Officially known as the Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan is an island located 110 miles off the coast of China and is similar to Massachusetts in size.
Despite mainland China’s claim of ownership, the small nation of Taiwan is self-governed by a democratically elected government. Over the past 50 years, Taiwan has risen to be a leader in the business market in Asia, especially in the area of technology. Some of Taiwan’s more famous tech companies are Asus, D-Link, and HTC.
There are many people groups represented in Taiwan: Han Chinese, Japanese, Hakka, and Taiwanese aboriginals. There are Filipinos, South Koreans, Vietnamese, Thailanders, and Indians, each with distinctive food, accents, and culture.
The aboriginal tribes of Taiwan are more closely related to the South Seas Island people than to mainland Asians. Their culture is rich with singing and dancing, community parties and festivals, and a hospitable attitude that includes sharing whatever you have with the group. The Han Chinese, people who came over when the island belonged to China, are often more reserved, and tend to take their responsibilities very seriously. Once you have been taken into their circle of friends, they will care for you just like family.
In Taiwanese culture, family loyalty is of supreme importance. Adults maintain close ties with their parents and grandparents, and children are often expected to perform well in school (all the way up through masters or doctorate) so that they will be able to support themselves and take care of their parents in old age. Sadly, as the rising generations become more enamored with successful careers and a materialistic Western lifestyle, the traditional family unit is becoming increasingly broken. Many children now live with their grandparents and only see parents on weekends because both parents commute to jobs in the big cities.
The Taiwanese are a very religious people. In some areas it seems that there is a temple on every street corner. This isn’t too much of an exaggeration when you consider that Taiwan is estimated to have almost 15,000 temples, about one temple for every 1,500 people.
At 93% of the total population, the major religion by far is a mixture of Buddhism and Taoism. Christianity comes in a distant second at around 6%. A small percentage of the aboriginal people still practice some of their tribal religions.
The primary language spoken in Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese. Mandarin has a five-tone system, and modifiers which indicate verb tense. This means that if you can get the tones, verbs are easy to learn! Taiwan is one of the few countries in the world that still use traditional Chinese characters. This picture language is a beautiful art form. As you learn the pictures that make up the characters, the language itself begins to make more sense as a whole.