Monday, 3 December 2007

Taiwan vs China, Taiwan vs Japan

Ever since I was kid I was brainwashed into thinking "Taiwan good, China bad." "China communist, Taiwan not." Of course I was also told "Australia - safe to cross the road, clean. Taiwan - crazy drivers, dirty." etc, but that's another story...

OK so up until my late teens this is what I always believed. Now, when I had the opportunity to go to China for the first time (in 1997) and make up my own mind I didn't think it was that bad, but of course I could see the differences between China and Taiwan straight away, or China and Hong Kong.

In 2005, my sister was living in Shanghai... Mike and I flew from Sydney to Taipei and my sister flew from Shanghai to Hong Kong to Taipei and met us there. The first time the three of us took the MRT (subway) there, she commented that she couldn't believe that people were actually queuing in an orderly fashion to wait for the train, and that that would not happen in Shanghai. Throughout the trip she made similar comments about the differences between Shanghai and Taipei - not so much the city itself but the behaviour of the locals.

Likewise, when my father recently visited he was making similar comments. But it was much much worse. OMG. He was China-bashing 24/7. I don't even know how I could take it! "The air pollution is so bad" "The plants/trees are not that green." "The people are so rude." "That person must be Taiwanese because they said 'Excuse me' when they pushed their trolley close to us." etc etc. Oh did I mention we went to Carrefour after he told me I should throw out all our rice and condiments because anything made in China was 'bad' and 'crap' and made me buy Thai and Japanese rice, and Taiwanese soy sauce? hahaha.

Despite the fact that he was born in China himself he still (unfortunately) hates China and will probably continue to do so. :( He feels that China is what Taiwan was 40 years ago. Yes time will change everything but who knows how long it'll take?

On the other hand, my mother loves China. She loves the rapid progress it's made in recent years, the buzz, the nightlife, the shopping, the food, etc.

I wouldn't say I 'love' Shanghai but there are certainly good points to it. Just like any other city. There are good and bad points to everything.

It's just a bit much when guests come to visit you and start bashing the place you live in. I feel quite 'weirded out' by it. I just don't know what to say or how to react. Yes the air pollution is bad. So bad it's one of the very few things I can't stand here (along with the incessant smoking everywhere and anywhere), the footpaths are uneven, the drivers are all psycho, pedestrians have no right of way (EVER), etc etc. But frankly, I feel a bit offended. How would you feel if I visited you and pointed out every single negative thing about your city or country?

Now, getting back to the topic, hopefully I'll get to visit Taiwan real soon and make my own comparisons once again now that I've actually lived here (in Shanghai).

I just read here that the Taipei-Kaohsiung high speed rail is in operation. The trip takes a mere 1.5 hours instead of the 4 hours it used to take. Awesome!

When I was in Japan I started making a lot of mental notes and noticed so many similarities between Japan and Taiwan. The breakfasts. The breakfasts I was brought up to eat and my parents are still eat - are very similar to what the Japanese typically eat - rice with pickled vegetables, radish, eggs, fish, and bits and pieces. Also the love of tofu and soybeans and soy milk. (Still am surprised that soy milk isn't that popular in China. It is even more popular in Australia).

Also the delicious tidbits known as 'mochi' or 'moji'... The snacks in Taiwan are amazingly delicious. My relatives that live here in Shanghai are always bringing back suitcases full of food and snacks whenever they visit Taiwan. So many things that floated about in my childhood - I was suddenly brought back in time when I saw the same delicious things in Japan. My eyes glazed over and my stomach yearned to be filled. I wondered if Taiwan 'copied' them or that they were so similar simply because of their geographical closeness. Anyway mochi are (according to Wikipedia) "a Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and molded into shape." They are usually filled with delicious creamy sweet fillings like green tea, green bean and red bean. One of the ones I had in Osaka was peach flavoured - makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

Despite having been to Taiwan about 10 times now I always look forward to going 'back'. Every time I discover something new :) and every time, reality hits as I realise that everyone is getting older :(

No comments: