Notes and observations | Taiwan

Taiwan: island of curiosities

Beethoven, bubble tea and vertical cemeteries: life in Taiwan is often funny, sometimes strange, never boring. Don't believe us? Read on ...
A black sky with the constellation of the dragon snakes over several colorful three-story houses. All the windows are brightly lit. Behind the windows you can see arms and legs stretched upwards or couples kissing and hugging.

on behalf of the dragon


Musical rubbish collection

Taiwan had a problem with waste disposal for many years, so officials dreamt up something special. To motivate people to carry their rubbish to the rubbish trucks, they play a famous melody: "Für Elise" by Ludwig van Beethoven. But what sounds funny at first can get annoying after a few weeks.

The pearly tea experience

Black tea with tapioca pearls and milk: that's the basis for bubble tea from Taiwan. You can buy it on almost every street corner and in many different flavours; a few years ago, the trend hit Germany too.

Colourful cuisine

Sure, food is a matter of taste, but if you believe a survey by the US news channel CNN, Taiwan has the best cuisine in the world. CNN attributes this to the versatility of Taiwanese cuisine, which has historically been shaped by Chinese, Japanese and Austronesian influences.

State of statues

Taiwan has a special relationship with its former leader Chiang Kai-shek. After his death, his party, the Kuomintang, erected a total of 45,000 busts and statues of him. Before the monuments were for the most part dismantled, this made Taiwan for a time the country with the highest density of sculptures of a political leader in the world (one statue per 0.8 square kilometres).

The mini dairy

Because Taiwanese people drink a lot of bubble tea with milk, their milk consumption is correspondingly high. Because their own production is not sufficient, they import a lot of powdered milk. In Taiwan, too, people are trying to maximise dairy production. For example, the National Taiwan University has been producing milk on its campus since 1924 - between 350 and 400 litres are produced there every day - probably making the university Taiwan's smallest dairy.

Grandparents on Instagram

A Taiwanese couple, the Changs run an ordinary laundromat, but they are known far beyond the borders of Taiwan. The reason: over the past seventy years, hundreds of items of clothing have accumulated in the shop, forgotten by customers or simply not collected.

At some point, a grandson of the Changs had the idea to photograph his grandparents in the coolest outfits and upload the best snapshots to Instagram. Today, an incredible 628,000 people follow the Changs, who are now almost ninety years old.

In the name of the dragon

Many Taiwanese believe in the twelve signs of the zodiac, so much so, in fact, that it shapes their behaviour. The Year of the Dragon is particularly important. In these years, the birth rate is always particularly high, because people who are born in a Dragon year are said to possess desirable character traits such as luck, power and intelligence.

In the years of the Tiger, on the other hand, the birth rate tends to be lower, as people born in these years are considered to be courageous and energetic, but also to have difficult characters. 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit. The animal stands for peace and prosperity - so it should be a good one.

Compiled by Lena Fiedler