Doing Business in Taiwan
It is important to be good-mannered as well as punctual in Taiwan. The best thing to do is to arrive a little early, which allows you some time for preparation, and to show your eagerness to meet your partners. The dress code for business meetings is a suit for men and smart (but modest!) clothes for women. Revealing dressing is considered inappropriate. The welcome greetings are hand-shaking and exchanging business cards. Although body contact between males represents friendliness, such contact should be avoided between males and females, at least during the first meeting. Taiwanese people do not drink alcohol during work and meetings. It is the norm to not have alcoholic drinks at the meeting or during business meals. If the occasion is a dinner, you would expect it to finish early. However, many business hosts are likely to express their hospitality by showing their partners around the good dining and nightlife places.
Humble speech and modesty are highly valued in Taiwanese culture. It is recommended to incorporate praises and appreciations in the greetings. Interruption and dominating attitude are considered rude. Always show respect to people older than you by, for example, nodding your head to their words with eyes lowered. This is inherited from Confucianism, which had a great impact on Taiwanese culture. You could expect the same from people who are younger than you.
Asian people tend to have very long working hours; you could be required to work during the weekends and vacation-time. Taiwanese people would aim to get things sorted as soon as possible and would expect the same from their partner. So don’t be surprised if you receive a call from your business partner at 10 pm! Taiwan does not have Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving or long summer holidays. Instead, the Chinese New Year is the national holiday of the year. As most of the trading actions slow down for the Chinese New Year just like activities slow down in the West for Christmas, you may want to avoid building a business relationship during February.
Currency and Money Value
The currency for Taiwan New Dollar (NT$) is approximately GBP £1 = NT $63, or USD $1 = NT $32 (based on data in 2006). The cost of living in Taiwan is generally lower than that of European countries and is more similar to that of the US. For example, a standard business lunch set costs around NT$150 to NT$400 (that is GBP £2.5 to GBP £5.5 or USD $4.5 to USD $13), taxi fare starts from NT$70 and slightly higher during night hour; prices of coffee range from NT $75 to NT$200 (GBP £1 to GBP £3 and USD $2.5 to USD $9). You do get more from your money in Taiwan!
Westerners may find Taiwanese cuisine slightly heavy when they try it for the first time. Unlike Western eating habits, the traditional Taiwanese diet is hot and savoury dishes for all the three meals of the day. However, if you find it difficult to adapt, you could ask your business partner for other arrangements. Also, vegetarian meals or other special dietary requirements may be available upon request. Coffee and tea (Chinese tea) are the most common drinks in Taiwan; instead of pubs, people tend to go to cafés or tea houses for casual meet-ups and catch-ups.
Taiwan is well-reputed for its food. Taiwanese cuisine is a heritage from Chinese cuisine, so the two are basically same. The noticeable difference is that Taiwanese people like to incorporate fresh tropical fruits in the cooking, such as pineapple, plum, orange, mango, etc. They also drink tea after meals or at leisure. Popular teas are green tea, Puer tea, and Oo-long tea. The most famous tea that originated in Taiwan is the pearl milk tea; it is the signature drink of Taiwan and an all-time favorite of the Taiwanese people. Another characteristic of Taiwanese food is the wide range of tropical fruits, some of which you might have not even heard of! They are very tasty and interesting; so make sure you make full use of your stay. Furthermore, people who have a sweet tooth will surely have a wonderful time in Taiwan, as Taiwanese cakes are famous for their tastiness and variety.
Entertainment is ubiquitous in Taiwan. Karaoke is called KTV in Taiwan - it is the place every student and working person goes to after work or during weekends. The interior of KTV is the luxury suits with large screen and microphone where you can enjoy the pleasure of singing or even simply gather with friends. Night markets are another top tourist attraction. Countless night markets (food courts) with special Taiwanese food, nibbles and mid-night suppers are available for your enjoyment. Night clubs in Taiwan are also multiplying rapidly; the major music theme is R&B, Hip-Hop, Jazz, and house music. Another way to experience the nightlife is to go to a lounge bar. These have recently became very popular and play light, soft and relaxing music. There you can find luxury interior and posh cocktails for people to rewind after a busy day of work.
The three most useful and cherished Taiwanese words are easy to learn and to use: ‘ching’ for please; ‘shek-shek’ for thank you; ‘duae-bu-chi’ for sorry. You may find people who use one of these three words in every sentence.
The relationship between Mainland China and Taiwan is very tense at all times. Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China and is a province of China. However, Taiwan has its own president and independent political system. The situation of Taiwan is in some respects similar to that of Hong Kong in 1997. Although Mainland China has announced their willingness to recover Taiwan, no agreement or decision has been made and negotiations are continuing. From the point of view of doing business in Taiwan, it is wise to avoid stepping on sensitive toes by commenting on these political issues, as different business corporations in Taiwan hold different points of view.
Just like in every corner of the world, you could not go wrong with a smile. Taiwanese people are famous for their generosity and hospitality.
What Taiwan is Proud Of
Taiwan is also known as Formosa, the island of beauty, which is annotated by the early Spanish navigators. Taiwan also experienced a miraculous economic growth in the 1970s, which is similar to the Western experience of the industrial revolution. This is mainly attributed to the hard-working and innovative nature of the Taiwanese people. Taiwan is now the largest exporting country of top computer hardware and electronic goods, including microchips, laptops, mobile phones and digital cameras. The economy is now shifting from labour-based industries to high-technology manufacturing plants and products exporting. “Taipei 101” is currently the tallest skyscraper of the world. Opened in 2004, it beats the 2nd tallest Petronas Towers of Malaysia. Taipei 101 also has the world’s fastest lift (authenticated by the Guinness Book of Records) holding the extreme speed of 1008 vertical meters per minute!
Finding Your Way Around
General public transportation is very convenient in Taiwan, especially in Taipei. The mass rapid transportation system (MRT) covers nearly the entire Taipei city; the vehicles are clean, modernised, and always on time.Taxis are also a good option for moving to places. They are fast, reliable, and ubiquitous, so they can be your best friend when you are in a hurry!
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