The sights and smells in Taiwan are almost completely different than where I live in Canada. It’s a lot grayer, with a lot fewer plants. My apartment building has a courtyard with trees and shrubs in it, and there are a lot of potted plants around Taoyuan, but I haven’t seen a lawn yet, which I kind of miss.
Of the dozen or so meals I’ve had so far in Taiwan, two have been home-cooked. One of those was with the French student’s family and mine as sort of a dinner party. The other was a breakfast that was basically a crepe with egg and cheese in it. All of my other meals have been restaurant food. The other exchange students said that it’s pretty similar with them, having had mostly take-out or dine-in.
On that note, for two of the meals that my family took me for eating out, they were at American restaurants. One was a steakhouse, and the other served staples of American and Italian food like burgers and pasta. Both were very similar to what I would have in Canada, but I don’t know if my family often has American food, or if they’re just trying to cater to me. In any case, I’ve always asked to have Taiwanese food.
One of the main things that I’m not allowed to do on my exchange is drive. I’m completely fine with that, because I think that if I drove here, I’d be a hazard to everyone on the island. People are pretty erratic when driving: in between lanes, blowing through red lights, and the such.
Another huge difference is the abundance of moped/motorcycle hybrids called scooters. They’re everywhere. Most intersections have a place at the front of one of the lanes just for scooters, and it’s very much needed. Whenever we’re at a red light, there’re always at least two dozen scooters that pull up. I once saw a woman driving a scooter, with both of her kids (one was ten-ish, the other must’ve been an early teenager) on it with her.
In terms of the language, basically everyone speaks English, especially at restaurants. This includes my host brother, Eric, and my host father, who speak mostly English to me. My partner speaking English to me was why my exchange to France (for two months) was moderately unsuccessful, so I’m going to try my best to improve my Mandarin and speak to my family in Mandarin.
Despite how much of this post inevitably sounded like my whining and complaining, I’m having a blast here in Taiwan, and I’m looking forward to the next ten months. Hopefully that keeps up once school starts next week.