🇹🇼Ten Taiwanese Wins
As #Taiwanisacountry trends, here are some awesome things new Taiwan Stans ought to know
Thanks to a stunningly inessential individual named John Cena, who groveled pathetically to China for accidentally admitting the obvious truth that Taiwan is a country, #Taiwanisacountry is trending on twitter and WE’RE LOVING IT! What better occasion than this to give all you brand-new or not-so-new Taiwan Stans a chance to get to know the COUNTRY of Taiwan a little better? I’m going to skip over the very obvious stuff, boba, democracy, TSMC, gay marriage etc etc. That’s remedial. This is Taiwan 201, folks. And there WILL be a test at the end.
Our lady bosses kick butt
Without a doubt, Taiwan is the best country in Asia to be a professional woman. I’d argue perhaps it’s more egalitarian in this regard than many western countries. 40 percent of managerial positions in the country are held by women. 42 percent of legislators are women, and of course the top job in the country is held by a single woman and a pet mom.
We have the best convenience stores in the world
The concept of the convenience store did not originate in Taiwan. But I will argue that it has reached its apotheosis here. The reason? Ubiquity + ceaseless innovation. Behold the experimental draft beer bar that recently appeared in a bunch of 7-11s all over the country. And I bet this is not even going to be their final form.
Now to be sure the bars are only in select stores. But here is what you CAN do in just about every single convenience store in the country: Pay your bills, pick up delivery of everything from regular internet shopping to frozen goods, get a good latte, get a big range of meals microwaved for you to eat right at the store’s indoor seating, buy concert tickets, copy and print things, and more! And with about 1 convenience store to every 2,300 people, you are never far from a Seven-11, Circle K or OK Mart in Taiwan.
Oh yeah, and if you wanna pre-game, pick up a beer at a convenience store and drink it on the road with pride and impunity! No open container laws here!
Taiwan is the Kingdom of fruit
I’m sure you’ve all heard about the Freedom Pineapple schtick. But that is literally just a chunk of the fruit salad. Taiwanese pineapples are the finest in the world no doubt, but have you ever had a Taiwanese Mango, bro?
Those are the most delicious mangos I’ve ever had anywhere in the world. We also have the most delicious lychees I’ve ever had anywhere in the world. And longan, lychee’s less famous but more subtle cousin. We have plentiful and delicious starfruit, or carambola. Local Taiwan crispy musk melons, watermelons, wax apples, papayas, dragon fruit, pink and white guavas and custard apples are all top-notch, and our mountainous terrain give us temperate fruits such as white peaches, deep purple “giant peak” grapes, persimmons, strawberries, Asian pears and huge crisp Japanese-style apples.
When I’m in the states I refuse to eat mangos on principle because once you’ve had the best I just CAN’T with a Krogers-mango because they are a sad shade of what a mango should be.
We are a sanctuary to the endangered pangolin
The adorable pangolin is threatened all over the world because people in China like to eat them as some sort of panacea. Scales and all. But in Taiwan, these precious babies are safe to roam without ending up in a soup. (Photo credit Wildlife Rescue and Research Center 劉佩珊)
Very easy to accidentally become a god
Becoming a deity is a tricky business most places in the world. You usually have to start some kind of religion or at least a cult while you’re still alive. But in Taiwan the failure to do any kind of myth-building as a living person is barely an inconvenience to god-hood. Behold, the Temple of the 18 Kings.
This is one of the most popular and supposedly efficacious temples in all of Taiwan. People come from all over the island to pray an pay tribute to the 18 Kings. Who are the 18 kings? Literally 17 dudes who died in a shipwreck on the way to Taiwan, plus their dog. The dog gets top billing because he supposedly sacrificed himself after his owners.
But that was the Qing dynasty days, right? Surely we’ve missed the boat (haha) on being accidental deities. Perhaps not. As late as in 1970, a schoolgirl who slipped, fell and drowned in a waterfall became Goddess Fang and now has her own popular temple.
As far as I know, there are no cases of non-Han origin accidental deities in Taiwan. But should you accidentally perish in Taiwan and wish to try and break the Ghost Ceiling, local Youtuber Cheap has a three step guide to becoming deified in Taiwan:
You have to die in Taiwan. Duh.
You have to appear after your death. Bonus points if you’re helpful, give warnings etc. Basically, get some buzz going that there’s a new spirit in town.
You have to have people who would amplify your apparitions. Spread the word
And boom! You get your first little local temple dedicated to you. Now you are on the bottom rung of the ghostly bureaucracy. It is only through hard work helping those who petition to you that you work your way up the ranks. Eventually, a more established deity like Matsu might give you a boost communicating through their mediums. Hustle your way up! Get a bigger temple! Maybe one day you’ll even make it to the official pantheon.
We actually did land reform and it worked
Taiwan used to be a nation of rich land owners and their tenant farmers. Then the Land to the Tillers program happened. Between 1951 and 1953, land owned directly by farmers increased from 57 percent to 90 percent.
The land owners were compensated with some crops for a certain number of years and stocks in government-owned industries. But suffice to say they were not happy about it. And yeah, I’d be remiss not to mention it was done under a brutal dictator. But overall for Taiwan land reform was a good thing.
Our municipal-level bureaucrats are beasts of efficiency
Like most countries in the world, except even more so, Taiwanese middle-level bureaucracy is a thick, awful morass. But our municipal offices, the Taiwanese equivalent to the DMV etc in the states, are somehow astonishingly efficacious.
Those ID pictures you see are all of people who changed their name to some variation of “salmon” in order to take advantage of a sushi store promotion. I’ve lost my National ID multiple times. Each time it’s a 20-30 minute wait, no appointment necessary. This includes getting your picture taken. Astounding! In fact, the local municipal office is so efficient at processing documents, people have gotten divorced and remarried multiple times just to take advantage of their company’s marriage leave policy! Astonishing!
We have the most vigorous elders in the world
Go to any park in Taiwan in any given morning and you will see our elders out in drove doing their own idiosyncratic exercises. Some of it is just some Qi Gong. But others are out to get buff there are some incredible displays of old-man strength. Don’t have pic handy but I’ve seen dudes somehow climb up stairs backwards like a turtle with the shell side down.
Other times, they smash themselves into trees. Again, wish I can find a better photo. Anyhow. Our elders are keep themselves fit and are probably the most vigorous in the world. UNFORTUNATELY this came back to bite us during the recent COVID-19 pandemic outbreak where grandpas visiting sexy tea houses became a major transmission vector. Goodness!
Every single receipt is a lottery ticket
To make sure storekeepers didn’t try to avoid the VAT on sales, the government of Taiwan made each and every receipt in Taiwan a lottery ticket, ensuring that customers will demand receipts. When I was a little girl it used to be a real to-do, with pretty ladies churning the balls spinner to get the numbers and ancillary prizes such as thermos bottles and rice cookers. But now it’s much simpler. There’s an app. You get cash. The top prizes are rare of course, but quite often it’s possible to win a few bucks a month.
Oh, and the unspoken rule is you must treat yo self with your VAT lottery winnings, my guess is it adds quite a lot to Taiwan’s gross domestic happiness.
We stole our National Health Insurance from the US and made it BETTER
Again, when I was a very little girl, Taiwan was a different place. A standard plot line for local soap operas would be the good girl who had to sell herself into prostitution to pay for her father’s medical bill. That all stopped in 1995 because that was when the National Health Insurance came online. It covered EVERYTHING, even dental, for everyone, and it did so at a thrifty 6 percent of GDP. How did the Taiwanese do it? There’s this one weird trick that you won’t believe…
Yep. Taiwan actually modeled our National Health Insurance around America’s Medicare program. WE JUST MADE IT COVER EVERYONE. Is it perfect? No. Is it astonishingly good value for money and keeps everybody in Taiwan relatively safe and healthy and free from medical-related bankruptcies/cheesy soap opera storylines about good girls gone bad because daddy got cancer? Yes, yes it does.
And because this is Taiwan, here is your test:
Taiwan is an awesome country because you have a __ percent chance of a Lady manager kicking your butt. It’s also great because the world’s most delicious _______ are grown here, along with a plethora of other delicious fruits. _________ are safe here, and can ramble the hills without fearing of ending up in a soup. And if you die accidentally and hustle real good, maybe you too can become a minor ______. Don’t throw away the ________ because they are lottery tickets. And if you lose your ID, go down to the _________ office to get it replaced in 20 minutes. And remember, don’t start fights with our ________ because they’re the toughest in the world!
And don’t forget to get your Taiwan is a Country stickers here from our friends at the Neoliberal Project!
Nice list! The gods section reminded me of an incident from my buxiban days. One day my class - mostly grade 4-6 - was busy writing in their books. As I walked around checking, one of them looked up at me with a sincere look on her face and said "Teacher Paul, are you Mazu?" Now I remembered my lessons from Ghostbusters, so of course I smiled and said "Yes Molly. Yes I am." She gave me a "Hmm," a nod, and a satisfied look, and went back to work.
Can't say I'm the biggest fan of the healthcare system though. I totally get that it must be amazing for people from the US because obviously. But for someone who was used to NHS Scotland? Not so great. The ease of access is a definite plus, no questions there. But the variability in the standard of care is just ridiculous. Some hospitals are just a plain no-go while others are decent. And I never had to Google my medication before I cam to Taiwan. Ever since one hospital served ma combination which was completely contra-indicated for my condition and could have severely harmed or even killed me, I check every single thing I'm prescribed - and a frightening amount gets tossed. So, the system is better than the garbage in places like the States, but it still has a hell of a long way to go. Maybe the low cost isn't something to be proud of?
FYI- The NHI model is not modelled solely by the USA Medicare system. It was created after a commission of inquiries to many other countries in 1990s. The committee combined the best parts of the universal health systems across the globe such as Germany and Canada. If USA's vision of Medicare for All (Bernie's vision) was implemented, it would look something like the NHI model.