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Culture & Identity of Taiwan

Introduction

Taiwan is a fairly diverse country, but technology and manufacturing are bringing great jobs and income to the people, while also dictating the way of life on the island to a great degree. Many traditional aspects of the culture survive today, but high-paying jobs are too irresistible and these jobs give the people many opportunities, but they also are dictating the daily schedule and way of life to a great degree.

Taiwan is fairly urbanized as most jobs fall into the industrial or services sectors. In fact only about 5% of the people still work in the agricultural fields and the capital city of Taipei looks and feels like a modern high-tech city that is moving quickly.

It is Taipei and the jobs in the city that are driving the country and ever changing the way of life. Although some people still work in agriculture, the shift to manufacturing has come and Taiwan proved to be a great source for foreign investment and the production of high quality products. This is again shifting to the services sectors as the financial market in the country is now rapidly changing.

The jobs in both industry and service tend to have regular work hours and also tend to be located in the cities. These jobs have working hours from about 9:00 am to about 6:00 pm. These regular schedules dictate the way of life as do school hours. In fact schools can be much more demanding than many jobs, since some jobs leave work at work.

School hours are quite long in Taiwan as most schools start classes at about 7:30 am and end at about 4:00 pm. To make life more difficult, many schools then require a few hours of work to be done at home each night. It is not uncommon for Taiwanese students to be doing school work well into the night, rarely having a chance to relax. The summer break from about June to September is a nice break for most students.

The hard work often pays off in terms of money as the wages and incomes in Taiwan have risen dramatically in the past couple decades and today most people have a fair amount of discretionary income to enjoy their time off. For many young people this is often spent in restaurants, bars, and other social entertainment venues. For others the money is used for better schooling, vacations, or anything that an individual desires.

The higher wages and incomes come at the cost of hard work, and not just as adults, but beginning with school as a child. This is partially rooted in the culture, partially based on societal pressure, partially based on inherent competition, and other reasons. But ultimately, the culture demands respect for elders and pride in children as parents always seek out the best for their children and for many this is believed to come in the form of better education leading to better jobs, better pay, and greater amounts of respect.

Identity

The Taiwanese tend to identify in one of a number of ways. Ethnic minorities generally identify by their ethnicity, but the majority of the people in Taiwan are ethnic Han Chinese and these people primarily identify as "Chinese," "Taiwanese," or both. Those who only identify as Chinese often times identify in this way to indicate they see themselves and mainland China as one country and one people; many of the people who primarily identify in this way seek unification with mainland China. Likewise, many people who only identify as Taiwanese tend to prefer separation from China and to carry on the present course, but with more international recognition and benefits. More commonly, the ethnic Chinese in Taiwan identify as both Chinese and Taiwanese; Chinese being to identify their ethnicity and Taiwanese to indicate their home island. The people who identify in this way, which is a large number of people, generally understand the relationship between themselves, their culture, their food, their history, and the politics between Taiwan and mainland China as they recognize both the differences of the two countries as well as the similarities.

This page was last updated: November, 2013