Taipei is not a pretty city. It looks sort of like the most built-up parts of LA, but the whole city is like that. It’s a very alive city, though – there are people walking around doing things, buying and selling and living their lives everywhere, at any hour. There doesn’t seem to be any zoning – it’s like Houston, with shacks around the corner from fancy hotels.
In some ways it’s rather like the US but more so. You can find anything you want to buy and stores are always open. In some cases, literally always – there’s a 24-hour bookstore, 24-hour department store, 24-hour supermarket, and restaurants are open late. There are lots of strange things for sale – we were in one supermarket with a wide variety of dried fish and there’s a place under the highway right by our hotel with live chickens – but there are also many more American brands than we see in the Netherlands. (At least we were hoping the chickens were being sold there, rather than being raised there.)
There are new smells everywhere. They’re not bad smells, necessarily, but can be overpowering. One taxi had enormous lilies in a vase on the dashboard, and the enticing characteristic smell of a Chinese restaurant is a bit less enticing when it perfumes an entire street.
In the Netherlands, when I ride in a crowded elevator I can’t even see over anyone’s shoulders. Here, most people seem to be around my size, and Ted is a head above the crowd.
I’ll fit in other ways too. The women here dress much more like American women; most wear a top and a bottom, unlike European women who accessorize and layer a lot more. Women here mostly wear comfortable shoes if they’re going to be walking much; I think in Europe adult women are expected to wear proper ladylike shoes, mostly with heels, no matter how far they walk.
After a few disappointments (someone else got in first, or the owner wouldn’t agree to our price) we think we’ve found a very nice apartment – room for us and our stuff (including the weights and the ergs), close to Carrefour, Costco, the river where we’ll row and the highway to work. It’s very nicely furnished, so we’ll only need to buy a few things – sheets, towels, dishes and pots, mostly.
Moving here will be much more daunting than moving to the Netherlands, mostly because of the language barrier. Without speaking or writing Chinese, I can’t even tell a cab driver where to take me without having someone translate. This is not a problem here in the hotel, but will be interesting once we get our own apartment. Still, expats we’ve spoken to have loved living here. It should at least be interesting.