Hsinchu! (bless you!)

I made it to Hsinchu and found the hotel for my training with no problem. All that worrying did bear fruit, though; I doubleched with a coworker very famliiar wiht the are, and if she hadn’t told me which fork to take at the exit I’m fairly sure I’d have gotten that wrong. The GPS was actually completely correct about that, but didn’t tell me to stay left until the very last second, and anyway it’s not like I would have been sure to believe it. (It has a tendency to tell me things like “go right then make a U-turn” at intersections where “go left” works just fine.) After the training I cabbed to the hotel where I’m staying with another coworker, then we went out for the kind of Italian food where the menu alone tells you you’re in good hands. (When you see truffles in a sauce or meat cooked with fleur de sel, it’s generally a good sign.) I don’t know if the cook was Italian or just spent time there, but the place was decorated with a very Italian sensiblility, no local style influence at all. The server was Taiwanese and it was plainly a family-run place as her kids were running around in the back and up a flight of stairs most of the time. I didn’t get a good enough look to be able to guess whether their father might be Italian.

The class was interesting. The teacher is from Singapore, so English is his first language. He claimed to only speak a few words of Mandarin, but from the phrases he used, I’d say it’s more than that. I understood a whole Mandarin sentence he said, (“Bu shi laoban”, “[You’re] not the boss”) so that was a proud moment for me. The class material was useful, but since this was my first training in a Taiwanese setting with all Taiwanese classmates, the cultural things were even more interesting. For instance when he was talking about how some arguments are difficult to win, many Americans might agree that “customer is king”; I think a lot fewer (and almost no Dutch) would agree that “boss is king”, but the rest of the class plainly did. (Actually, to be fair, both the bosses I’ve had here, one Taiwanese and one from Singapore, are very nice people and quite reasonable.) There were morning and afternoon snacks and lunch was a traditional banquet, a far cry from the miserable sandwiches at my Dutch training a few weeks ago. There were about ten courses, including shark-fin soup. (I ate the broth, not the shark. They’re beginning to be endangered.) The teacher was often smiling for no reason, and it did look to me like a learned cultural behavior rather than just being a naturally smiley sort of guy (Occasionally it came out as the kind of grimace that, on a toddler, would mean a diaper-change was due.) And when he discussed how you decide what to do if the lights go out at home (the class was on problem solving), it was plainly assumed that “home” is in a big apartment building, not a house.

The actual material he taught was good too.

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