both hands. This is a sign of respect. Giving business cards is part of the 'face' culture, so dont leave home without them! Print your business cards with English on the one side and Chinese on the other.

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WEDDINGS

    During your stay in Taiwan, you may be invited to a wedding. If you are invited to one, you will be presented with a red envelope, sometimes referred to as 'red bomb'. You will be expected to bring money when attending the wedding. Place the money in a red envelope and the typical amount should be about NT$600 to NT$1000 in cash. This entitles you to a wonderful 10-course meal during the wedding party and you are not expected to bring any other gifts.

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