Customs and traditions
In essence, customs and customs in Taiwan are of Chinese origin, although those whose ancestors came from China several hundred years ago have to some extent been mixed with the indigenous peoples. The proportion who identify themselves as primarily Taiwanese has increased significantly since the democratization of the 1990s. However, some hold on to the classical Chinese cultural heritage.
Some features of Taiwanese traditions can also be discerned as the legacy of Japanese occupants during the first half of the 20th century.
- Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Taiwan, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
About half a million residents in Taiwan belong to one of the indigenous peoples. They are of Austronesian origin, which means that they share linguistic and cultural features with people in the island world of Southeast Asia and in the Pacific. The indigenous peoples have their own traditions that differ from those of the majority society. They are not treated here.
Know and label
According to Abbreviationfinder, Taiwanese are often quite formal. Western attire is the usual. In the business world, suit mainly applies. In less formal contexts, casual clothing is used, but adults dress neatly. By tradition it is considered important to stay whole, clean and tidy.
When meeting someone for the first time, it is advisable to use title and last name. In general, the family name stands first, although some Taiwanese use Western first names and then often put them first.
Taiwanese are used to living tightly and may find it natural to sit or stand closer to another person than people from sparsely populated Sweden are accustomed to.
To greet and show respect
If you are introduced to a group of people, it is important that you greet them in the right order: the oldest or highest ranking goes first. If you want to show special respect for an elderly person, you can put your right hand on your left fist and put your hands on your heart.
With foreigners, Taiwanese usually shake hands, at least men in between. A man should not extend his hand to a woman, but of course, if she extends her hand. The handshake is often loose, and usually lasts longer than a Swede is used to.
Taiwanese themselves often see themselves in the ground when greeting, as a sign of respect. However, a friendly smile from a westerner is hardly misinterpreted. A common greeting phrase is “Have you eaten?” – a clear indication of the importance of meals.
The first impression a person makes is considered very important, so it is important to be polite. If you are invited to a restaurant you should praise the place, the food and any entertainment – and be prepared that the host instead criticizes everything.
As a visitor, one should keep in mind to try to avoid embarrassing others (“losing face”). A relationship builds slowly and carefully, it is not in its place to be overly intimate at once. Nor should the vote be raised in the first place. Gestures that we think are friendly can be misinterpreted, such as putting your arm on someone or patting a child on the head.
Gifts play a central role. It is very important to always give and receive gifts with both hands. You do not normally open a gift immediately upon receiving it. Alcohol and cigarettes are common gifts. A food basket is often appreciated, but should not be brought if you are a guest in someone’s home – it can be perceived as not believing the food to be offered on tablecloths. A Taiwanese who receives a gift can say no, sometimes once and twice, in an expression of courtesy. The donor should try again, even if you never get too strident.
A gift is usually beautifully wrapped, careless packages are not well received. The packages may have red, pink or yellow paper – on the other hand, paper in white, blue or black. If a gift contains a plurality of something, it should not be an uneven number, as it is considered unlucky. Four is also an unlucky number, while eight are considered to bring luck to the receiver.
Certain kinds of gifts should be avoided: knives and scissors are considered to symbolize that one wants to break the relationship; bells, handkerchiefs and white flowers are associated with burial and death.
Business cards are very important in business contexts. They are not thrown over in haste, but are presented and received in something of a ceremony. Not least, do it with both hands. You should also look at a card you get, not just stop it. It is a way of showing respect. Writing something on the back is also not considered appropriate.
Food has a central role in Taiwanese life. A definition of family is those who eat together. People who share food are considered equal, which means that people who are considered to rank higher are not normally invited home.
Business partners and superficial acquaintances are happy to meet at a restaurant. If one is invited to become a Taiwanese, one should consider it an honor.
The kitchen is very mixed, with South China roots but also with influences from the rest of China, Japan and the indigenous peoples’ eating habits. On the table are often fish and other things from the sea and a plethora of vegetables. Pork and chicken are also common. Rice is a basic food, it is usually eaten directly from a bowl that you hold close to the mouth with one hand, while the other holds the sticks with which you push the rice with.
Taiwanese do not park their chopsticks by putting them in the rice. It is considered to be reminiscent of funerals. Instead, the sticks are placed horizontally on the edge of the rice bowl.
Traditions and holidays
According to Countryaah, Taiwan’s holidays and national symbols reflect the political background. The “Republic of China” was founded on the mainland in 1912 and that year is counted as year one. Consequently, 2011 is officially the 100th year in Taiwan. The national anthem is based on a text by the Chinese nationalist hero Sun Yat-sen from 1924. The flag is also from the 1920s – a period when Taiwan was under Japanese rule.
On January 1, the founding of the Republic is celebrated at the same time as the Western New Year. National Day falls on October 10, called “double-ten-day” in the numerical tradition. The day celebrates an uprising against the last imperial dynasty on the mainland in 1911, which resulted in the proclamation of the republic.
The most important holiday is the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. It falls in January or February. The New Year begins with three holidays and the period ends after two weeks with the Lantern Festival. It is an important family celebration when you gather, socialize and eat well. Children often receive money that is put into red envelopes. The New Year begins with an orgy in firecrackers and fireworks, which returns at the Lantern Festival.
The Moon Festival falls on the full moon, usually in September. It is a family celebration and an autumn celebration when the end of the harvest is celebrated.
February 28 is a memorial day to commemorate the victims of a massacre committed by the Chinese national government in Taiwan in 1947. In April, the “Tomb of the Tombs” commemorate one’s ancestors by cleaning graves and burning incense and banknotes.