Facts and Statistics
Location: Eastern Asia, islands bordering the East China Sea, Philippine Sea, South China Sea, and Taiwan Strait, north of the Philippines, off the southeastern coast of China
Climate: tropical; marine; rainy season during southwest monsoon (June to August); cloudiness is persistent and extensive all year
Population: 22,858,872 (July 2007 est.)
Ethnic Make-up: Taiwanese (including Hakka) 84%, mainland Chinese 14%, indigenous 2%
Religions: mixture of Buddhist and Taoist 93%, Christian 4.5%, other 2.5%
Government: multiparty democracy
Language in Taiwan
The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese, but because many Taiwanese are of southern Fujianese descent, Min-nan (the Southern Min dialect, or Holo) is also widely spoken. The smaller groups of Hakka people and aborigines have also preserved their own languages. Many elderly people can also speak some Japanese, as they were subjected to Japanese education before Taiwan was returned to Chinese rule in 1945 after the Japanese occupation which lasted for half a century. The most popular foreign language in Taiwan is English, which is part of the regular school curriculum.
Taiwanese People, Society and Culture
Taiwan’s population is mostly Han Chinese who were born on the mainland or have ancestors that were. They are divided into three groups based on the dialect of Chinese they speak: Taiwanese, Hakka, and Mandarin. Taiwan also has a small population of aborigines who comprise about 2 percent of the total population.
Most people in Taiwan have traditional values based on Confucian ethics; however, pressures from industrialization are now challenging these values. Still, some traditional values remain strong, including piety toward parents, ancestor worship, a strong emphasis on education and work, and the importance of "face." Since industrialization, women enjoy greater freedom and a higher social status, individual creativity is regarded as equally important as social conformity and acquiring material goods and recognition is increasingly important.
Some tensions exist between social groups. The majority of people in Taiwan came from or have ancestors who came from mainland China before 1949. They are known as Taiwanese and enjoy the highest standard of living in Taiwan. Because of their wealth and numbers, they also have the greatest influence on economic and political issues.
Mainlanders are people who arrived in Taiwan after mainland China fell to the Communists in 1949. Many Mainlanders work for the government. Tensions between Taiwanese and Mainlanders have eased substantially. The aborigines, who live mainly in rural villages, are the least privileged social group in Taiwan.
The teachings of Confucius describe the position of the individual in society. Confucianism is a system of behaviours and ethics that stress the obligations of people towards one another based upon their relationship. The basic tenets are based upon five different relationships:
Harmony / Group Relations
Due to the Confucian tenets Taiwanese culture is a collective one. There is a need to belong to a group larger than themselves, be it their family, school, work group, or country. They treat people with respect and dignity regardless of their personal feelings. In order to maintain a sense of harmony, they will act with decorum at all times and not do anything to cause someone else public embarrassment. They are willing to subjugate their own feelings for the good of the group.
The Concept of Face / Mien-tzu
The concept of face is extremely important to the Taiwanese. Face is difficult to translate into words but essential reflects a person's reputation, dignity, and prestige. Face can be lost, saved or given to another person. Companies, as well as individuals, have face and this often provides the rationale behind business and personal interactions.
Face can be given to people by complimenting them, showing them respect, or doing anything that increases their self-esteem. Specific examples include:
- Complimenting individuals (be careful not to single out individuals when the work was a corporate effort)
- Praising group (company, school, family, country)
You can cause someone to loose face by causing someone embarrassment, and/or tarnishing their image and reputation. Examples include:
- Direct or indirect criticism of an individual or group
- Giving someone a gift that is beneath their status
- Turning down an invitation or a gesture of friendship
- Not keeping your word
- Demonstrations of anger or excessive emotionalism
In the event that you cause someone to lose face, or someone is embarrassed by circumstances that arise, the best recourse is to appropriate blame for problems that arise. For example:
- Appropriating blame for problems that arise:
- "Perhaps I didn’t explain myself clearly."
- "Oh that kind of thing happens in our country too."
- "I have done the same thing myself."
"Guanxi" – Connections/Relationships
Most Taiwanese business is conducted among friends, friends of friends, and family. Such connections, or "guanxi" (pronounced gwan-she) are developed with people at your own level or of a higher status in both business and social situations. "Guanxi" opens doors, smoothes out problems, and leads to even more connections.Read more about this here > Guanxi.
Culture, Customs and Etiquette in TaiwanMeeting and Greeting
Gift Giving Etiquette
The Taiwanese prefer to entertain in public places rather than in their home, especially when entertaining foreigners. If you are invited to a Taiwanese home, it will happen once you have developed a relationship and should be considered a great honour.
Read more about > Chinese Dining Etiquette
Business Etiquette in Taiwan
Taiwanese value a well crafted message. They appreciate sharing a deep and broad contextual understanding in order for the core message to be delivered and understood. That context comes in the form of words, gestures and facial expressions. Brevity is not particularly valued, especially if it sacrifices something in the delivery.
It is important for people from direct cultures (USA, Germany, Scandinavia, etc), where context is not as highly valued and brevity is crucial, to realize that messages might be misconstrued as rude and the information provided might be inadequate because of its lack of context. People from direct communications cultures should take care to patiently listen for the information needed. Furthermore, a tendency to have few gestures may make it more difficult for the message to be understood so be prepared for questions.
Meeting schedules are not highly structured in Taiwan. There may be an agenda, but it serves as a guideline for the discussion and may act as a springboard to other related business ideas. As relationships are valued, there may be some time in the meeting devoted to non-business discussions. Time is not considered more important than completing a meeting satisfactorily, therefore meetings will continue until the discussion is completed and may extend well past a scheduled end time.
As stated above, people in Taiwan are very indirect in their communication and are as concerned with the effect of their words on others as they are with the content of their communication. They take great care to avoid communicating anything directly that would hurt or offend a colleague as it would cause a loss of "face". They will gently push their ideas forward and wait for others to respond. If they disagree with an idea, they will simply remain silent.
Being a Manager in Taiwan
To ensure successful cross cultural management in Taiwan, it is essential to remember that communication is both formal and somewhat indirect at the same time. Since Taiwan is a homogeneous country, much can be expressed and understood without words. It is often difficult for westerners to appreciate the subtleties of certain situations and cross cultural miscommunication may occur.
Rank and status are extremely important in business. Communication is formal, especially when dealing with someone of higher rank. Treating them too informally, especially in front of their peers, may ruin a potential deal. Do not continue business discussions during meals or social events. Your senior Taiwanese colleague will generally want his subordinates to attend meals or socializing, and business is never discussed in front of subordinates.
The Taiwanese have many rules of etiquette that dictate how people must behave towards each other.
The Role of a Manager
In Taiwan, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees.
Approach to Change
Taiwan’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. Taiwan is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk. It is important for innovations to have a track record or history noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.
The fear of exposure, and the potential of embarrassment that may accompany failure, brings about aversion to risk. Because of this attitude, intercultural sensitivity is going to be required, especially when conducting group meetings and discussing contributions made my participating individuals.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Taiwan is a fluid time culture, and, as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented. People in Taiwan will not want to upset others in order to push through a deadline.
While timescales and deadlines need to be set well in advance and reiterated carefully, it should be understood that these will be viewed as flexible.
Global and intercultural expansion means that some managers may have a greater appreciation of the need to enforce timescales and as such, agreed deadlines are more likely to be met.
To ensure successful cross cultural management, you will need to bear in mind the hierarchical business set up.
In general, the manager may function autocratically and dictate to his subordinates. Management is Confucian style, which means that subordinates are expected to provide unquestioning obedience in return for wise and paternalistic leadership.
Boss or Team Player
If you are working in Taiwan, it is important to remember that in Taiwan there is a significant deference to. This may be a particular challenge in a collaborative or team environment. More recently, this trait has been changing in the younger generations who have found employment in multinational companies and have embraced the idea of teamwork and participation.
When meeting together and moderating ideas, intercultural sensitivity is necessary. It is important to qualify ideas that are raised in a gentle manner, protecting the reputation of those bringing up ideas, so no one is shamed.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Cross cultural management will be more effective if you understand that personal relationships are crucial to business. Taiwanese do business with people rather than companies. Designate the most senior person in your group as your spokesperson. Avoid putting your Taiwanese colleagues on the spot. Taiwanese are non-confrontational. They will not overtly say "no"; they will say "they will think about it" or "they will see". Try to phrase your questions so that they require more than a yes or no response. This will allow you to be certain you were understood. Always provide a way out so that your Taiwanese colleagues do not lose face. Avoid losing your temper or you will irreparably damage your relationship.. The Taiwanese often drag out negotiations to wear you down. If you mention that you have a deadline to conclude negotiations, they may slow down even more to gain the upper hand. Negotiations often continue after a contract has been signed. Deadlines are not strictly adhered to, although they are not typically missed by more than one week. If you are signing a contract, an astrologer may be called upon to determine the signing date. Never sign your name using red ink.
Taiwan related links and resources
* Currency - the currency of Taiwan is the Taiwan Dollar. Use the free currency converter to compare to dollars, GBP, etc.
* Weather - visit Yahoo!'s up to date Weather for Taiwan.
* Dialling Code - the international dialling code for Taiwan is +886.
* Time - Taiwan is +8 GMT.
* Hotels - for accomodation see Hotels in Taiwan.
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