Monday, August 13, 2007

Taiwanese Grad Student Culture

In Taiwan, graduate students spend long hours in the lab. Not only do the work hard, but school is also the recreational hub. Athletic facilities, fast internet, and free air conditioning contrast the typical small studio apartment. They don’t usually spend too much time at home.

Takeout food from small (usually specialty) shops is extremely cheap, and the students rarely cook. Prices range from 50-100 NTD the equivalent of $1.50 - $3.00 USD. [Current exchange rates 1 USD = 33 NTD (New Taiwan Dollars)]. Food, either takeout or at the dining hall consists often of a meat or tofu with rice or noodles. Optional vegetables are commonly cooked. Hot soup is very common. Actually, I’m consistently amazed by how insatiable people’s appetites are for temperature hot food. A cold drink is commonly served only at the end of the meal. Plus, hot food here is basically boiling, and certainly no relief from the extreme heat and humidity. Also curious, I rarely see people wearing sunglasses.

Apartments are also inexpensive compared to US rates, but keep in mind graduate student stipends are proportionally less. One friend said the class structure in Taiwan is like an “M”. Large upper and lower classes, very little in the middle. Downtown large department stores carry expensive designer clothing. The style is actually interesting. Designer retailers rent a 50-500 square foot area inside a large store. The analogy is that malls and their substores are supersized in America.

Karaoke, or KTV, is done differently here than in the US. Instead of broadcasting to an entire bar, a group of friends essentially rent a living room for a private party. The Karaoke building has a hotel feel from the lobby and hallways. Floors have a dozen or two small rooms where friends hang out and sing. Also in this small living room style, it’s possible to rent a movie of your choice and have a private screening with your friends. This makes up for the commonly small apartments.



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