6 Times I was a Stupid Foreigner in Taiwan

Being new to a country, or rather a continent as was the case when I arrived in Taiwan, a few bumps along the road are inevitable. Yet couple that with my inability to speak Chinese, my scatty nature and you find yourself with a full blown recipe for disaster. The result? An exponential increase in the regularity of my “blonde moments.” Here are just a few I thought I’d share with you:

  1. I insulted my host’s mother as soon as I met her

During first two weeks in Taipei I used the “Couchsurfing” app (an app that connects open-minded people with sofas and penniless tourists) to tide me over until I found a flat. In other words, I stayed with strangers I found on the internet. Just as my taxi pulled outside my host’s address my phone decided this would be an opportune moment to die, and neither I nor the taxi driver were sure which house was right. Suddenly a middle-aged woman emerged from one of the houses, yelling and gesticulating wildly (perhaps this is an exaggeration on my part but at this point all Chinese was shouting to me), motioning for me to come into her house. Then the taxi driver joined in on the commotion while I stood in the middle, not understanding a clue of what is being said but refusing to budge. Minutes later my actual host rounded the corner and it transpired that this “madwoman” was in fact her mother. Not exactly the best start.

  1. I waited under a thermometer waiting for my ticketed number to appear

Bright-eyed and bushy tailed on my first day in Taiwan, I arrived at the Immigration Office to take care of some bureaucratic necessities. Collecting my number from the ticket dispenser I prepared myself for a long wait, as the LED screen right above it indicated there were roughly fifty people ahead of me. Ten minutes later I glanced at the screen, which to my confusion read 16, lower than when I had first arrived. Not unlike a headless chicken I spent a few minutes pacing back and forth until I eventually discovered a whole other section around the corner. Then it clicked. I had been waiting under a thermometer.

  1. I mispronounce my Taiwanese friends’ name on a regular basis

“Yoguahh?” “Yoguoohh?” Oh I give up. My tongue is just not flexible enough. To sidestep the aforementioned situation , my preferred strategy is to refer to my Taiwanese friends as “you” on a regular basis, hoping they will mistake this as a term of endearment. “Oh hey you!” You’d be surprised how long you can get away without actually using someone’s name. Although now I may have blown my cover…..

  1. I make inappropriate jokes that fall flat on their face

Coming from Ireland, where nearly every second sentence that comes out of our mouths is sarcastic and almost no topic is out of bounds (political correctness what?), having a ripe sense of humour is a must. Personally, my most relied upon brand of humour is to turn everything dirty. Childish I know, but it keeps life interesting and the source of material is limitless. Within my first few days in Taiwan I realised some self-censoring on my part was going to be necessary. The moment of enlightenment occurred while I was at a dinner and, my tongue loosened by a glass of wine, I made a double-entendre joke that would at least have earned a chuckle at home. This was instead met by confused stares, the odd dirty look, and the dawning realisation that I had made a grave mistake. Note to self, keep all jokes PG.

  1. I mistook a stranger wearing a surgical mask for someone I knew

 Ok, this is one I’m hoping to get some agreement on. Surely I can’t be the only one?

Said incident occurred one morning while I was in a lift in college. Admittedly hung-over, I had been clubbing the previous night and had met a fellow student who insisted that if I ever see her in college I simply must say hello. Sharing the lift with me was a girl wearing a surgical mask (fairly common in Taiwan) and I somehow got it into my head that both girls were one and the same, although I wasn’t actually sure. Fear of being impolite getting the better of me I launched into one-sided conversation, the confidence in my decision waning by the second. This sinking feeling was confirmed when we both got off on the same floor. Exiting the lift she removed her mask and revealed her face, before staring at me pointedly and walking off. Not my finest moment.

  1. For two weeks I lathered myself in shower gel thinking it was moisturiser

When I first moved into my flat I bought one of those huge one litre pump bottles of Dove shower gel that seem to be so popular in Taiwan. Given that I now owned a lifetime supply of shower gel, I logically assumed that the extra smaller bottle could only be moisturiser. For the next two weeks I slathered it all over my body, slightly perplexed at the fact that it never really rubbed in properly and seemed to form somewhat of a dry lather. Eventually the penny dropped and my suspicions were confirmed when I compared both labels and realised the characters were identical.


One thought on “6 Times I was a Stupid Foreigner in Taiwan

  1. valswoollywonders says:

    Ha ha ha ha ha, Oh Ellie, poor you. So good you can look back and see the funny side. Your humour and humorous predicaments are not lost on us. 😂😂😂😂😂 Thank you for writing this blog. We love you. Happy St Patrick’s Day. Xxx


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