Taipei is the capital city and largest metropolitan area in Taiwan. It was founded as a treaty port by Japan during its rule over China, but it became part of mainland China after World War II until its return to Chinese control in 1949. The name “Taiwan” comes from an aboriginal word meaning “big island” or “great land.” In 1895, Japanese forces invaded Taiwan and established the first colonial government. After losing the war with Russia in 1905, Japan ceded sovereignty over Taiwan to Germany under the Treaty of Shimonoseki. However, this agreement did not include any provisions for the German military occupation of Taiwan; instead, the Germans were allowed to establish a protectorate on the island. The following are some of the things I didn’t know about Taipei:

*The national dish is stinky tofu

When you get to Taipei, you will be surprised that stinky tofu is the main dish at most restaurants. Stinky tofu has been around since ancient times when people would ferment soybeans into bean curd, which they then used to make dumplings called xiaolongbao. This process created a powerful smell, so people started using other ingredients, such as garlic and ginger, to mask the odor. Today. Many restaurants serve stinky tofu in Taipei because it tastes good and smells great! So, if you are planning your trip to Taipei, don’t forget to try out some stinky tofu!

*Mandarin is the national language of Taipei

The national language of Taiwan is Mandarin. Although English is widely spoken throughout the country, most businesses only speak Mandarin. If you want to communicate effectively with locals, learn to say hello, thank you, please, excuse me, goodbye, etc., in Mandarin. You can also use Google Translate to help translate words and phrases into Mandarin. You should know this because even though you may understand what someone says, they might still misunderstand you due to cultural differences. For example: “Ni hao” means Hello in Mandarin, so you need to understand that before talking to them.

* There’s no need to tip waiters/waitresses

In Taiwan, tipping isn’t customary unless you’re dining at a high-end restaurant where service charges have already been added to the bill. Wait staff usually expect tips based on the quality of food and service provided. For instance, if you order a $20 meal, you’ll probably leave between 10 – 20% depending on the waiter’s performance. But if you order a $100 dinner, you won’t need to give anything extra. The most exciting part is that if you decide to tip, you can choose whether to add more money directly to the check or write a separate note indicating how much you’d like to pay. Either way works just fine.

* You can buy alcohol without ID

If you plan on drinking alcoholic beverages while visiting Taipei, you must show proof of age upon entering bars and clubs. There are two ways to prove your age: 1.) Bring a passport or driver’s license, and 2.) Purchase a drink card. A drink card costs NT$150. Once purchased, you can buy drinks up to three times per day. You receive one stamp on your card each time you purchase a drink. You can redeem your card for free drinks when you reach three symbols. To avoid getting caught buying alcohol illegally, keep track of your cards’ remaining number of stamps. Also, remember to bring photo identification along with your drink card.

*white symbolizes death

In Taipei, white symbols represent death. It’s common practice to put these signs outside funeral homes and cemeteries. They signify that there are deceased bodies inside. However, this doesn’t mean that funerals take place every single hour. Funerals typically happen once a week but sometimes twice a month. This is a bit different because the white color in other areas represents peace.

*Taiwanese love dogs

Dogs are considered family members here. People often feed their pets leftovers from meals and snacks. Some families even sleep together under the same blanket. Dogs are treated almost like children and are given names, too. One thing about Taiwanese dog owners is that they tend to spoil their pups by giving them expensive toys and treats.

*Coffee tastes better than tea

Tea has long been associated with China. However, coffee was introduced to Taiwan after World War II. Coffee beans were brought over by American soldiers stationed in Taiwan. Today, coffee is widely consumed throughout the country. While both types of beverages taste great, some prefer coffee over tea.

*Chinese culture influences Taipei life

Chinese culture plays a significant role in daily life in Taiwan. Many Chinese restaurants serve dim sum as well as dumplings. Traditional clothing, such as qipao dresses and cheongsam suits, are still worn today. Even though modern technology has taken hold, traditional music remains popular among young adults. The Chinese culture has influenced how we think, act, and behave. The most notable example is how we eat our food. We use chopsticks instead of forks and knives. We also enjoy eating rice dishes usually served at dinner time.

*The locals are friendly

When traveling abroad, it’s essential to be aware of cultural differences. In Taiwan, people are generally very kind and helpful. If someone needs help finding something, they will ask around until somebody knows what they’re looking for. Locals are always willing to lend a hand when needed.

*You can get married in any church

Marriage ceremonies aren’t limited to only Christian churches. You can marry in Buddhist temples, Taoist shrines, mosques, synagogues, and more. If you have an official marriage certificate, you can tie the knot anywhere.

*There are no traffic lights

Traffic signals don’t exist in Taiwan. Instead, drivers rely on stoplights. These red-and-green lights indicate whether lanes should move forward or backward. Drivers need to obey all rules posted on roadways. Violators may receive fines up to NT$10,000.

*It takes two hours to cross the border between mainland China and Taiwan

To travel across the Taiwan Strait, you must first go through customs. Once your bags are inspected, you’ll board a ferry boat to make the crossing. Crossing the strait takes approximately 2 hours. Many ferries are available, so travelers shouldn’t worry if one isn’t running on schedule.

*People wear hats indoors

It may seem strange to see people wearing hats indoors. However, this practice dates back hundreds of years ago. It started as protection against sunburns but eventually became part of everyday fashion. Nowadays, men and women alike sport headgear while walking down the street.

Final thought

Taiwan is a beautiful island that offers visitors plenty of things to do and places to visit. Whether you plan to take Flights to Taipei to spend just a few days or several weeks here, there’s bound to be something interesting for everyone. So pack your bags and start planning!

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Carmine Brinson
Extreme beer advocate. Typical music nerd. Analyst. Subtly charming twitter fanatic. Web lover. Spent several months building cellos in Washington, DC. Spent two years building jungle gyms in Suffolk, NY. Spent the 80's testing the market for mosquito repellent in Bethesda, MD. Spent several months writing about fatback in Mexico. In 2008 I was creating marketing channels for hula hoops in the aftermarket. Was quite successful at testing the market for shaving cream for fun and profit.