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Impressions and lessons from Taiwan trip

November 5th, 2009 · 7 Comments

I’m back from our two-and-half-week trip.

We visited Taiwan. It is a beautiful, vibrant, and super friendly place.

Here is a summary of what I did and learned.

  1. I visited Taipei 101, the world’s tallest completed skyscraper according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Habitat. It has the world’s fastest elevator at 55.22 ft/s. It took about 40 seconds to get to the observation deck on the 89th floor. I was definitely feeling the gravity as the elevator shot up to the observatory on the 89th floor. The building also has a massive tuned mass damper to protect the building from earthquake and strong winds. The tuned mass damper is visible to the visitors inside the building. I was quite impressed by the aesthetics, design, and technology of Taipei 101.
  2. People in Taiwan work very hard. They work long hours. Most workers I talked to have very few vacations days (1 day to 5 days per year).
  3. For a small place like Taiwan, it’s incredible how much they have accomplished economically. For example, Taiwan is a high tech power house. In 2008, Taiwan is Intel’s single largest international market — Intel’s revenue from Taiwan was $9.87 billion! Taiwan’s foreign reserve hit record high of $332 billion US dollar at the end of September 2009, which places it the fourth largest foreign reserve holder in the world.
  4. Taiwan high tech firms are trying very hard to move up the stream from OEM to building their own brands. Acer just beat out Dell to become the second largest PC manufacturer in the world.
  5. Mainland China’s influence is everywhere in Taiwan. There’re a lot of visitors from China. They have deep packets, and they love to visit Taiwan and spend money there. Several China based airlines are flying into the Taipei airport. Locals have very mixed felling: they’re fearful of a potential takeover by mainland China, but they cannot resist the economic opportunities. The China-Taiwan unification is a very contentious political issue in Taiwan. However, in my opinion, the "economic unification" is already taking place. Today’s Taiwan reminds me of Hong Kong in the early 1990’s.
  6. The hot political controversy of the moment is the Taiwan government’s decision to lift restriction on the import of US beefs. The media and the politicians are going crazy to oppose the decision due to concerns about the mad cow disease. They believe that the American beefs are not safe because of mad cow disease. They claimed that the Taiwanese government gave in to the pressure from US government during trade negotiation. Apparently Australia, Taiwan and a few other countries have more strict regulation on beefs than the United States. Should we be concerned about eating USDA Approved beef in the United States? I’m not sure. ๐Ÿ™‚
  7. Taiwan has a National Health Insurance system. It’s a single-payer, compulsory social insurance plan. The unemployment rate is high in Taiwan, but nobody I talked to are concerned about doctor visits. Foreign workers can also get coverage under this plan. I was very impressed by Taiwan’s national health insurance. I wish we have a similar program in the United States.
  8. Many people wear surgical masks in public to reduce the risk of contracting H1N1 virus. Before I passed custom at the airport, my temperature was taken via a remote sensor. I heard that schools take temperature of each student and employee every morning. Hand Sanitizer was available almost everywhere in the public. Given the dense population and previous SAS outbreak, I appreciate the extra caution and preventive measures.
  9. Moped is a very popular form of transportation in Taiwan. Someone took me for a ride. It was much more convenient and flexible to navigate Taiwanโ€™s narrow roads and traffic  on a moped than riding a car. But, it’s a little bit scary. I’m not sure I will ride moped again in Taiwan. ๐Ÿ™‚
  10. Teachers and civic servants receive very generous retirement benefits in Taiwan. It’s very competitive to get a teaching or government job. Apparently almost every job requires entrance exams. It’s a system that rewards people who do well on tests. I appreciate the fact that teachers get paid well, but I question the narrowly defined, exam-heavy selection process for teachers and civic servants.
  11. The Taiwan education system works their kids really hard. For example, a typical day of a 7th grade starts at 6am. He gets to school by 7am. Finish classes at 3PM. Then, he will have another 4 hours of extra classes such as piano, math, English, etc. He gets home by 7PM, have dinner, then study for another 2 to 3 hours. He will take one whole day of extra classes on Sat. He works on homework for half day on Sunday, and then finally take half day off. I asked the parents why they worked their kids so hard. The answer was that "everyone else is doing it. Our kids will fall behind if we don’t do that same." I guess American kids are really slackers. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Tags: Work/Life Balance

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 aiko // Nov 6, 2009 at 1:30 am

    #1 Tourists love going to Taipei101. But the locals will tell you the true color of Taiwan is hidden in the narrow streets… There's more fun ๐Ÿ˜‰
    #10 and #11 are just like mainland China.

  • 2 GeekMBA360 // Nov 17, 2009 at 1:50 am

    You're right. One of my favorite places in Taiwan is Jioufen, which has a long alley with interesting shops.

  • 3 Marie Cheng // Nov 18, 2009 at 1:09 am

    So glad you had a good time there! The two times I went were for short stays only, and I regret not seeing (and remembering) more. I never got to go up into Taipei 101, but I did enjoy the night markets and the local food.

    Next time come to China! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • 4 Marie Cheng // Nov 19, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Hi, just a typo I noticed in your post – in #11 you mentioned the average 7 year old's daily schedule. I believe you meant to write that his classes end at 3 PM, not AM.

  • 5 GeekMBA360 // Nov 19, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Thanks! You're right. ๐Ÿ™‚ I just corrected the typo.

  • 6 Marie Cheng // Nov 19, 2009 at 5:07 am

    Hi, just a typo I noticed in your post – in #11 you mentioned the average 7 year old's daily schedule. I believe you meant to write that his classes end at 3 PM, not AM.

  • 7 GeekMBA360 // Nov 19, 2009 at 6:06 am

    Thanks! You're right. ๐Ÿ™‚ I just corrected the typo.

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