Two months ago, I left Canada again (sorry Mom and Dad) and moved to Taiwan.
Want to know why? Click here.
Taiwan surprises me everyday.
Whether it be trying a strange, new snack at the night market, discovering that just a short drive from my apartment I can snorkel with enormous sea turtles, or learning that I can get McDonald’s drive-thru on my scooter, I am constantly amazed by this country.
For the last few months, I’ve been readjusting to a new culture, language, and environment. So far, the learning curve has been completely different than the one I experienced in Korea. Truthfully, it’s felt easier. Maybe it’s because I’ve traveled to Taiwan before? Maybe it’s because I’ve already lived abroad for a year in Asia? Maybe it’s because I’m living in a big and accessible city?
Despite it being an easier learning curve, this doesn’t mean I haven’t felt or been challenged. Everyday, I still feel completely out of my comfort zone (just the way I like it!) and I’m constantly discovering and learning new things about Taiwan and myself.
These are five things I’ve learned so far.
1. Garbage trucks sing.
Nope. These sure aren’t ice cream trucks. I was truly disappointed to discover that the singing truck circling my neighbourhood at 9:30 at night is not where I could get my chocolate-dipped, sprinkle-covered soft serve. But, rather, it was there to collect my garbage.
Every night, at 9:30 sharp, a garbage truck is stationed outside my apartment, waiting for the tenants to rush out the building and throw their garbage into the back – so, a self-serve truck, not a soft serve truck… sigh.
2. 7-Eleven is the only store you will ever need.
Need to pay your bills (utilities, parking fines, and taxes)? Go to 7-Eleven. Need to send a package? Go to 7-Eleven. Need to buy concert tickets? Go to 7-Eleven. Need to put data or minutes on your phone? Go to 7-Eleven. Need to get your dry cleaning done? Go to 7-Eleven. Need to buy plane, bus, or train tickets? Go to 7-Eleven.
Yes, you can do all of this and so much more at your local one-stop shop. And, there’s one on every corner. When I lived in Korea, I thought that their 7-Elevens did it all. Man, was I wrong. 7-Eleven in Taiwan redefines the meaning of convenience.
3. How to drive.
I learned how to ride a scooter faster than I did to drive a car… in Asia. Go figure.
It took me all of a 30 minute crash course in learning what an ignition finally meant, braking, and turning to “prepare” me to drive off a lot the next day with my very own scooter.
I failed my driving test in Canada for not changing lanes aggressively enough. Ha! Well, if only that crabby guy from the DriveTest centre could see me navigating my way through Taiwan’s streets playing real life Mario Kart now!
4. Taiwanese cockroaches are on steroids.
I have a long history dealing with cockroaches in Korea, which you can read more about here. Taiwanese cockroaches make Korean cockroaches look like ants. Roaches here are big. Scary big. They scurry up through storm drains, creating obstacles in your path when walking down the street. They crawl up your spine, underneath your t-shirt, when you’re sitting down on a park bench. They brush up against your toes when you place your feet down on the concrete when parking your scooter. They are ruthless.
I have yet to find one in my apartment, which is decorated with an equal amount of candles and pictures as roach traps. But believe me, the moment I do, you will be reading a lengthy rant about it.
5. What it really means to be covered in sweat.
I never really knew what it meant to sweat until I moved to Taiwan. Have you ever had to sit on a pleather scooter seat in 40°C heat, trying to not slip off? Do you know what it feels like to do your make up for an hour, only to have it all running down your face a split second after leaving your apartment? Have you ever had to change your socks three times in one day? I have. And, I have never missed our so-called Toronto “heatwaves” until now. By the time I get to work every day, I’m drenched, sticky, and in desperate need of my second shower of the day. Never have I been so thankful for the great invention of air conditioning.