Sunday, 19 November 2017

Why Taiwanese People Love Social Media

Many of us are in some way addicted to social media. Nowadays our politicians tweet, our friends update their status on Facebook, our colleagues send us messages through WhatsApp. There are apps and websites for almost everything: from making friends to dating, from chatting to finding people with similar interests. 

It has gone so far that it is hard to imagine how things used to be when there was no internet. I was born in the pre-internet era (well, the internet existed but it wasn't as ubiquitous as today). I remember using phone booths on the street, reading newspapers in the morning, and being completely cut off from the rest of the world. Times have indeed changed. 

But in Taiwan, people seem to have a particular obsession with social media. According to Statista, in 2016 81% percent of Taiwan's population were active social media users and Facebook was the most popular social network, with a staggering 83% penetration rate. 

By comparison, the social network penetration rate is 75% in Hong Kong, 66% in the United States, 64% in the UK, 56% in France, and 41% in Germany. How can we explain this contrast?

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park In Hong Kong

Although Hong Kong is one of the world's most densely populated metropolises, I don't find it as oppressive and suffocating as many other, even smaller, cities.

The reason is because Hong Kong's urban planning maintained a balance between residential areas and nature. As a matter of fact, about "80% of Hong Kong's territory is still natural, or semi-natural." That's not easy to see if you spend all of your time in Hong Kong Island or Kowloon, but if you go outside of the main financial and shopping districts, you will be stunned by its gorgeous wild nature.

But even within the skyscraper jungle that is Hong Kong Island, the British authorities tried to create parks and playgrounds so as to give residents a refuge from busy modern life. After the 1997 handover the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has so far upheld those policies.




Saturday, 11 November 2017

How Is Customer Service In Taiwan? - My Thoughts Before And After Living In Taiwan

Before I went to Taiwan I had a lot of expectations regarding customer service there, mainly for two reasons.

First of all, I hated customer service in Europe. Having lived in Italy and Germany for several years and having spent time in Greece, the UK and other European countries, I noticed that across the continent a lot of shop assistants are indifferent or rude to customers. Of course, that is based on my experience and on that of my friends, and it refers only to episodes I witnessed or heard about. 

Let me tell you just a few examples. Once my internet provider in Germany changed my contract without my consent. When I went to their shop, I was yelled at and threatened with a lawsuit right away. Later I quit that company, but the point is, whether I made a mistake or not (and I think I did not), they should have cleared up the matter in a nice way instead of being so aggressive. 

One day I was in my university cafeteria, and I saw a student leave his trey with food on a table and go to get something to drink. One of the women who worked in the cafeteria immediately took the trey and threw away the food without asking. The guy went up to the woman and complained. She was extremely rude to him and said he shouldn't have left his trey unattended. So he basically wasted his money, because he had already paid. No one would apologize to him, and he had no choice but to buy another meal.


Friday, 10 November 2017

Back To Blogging, Finally

A few months ago I deactivated this blog because I wasn't happy about it. Over the years I had been writing too many posts about news and politics, and I felt that this was no longer the kind of personal blog I wanted to create at the beginning: a place for me to share my thoughts and experiences about my life in Taiwan, Hong Kong and other parts of East Asia.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Are Taiwanese Nice to Foreigners? A Few Thoughts on Prejudice and Freedom

Years ago I wrote a post about the contrast between the clean MRT and dirty restaurants in Taiwan. Yesterday a Taiwanese user posted the following critical comment:

Read through your paragraph, so you want to spend a little money but experience the luxury, you are telling the joke. Actually, if you feel bad toward this kind of experience, you can go back to your own country, right ? No One Force you to come here, buddy~ If you think the restaurants in your country are much cleaner than ours, then.... you don't even have to torture yourself, just go back and do not waste your time to write down these shit. Last but not the least, come to a new environment, you should learn how to get accustomed to their culture, including learn their language, not just complain all the day. 

You can read my short reply to him here

Now, does the logic of this Taiwanese netizen's comment sound familiar to anyone? Let's compare it with the following sentence: 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Back to Blogging?

It's been a long time since I last wrote a blog post. I have been quite busy and, as most bloggers know, it is very hard to post regularly over a long period of time. That's probably why many blogs such as mine end up being discontinued.

To be honest I have missed blogging, but I just had no time for it, for personal reasons I don't want to discuss here. I have also decided to put more effort into my website china-journal.org, where I write new posts about Chinese culture and history and republish old articles.

As I explained earlier, I felt that this personal blog wasn't the right place to write serious articles. The solution was to start another website. This blog is and should be a platform for absolutely personal opinions, experiences, and from time to time also for weird news. When I write this blog, I just want to relax. I want to write short posts, rants, thoughts, episodes, and that's it.

Although I left Taiwan a long time ago (and I would like to explain why in another post), there are still many things I want to write about. Some of my memories have already faded away, and so have some of the feelings I had back then and which often compelled me to write Taiwan-related posts. Sometimes, when I try to remember the names of streets or people, or the details of things that happened to me, I realize how much I have meanwhile forgotten.

I enjoy blogging and I want to keep this hobby. And Asia is such an incredibly fascinating place. I don't know what's going to happen in the future. The world seems out of control. Trump is insane. Xi Jinping is insane. China threatens Taiwan. I truly feel exhausted and depressed. I knew something about this world was wrong, but at least I believed we had learnt something from history. "Never war again", "never Great Depression again", "never Cultural Revolution again", etc. etc. That's what people used to say. And what do we have now? It seems we are just turning back the clock of history with every year that passes.

Going back to the main point. I hope I can keep blogging from time to time, and although this blog is not what it used to be, I hope that some people will enjoy reading it and perhaps will share their thoughts, too.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Stuck In Macau For One Night

Senado Square

On Friday I decided to go to Macau, a city which in my opinion - as I wrote in the past - is one of Asia's most charming travel destinations. I was planning on staying there for just one day, taking a walk in the afternoon and later meeting an old friend of mine, before returning to Hong Kong at around 11 p.m.

The original idea was to take a ferry in the morning, but because I slept miserably the previous night I ended up leaving home at 3 p.m. The weather was hot and humid, the sky grey. Around one hour later I arrived at the Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui. After buying a ticket and going through the immigration control, I joined the unavoidable long queue largely consisting of mainland Chinese tourists: young and old, fancy and sporty, all invariably holding shopping bags with names of fashion or food brands written on them. 

Riding a ferry from Hong Kong to Macau may seem like an enjoyable and relaxing experience - to those who have never taken one. The reality is quite different. Ferry pilots in Hong Kong either love speed or they are always in a hurry, which is alright as long as the sea is calm, but when it is rough, the unaware passengers suddenly find themselves trapped on a boat which, rocked by the powerful waves, restlessly pitches and yaws.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Launching A New Website - china-journal.org

In this post I would like to introduce my new website: china-journal.org, in which I will be writing about Chinese culture, history and society. 

I had been thinking for quite some time about starting a new website, since I was very unhappy with how this blog has developed over the years. At the beginning "My New Life In Asia" was supposed to be a platform where I could write about my personal experiences and thoughts - which is what blogs have been invented for. Instead, I started to write about Confucianism, politics, culture etc. In the end I totally abandoned my original purpose. 

This created two problems: first, many posts I published on this site are out of place; second, I have no space for a "public diary" as I had envisioned it. The only way to solve this issue was to separate blogging from more "serious" writing by creating an entirely new website. Let me now briefly explain the concept and structure of china-journal.org.

First of all, I decided to reject the logic behind most websites we see on the internet nowadays, which is to attract as many viewers as possible in order to monetize traffic. Of course, this is probably the only viable business model in the internet age, but to be honest, this tends to generate a lot of superficial content whose main purpose is to stir emotions, prompt engagement, and ultimately lead to precious clicks. As a result, whenever I visit my Facebook profile and other social media I am bombarded with videos of cute animals, with articles about uncivilised Chinese tourists or about collapsing roads. One either has to accept the mainstream trends and write similar stuff, or one simply has to reject them, forget about statistics and traffic, and focus on what matters: on trying to share knowledge and to create a community of people who want to think, learn and debate (whether this is possible on the internet, I do not know).