What are the biggest culture shocks people face when coming to Taiwan?
Thanks for the A2A...I'm not entirely qualified to answer this question as I've been a yearly visitor since childhood, even though I still will do a double take every now and then. It also varies from rural to urban areas (I've been to both but not everywhere). I will try to narrow this list down to "what you wouldn't find in the US"
- "Use your own judgment"-type traffic: Slightly more regulated in big cities, people especially pedestrians naturally wait for the proper lights to change for fear of being run over. But in less urban areas, or more secluded alleyways and pockets in the big cities, you have to be careful with crossing intersections because drivers will make right or left turns basically whenever they feel like it. One of my teachers driving me to the doctor one day passed a red light because there was only one other car in our vicinity. A few minutes later I saw another car do the same thing. They also have no trouble edging up super close to sidewalks (if there is a sidewalk), brushing past pedestrians by a hair's breadth and so on. I've gone running like a madwoman because of this (but only once, after that I learned my lesson). There's no real concept or enforcement of "right of way." Why does it work? Why does almost no one bat an eyelash at this? Why does everyone NOT get into lethal and massive accidents? I would guess that everyone who lives there is just used to being a little bit more streetsmart, tuned to evaluating specific circumstances instead of adhering to a general set of rules (and getting chased by the police when they break them).
- Motorcycles as a frequent mode of transportation: a lot, lot more than in the U.S. and this is in rural and urban areas alike. People ride motorcycles like Americans ride bikes. Just five days ago I had to rapidly bolt aside for a motorcycle zooming down a sidewalk when I was walking around in Taipei. My grandparents still use their family motorcycle to buy groceries. The students I taught English to in Pingdong rode motorcycles with their parents to and from school. You get the point! A lot of motorcycles.
- The cheap price and availability of food. 7–11's are on just about every street corner and most individual items there is under $1 USD, mostly varying from snacks and drinks and tea-stained eggs to even a bowl of noodles paired with whatever you want: corn, fish cake, tofu...something like this:
I'm surprised how racist and hostile people are, especially after hearing repeatedly how polite and friendly Taiwanese people are... it seems good treatment is for some but not others.
Also motorbikes ride on the sidewalks, cars honk at pedestrians even when the pedestrians have the walk-sign. There is a significant amount of casual lawlessness, everything from traffic to illegal vendors to random violence (people have bats and knives in their cars).
The shameless love of everything white/western, I'm embarrassed that they're not embarrassed.