Ben gets popular; Other ramifications of politeness; relative importance of New Year’s Eve in Taiwan

First, a brief self-promotional note:  My blog has been blogged!  Someone named Dre is keeping track of blogs about Taiwan, and my blog is the featured blog this week!  How cool is that!  So, if you want to check out other blogs about Taiwan, visit:


Second, I realized I left out an interesting facet of the compliment phenomenon in my last post.   It turns out that they not only refuse compliments for themselves, but also for their family members and close friends.  I kid you not, once I actually had the following conversation (it was in English):

Me (on meeting my friend’s wife): “Your wife is very beautiful.”

Friend: “No, actually, she is very ugly.”

Me: *stunned confusion”

Meanwhile, his wife is standing right next to him, smiling and nodding the whole time.  Ah, the wonders of cultural expectations.

Third, I was trying to get Amanda to go out with me tonight, since, you know, it’s New Year’s Eve and all.   She doesn’t really see the big deal, since it’s not like New Year’s Eve is anything special.  You see, for Taiwanese people, while New Year’s Day is the beginning of a new day in the Western calendar, this is not nearly as important to them as Chinese New Year.  This is true even though no one in Taiwan actually uses the Chinese calendar in their day-to-day life.  If you ask a Taiwanese person what day it is today, they’d say “十二月三十一號” (December 31).  If you asked them what day it was on the Chinese calendar, they most likely wouldn’t have a clue.  They might possibly be able to tell you what month it was.  The only ones who actually would know are the fortune tellers, who use the Chinese calendar in their job.

Where was I?  Oh, yes, New Year’s Eve.  The interesting thing is that New Year’s Day actually is a holiday here, but not because it’s New Year’s Day.  No, it’s because on January 1, 1911, Sun Yat-Sen declared the Republic of China.  And since Taiwan still officially views itself as the Republic of China, it’s a holiday.  The confusing thing is that even though everyone here follows the Western calendar months, they don’t follow the Western calendar year: they have their own special 中華民國年 (Republic of China year).  Since the Republic of China was founded in 1911, that’s year 1.  So we are just finishing up 中華民國九十五年(Republic of China Year 95), and are about to embark on the good ship 中華民國九十六年(Republic of China Year 96).

新年快樂! (New Year Happy!)


5 Responses to “Ben gets popular; Other ramifications of politeness; relative importance of New Year’s Eve in Taiwan”

  1. mitesh Says:

    Learning something new everyday! It’s similar in India too…without the 1911 as year 1…but basically the new year is usually in October/Nov, and only in big cities is there much of a celebration for Dec. 31/Jan. 1…

  2. Jon Says:

    Happy New Year, Ben!!

    I love your articles, and your words are vivid. Excelent~
    I can deeply realize the cultural confusion you encoutered.
    Hopefully next semester I can have more time to get to know American culture and build my networking here 🙂

  3. Bill Says:

    Dear Ben,
    My favorite comment on oriental humility was the statement supposedly made at an interfaith conference by an oriental to a christian: “My miserable superstition is Buddism. What’s your’s?”

  4. Brian Says:

    I like your phrase “Random Ravings from a Roving Rambler”. What made you think of that? It’s almost like the title of my blog.

  5. Sabrina Says:

    Hey Ben… it’s been almost a month since you posted last. Give us something to read!

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