By Andrew Crosthwaite
Lost in thoughts of what was "better" in our own countries, we can easily forget how great Taiwan is. Here's a reminder.
The world's tallest building stands as a symbol of Taiwan's progress. 40 years ago, Taiwan was a primarily agrarian society. Now it's an industrialized world leader of high-tech industry and owner of the world's tallest building.
9. Fried Rice
It's true, there are a lot of strange and disgusting foods here. In stinky tofu we encounter something that smells like a hot room full of sweaty arse. Fried rice though is simple, versatile, and Moorish. It is perhaps the finest "eat every day food" in the world.
From Dragon Boat Racing, to the ancient Confucian ceremonies, to having 100,000 fireworks blasted at you in the Yenshui Fong Pao festival, Taiwanese culture is rich and diverse. With so much variety at hand it's only a matter of time before you find some part of this unique Asian culture that you will love.
7. Bin Lan (beetle-nuts)
Okay, it'll rot your teeth and give you mouth cancer. But hey, anything that causes sexy, scantily-clad women to stand inside booths at regular intervals along the highway must be good.
6. Master Cheng Yen (The "Mother Teresa of Taiwan")
In 1966, with the help of a few housewives, this humble Buddhist nun established the Tzu Chi Foundation. Chances are you've unknowingly come across one of their hospitals or colleges. Forty years later she still works tirelessly, not only to improve health and education facilities in Taiwan, but also to provide disaster relief around the world. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, it's surely only a matter of time before the Norwegians bestow this honor upon her.
5. The children
As teachers, many of us are in a good position to appreciate the differences between the children here and those back home. Generally, kids here have an innocence that their western counterparts are all too quick to throw off. A smiling, respectful kid who isn't too 'cool' to let him or herself have fun is the exception in the west. Here it is the norm.
4. Xpat Life
How diverse are the friendships that you've made here? How unique are the stories that you've heard? Now, ask yourself how many of these things would have been possible if we weren't all thrown together in a foreign land. How many of these people would you have had the chance to meet in your home country? For this reason alone, I will always be happy I came to Taiwan.
3. Taroko Gorge
Taroko is awesome: a stunning natural feature that in my opinion must rank as Taiwan's best. Though it may be true that other countries such as the U.S. or Canada have places with more beauty, we mustn't forget how small Taiwan is.
2. 24 hours a day
Whatever you want, whenever you want it. Nothing's difficult in 24 hour Taiwan. Back home in England shops close at 6 p.m. How quaint.
1. The people
Hands up; how many of you speak Mandarin? Now tell me in what way has that ever been a problem? Instead of making us feel bad for our fecklessness with their language, people here feel guilty for not knowing enough English to be able to help us more. Instances of Taiwanese graciousness take place so often that many of us take it for granted. We shouldn't though, because it's a truly incredible thing. I don't know how many times I've needed assistance, only to find some kind local offering to help. And not only do they help me, they offer their assistance with a grace and humility that I've never experienced in any other country. For this reason, and a hundred others, the Taiwanese people rightly take their place as the No. 1 reason to love Taiwan.