Read this guide to find fun, historical, and cultural facts about Taiwan.
I’ve lived in Taiwan for more than 5 years and have learned a lot. I want to share a bit of what I’ve learned. To help you learn more about the country.
Throughout this guide, you’ll find the following:
Read on to learn more.
8 Taiwan Fun Facts: Taiwanese Lifestyle #
The following sections will cover uncategorized facts about Taiwan.
1. Taipei 101 Was the World’s Tallest Building
Taipei 101 was the world’s tallest building from October 2004 until 2007 . When the Burj Khalifa took its place.
In 2023, Taipei’s 101-story bamboo-shaped tower sits in 10th place on the list of the world’s tallest buildings .
The skyscraper’s bottom floors serve as a shopping mall. The 13th through 84th floors are office spaces. And everything above are tourist attractions. I go more in-depth in a separate piece.
The 89th and 101st floors are observatories, restaurants, and the tuned mass damper. The last thing isn’t designed for tourism. As it helps protect the structure from wiggling during an earthquake or typhoon.
Learn what Taiwan’s real name is.
2. Taiwan’s ‘Official’ Name Isn’t Taiwan
Taiwan’s constitution labels the nation as the “Republic of China (ROC).” Or 中華民國 (Zhōnghuá Mínguó). However, most of the world knows the country as “Taiwan.” No matter the side of the Taiwan Strait issue.
The China everyone knows is officially the “People’s Republic of China (PRC).” The only difference between these countries is the word “People’s.”
I will not cover the politics surrounding both countries and their names. But I will present another interesting fact.
3. 2.4% Of Taiwan Is Natives
2.3–2.4% of Taiwan’s population are indigenous peoples. Whereas, the Han ethnic group make up 95% and new immigrants make up 2.6% .
When I mention Han Chinese, I also refer to subgroups like the Hakka people.
The indigenous folks are spread throughout 16 tribes and have different settlements throughout Taiwan. They were here before all the colonists and migrants settled on Taiwan. But over time, their control over the island fell.
Moving on to something positive.
4. Taiwan Convenience Stores Are Actually Convenient
Taiwan’s convenience stores give people access to goods and services like:
- Free Wi-Fi
- Mail delivery & pickup
- Ticket purchases
- Bill payments
They have several large chains that include 7-Eleven, Family Mart, OK, and Hi Life. And they’re literally on almost every block. In cities.
In the countryside, they’ve been launching convenience store vans or trailers to reach rural communities.
I’ve used convenience stores for most things throughout my stay in Taiwan (e.g., paying bills). And I’m thankful they’re here.
If you’re in Taiwan and have piled on a bunch of trash. You’ll need a way to get rid of it.
5. Taiwan Garbage Trucks Play Music
As Taiwanese garbage trucks approach pickup spots, they’ll play one of these songs:
- Für Elise by Beethoven
- The Maiden’s Prayer by Bądarzewska-Baranowska
Here’s what it’s like to see the yellow(ish) trucks approach:
A recycle truck will follow the trash trucks on most routes. I’ve heard 1 recycling truck play music, but I can’t find the song’s name. And since I don’t live by that route anymore, I can’t record a video of that specific truck.
Trash collection also serves as a type of social gathering occasion. People talk about their days or whatever.
Want to hear about something cool?
6. Taiwan Has More Than 15,000 Temples
There are more than 15,000 Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, and Chinese folk temples spread throughout Taiwan’s cities and countryside.
Most temples or gates have fascinating architecture. On many temples, you’ll see arrangements of ceramic or clay human, animal, and mythical creature statues. Otherwise known as chien nien.
These arrangements help give insights into Chinese myths, literature, history, and other stories. All temples will have varying arrangements. The stories they tell will differ.
Many temples serve as areas for people to pray to guardians of neighborhoods or communities. Otherwise, temples are used for giving offerings and communion.
Here’s another story.
7. Bubble Tea Came From Taiwan
In 1986 Taiwanese entrepreneur Tu Tsong He experimented with mixing fen yuan (粉圓) with green tea. From there, he added large black tapioca balls in milk tea.
Tu opened Hanlin the same year [4 HTTP link & Chinese-only text]. 2 years later, Chun Shui Tang opened in Taichung.
They also claimed the status as “the inventor of bubble tea.”
A 10-year court battle pursued and led to Tu saying something along the lines of, “it doesn’t matter who created it. [5 Chinese-only text]”
3 Taiwan History Facts #
These sections will talk about interesting historical facts about Taiwan.
1. Taiwan’s Past Name
Between the 13th and 17th centuries, Portuguese settlers came in contact with Taiwanese indigenous people and named the island Formosa.
Come 1642, the Dutch and Spanish colonists lost control of the island to the Qing Dynasty (ancient China). Han Chinese immigrants fled to the island and renamed it to Taiwan.
I guess in 1885 it became the Republic of Formosa for a year until the Japanese Empire took control of Taiwan. After the Sino-Japanese war. Their rule lasted until 1945, and they stayed with the name “Taiwan.”
The fallen Japanese Empire transferred the rule of Taiwan to the Republic of China, which the Kuomintang (KMT) led. After losing a civil war to the Chinese Communist Party, the Republic of China fled to and claimed Taiwan.
Today, Taiwan keeps the official name “Republic of China.” Whereas, China uses the name, “People’s Republic of China.”
Speaking of the KMT.
2. Sun Yat Sen (The Nation’s ‘Father’) Only Visited Taiwan Three Times
Despite being considered the nation’s founding father, Sun Yat Sen allegedly visited Taiwan 3 times. 1900, 1913, and 1918 .
In 1924 there was a time he visited Keelung Harbor, but didn’t leave his boat.
While I’m uncovering history, Taipei City wasn’t always Taiwan’s capital.
3. Tainan City Was Taiwan’s Capital City
Southern Taiwan’s Tainan City was Taiwan’s capital from 1683 to 1887 under the Qing Dynasty .
Once Japan took over Taiwan, Taihoku (current Taipei) became the colony’s capital. Once Japan surrendered Taiwan to the Republic of China, Taihoku changed back to Taipei. And it became the capital.
4 Taiwan Culture Facts #
The following sections cover interesting cultural phenomena that happened in Taipei throughout the years.
1. Betel Nut Beauties
Around the 1980s, betel nut shop owners employed women and had them wear skimpy outfits. These women would then stand outside the shop and entice passing drivers to buy betel nuts.
Or you’ll see these women sitting inside glass boxes taking apart betel nuts.
Many girls found this gig an excellent way to get money due to dropping out of school or not having the best education. However, many Taiwanese people looked down upon many in these positions.
The business itself wasn’t ripe with prostitution. It may have happened in a few instances. But it’s not common. Nor are they places primarily run by gangsters.
In 2002 local governments began enforcing dress codes. Laws then erased betel nut beauty advertising. As it prevented girls from wearing outfits that were “too revealing.”
Here’s an interesting TEDTalk that covers betel nut girls in-depth:
I haven’t seen any betel nut girls throughout my time here. It doesn’t appear many betel nut businesses are ignoring the laws.
Here’s another NSFW part of Taiwanese culture.
2. Taiwan’s Funeral Strippers
Since the 1980s, many Taiwanese families hired strippers to perform at funerals. To celebrate the lives of the deceased and attract mourners.
You’d see these strippers on stages or dancing on stripper poles built-into jeeps (NSFW video).
I once drove by one of these funerals. But it only happened for a second. So I didn’t see much.
These funerals aren’t as common nowadays. But I don’t think they’re banned. I know these funerals can’t have FULL nudity nowadays. I suppose they’re not strippers at that point.
In 2017, 50 pole dancers brightened the gloomy mood of a Chiayi politician’s life . They were the ones dancing on jeeps.
I’ll stop talking about NSFW stuff now.
3. Various Ghost Month Taboos
Some of Taiwan’s most popular ghost month taboos include:
|Taboo||Why It’s Bad|
|Avoid traveling along bodies of water||A water ghost may get you|
|Don’t fish||You may catch a ghost that morphed into a fish|
|Don’t whistle in the dark||Attracts evil spirits|
|Avoid singing at night||Also attracts spirits|
|Don’t take photos at night||A ghost may photobomb you|
|Avoid taking the last bus or train||So a spirit won’t kidnap you|
|Don’t lean against walls||Spirits may absorb your energy|
|Avoid hanging clothes to dry outside||Ghosts may possess your clothing|
|Don’t celebrate birthdays at night||Ghosts will appear once you blow birthday candles|
Taiwanese also refer to ghosts as Good Sisters (好姐妹) or Good Brothers (好兄弟).
Ghost month happens throughout August. When all the spirits enter our realm. Once September arrives, those spirits return “home.”
One more thing to cover. Then you’re free from this post.
4. Everyone Calls Everyone Aunt, Uncle, and Similar Terms of Endearment
It’s common in Taiwan to see younger people refer to elders as “aunt,” or “uncle.” 阿姨 (āyí) means a mother’s sister. And 叔叔 (shúshu) refers to a father’s younger brother.
Thus, they translate to “aunt” and “uncle.” Don’t worry if you’re like me and encounter random people who call you “uncle” in English. They’re likely not long lost relatives.
It’s a sign of respect and friendship.
Despite being a young country and a tiny island in the Pacific, Taiwan has a load of cool facts that make it stand out from other nations.
I highly recommend visiting Taiwan at some point if you haven’t already. It’s safe and somewhat easy to navigate.
I can help you prepare for your trip with various Taiwan travel guides I’ve crafted. Check them out.