10 things you notice coming back

After being out of Taiwan for at least a year (2 years here), what are the big things that hit you when you come back?

In my case, I’d say:

  1. Unbelievably high volume of students “talking” in coffee shops and the like. Doubled if playing cards.
  2. Temp and humidity higher than I remembered.
  3. How irritating it can be to have people compliment your Chinese all the time even when you know they mean well (I know that sounds stupid, but it’s kind of like having people continually say, “You walk so well” after you’ve reached a certain point.)
  4. How you can give a little kid “the teacher look” and s/he will subside and quit his annoying behavior (usually)
  5. How it takes 10-15 minutes longer to get anywhere than you thought it would, no matter how carefully you estimate
  6. How irritating the “extra fees” can be (the “you plugged your laptop into our electricty” fee, the “and then you were using the wireless Internet, weren’t you” fee, the “and we saw you breathing just then” fee…) at coffee shops
  7. How much easier it now is to get (paid) public Internet access (WiFly or Chunghwa) and how many places you can get online
  8. How many more individuals are putting password protection on their wireless networks
  9. How unbelievably clean the MRT is. Could have eaten off the floors of the cars on the way to Tamsui this morning.
  10. Did I mention how loud the students are? Can’t hear myself think or I’d probably remember if I’d already said so or not.

Also of course the usual stuff like missing shops that “should” be there, new shops that need checking out, and so on…

How cheap everything is.

The tottie.

Not necessarily in that order.


  1. How good the babes look.
  2. Hmm… need to think of something else or I’ll look shallow… um …okay, the density of people, vehicles, and buildings.

How people stare at foreigners everywhere they go.
I don’t notice it after I’ve been here awhile, but it’s always apparent when I come back from being away.

  1. How convenient scooters are.

  2. The driving really is as bad as I remembered.

  3. The ludicrously fast pace of construction. Whole streets in Tainan are completely different after 18 months away.

  4. Crap supermarkets.

  5. The omnipresence of food, especially as a means of social intercourse.

  6. How much of a technophile’s paradise this place can be.

[quote=“Josefus”]How people stare at foreigners everywhere they go.
I don’t notice it after I’ve been here awhile, but it’s always apparent when I come back from being away.[/quote]
It just you Josefus. I stare at you too.

[quote=“Taffy”]1. How convenient scooters are.

  1. The driving really is as bad as I remembered.

  2. The ludicrously fast pace of construction. Whole streets in Tainan are completely different after 18 months away.

  3. Crap supermarkets.

  4. The omnipresence of food, especially as a means of social intercourse.

  5. How much of a technophile’s paradise this place can be.[/quote]

And need to be redone after one year … :slight_smile: because they they have to many potholes from the rain

Things I noticed after coming back to Taiwan after 8 years in the US:

  • The MRT is is a wonderful thing!
  • You can get lots of Western products here now. No need to smuggle cheese in!
  • The traffic in Taipei is more orderly.
  • Xiaojies are not riding side-saddle on scooters anymore.
  • Starbucks. Everywhere.
  • Chiang Kai-shek is now a bad guy.
  • “Taiwan is not a part of China” is now the previaling sentiment.

I came back 1.5 years ago after being away for a year. I notice people no longer dress in their workday best when going out to the beach or for a hike (somebody pass this on to Dragonbones). You also don’t feel weird dressed in shorts on the MRT even on a weekday. This city is so much more casual than it used to be.

The MRT is fantastic and so much better than the Skytrain (scaretrain) in Vancouver.

The bike paths are really extensive.

My neighborhood was getting too grubby to bear.

I can only add my “other way round” experience

went back to Europe last year for a visit, after 5 consecutive years in Asia.

everything is soooo slow there, especially on Sundays, and soooo quiet…

sitting outside on our patio (surrounded by trees and stuff) my old man complained about the noise (I think he was cutting flowers) our neighbour made who was somewhere behind a 7-foot hedge probably a 100 yards away.

Jeez… in Taiwan, virtually all of the the appartments surrounding ours have had some "minor restructuring projects’ lasting from 1 week to 2 months at a time and involving the oh-so-beloved “jack-hammer tears wall down” routine…

Taiwan is NOISY, all the time…

It’ll be lovely when it’s finished.

I think I have to agree with Chris. After have been away for many a year, MRT is great while traffic is night and day versus what it was like back in the mid 90’s. Even pedestrians seem a bit more orderly (even with no cops around). I have had to stop my wife from walking against the lights. Her : “But this is the way it’s done. Everyone everyone crosses against the light” Me: “Ummm… no one else is crossing…”

I love her to death, but I tend to be a bit more observant of my surroundings. When in Rome…

Great thread, Ironlady. And welcome back.

I think the rapid pace of change is something I’ve noticed, even when just going to parts of Taipei that I haven’t been to in a while. Whole new stores in place of old ones, and especially in some neighborhoods these days, the old Japanese-style one-floor wooden houses going down and new luxury apartments going up.

I went back to my old neighborhood… the first time I’ve been to Linguang since the hunt for Maodog and was amazed at how many high rises have gone up… and the fact that the first high-rise which was nearing completion when I moved out of the area 3 years ago is still pretty much empty. They finally closed down the scummy indoor playground (and most of the other things in the same building except the McDonald’s). And there seem to be fewer makeshift, crumbling houses and more and more high-rises. Not that I was big on the ancient rat-nests, but the modern new high rises, which I know will only look like the old filthy ones in the rest of Taipei within 2 or 3 years, since no one here believes in cleaning buildings, only go and block out the nature in the area. I remember the beautiful sunrises I could see from 5th-floor bedroom window. Now it seems like people with more money get to have the views from their 25th-floor windows.

I just visited Anxiang Road (Luye Shanpo community) in Xindian and was amazed at the hundreds and hundreds of new “villas” that have gone up all over the mountain. Sorry to say, I wonder how much rain it would take to wash them all down to the main road again.

New buildings, different stores and restaurant chains, improvements in traffic: this is Taiwan.

't Was the same when I was out of Taiwan in 88-92, and in 94-96. Coming back both times, I hardly recognized the place.

The pace of change seems faster now, though. I left in 84 and came back in 87, left in 87 and came back in 93, and the changes didn’t seem so marked. Seems like there’s more money for construction these days, or else some sort of permission system has been loosened or something. Dunno.

They still do a shoddy job though. :unamused:

IronLady, I am interested in your thread. I have recently returned to London, having spent 6 of the last 8 years in Asia. Here some of my observations…

Noticing changes, defining behaviours, observing differences… For Tom, and maybe for many others, this behaviour arises out of a need to feel secure with whats going on around me. If I label something I can contain it and understand it, and therefore master my feelings for it. It’s a useful tool in some respects and totally foolish in others. For example, free extra services, and speed of repair at opticians in Taiwan have left me baulking at ever going to a UK optician again. Thats retarded. However, the pleasure of driving ettiquette (although merely a decorative driving touch) means I can’t conceive driving through the 'chungle (Taichung) ever again.

And then I found that some of my observations were just plain wrong. Some behaviour attributed to Taiwanese society, when in reality the UK were adopting the same things. A case of modernization, rather than a cututral difference. An example: Speed cameras. I thought they were the bane of Taiwan and cursed how they refelcted the lazy nature of the local police. Well they are everywhere in England too. It was the times a-changing. Another example: driving whilst talking/texting on a mobile phone are common now here too.

And then I also found that in some instances I was just plain wrong: Traffic lights in England are not ‘well ordered’, people collect in random stupid places here too (top of an elevator, doorways)

In conclusion: noticing change/difference is useful and useless but its a human trait.

Here is a quick UK one for you: Smoking is banned in offices. So what do people do now ? Smoke at the ENTRANCE to their offices. ATTRACTIVE!

That’s long been the phenomenon in the US. Now some areas outlaw smoking within 50 yards of exterior doorways!!