Things I haven’t learned yet (I)

May 14, 2010

One of the great and enlightening things about living in another country is all the stuff you can learn about the other culture. You learn to like all sorts of new food, watch different TV programs and meet new people. And if you want you can learn a lot about your own culture (The one where drivers know how to drive and sausages, beer and bread just taste better, where quality is valued and where the grass is greener).

For things I don’t understand I have a Weishenme-List, my Why-List about Taiwan.

At the very top of the list is: “Why (on earth) do Taiwanese people have dish dryers and not have dish washers or even laundry dryers?”

I see most people here hang their clothes out on their balcony to dry. Not only that Taiwan is not the Sahara in terms of dryness. Moreover there are hundreds of cars and scooters that drive past that balcony blowing their dirt into the air. The same air that is supposed to be drying the laundry. In a country where humidity is around 80% all the time that can take a while especially during Chinese New Year. When you take the laundry down after a couple of days you could just wash it again – grey from fine dust and still damp. One friend had the theory that it just might be too humid for dryers in Taiwan. I don’t know a lot about the needs of a laundry dryer. My Taiwanese friends don’t know about that either but they don’t seem to miss laundry dryers anyway which is of course quite foolish.

But: There are dish dryers. When I first spotted that thing in my kitchen I thought it was an interesting type of dish washer. Fortunately I didn’t have any detergent at hand to test my theory. Eventually I figured that the purpose of that interesting machine was to dry dishes, not to wash them.

Some people tried to justify that thing arguing that dish towels were very unhygienic. I’m still not very convinced. Especially because I don’t see a point in dish towels either. I just let the dishes dry by themselves, they are pretty capable of doing that. It only takes half an hour and I haven’t seen any scooters or cars in my kitchen yet so they actually stay clean in the process of drying.

Turning this over in my mind again and again it suddenly occurred to me there might be things in Germany (where drivers know how to drive and sausages, beer and bread just taste better, where quality is valued and where the grass is greener) that foreigners who live there don’t understand either.

In my bewilderment I turned to my friend the journalist Klaus (this is his extremely interesting blog about Taiwan) and he was so great to point me out two very entertaining but also educational blogs about Germany. The author of the former is an US-American who used to live in Germany and now literarily digests this time on his blog “Nothing for Ungood“. Even more interesting than the excellently written posts are the comments of the mostly German readers. Of course no mistake will be left without comment. If the blogger complains about the stingy choice of soda and chips in German supermarkets an outcry emerges amongst the crowd of German readers. Counting and listing every type of soda and crisps and documenting that with photos.

The latter is written by an English-speaking New-Berliner who seems to be familiar with the Berlin Mitte scene (“Ich werde ein Berliner“). He tells the Auslander-Reader how “to blend in wiz ze Germans” but not wiz any Germans – no, but wiz ze cool and elite Germans! Unfortunately I can’t seem to find comments on posts of this blog. There might be a reason for this.

Anyway. I learned that we Germans eat 1.7 times faster than Americans, that we look goofy throwing a ball, that in Germany everything is impossible, that Germans are very reluctant queuers (I think I just invented that word) and that we hate convenience (I personally didn’t know what convenience REALLY meant until I came to Taipei). Aha!


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