Fang Bien: A Culture of Convenience

My latest visit to Taiwan made me really think about the Taiwanese mindset of recycling and the environment.

Taiwan is home to that cool company that made all the world cup shirts by using recycled plastic bottles. We have to recycle at McDonald’s (it’s still weird to me that Europe doesn’t do that), and old grandmas and grandpas spend their retirements recycling (I’ll never forget waiting at a light for the grandpa to push his bicycle and cart completely overstuffed with plastic bottles and cans…)

Juxtapose that, however, with everywhere you go, there doesn’t seem to be a conscience that we are over-using plastic bags. In Denmark, we had to always bring our own bag to the supermarket, and when I came back to the UK, I had to start carrying my own bag everywhere because no store will give them to you for free anymore. They now charge. I once traipsed across a parking lot with a pair of newly purchased high heels in my hands because I didn’t want to pay for a plastic bag.

In Taiwan, everywhere you go, you get a bag. They don’t even bother to wait for you to say whether or not you need a bag, they just give it to you, without a second thought. Yes, 7-11 and Poya do charge for plastic bags, but that’s as far as it goes.

At the night market, we had a pretty big plastic bag from a purchase, and every purchase after that I would hastily say ‘we don’t need a bag we have one here. Let’s save the planet’. The salesperson would look at me awkwardly and then snicker a little in half-confusion, realising what I was saying.

It’s not even the plastic bags alone- it’s the millions of drinks that Taiwanese people buy each day… think of all the styrofoam and plastic cups that are being used and discarded without almost a second thought.

Not that I was even innocent in all of this… when we went to 50-Lan, we would sometimes ask for our drinks to be ‘wrapped’ individually so that we wouldn’t have to carry the drink around the night market or whatever. It was more convenient.

This year, coming back from Taiwan, I’m struck by the sheer amount of plastic bags I’ve brought back with me… a bag for the tea, a bag for the coffee, a bag for the empty shampoo bottle, the bag for the water bottle the shampoo is in… a bag for the kitchen knife… maybe it’s not just Taiwan that needs to re-examine their plastic impact on the environment.

PS. Thanks @GwenythWR @BenGaoRen from Twitter for posting that article on Twitter that made me finally write this post.


Taiwan in Rap

I was playing one of the ‘Energetic Music to Work to’ playlists of Amazon Music today, and I noticed that a rapper was saying something about Taiwan. It made me think (and realise) that Taiwan is moving up in the world of hip hop! Yeah boii!

In the last few years, people having been dropping ‘Taiwan’ into their songs here and there, especially the party ones ‘London to Taiwan’ from Jason Derulo being the most prominent one that comes to mind. Is it because Taiwan just sounds good and is easy to rhyme to, or is it because ‘Made in Taiwan’ isn’t the only thing that people think of anymore?

How exciting! We are no longer the nation of the computer chip, knuts and bolts, or even the nation home to the CEO of Foxconn (the company that makes iPhones). We now are central to Jason Derulo’s party circle. Boom. Check it, bruv.

Just to be clear, this is pure conjecture coming from a Taiwan-sensitive girl. My heart swelled with pride when London buses were advertising Taiwan, Naruwan, and I shout angrily at the TV every time the BBC outlines a map of China (with Taiwan in it) on their never-ending China documentary series.

Peace out.