One of distinguishing points making Taiwan such a great place for backpackers and travelers are the welcoming locals. I found that the further south I travelled, the more this resonated (this not to say that people from Taipei aren’t friendly 😉 )
I feel like there is constant aura of curiosity – from 7-Eleven attendants to newly acquainted hikers. People ask questions, not to be judgmental, but simply out of curiosity. Many have been far too generous (if its possible) offering food and wishing well for my future endeavors despite having such a short conversation exchange (see Acts of Kindness). Such a warm welcome has been humbling, and I am grateful to know that a culture like this exists.
On a recent hike I attended with an older crowd at SanDiaoLing. What I expected to be a simple, relatively long day hike (~18km) turned into a lunchtime feast. Three large bowls of hot soup to feed nearly 100 people. Water, gas burners, vegetables, fishballs, and fruit snacks all shouldered and carried by the regulars who attended the hiking event. This was not the easiest hike, yet these hikers 50-60 years old shouldered 40+ Liter backpacks so that we could enjoy a good lunch.
Being my first event, I couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed for not bringing anything to the table, yet they were so generous in the offering that refusing it would have been almost offensive. Plus, the food they made was delicious.
I discussed this with a friend of mine and it seems that this tradition of giving has been lost in recent younger generations. This tradition of giving not just for the expectation of receiving something in return, but giving because it can be appreciated. I found very quickly that the people know what is most important to them – that is treating others well, and like family.
Often times, my friends comment how generous and nice my parents are: always offering food and accommodating making sure everyone is included. My parents have a bit of a different personality than the traditional Asian mindset. But the longer I stay on this island, I find more and more similarities to the locals here and begin to understand how their life growing up have shaped their perspective on life and how they treat others.
From ChinesePod there was an episode titled, “The love and hate relationship between China and Taiwan“. In it, it mentions that Taiwan is a place that has retained a lot of good characteristics and values of Chinese culture. I can safely attest to this statement and am proud to have discovered a heritage here.