Originally, I was going to post this in another topic in response to another poster, but I thought it warrented a topic of its own.
Let me start by saying that I always thought of myself as a world class Luchi (road idiot) before I came to Taiwan. I got lost all the time. When someone could randomly point out where North is when they’re sitting in a room, that was as befuddling to me as a David Blaine magic trick.
Further, I think analysis of the differences between Taiwanese people and Foreigners leads nowhere, and coming to any real conclusions is about as easy as nailing jello to a wall.
That being said I think I’ll do it anyway. In another topic, one poster felt that a Taiwanese person wanted to drive him somewhere rather than give directions because the Taiwanese person may have felt that the foreigner was too thick to understand directions. In my opinion, you’re dealing with a whole different can of monkeys than superiority complexes. I run into this problem all the time. I give simple directions that can’t be followed. I want to meet someone somewhere but they don’t know where it is. I ask someone if they know where I can find X and they say, “well there should be many around”, but can’t name one.
Basically, there are a lot of people in Taiwan with no sense of direction.
I think some of the reasons for this are:
- In most Taiwanese families, responsibilities are clearly divided. Dad is in charge of this, Mom is in charge of that, etc. If it ain’t in their area of expertise, they don’t know nothin about it. In general, westerners are more likely to have a little knowledge about all areas of day-to-day life (although certainly not always). For example, I don’t cook at home, but I know which grocery stores carry what kind of stuff.
- Generally speaking (all of this is very generally speaking), many people use geographic navigation rather than spacial navigation or navigation based on maps or streets. You very often hear someone say something like, “drive past Sogo and turn at the McDonalds.” rather than, “take a right at Chunghsiao, go through three red lights and take a right at Fuhsing.”
- Lots of people don’t drive and it more difficult to have a good sense of direction when large distances are involved if you don’t drive.
- In my experience, people rarely go to places they have never been in Taiwan. What I mean is, in Taiwan, you grow up accompanying your family to places, then you go around with friends and/or co-workers. If you go somewhere new, often it is because someone takes you there. Many people have few opportunities to hone their navigation skills.
- Taxis are cheap in Taiwan and their use is widespread. Taxi drivers know their way around pretty well despite all the flack they get. This lifts a lot of the burden of knowing how to get where you are going.
Their are also some deeper cultural issues involved, but I have work to do and this post is dragging on. This issue gets me because I run into it daily. People don’t want to give me directions because they can’t. They are worried I will get lost or are amazed if I can find a place. When in groups, we have to spend a lot of time making sure everyone knows how to get to the place we’re going. I have to drive out looking for people who get lost coming to my house (thank god for cell phones). Anyway, it’s a pain in the ass, especially considering Taipei is one of the easiest cities to get around in that I have ever lived. The bigger problem I see is that many people in Taipei don’t know how many cool places (restaurants, clubs, museums, etc.) there are in Taipei and Taiwan and don’t take full advantage of the city or the island. Sorry for the rambling nature of this post, but I have a bad case of toxic computer/Internet eye and brain syndrome. I hear its going around.