Public transportation got me to this lighthouse near Taiwan’s southernmost point.
Taiwan has convenient, affordable, and easy-to-navigate public transportation. In
between buses, the subway, taxis, trains, bikes, and the high-speed rail, just about anywhere on the island is very accessible. My favorite thing about taking the subway is the different jingles that play on each metro line as trains approach. Google Maps directions and schedules are usually accurate, but asking for directions is also a great opportunity for basic language practice. Just don’t forget that the subway is called 捷運 (jié yùn) in Taiwan, instead of 地鐵 (dìtiě), which is used in China.
Speaking of language practice, it’s hard to imagine going back to hour-long Chinese
classes three times a week, instead of 24/7 immersion (okay, I don’t usually dream in Chinese…but it has happened!).When I first arrived in Taiwan, just checking out at the grocery store was daunting, but daily interactions have gotten much easier in the past two months. Real-world exposure is truly irreplaceable – I see or hear a new word from class just about every time I go out.
I keep my eyes peeled for funny signs like this one.
3. Funny signs
I’m always on the lookout for a sign with a funky translation – it adds some humor to the day and reminds me that I’m not the only one making silly mistakes by trusting Google Translate. That being said, the availability of information in English is super helpful and something I try not to take for granted, even when it elicits a laugh.
I’ve never eaten out as often as I do in Taiwan, and with so much cheap, delicious food, it’s hard not to. From night market snacks like sweet potato balls, fried sausage, and peanut shaving ice cream to beef noodle soup and bento boxes to fresh mango and kiwi at fruit stands to desserts like pineapple cake and mango shaved ice, there’s never a shortage of something new and flavorful to try that’s unlike anything I eat in the US. Not to mention all of the milk tea, fruit juice, and smoothie options
A Sunday excursion to the National Palace Museum.
The people here have been nothing but welcoming and kind. They often seem just as concerned as I am when I have trouble understanding or being understood. Strangers have shared umbrellas with me while waiting at the intersection and invited me to their church. Despite the difficulties of traveling in recent years, most people approach foreigners with curiosity and goodwill. And of course, I’ll miss my friends in CET, especially my roommates, who are always happy to share food and adventure, build puzzles, throw dance party study breaks, and snap weird pictures of each other napping. Sharing this experience with others who are interested in Chinese and go through the same difficulties and triumphs I do has been extra special.
6. Convenience stores
Taiwan has the most convenience stores per capita at over 10,000, so it’s no exaggeration to say they are quite literally on every corner, and with good reason. Going back to 7/11 in the US just won’t be the same. Forget slurpees, at 小七 (xiǎo qī – the local name for 7/11), you can receive packages, use an ATM, reload your subway card, buy the local Gatorade equivalent before heading on a hike, grab dinner, bottled coffee, or a snack, and say hello to the dog hanging out by the front steps.
The post-rain sunset while heading to the river for a bike ride.
7. An open mindset
As trite as it sounds, one thing Taiwan has taught me is to take things as they come, even when they’re not going your way. You’ll have days when you get drenched in the rain, receive a discouraging test score, miss out on sleep, or catch the bus in the wrong direction. In Taiwan, I find myself approaching these mishaps with a sense of adventure and spontaneity – whatever happens will make a good story someday. At home, where I am more rooted and don’t have the excuse of a language barrier, it’s easier to get frustrated when something goes wrong, but I hope I’ll remember not to sweat the small stuff long after returning from Taiwan