Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Trends in Taiwan

New crazes are sweeping Taiwan like plagues in Egypt, disrupting the economy and threatening to obliterate traditional Confucian values. The most talked-about crazes involve donuts, fare-dodging and gate-crashing.

Deified Donuts

The donut craze, like everything cool in Taiwan, is from Japan. Leading the donut invasion is the Japanese chain Mister Donut. A Mister Donut spokesman said, "We entered the Taiwanese market because our boss came here on a business trip and found every bread product in Taiwan, including sugar-free bread, was filled with sugar. So we knew Taiwanese people had a sweet tooth. When we opened our first store we had week-long lines outside. It's like selling candy to a nation of semi-affluent babies. But we never expected our product to be deified."

At the moment there are only three Mister Donut branches in Taiwan, all in the capital Taipei. People in the south have no access to quality donuts. I spoke to donut activist Hu-Chu Sing. "We built this temple to the god of donuts so we could pray for a branch of Mister Donut or Krispy Kreme to open in the south. We chant, pray and burn incense, and on auspicious days, especially dates with zero - the number of the donut - we hire mystics to perform donut dances. On the 20th of March a mystic in Tainan fell into a trance, and when he awoke he said Tainan would have good donuts within four years. Obviously we are doing all we can to get them here faster. We won't go back to the semi-conductor foundry until we got donuts." So many people are taking days off work to get in line for quality confectionary that the cost to the economy has been estimated at 14% of GDP.

Fare-Dodging

Police say Taiwan’s most anti-social trend is ‘Tiffaning’, and it’s not just the notoriously cheap locals causing the trouble. "It's the coolest thing," said blond Jank Smurff, a South African living in Muzha. "You get on the bus and the fare is 35 dollars, but you've got a palmful of one-dollar coins and you throw in about 27 dollars and there's no way the driver can know how much you put in. Tiffaning is such a buzz." The spiritual leader of the movement is Tiffany Yen, a short woman with a big idea. "I was in a restaurant one day when I decided I didn't want to pay for my food. So I walked out and nothing happened. I did it again the next day. Nobody seemed to notice. I told some friends and they all tried it. We went to a bar and walked out without paying for our diet cokes and popcorn. It's the most fun you can have in Taiwan. The movement began to get bigger and soon people I didn't know were talking about it. They were even calling it Tiffaning. I wanted to see how far I could take it. I was taking English lessons with this cute guy, so what I did was turn up for class and say something like 'Let's just have lunch' or 'do you want to see a movie?' and then I'd spend the afternoon with him learning English but wouldn't have to give him any cash. And he's an English gentleman so he pays for movies and everything, automatically, without even realising he's doing it."

Gate-crashing

Parties, English lessons, family reunions – nothing is safe from the new breed of professional gate-crashers in Taipei city. "Legally speaking there's nothing we can do," said Mayor Ma Ying-Jiu's office, "these gate-crashers can go almost anywhere they like." How does it affect everyday life? "We arranged a private party for our friend," said caring Andrew Philip, an English teacher, "He was leaving Taiwan for ever, we’d planned it to the last detail. Suddenly all these people turned up telling us about their emotional problems and practicing their English on us. They left without paying for the chicken wings they ate. Today I had three people sneak into my English class thinking I wouldn't notice. It's out of control." The most bizarre offshoot of the gate-crashing phemomenon is date-crashing. "I took my girlfriend out for our first anniversary," said Tao Chen Long, a chipset engineer from Gaoxiong. "We were starting dinner when this girl came and sat herself at our table. She stayed with us throughout dinner, a movie and a romantic walk around Da-an park. She didn't even offer to pay and she only left when I invited her to join us for a threesome. It's like she stole my romance. But I'm Taiwanese so I don't feel this problem reflects badly on Taiwan at all. In fact I blame the foreign devils for talking about it."
Politicians I spoke to echoed those sentiments, claiming the problems were a figment of uncultured foreign whimsy.
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1 comment:

  1. Hm...i think the bus fare was 30 dollars, and i had only 24 dollars! Unfortunately , the damn bus driver did notice, but as i did my best to look stupid and ignorant, he mistook me for an American and let me go with a sigh..

    That wasb't on purpose, however, so i can be excused. Unlike Tiffany. It's probably of people like her that Taiwan's economy grows so slowly; i mean, personally she has caused at least 2 restaurants to close down as "somehow" they didn't make their projected income...

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