Strange Behavior

I have been in Taiwan for just over a year and don’t pretend to know everything about it. I go along with the general belief that it is very friendly here and the people helpful. However, a couple of things happened in the last week that could be a coincidence but just might be part of a learning experience. I was taking the train from Taipei to Zhongli. Not speaking Chinese, I made certain about everything in advance: platform 3, train 283, 8.35 pm. Everything checked and I was about to climb on the train which had its doors open when I noticed a security guard (?_) in a blue shirt and dark cap was standing there looking down the train as they do (stood on the platform). I was sure, but as he was there I just asked if the train was for Zhongli. He immediately started shaking his head and pointing to the other side. I was pretty sure, but there he was vigorously shaking his head and barring my entry. Finally a guy in a white shirt from the train came running down the platform and apologetically told me to get on the train.

I dismissed this as ‘one of those things’ but a week later I was in Kaoshiung trying to find the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist museum. The taxi driver wrongly put me down at the monastery and the people there told me I needed to walk further down the road for the museum. I did this and soon came to a huge building with arches that looked like an entrance: busses and cars were going inside. Therefore I walked up intending to go straight in (free entrance). However I was stopped by another security guard (?) in a blue shirt and dark cap again. He spoke no English and I spent about ten mibutes telling him I wanted to go into the museum. He had a lot to say in Chinese and finally he got someone on the phone who could speak English. This person said I was in the wrong place and I needed to walk further down the road and I’d see it on the left. I did this for about 15 minutes and finally decided there was nothing here but a dangerous main road. I doubled back intending to ask for more instructions. As soon as I opened my mouth, the same guard started motioning me to walk on inside! It turned out this was indeed the right place and the right entrance–and I have no idea why they had previously sent me off on a wild goose chase.

Perhaps it is all just coincidence or misunderstanding. But I also wonder if there is something I am not fully appreciating here? In the short term, I have decided to avoid asking questions of people in blue shirts and dark caps (lol)


Yes…you need to learn some Chinese to get around better in the South.


This might belong on the conspiracy theory thread. Anyone know about the blue shirts?



Could be. this might be more like it though.


They’re all in cahoots. This poor guy will never get into the temple.


The blue shirts are only the first stage, I’m afraid.


All hope is lost. :runaway:

1 Like

So many things… security guard maybe, maybe not…regardless, security guards are not someone to ask about a train… ask the train people… whatever he was, he didn’t understand your Chinese and maybe didn’t even know trains… people that assist with train would ask to see your ticket so they can help especially since they don’t understand your Chinglish but they would even do the same request for anyone…

Most everything signage is in English. Try to prepare in advance.

Based on what directions by who? Try to use google maps on your phone and watch where you want to go.

Anyway, it’s all in the same general area.

Don’t always think that a “security guard” stopping you is telling you to do something different especially if you don’t understand the language. He might just be saying, “walk that way” or “the toilets are on the left” and you think he is telling you something else.

Seems like you just misunderstood.

Yes, “Strange Behavior”.

Try to figure it out in advance, and read the english signage which is almost everywhere.

Taiwanese are really helpful. I don’t think it’s that common that you’ll find a spot where someone is telling you to go someplace else, unless you are obviously in the wrong spot, which is due to poor preparation. In that case, talk, ask, appreciate the help.


Thanks. I would point out the above. As for the taxi, I was vague myself about the difference between the monastery and the museum but thought it was all probably interesting. Both are said to be open to the public, but I was turned away as apparently a funeral was taking place.

Anyway, I note that no one thinks there is anything intentional here.


Did you speak to them in English or Mandarin? If it was English, did they understand you?

That’s a no from me, dawg.

If you are speaking in english… there be your problem!

Although trust me taiwanese will sometimes act awkward even if you do speak to them in chinese just because.

Perhaps somewhere in a Chinese-speaking forum, some guy is writing about how he was waiting for a train in Taipei and some foreigner came up seeming like he was trying to force him onto the wrong train.

Strange behaviour indeed!


Hm, I had the opposite, I was in the wrong spot due to poor (no) preparation, but the people there were quite desperate for me to stay.

Good old Huaxi Street :rofl:

1 Like

Fool, no one speaks Chinese in the south. He needs to learn Taiwanese and in at least two dialects.

Simple explanations: the first guy thought you were asking for the train from Zhongli, which of course was coming in on the other side, and the second guy had been told there was some annoying waiguoren wandering around who should be gotten rid of by hook or by crook and mistakenly thought it was you but by the time you came back had found out it was someone else.


I was once a littlle, ahem, tired and emotional and slept through my HSR stop. I was gently woken up coming into the next stop and I did the usual “Where am I? Who am I? What am I doing?” confused panic thing I do when awoken prematurely from a drunken stupor.

The guard helped me off the train and on the platform was another chap who took me to the return platform, waited for the next train, and helped me onto that.

I presume another passenger had booked my seat but was afraid to wake me.


I have not noticed this. I suspect it is something about your demeanor, appearance, or communication style/ability.

Something related happens in that when you are asking for advice they don’t understand what you are asking and just say yes or no (definitively) based on whichever they think will get rid of you (body language and intonation) rather than actually intending to answer your question accurately, but even in most of those cases using translate or image search has resulted in more or less accurate information.

And in that example the operative imperative being for them to exit the interaction - they could not care less what happens to you - which is the opposite of what seems to be going on for you.

Remember that Seinfeld episode where George just does the opposite of his instincts? If this bothers you enough and is happening often enough, try that. Buy nicer (or worse?) Clothes, get a tan (or whitening cream), shave (or grow some stubble), get/get rid of your hat, etc.

People are very judgemental, xenophobic, and racist here (and across most of Asia) - how they manage to, on balance, be so polite, escapes me, but I digress - that kind of stuff really matters to them.

Of course, as I mentioned initially, this also may not have anything (or much) to do with your appearance, and it may be mostly something related to how you behave. One thing I have learned - maybe explaining my quandary in the previous paragraph - is that saving face is HUGE here, much more than other character traits like say, honesty. If you are behaving in a way that seems disrespectful or rude to them (even if it’s normal where you come from - so normal you don’t even notice or consider it as something even remotely possible that somebody would react to) or any other number of ways they could lose face, that could explain the hostile reactions probably better than being shaggy and downtrodden and smelly and so forth (which is one thing you should not try the opposite of if you’re already clean).

Lastly - and related to my previous point - you have to understand how to talk to them, in terms of linguistics. Basically, stick to nouns and verbs. Very simple and short, don’t even consider using sentences or full grammar. Use hand gestures, Google (translate/images where appropriate). You will eventually be able to gauge their language ability and adjust accordingly, just start off learning how to strip away the intricacies of the language and communicate as simply as possible.

My T’aiwan-wei teacher in Taichung in the late 90s literally wrote the book.

1 Like