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Taiwanese Customs

Gift Giving

Giving and receiving gifts is customary in Taiwan. The Taiwanese appreciate gifts that connote sophistication and prestige. Instead of buying baseball caps for your new friends, chocolates or cigarettes might be a better choice.

Also, since it is considered rude to open a gift immediately, don't be surprised if your gift is put aside until the recipient can open it in private.

Business Cards

Business cards, or mingpien, are an important part of everyday life in Taiwan. Most businesses, schools, and individuals have cards, and people exchange them like handshakes. English teachers find cards helpful in obtaining new private clients. If you can't read Chinese, make a note on the back as to each card's origin, or you'll soon find yourself with piles of illegible mingpien. Mingpien are ideal for finding shops or night spots that are located in confusing areas; simply get in a cab and point at the address on the card.

Paper

Always use two hands when handing paper to someone (including business cards). It is considered rude to offer paper with one hand, especially if the recipient is a superior.

Removing Shoes

You will be expected to remove your shoes when you enter a Taiwanese home. The reason is more practical than traditional, since it helps to keep the inside clean.

Slippers will sometimes be available, but if you have large feet, they won't be an option. Always wear presentable socks when invited to someone's home for dinner.

Tipping

You should tip service people such as porters and hair stylists, but don't tip taxi drivers or in restaurants. Larger restaurants will add a 10 percent service charge to your bill.

Boasting vs. Modesty

It is considered very impolite to boast in Taiwan. Always make sure to compliment people on anything that is worth noting. Conversely, when receiving a compliment, you are expected to play down your attributes and prowess. When someone compliments your language ability, for example, have a standard response ready ("I really should study more," or "It could be a lot better.").

Death

Death is a taboo subject in Taiwan, so avoid it. Also, white, not black as in the United States and Canada, is the color associated with death.


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