Over the last five months, we have learned a thing or two about survival on the streets of Taipei. Here are a few tips to help you be a bit more street-savvy should you find yourself visiting loved ones in Asia (hint, hint…)
1) Our first tip is a common one in crowded cities. When you bump into someone, as you inevitably will, have no reaction. People will actually look at you funny if you say, “Excuse me”… or maybe that is just my bad Chinese accent. In return, don’t expect any semblance of an apology if you are bumped into, side-swiped, toe-crunched or slide tackled.
2) Traffic lights are merely suggestions. Green means, “Go straight through, you can even close your eyes if you want!” Yellow means, “Go straight through… just faster.” Red means, “You can still make it! Ten points for the man on the bike and fifteen for the old lady with the umbrella!”
3) Scooters are kings of the road… and the sidewalk. Do not get in their way, no matter what. Apparently, no traffic law applies to anyone riding on a scooter. They are allowed to run lights, ride on sidewalks, ride between cars on the roads, and even go the wrong way down one-ways. Don’t forget that there is at least a three-person minimum for riding the scooter as well. It is preferable to have your three-month-old snuggled safely between dad driving and the family beagle balancing on the seat behind him.
4) Use crosswalks at your own risk (see points 1 - 3). A green man walking on the sign by no means gives pedestrians any promise of a secure passage across an intersection. My recommendation? Take tips from Frogger. Also, don’t be above hollering, whistling, or even banging a hood or two to suggest to motorists that they should stay away from you (ask Chris for more details on this one).
5) Watch your step. Though most dog owners pick up after their t-shirt-wearing canines when nature calls, there are still plenty of strays who do not share this pooper-scooping luxury. It is advisable to have a friend trail blaze ahead of you and call back with the fecal report for the morning as to avoid any “tricky” messes.
6) Take advantage of your ignorant foreigner status. If you see someone trying to get people to take a survey or tell you about the specials at their restaurant, make eye contact and smile. There is no way they are going to approach you about your opinion on their costumer service when all they have are Chinese evaluations. Plus, you may be the only person to smile at them all day.
7) Finally, a tip about what to do when you see a white person on the street. If you are Taiwanese, stare in shock and amazement at the size of the foreign person’s nose. How can they even fit anything else on their face? If you are white yourself and you see another white person, wave. Chances are you probably know them.