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Snow In Europe

Snow looks poetic. White, quiet landscapes, Christmas feeling and children playing on it - that's what we associate with the idea of snow. Some people love snow. Others - like me - love it only when they see it through the closed window of their home. A few weeks ago, a heavy snowstorm raged in large parts of Europe. One morning, I opened the door of my house and there I saw the whole street covered in white. My feet sank into the snow up to my knees, so deeply that I could not walk. Except for the cold, which may or may not bother you as much as it bothers me, snow can cause a range of problems. Even after the snow was removed, salt and sand had been strewn on the pavement, iced spots remained, which were extremely slippery. And in the morning electricity went out, so that I couldn't heat my room. At least, I didn't need to get worried about the food in my fridge; I could simply put it on the balcony. Now that I've come back to Taiwan I

The Myth of the Busy Asian: Time, Money and Social Life

“I hate my job”, “I want to be my own boss” - these are sentences you're likely to hear often in Taiwan. Though I met several people who liked their job, I think that the great majority were extremely dissatisfied with their current occupation. Long working hours, despotic bosses, low wages or unfavourable working conditions are among the main reasons.  One of the things that shocked me during my first stay in Taiwan was that people don't have nearly as much spare time as Europeans. When I was in Europe, I used to meet my friends on different days of the week or on the weekends. In Taiwan, I became acquainted with a completely different concept of time. People are simply too busy. As I explained in a previous post , life in Taiwan revolves around social circles. For most adult people, these circles are represented by family, friends and work. Taiwanese usually have longer working hours than Europeans, but they also have a more strict social hierarchy, with family and wor

Ha-Joon Chang: 23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism

23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism was a must-read for me. As a European who during the last few years has been compelled to hear bad news about the economy of my continent, I wanted to know more about capitalism in order to understand what's going on. And what's going wrong. I never believed the myths neoliberal economists have been telling us for decades now. One thing is the theory, and another thing is the reality. My generation has witnessed the failure of the promise that neoliberals made in the 1980s and 1990s. When Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan turned neoliberal thinking into a mainstream ideology that has been dominating the West for decades, they told us that their economic policy would create more wealth by fostering entrepreneurial spirit. They told us that free market and free trade were the only way to more prosperity, and that government interference, bureaucracy, and 'leftism' were the shackles from which we had to fre

Love or Bread? (愛情還是麵包?) - Family Planning, Concepts of Happiness and "Materialism" in Asia

“ What would you choose? Love or Bread ?” This is the question which parents in East Asia often ask their children when trying to convince them to marry the “right person”. It is a question that reveals some key elements of East Asian culture and mentality. It is well known to Western observers of East Asian matters that in the countries of the Orient family planning plays a much more important role than in the West. When I was in Europe I seldom met people who began thinking about marriage when they were in their early twenties, let alone before they had found a suitable partner. In Asia, the way people think about their future is completely different, and I believe that if we really want to have a deep cultural exchange, we need understand these peculiarities. As I have already explained in one of my earlier posts , in order to talk about and understand a culture, it is necessary to observe it. Observations are based on subjective experiences and therefore limited to partic

Visiting Beijing Without Visa - New 72-hour Visa-free Transit Policy

Beijing at night If you step over at Beijing Capital Airport and you have to wait long for your next flight, you might be wondering if you can leave the airport and take a walk around the city. This is the same question I asked myself a few days ago. I arrived in Beijing from Taipei at 4:00 p.m., and my next flight was at 1:30 p.m. of the following day. I really disliked the idea of idling around at the airport for so many hours, so I decided to try and find out if it was possible to go out without having a visa. The answer is yes. And it is extremely easy. We often hear in the news that China has severe human rights issues, and we imagine that there must be strict control of personal freedom, police everywhere etc. I do not doubt that when you challenge the authorities you will sooner or later get into trouble. And, of course, websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogger are blocked (but, strangely enough, newspapers like Time or Der Spiegel can be accessed without any pr

To Beijing

And so I am going back to Europe after a long year spent in Taiwan. Hopefully I'll come back to Asia as soon as possible. I will fly to Beijing and then to Rome. I have a long stepover in Beijing. Hopefully I can leave the airport and take a walk around. It would be great if I could, though I'm not sure if this 24-hours visa exempt permit really works.

One Year Ago

I was at Taoyuan International Airport. My ex-girlfriend called me. I was surprised. We hadn't been talking with each other for a week. She'd refused to reply to my sms, to pick up the phone when I called her. Then, one day before my departure, she suddenly wrote me a long e-mail, at about 3 a.m. I was happy that she'd called me, although she hadn't come to the airport to see me off. I was so silly. I'd gone to Taiwan for her, and even if she wasn't with me at the moment of my departure, I was still grateful that she was talking to me. "We can be friends," she said. "Why do you call me when I'm leaving to tell me that you just want to be friends with me?" I said. "Yesterday night I was tossing and turning in my bed until I received your e-mail, and then I was so happy, because I thought that we could solve our problems." "We can be friends. This time I mean it." "You always make one step forward and then

Trip to Tainan

Tainan Train Station Last weekend I made a one day trip to the Southern Taiwanese city of Tainan (Chinese: 臺南, pinyin: Táinán), the former capital and one of the most important centres of culture, history and architecture of the island. This blog post is also intended as a special thank to Grace, a Taiwanese friend who was so kind to show me around, and very patient, too. Since Tainan doesn't have an extensive public transport net, Grace picked me up at the train station with her motorcycle, a vehicle that, along with cars, is regarded by locals as indispensable for living comfortably in Tainan. To my great embarrassment, though, I had to admit that I cannot ride a motorcycle. That's why we had to take busses to move around. It was the first time she ever took a bus in Tainan. And now I know why: busses come more or less every half an hour, and service stops early in the evening. No wonder Tainanese snob public transport. Grace had no idea about the routes and about whe