Blog Carnival: Home Comforts
Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. The host for this month is Abigail Nedeau-Owen . I’ll be posting a new ESL-related article on my blog at the start of every month, and the carnival is always published on the 5th by that month’s host. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please contact Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will let you know how you can start participating!
Living in Taiwan for three years has been such an amazing and enriching experience. I have been asked to write about how it has changed my home comforts, but what Taiwan has done is actually provided me with new home comforts I never had before.
This is the big one for me living in Taiwan.
I spent most of my life in my hometown of Lichfield. I did three years in Nottingham (nicknamed ‘Shottingham’ due to its high gun crime) for university, and then a good amount of time spent living with friends in London.
A fight at the weekend due to excessive alcohol and ‘peacocking’ was a regular occurrence in all three locations, in Nottingham I was mugged and punched in the face, in London I was pick pocketed and heckled walking down the street because of my sexuality.
Maybe I have been very unlucky, or maybe I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and wasn’t particularly smart about where my belongings were or acted in a way that attracted the wrong attention.
However, Taiwan has shown me that I was wrong for having those thoughts and feelings.
There should never have to be a ‘wrong time, wrong place’ scenario, I should be able to act in the way that I want (as long as I am not hurting anybody), and I should be able to have my wallet in my back pocket without fear of it being stolen.
Taiwan is a place that allows for this. In my three years of being here I have seen one fight, I am free to be myself and have access to the same privileges that every other human being has in this society and I have actually lost my wallet and it has been returned 4 days later by a kind-hearted local person who found my address inside it, still with all of the cash inside.
What I’m saying here is that Taiwan has it down when it comes to safety.
This actually worked against me when I went home for a visit at Christmas last year; I had lost all sense of being street wary and was basically a sitting duck. Looks like I will just have to stay in Taiwan
Kind and friendly locals
People of the UK get a globally bad rap for being miserable, but I see the charm in the personalities of my people. I do miss how straightforward and blunt a person can be, it’s always good to know where you stand.
But Taiwan has definitely spoiled me; the people here seem to be genuinely friendly, helpful folk that really care about each other. I’m sure there are bad eggs out there, but I think the ratio of bad eggs to good is drastically different.
A good friend of mine has a name for people in Taiwan, she calls them ‘travel angels’. If you are wondering around looking lost and forlorn because, well, you are lost and forlorn, then expect to have a local person ask you if you are ok and if you need help.
This happened to my friend, a family stopped to help her find her hostel. Instead of just telling her the directions to her hostel they walked with her to it, chatting away. Once they arrived it was time to say goodbye, at which point it was apparent that the elevator wasn’t working, so the father made his son help carry the heavy bags up the stairs.
And what do these people want for this service?
Absolutely nothing! Just the knowledge that they have helped somebody in need seems to be enough. In fact, you try giving something to somebody that helped you to say thank you and you will be met with a lot of ‘no, no, no’s’.
This is just one example in a sea of kindness I see and hear about regularly here. Of course I am no fool, I expect that as a foreigner I stand out more and people want to help to also practice their English. Even just having the chance to interact with a foreigner can be a novelty.
But I think about the UK, and how we treat ‘foreigners’, it is drastically different.
Respect and Community
Community is a big part of the Taiwanese culture and is something that has really built on me. As a child or the 80’s in the UK I was fortunate to see some of the last dwindling remnants of community in our area, I talk here of strong community and not the sporadic community that can be found today.
From what I have experienced, Taiwan seems to act as one big community with ‘respect’ running as the backbone to this.
If an elderly, pregnant or disabled person gets on the metro, younger generations will stand up to offer the seat. One of the rules on the metro is ‘no chewing gum’, if you decide to crack open a Wrigleys then expect a local person to tap you on the shoulder and gently remind you of the rules. Respect the rules and everybody is happy.
Respect is something you see less and less back in my homeland, I have seen young people shout at and even push and shove the elderly. Teachers and most authority figures can be faced with a lack of respect daily.
Taiwan is a respect based culture and you can see it everywhere. The examples above give a great insight into this but as a teacher you are faced with respect in the classroom. It is generally well known that students should respect the teacher in Taiwan.
If you hadn’t guessed it already, I absolutely adore living in Taiwan. It is such a wonderful place to be as a foreigner. Have you ever lived in Taiwan? What were the best parts? How has it changed you? Tell us in the comments below.Please share!