It’s the eve of my departure, and with my suitcase packed, the usual flutter of butterflies settles in the pit of my stomach. It’s not dread, as such, or fear. It’s just… nostalgia mixed with looking forward to the future.
After swearing I would never come back to live in Taiwan again in 2008, I find myself almost ten years later finishing a 7 month stint back to the place I call home. Here is what I’m going to miss:
- The relative ease of everything- Yeah, it’s pretty freaking easy living here. You want something? Let’s hop on the scooter and go get it. It’s not so difficult to do what you want. Yes, sometimes there’s red tape, but even then! When I went to shut an old bank account down, I needed to have proof of name change (yeah that’s a whole other story). It was a bit annoying, but I went over to the registry people, and for 15NT I had a stamped Hu-Ji-Teng-Ben to take back to the bank. It’s not like I had to wait in long queues, fill in request forms, and wait 3 weeks. It took maybe 20 minutes!
- Food- Duh. If you didn’t know this already then you don’t know me at all. I live for Taiwanese food. I love the Red Bean Cakes on the corner, the hot pot restaurants, and even department store food halls have a special place in my heart.
- Driving- I was telling an English friend just the other day: driving in Taiwan is so much easier because you know it’s chaos. You have to watch out, you don’t depend on anyone but yourself to make sure that you get in and out of the traffic safe and sound. You’re the safest person on the road.
- Suei-bien culture- Suei bien is mostly translated into ‘Whatever’, but if you think of the words used, it means ‘however is easier’. I love that. Not everything has to be super rigid and structured, we can also just see how things go. Yes, sometimes it’s extremely annoying and you just want a straight answer, but most of the time, it’s easier just to go with the flow, isn’t it?
- Generosity- This might have to do with positive racism, but people are extremely generous here. The bread-stick man always gives me an extra one (although that might be because I’ve been going to buy breadsticks from his little stand since I was like six), the tea stand people are always sure to double check what I mean when I tell them what sugar preference I want that day (I like to switch it up). Then there’s the lady at the fruit stand that also remembers me and tells me they have ready-to-eat Buddha heads. When we went to Xiao Liuqui, the hostel owner went fishing for us so we got to eat literally THE freshest seafood (this was definitely not a positive racism thing he was just such a generous guy).
- Kindness- Of course, with generosity also comes kindness. But this one comes with a bit of a double-edged sword… this is definitely due to positive racism because I’ve seen some real bitchy Taiwanese people especially when it has to do with their own people. But generally, people mean well. Even when they tell you you’re too fat, or you should get married, or you should stay in Taiwan to help your parents… they mean well. I admit, I often have to remind myself of this. Problem is, meaning well is all fun and games until it is taken the wrong way. This is where people (and not just Taiwanese people!) have a lot to learn. Just because you think you are portraying it one way, does not mean it is perceived as such. It’s a big lesson to learn, one that has to be constantly RE-learned, but one all the same.
- Cash culture- I often find that spending actual cash makes you realize how much moolah you’re actually spending. And often that’s a good thing. Credit cards and online payments makes you forget how much, say, 1000NT is. Having said that, though, Taiwan needs to make some serious strides on the banking front. You might be able to pay for something via LINE, but hell will freeze over if you want to move money internationally via Internet Banking.
- Saying ‘hai hao’ to the doctor- God, isn’t hai hao just the best phrase in the world? I’ve come to rely on it way too much too. So much so I even use it in English conversations with non-Mandarin-speaking folk. I love it especially when the doctor asks me a question! “Do you have a dry mouth and tongue?” In my head I’m like “I have no clue” so I just respond “hai hao”. “How’s your sleep?” There’s a freaking night bird that keeps me up “Hai Hao.” Do you like this food? “Hai Hao”. Did you enjoy the movie? “Hai hao”. It’s the most non-committal phrase EVER.
So, I close this chapter and am ready for the next. And you know what? I’m so excited to be Asian again. I’m not very comfortable playing the wai-guo-ren. It’s much easier, much more fun to be the Asian. White people are just so vanilla sometimes, and that becomes expected of you as a mixed kid. More on that later. Off to have one last Korean dinner with a friend.