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2017 Jan News
Culture Shock: Do’s and Don’ts in Taiwan

Taiwan is a place where you can discover, experience, and fall in love with many things. Besides, everyone knows that there are many different cultures in the society of modern Taiwan. Where is variety, there is difference, and where there’s difference, misunderstandings may arise. Therefore, here we give you some examples about things you should try to avoid in Taiwan.

Travelers are advised to organize their schedules according to local habits: Visiting famous touristic places on weekends and holidays is not a good idea, because people in Taiwan, as elsewhere, also go to famous touristic places in their free time. So, at those times, expect huge crowds at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, on Alishan mountain (阿里山) and around, as well as in the Taroko-Canyon / Hualien areas. are always over crowded. Another, even worse idea is going for a hike in tall mountains without permit. Official permissions are needed for mountainous terrains over 3000 meters high. You can apply and get such a permit in Taipei.

As weather conditions sometimes become extreme - especially during the summer typhoon season - be aware that going to the coast at that time can put your life at risk. The rate of wave rise, for obvious reasons, cannot normally be predicted reliably. And that’s exactly why it’s forbidden by authority to drive along to the coastline during typhoons. Always check the latest news on weather conditions in the reports given by the Central Weather Bureau

Apart from these rather practical suggestions on where to go and when, there are of course some other, more culturally-related things you should know for your daily routines when traveling in Taiwan. For example, never-ever stab your chopsticks straight in the rice! It’s highly inappropriate because it makes people think of the incense sticks in temples. As anywhere else, taking pictures of other people without their explicit consent is also a bad idea and considered rude: people will think you don’t show any respect. But if you ask first, most of the people won’t say no.

Last, not least – consuming any food or drinks and chewing gums in the MRT is strictly forbidden. In order to keep the MRT pleasantly clean as it is, commuters found eating, drinking or chewing gums in the MRT will be charged fines. Even a sip of water is not allowed: after crossing the yellow line in front of the entrance, you shouldn’t touch any treats until you leave the concourse towards to streets again.

Now, at the more private level, take care you are not offending your dear ones by transmitting the wrong messages associated with your gifts. Some presents are considered being inauspicious, as the pronunciation of a word in Chinese can have several meanings. So, clocks, watches, pears, or umbrellas are no nice surprises, because “clock”, and “watch” in Chinese sound exactly like the words for “die” or “end”, and “pear” and “umbrella” sound like “separate”.

Do you want to know more things about Taiwan? Feel welcome to Taiwan, and discover more by yourself! Have fun!

Mahjong – A Game Testing Your Smarts

Mahjong is an old board game of the Far East for 3-5 players. It consists of 144 tiles which are piled up in four rows, and each player gets a starting set of 13 tiles. The game proceeds by playing through the remaining tiles with the goal of finding pairs or groups of three belonging to the same set. Tiles are drawn and discarded in turn until one player manages to complete his tiles into five groups of three and one of two tiles. A favorable aspect of this game is that it not only promotes logical thought but also strengthens memory and concentration.

The American version has been continuously changed and differs greatly from the original. But the rules have also been changed in other countries - like Japan or Great Britain – in order to match with the local cultures.

The American version has been continuously changed and differs greatly from the original. But the rules have also been changed in other countries - like Japan or Great Britain – in order to match with the local cultures.

Translated from the Chinese language "Mahjong" means "chattering sparrows" because these birds were always causing the farmers much trouble work. Chinese officials intended to shy away the sparrows and protect the crops. Therefore, they created bamboo tiles as a kind of currency, for paying premiums to the farmers for protecting the silos. Engraved on the tiles, they would contain the numbers of birds killed, the number of bullets needed for this, and other. This is why all the symbols on the tiles are somehow connected to sparrows. So the tiles have been used for collecting premiums, but have also become elements of an entertaining and clever game. Gradually, it has developed into Mahjong as it is known today.

In Taiwan, people enjoy playing Mahjong during the festive season of Chinese Lunar New Year, as gambling is only officially permitted at this time of the year. And as families gather at this occasion, a whole family will get involved into playing Mahjong. Be careful! Gambling with the elderly may involve certain risks if you beat them too often! (You may face getting fewer "red envelopes" than you may have wished for, or similar potential losses ...)

Example of Mahjong Tiles: 「索Bamboo」象徵著麻雀的腳

Chinese Name : 索 (Suo)
Amount : 36 (4 Sets of 9 Tiles)
Sequence : 1-9

Taiwan‘s Bookstores: A Voyage of Discovery

Taipei is the capital of Taiwan. When I introduce places of interest in the city, besides Yang Ming mountain or the Taipei 101 tower, I like to recommend bookstores: In my viwe, they really represent a true characteristic of this place. Although online shopping has become the prevailing way in buying things these days, there are still some specialized bookshops around. So here are Melody‘s most recommended six bookshops:

Eslite Bookstore (誠品書店)
Eslite bookstores are part of the Eslite Corp. With 41 branches spread over the island, this is the second-largest company selling books in Taiwan, and you can also buy online. Besides, Eslite Corp. runs hotels, Cafés, a cinema, concert hall, shopping mall etc.
Online Bookshop

King-Stone Bookstore (金石堂書店)
King-Stone is the largest bookshop, with 46 branches all over Taiwan. You can find all categories of books here, and they also sell stationary. You can also access King-Stone online.
Online Bookshop

Caves Bookstore (敦煌書局)
Caves Bookshop focuses on selling books of foreign language study. Among its 22 branches, there are 11 which are located on universities‘ campus grounds. You can place orders at Caves and also buy online.
Online Bookstore

Mollie‘s Second-Hand Books (茉莉二手書店)
Mollie sells lots of second-hand books in its five shops, and Mollie also buys. They are also ready to assist finding books for desperate customers. Aside from course books, you can find books of many other special fields.

VVG Something (好樣本事)
VVG Something is an independent bookshop situated in an alley in the eastern part of Taipei. It has been elected into the list of “The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World“ by Flavorwire.com. The main kinds of books to be found here are about art, design, delicacies, photography, and more.
Flavorwire.com – „The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World”

Yue-yue Bookstore (閱樂書店)
Yue-yue sits in Taipei Song-Shan Cultural and Creative Park. Originally, it has been part of a film scene for a TV series. Afterwards, it has turned into a formal bookshop. Yue-yue doesn’t only sell books, but also serves food. Sometimes, they hold exhibitions or lectures.

Except these six bookstores, there are of course many more good bookshops in Taipei. If you like to explore what’s there, just type the keywords “bookstore Taipei“, and surprise yourself!

Greetings from Fukushima: Thoughts About Atomic Energy

Fukushima is, of course, the city which had been destroyed a few years ago by a terrible Tsunami, following a big earthquake and, due to the resulting damages, a series of nuclear meltdowns in an atomic power plant located near its coastline. On March 11 of the year 2011, the undersea quake (Tōhoku earthquake) of 9.0 magnitude lasted only 150 seconds, but triggered a Tsunami with waves reaching up to 40 metres in height. A chain reaction of catastrophic events followed: part of it its devastating results is the wide-range, long-term radioactive contamination caused by the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex in the Prefecture of Iwate, Sendai region.

Six years have passed since. We may think about ourselves: How can we minimize such risks prompted by natural desasters? Japan as an example – the event has provoked worldwide discussions about the safety of nuclear power plants, and people in Taiwan also started rethinking the issue.

The film “Greetings from Fukushima“ describes the traumatization of the surviving victims and the mutual dependencies with their home region, trying to cope with what happened. A young German, maria, is looking for solace in the Far East after her dreams had been shattered, tries volunteering in the desaster zone. Determined to finally do something right, she nevertheless finds out quickly that she just isn’t suited to becoming a good volunteer. The encounter with a stubborn Japanese lady then makes Maria follow her into the restricted zone, and to her ruined house at the seaside. They decide to rebuild the place together.

The film is shot in black and white, underlining the dreary atmosphere of the destroyed environment as well as its suffering inhabitants. And the bitter truth remains that the contamination will stay here for decades. The decontamination and clean-up of the natural resources will cost more than one generation’s lifetime. And this is why the use of atomic energy and the involved risks need careful consideration. So why do we still rely on it?

So far, international studies conclude that the use of atomic energy is cheap and environmentally friendly regarding the lack of CO2-emissions. No other source of energy is equally efficient and reliable in producing huge amounts of much needed electricity. The technologies of modern renewable energies are not yet sufficiently developed, and other sources of energy – coal, gas, and oil – remain higher in costs, whether with regard to the production costs or the ecological impact, than those caused by nuclear power plants. Therefore, people in Taiwan are very clear about the importance of atomic energy in their energy supply. However, it should also be considered that Taiwan strongly depends on imported energy (over 97%). In order to safeguarding future energy supply, sources of energy might have to become more widespread. Besides, like in Japan, earthquakes of different magnitude do frequently appear in Taiwan, too.

So, we should be clearly aware of the opportunities and risks: when economical and ecological tasks collide, what will be your decision?