Monday, January 21, 2013,

People who know I've been to Japan before like to ask me "What's the biggest difference between Japan and Taiwan?" Usually I just say "Uhhh... umm... well... the food?" not even knowing what the BIGGEST difference is. Japan and Taiwan are very similar in many ways to a westerner, but SO different in more ways than they are the same. I think I've finally figured out what the biggest difference is, respect.

Japan is an extremely respectful country. If you know some Japanese, you'll know how many languages you have to practically learn before you can be able to communicate with everyone, like three. You have a way to speak to your friends and those who are your age or younger, but to speak to someone older or for the first time you have to change some verb forms and sentence endings. However, in business and speaking to people quite older or of higher status than you, you have another language almost, because the verbs suddenly change, and when to use them also changes depending if you are talking about yourself or about others. Anyway, let's not get into that any further, the point is, the Japanese culture is VERY aware of how to be polite, that even their language is affected. Chinese and Taiwanese, yes they are two different languages, however, only have one form. This is quite a lot easier. Also, unlike Japanese you don't have to worry about disrespecting someone by calling them "you" and not by their name "Mr. Johnson."

It really goes much beyond the language though. Where you can see this difference is out in the real world. As populated and busy as Tokyo is, when I was there if somebody bumped in to me, they would stop, apologize while bowing, and then walk away ashamed. If I was walking and they noticed that they kind of cut me off even, they would do the same. Stop, apologize while bowing, then walk away ashamed. I felt like I was always trying to convince them it was no big deal, saying "Nonono! It's okay!" However, when I was on a street that wasn't even busy in Taiwan, a lady, probably around 50 years old, totally whacked off my hat while swinging her umbrella around, and my hat landed right in a nice dirty puddle of water. She turned around, looked right at my face, looked right at the hat sitting in the dirty puddle of water. What do you think she did next? Had she apologized like people in Tokyo apologized for bumping in to me I would have forgiven her and told her it was fine, BUT after looking me straight in the eyes and looking at my now dirty hat, she simply turned around and walked away. That sort of got to me. I watched for like ten seconds with my mouth wide open as she walked away. Not a nod like "sorry," not even any emotion.

What made me think of this today was I was on my way home from dance on the train, and this guy sat across from me. He was probably just a very strange guy, you'll find out why, but he was taping something on his jacket. He ripped off a little tape and just wadded it up and shoved it in the crack of the seat, then ripped of some more of the bad tape and did it again, and again. I watched him with the face of "Umm... how rude" the entire time. THEN he proceeded to pick his nose. Usually when you see people picking their nose, if they see that you saw them, they try to make it look like they were just itching their nose casually, and then they stop like "ugh, darn it." THIS GUY, however, no. I stared right in his eyes for a whole 15 seconds (which doesn't sound like long, but count it out and picture it, it was way too long.) and he stared in my eyes the entire 15 seconds, picking his nose the entire time. I was astounded. I wanted to see how long he would go for, but I just couldn't watch anymore, I had to look away.

Anyway, some of the similarities between Japan and Taiwan often have me expecting the same respect as in Japan, but people in Taiwan are almost as rude as people in the USA. haha! However, none of these countries have terrible respect problems, but compared to Japan I think the whole world seems like it has terrible respect problems. So, don't think that Taiwan is a rude and scary country! There are just a few people here that are a little strange and might get on your nerves. MOST people are very very kind, curious, and generous. :)

7:21 AM

Saturday, January 12, 2013,

In the USA, you can pretty much expect everyone to have acne at some point in their life, it's accepted as a part of life and growing up. If someone were to comment on your acne, your reaction might be along the lines of "What gives you the right to judge me?! " and it would be very rude of the person who said something to remark on it unnecessarily. Generally people don't go to the doctor after every break out, but if you do go to your doctor, they might give you some suggestions on how to prevent it next time, then possibly prescribe you some ointments or maybe even pills.

In Taiwan it's like, the opposite! If you have acne and you come here, you can EXPECT people will comment on it. It's not because they are making fun of you though OR being rude, it's because they are concerned! I don't have severe acne, I take decent care of my skin, but of course I have the occasional blemish here and there, and I accepted it as part of being a teenager. However, my host mother did not. I actually went to the doctor for eczema around my nose that hasn't appeared since I was in fifth grade, and the doctor told me "First, I'll treat your eczema, then I'll treat your acne." I was shocked, like "What acne?! There is all of one blemish on my face right now!" but I wasn't offended because he's a doctor, and I sure did love the idea of that one blemish being "treated!"

Long story short, don't be offended if you have acne, and someone says something. Acne is regarded as a medical condition and they believe that if it can be treated, it should! Also, the Asian diet is generally much healthier and doesn't have as much grease as the American diet. That's just GENERALLY, but still, the percentage of Asian people with severe acne is considerably less than the percentage in the USA.

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6:03 AM

Wednesday, January 9, 2013,

For those of you who were unaware, Rotary generally gives exchange students three host families.
The only requirements for a host family (aside from serious background checks and interviews) is to have a bed for you, and to provide three meals a day. You live in their house and become a part of their family. Although you can bring your culture into their home, you learn how to do things their way, and adapt to their family. However, they are also assumed to do much more. Rotary officials assume that host families will teach their exchange student the host language by speaking to them in it, and they are also expected to treat you like part of the family. Rotary Youth Exchange has been around for quite some time now, and I assure you they have the system down. If there is a problem with the host family, just tell Rotary and they will find you a new one faster than you can pack your stuff up. If they can't find one right away and it's a serious problem, they will just take you in themselves. There is also no incentive for students to keep this to themselves because if there is a problem with the host family and not you, they will find you a new host family. They aren't going to send you home! Really the only way students can get sent home is if they make serious mistakes, if they get seriously sick, or they seriously want to go home. So, don't be stupid, and take care of yourself!

Anyway, I just changed to my second host family about two weeks ago! I was actually a little unhappily surprised when they gave me a room that had a futon on the floor as a bed. I'm kind of embarrassed now that I even thought I was too good for a futon! These past two weeks I have felt better when I wake up than I ever have before! I'm addicted. (: My room is very Japanese, because in addition to the futon on the floor, I also have a sliding rice-paper door. Although with a modern twist because I have a TV, keyboard, and a floor that totally rises up into a table! Way cool.

8:47 AM

Merry Christmas!... A little late, but never TOO late. If it's late enough then it's just really early, that's all.

Christmas in Asia, due to religion, is primarily a commercial holiday. Not sure of the actual terminology, but you know, the holidays that are there just so businesses can make money!
In the USA, Christmas usually means no school and lots of gifts, lots of decorations! In Taiwan, the biggest cities, Taipei for sure, have a lot more Christmas decorations than one would imagine! There are several large Christmas trees and blocks and blocks of Christmas lights on the trees! If it's not a family owned store, it will most likely have Christmas decorations as well. So apart from no houses having Christmas lights, it seems like the jolly ol' Christmas spirit is there! That is until you go to school on Christmas and don't get any presents. That's nothing to be upset over, though. Actually several of my good friends traded gifts with me, because they know it's a Western thing. Rotary certainly prepared me to know not to expect the same things, so I wasn't upset at all.

There are still Christians and Catholics in Taiwan, but from what I've seen they don't do Christmas like westerners. They might go to church, but they don't have Christmas trees, stockings over the fireplace, or cookies out for Santa Claus.

Hope you had a great holiday, no matter what you celebrate or how you celebrate it!

8:26 AM