What is Taiwan like? This is the simple question I get asked all the time. The problem is the answer isn’t so simple. Next comes: How is it different from here? Hmm… Imagine someone who’s never seen an orange. Hand them a banana and try to describe how the orange differs from the banana. Don’t forget to describe the taste, smell and texture. Let’s just start from scratch.
What is Taiwan?
Taiwan is a small island southeast of China (look at a map before you embarrass yourself). Speaking mostly Mandarin, but supports English, Japanese, Taiwanese, Hakka, etc. It’s a friendly place with many worldly impacts and very little recognition. Taiwan is not China, and it’s not Thailand. “Tai” food is spelled with an H and refers to Thailand. Taiwan has world famous Taiwanese food that no one knows about. Any confusion or mistakes here will not help you make friends. The best way to make friends is eating food and singing karaoke.
A (very) Brief History
Taiwan has a complicated history. Let’s see if I can hit some major points. Aboriginals came here a long time ago, including tribes closely related to Philippines, Hawaiians, and other nearby islands. The Spanish and Dutch come to rule a bit, and Portuguese come try the food and have some fun. China comes to take the island and hangs out for a bit. The little island is handed over to Japanese, who build cool dams and grow awesome rice for the Emperor. At the end of WWII, Taiwan is given back to China. China civil war kicks the Republic of China out to Taiwan, leaving communist China on the mainland. Taiwan becomes TAIWAN! …aka Republic of China. It’s still complicated….
Taiwan says independent; China says it’s a part of China, and they argue often. Since China is big and powerful, the “One China Policy” says: China speaks for Taiwan, no one gets to talk to Taiwan. International sports events typically list “Chinese Taipei” instead of “Taiwan”. Who’s going to argue with big China? …Except a few little countries that don’t really matter in the worldwide popularity contest. It’s a touchy subject.