After my last Friday post, someone asked why Taiwan had been so influential. And I said, “How couldn’t it have?” The following is one of thousands of illustrations of just how “different” a world this white California girl entered when she moved to Taiwan.
This is the entrance to the local grocery story in Sanjhih. I often walked or ran here from my apartment, which was up a hill about a mile away. One day I arrived to find the road beside the grocery store blocked off for . . .
. . . A wedding reception? In the middle of the street? Besides a grocery store — and a butcher’s shop? (See the arrow I drew in the picture above? Those stacked crates are for chickens . . .)
So you see . . .
When all you’ve ever known is freeways and churches, and air-conditioning and carpet, and diversity and supermarkets, and weddings in banquet halls . . . And suddenly the “norm” is scooters and temples, and tile and humidity, and sticking out and butchers shops, and weddings in streets . . .
How can you not be affected? How can you not be surprised at the amazing diversity of the world? How can you not gape — and then smile?
I’m smiling right now. :)
guess it is much cheaper this way than to have it in a hotel or restaurant. The other is they can accommodate more tables than in a restaurant or hotel too. I been to one which has about 150 tables and they had to have it in a school field.
I bet they know the owners and it saves them money, which is important.
Oh, wow. 150 tables? That’s a big wedding! Must have cost a fortune! Yeah, I don’t know if it was cheaper, but I would assume so. And I’d guess they’d have to get it approved by the local government. They also used to block off roads for local concerts. It was hilarious!
Thanks for the comment! Hope you’re having a great weekend. :)
Well, if you do it in a hotel, the cost can double and triple easily, in which case they don’t make money anymore. But, in some Western weddings, the guests are charged $300-500 for attendance. In Taiwan, it’s always voluntary. I’m not going to judge the aspect of human psychology because it’s fairly complicated.
You brought up a good point though. I am not sure if they actually have to get the approval of the local government to block the roads.
It seems that you actually witnessed it once only during the 2 years of stay in Taiwan. Perhaps, they don’t like to do it anymore. I was born in Taiwan. When I was a kid, I could witness 5 times of this a year on the same street. The frequency was way higher.
Its very hard to understand the world without ever leaving home. I think by traveling you just appreciate everything so much more, both what you have at home and what others have or don’t have abroad. And it’s nice to see that people can be so happy without all of the luxuries that we take for granted.
So very true, Sreejit. My eyes were opened in a big way when I moved abroad. I’d been to Europe before, but never to Asia, and Asia — or at least Taiwan — was *so* different than anything I’d ever experienced… But it really made me think long and and hard about what makes us who we are. I really do believe that underneath it all, we’re really all the same. And yet, culturally — yes — there are huge differences! What seemed strange to me was normal to them…
And about luxuries — yes! In Taiwan, I lived without air-conditioning and fought mosquitoes 100 percent of the time. And I survived! I won’t say I loved the humidity, but it really did make me realize that the luxuries much of the Western world equates with happiness are just that — luxuries. I can be completely happy without all of them.
Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! :) Jess
Yeah, that’s an unusual place for a wedding. Well, it would be unusual here. You’re right. It’s a completely different world.
It truly is, and yet… The Taiwanese are just like you. If you’d been born in Taiwan, weddings in streets and fried squid on sticks at the night market and Mandarin would all be second nature. The human race truly is fascinating.
It is. I know what you mean. People are people, wherever you go.
Yes, I understand this do as the Romans thing. I am often perplexed by the resultant compromise of self required in such a place and so I am inclined to visit places, where the presentation is more inclined to a formality of beauty, like a church in Paris housing a piano player playing Chopin.
I know this is wrong of me, but for the moment I have to get to London before anywhere else because the last time I traveled was to NYC/Paris/Rome in 1995. I can’t afford to travel much although I want to. In a few years, I may get the chance again. I am working on it. I am living vicariously through your imagery. Thank you. I am from Hawaii, so I got a lot of Asian culture. I am trying to find out if I have a connection to my mother’s side of the family as they are English.
I like what Sreejit said, about not understanding the world unless you go and meet it. And my impression of it is that it brings great joy, generally, and America’s ambitions have tarnished our image with others.
You bring up a lot of good points, Mario. I understand wanting to visit places of beauty and history before taking time and money to go to crazy locations like Taiwan, which may not be the most luxurious of trips. I’d love to go to London, too. It’s been something like 14 years since I was there. The only thing I’ll say is that, while I never would have chosen to live in Taiwan if I’d had the option of going elsewhere, in the end, I am SO glad Taiwan chose me. The impact that living in such a “foreign” place was far greater than the more familiar Europe ever could have been.
I hope you get to travel someday soon, too. It’s funny, because while, yes, it *is* good to be “settled” (we all need that), I greatly fear getting too tied down anywhere. I only have one life to live, and this world is far too big… There is so much to explore, and so much life to be had…
To address your last point, yes, both you and Sreejit are right. Going out to “meet” the world is the best way of finding any kind of understanding of it — at least of the world outside your comfort zone. It takes an open mind to find enjoyment, though. Many of my American friends *hated* Taiwan and couldn’t wait to get home… It is also true that not everyone thinks so highly of Americans as they themselves often seem to.
This statement appealed to me: “I understand wanting to visit places of beauty and history before taking time and money to go to crazy locations like Taiwan, which may not be the most luxurious of trips. I’d love to go to London, too.”
I did not want to give you the impression that I thought Taiwan was a crazy place to visit. No, all I was saying is that I don’t have the opportunity to visit such a place, but I know it would be good for me.
Another thing, Sreejit’s statement really warmed my heart. It shows me that the people of the world are amazing and interesting and wonderful. I think this is the greatest sadness that we don’t all travel the world constantly and get to know each other such that the media or the government can’t make caricatures of the peoples we don’t get to meet enough to know of our similarity as human beings. And understanding why people do things is best understood when we live in the world that they live in.
I am just jealous that Taiwan chose you. But, you have already been to London! I hope we both get to visit soon.
I’m glad to hear you’d go to Taiwan if you had the chance, and yet I understand having to prioritize your travel destinations!… I know some people who would have no interest in going to Asia even if they had the chance, and to me, that’s sad… I’m with both you and Sreejit — I think it’s a terrible shame that we all don’t get to travel more. In so doing, we’d break down barriers imposed not by true differences but, rather, by a lack of understanding…
Yes, I am lucky Taiwan chose me. And I went to London a long time ago on a high school trip. It is definitely time for a trip back. I’ll be crossing my fingers for you that you get to go soon, too! :)
A perfect illustration how “other” life abroad is. (And a really interesting set of pics!)
I thought so, too! I’m really glad I had my camera the day I stumbled across this. I also have pics of concerts set up in the middle of the road. Of course, Sanjhih is a really small town. You would never see something like this in the middle of Taipei.
Taiwan has gone down by much in terms of ranking during the past decade. Economy is always fueled by physical resources. Therefore, following the opening and the growth of the Chinese market, both Taiwan and Hong Kong went down a lot, but the domestic demand is still there to keep both afloat. The wedding ceremony you witness here is in fact quite expensive, but the number of guests they can accommodate can yield greater return through red envelops. Usually, they make money at the end, which can be spent on their honey moon, which is another huge item.
There are many, many options. You can also go to the municipal town hall to register for a group wedding, where the government ties the knot for 200 couples in a prom-night-like fashion. You can’t make it cheaper than that if you insist that the ceremony must be there. Of course, the honey moon is always the key. Face issue matters, but it is definitely far from everything. It’s not enough to watch. You have to ask!
Agree, the unexpected and unique is what makes travel and living abroad such a wonderful adventure. Wellcome is my supermarket in HK…so happy to see it present in the post :-)
Travel and living abroad really opens your eyes. It’s one thing to see “far away” places on TV; it’s completely another to actually experience them. And, yes. I’m not sure exactly what Wellcome’s span is, but I know it’s both in Taiwan and Hong Kong and — is it in China, too? I also really like Watson’s!
Watson’s were in the large cities (Beijing/Shanghai) then few years ago finally came to Hangzhou…agree, great stores.
Just as I finished my comment on this post, your reply caught my attention.
I was wondering something. During my time as an exchange student I’ve learned a so incredibly much.. it isn’t really easy to put in words what you experience during an entire year in a completely foreign country. However, one day I found this one quote, that says: “Speaking two languages is like having two minds, but living in two countries is like having two lives!”
I think this quote say’s so much by saying so little. I thought it’d be nice to share this one. :)
That is a great quote, and very true! I am SO envious of those who speak multiple languages. It is a shame I wasn’t introduced to a second language until late in life (stupid American education system…) But the thought that living in two countries is like living two lives is absolutely true. Living abroad really opens your eyes. When I moved to Taiwan, I felt like I’d moved to a different planet!
Thanks for your comment!
Always keep in mind: It’s never too late to learn something new!
Well, thanks for the post! :)
How sweet! Just looking at those pictures makes one feel a certain warmth around the heart… this makes me wanna go out into the world again and simply explore more! I can not wait for my next year abroad!! Amazing!
Thank you! I looked your site. You’re from Germany? Where did you live while abroad? I definitely can’t wait to get out and explore more, too. And I know the warmth you’re talking about! We’re all so different, and yet the same. I love us!
You’re very welcome. :)
Yes indeed, I’m from Germany. I participated in an exchange program a few years ago and I chose the US at the time, so I spent a whole year in the beautiful constitution state Connecticut.
Compared to Germany, America has been a completely different world to me and after a whole year living year, there STILL is so much to discover overseas. There really is a lot to discover and even more to uncover! Partly this is due to the mere fact that there is so much diversity.
Not only did I learn the language (not perfecty, but who is perfect right?!), but also did I learn much about people in general, how they behave, how they react and how to treat different types of people. There is just so incredibly much, what you learn from living abroad, you also learn a lot about yourself. You see, I could go on and on and on about this, heck I could write an entire book, but I know that you know what I mean. ;)
Oh yes, I absolutely agree with you. I’d love nothing better than to go out there and travel my way through the world, exploring cultures, making friends, building bridges and create connections for life. But (un)fortunately my education comes first, gotta finish it first before I simply wander off wherever life carries me to.
I could not agree more and say it any better, I love us, too! :)
I witnessed the wedding in the open not a street, but a walkway, when I and my daughter were on vacation in Hawaii. We were on our way to the Buddhist Temple and right there in the walkway a wedding was being conducted. Americans can be so rude at times. We stopped to go around, but some just walked right on through snapping pictures. smh. It was a beautiful unrestricted ceremony. :)
Aww, that sounds lovely. Any wedding in Hawaii would be lovely, actually… And I know what you mean about Americans! Sometimes (often) I am ashamed to be one. I would have been shaking my head, too!
Thanks for sharing!