Social customs for Taiwan. Part 1

Hi there fellow Say Taiwan delegates. Now I am sure most of you are really excited about your trip to Taiwan in August. I know I am, I can’t wait to get my hands onto some of their electronics… hmmmm. But that’s for another time.

So in a short series, of blog entries I am going to give you some advice on customs and traditions you should follow during your stay in Taiwan.

Removing shoes.

In most Taiwanese homes, guests are requested to take off their shoes. Your host may insist that you don’t have to, but you still have to. Your host has slipper lying close to the door. So take off your shoes when you enter a home.

Meeting and Greeting.

When entering a room, greet the eldest person in the room first. A good old handshake will do.
You may notice that the Taiwanese will look at the ground when they meet you for the first time. It’s a cultural respect thing. You don’t have to copy them.
When you meet someone for the first time, address them by their academic, professional or any other title they may have, followed by their surname.

 

Gifts:

The Taiwanese are a great gift giving people, so now that you are going to Taiwan and staying with a family. You should make sure that you too become one. So when you visit someone’s house, it is important that you bring a gift. It doesn’t have to be expensive, chocolates, wine,  or what ever you want.

When you present your gift, tradition dictates that it be presented with two hands and received with two hands. Your host will not open the gift in your presence. Unless you ask them to.

Just as it is customary for you the guest to give a gift to your host, it is likely that your host will give you a gift to. Like when you give a gift, don’t open your gift unless your host asks you to. When opening a gift in your hosts presence, do the following.

  • Open the wrapping carefully.
  • Avoid tearing or crumpling the paper.
  • The paper should be folded and put aside.
  • Do not rip the paper apart like a spoilt little brat.
  • Be sure to comment on how nice the paper is.

Gift hints:

  • The Taiwanese like food or good quality alcohol as gifts.
  • A gift may be refused the first time it is offered out of politeness. Keep trying to give the gift, but don’t force the issue.
  • Do not give knives, scissor or any other cutting utensil. As it indicates that you wish to sever the relationship.
  • Do not give clocks, handkerchiefs or straw sandals as they are associated with funerals and death.
  • Do not give white flowers or chrysanthemums as they signify death.
  • Do not wrap gifts in white, blue or black paper.
  • Do not give an odd number of gifts, since odd numbers are considered unlucky.
  • Four is also an unlucky number, so don’t give four of anything.
  • But, eight is a lucky number, so a gift made up of eight items brings luck to the recipient (yeah, that’s pretty common all over the world, give anyone eight gifts at a time and we all feel very lucky)
  • Avoid giving gifts that have been made in Taiwan.
  • Be sure to wrap your gift as elaborately as possible.

Business cards

Always carry business cards with you. When you meet someone, hand over your business card with both hands.When you are handed a business card, be sure to take it with both hands. Be sure read their business card before you put in your pocket.

So if you don’t have any business cards, Be sure to print some out before you go. If you really want to wow them, print English on the one side and Chinese on the other.

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