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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Taiwan

Taiwan is a fascinating place. We would be living in a very different world today if Taiwan had not found a way to mass produce consumer electronics (TV, laptops, Smartphones, etc. etc.) at low cost. 


Taiwan used to be a Japanese colony and received its independence after WWII. Now, the political status of Taiwan is disputed. Commonly, Taiwan is also known as Republic of China (ROC) which is different than People's Republic of China (PRC) commonly known as China. PRC claims ROC to be part of PRC after PRC was established by the communist party in China in 1949.

The Taiwanese people speak Mandarin but are closer to the Japanese than to the Chinese in terms of culture. Taiwanese do not have animosity towards the Japanese because they built the infrastructure in Taiwan. And, Taiwan is one of the top tourist destinations for the Japanese. The relationship between the Chinese people and the Taiwanese people is still not trustworthy. Because of its history, Taiwan culture is unique. It is a blend of Japanese, Chinese and some unique Taiwanese traits. 

Most people in the high-tech industry in Taiwan work twelve+ hours a day seven days a week. And, they don't complain about it. The competition is fierce among the high-tech companies and that keeps everyone working hard and long hours. This is one of the reasons that we can afford our iPhones, LCD TVs, etc. in the west. Lately, the actual manufacturing of the consumer electronics devices has moved to mainland China because of lower labor costs in that area. All Americans should visit Taiwan. After the visit, they will gain a new appreciation for their jobs. 

There are a lot of migrant workers from Thailand and Philippines. These workers usually do not integrate with the society and do the unwanted jobs. However, the social/geographical integration is unique in Taipei. The corporate offices, fancy restaurants, street vendors, pawn shops, red-light district, bars, residential areas, etc. can all be found within the same block. The smell created by this mixture is quite unique. 

Most of the Taiwanese economy is in the Taipei area which is very expensive. Many people who live in Taipei want to have kids but can't afford to have them and raise them. I find this very sad. The government has started programs to encourage people to have kids because the population is on the decline. This policy is very different than the Chinese policy on population control. 

Just like in Japan, service in Taiwan is very good. The taxi drivers wear a black suit and white gloves. People bow to you as a sign of respect. However, the cellphone etiquette in Taiwan is very different than in Japan. I was getting the famous Taiwanese foot massage and the guy who was massaging my feet was talking on his cellphone while giving the massage. 

I made a new friend, Wayne, on my recent visit to Taiwan. Wayne is one of the nicest guy I ever met. He did a masters in bio-medical engineering after an undergrad in electrical engineering just because he wanted to have good conversation with his wife who was a nurse at the time:-). 

Visit Taiwan!