Frequently Asked Questions about Taiwan and Taiwanese People
These Facts about Taiwan are a collection of question and answers about the Beautiful Island.
Where is Taiwan?
Taiwan is an island in the western part of the Pacific Ocean. The Taiwan Strait separates Taiwan from mainland China. Japan lies on the north east of Taiwan, the Philippines on the south.
How big is Taiwan?
Taiwan is about 36,000 square kilometers (13,900 square miles) large. This means, for Americans, that Taiwan is slightly bigger than Delaware and Maryland combined or, for Europeans, has similar size as the Netherlands.
What about Taiwan geography?
The western part along the Taiwan Strait is flat and terraced. This is the area where most of the population live.
The remaining two thirds of Taiwan consist in the rugged lush hills and mountains of the Central Range, with more than 100 peaks more than 3,000 meters high.
Yushan (Jade Mountain) reaches an elevation of 3952 m and it is the highest mountain in East Asia.
Taiwan mountains are steep and, also because of the heavy rains, vulnerable to huge landslides.
Rivers in Taiwan are short but have large riverbeds because of the extreme variations of flow they have in different seasons.
Eastern Taiwan has smaller plains and steep cliffs that plunge into the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.
How is Taiwan climate?
Taiwan is crossed by the Tropic of Cancer, so it has both subtropical and tropical climates.
Taiwan weather is often humid and cloudy. Gloomy days, without the blue sky you would expect in a tropical island, are unfortunately not rare.
Winter is quite short but in the north can be really cold and damp, often with drizzling rains. However the tropical south enjoys warmer and sunnier winters.
Often winter brings snow on the highest peaks (in the past Taiwan had a ski resort, it was closed long time ago).
In late spring (May and June) Taiwan experience a monsoon rain that local people call “plum rain” because is the season plums ripe. Some years it can rains for a whole month, every single day. Really!
Summer is hot everywhere except in the mountains. Typhoons (as hurricanes and cyclones are called in Asia) come from July to October, normally the strongest in August and September.
Taiwan is hit by several typhoons every summer. They bring landslides and flooding but are also the most important water source: Taiwan water supply depends on them.
Taiwanese are used to typhoons and they know well how to cope with them.
Fall is usually the best season with warm and dry days and, eventually, blue skies.
How many people live in Taiwan?
23,300,000 persons live in Taiwan. It is often said that Taiwan, with a population density of 636 persons per square kilometer, is second only to Bangladesh.
But Bangladesh is almost totally flat while the vast majority of people in Taiwan live only in the western third of the island. So the area where actually people live is more crowded than Bangladesh!
This is quite a remarkable fact about Taiwan and one of the reasons why the urban environment is often so crowded and chaotic.
What about Taiwan people?
Taiwan is a real melting pot.
98% of people are Han Chinese, while 2% are Taiwanese Aborigines. The Han Chinese in Taiwan could be further divided in Hoklo (70%), Hakka (15%) and Mainlanders (13%).
The first two groups (Benshengren) came from Southern China from 17th to 19th centuries, the Mainlanders (Waishengren) are the Chinese who fled from Communist China from 1945 to 1949.
These are just theoretical divisions, more and more people, from whichever group, just consider themselves Taiwanese (57%) or both Chinese and Taiwanese (20%)(China Post, 2006).
Interactions and intermarriages are rising not only between the Taiwan people but also between Taiwanese and foreigners: about 15% of all marriages in Taiwan today, are between a Taiwanese and a foreign spouse.
To further stir the pot, a recent DNA research shows that the majority of the population have some degree of aboriginal origin.
Which languages Taiwanese speak?
The official language is Chinese Mandarin, as in Mainland China. Everybody speaks Mandarin, that is taught at school.
Most of people also use Taiwanese in everyday life. Depending on the situation and whom they are speaking they use Mandarin or Taiwanese or even both in the same speech.
Taiwanese is a Southern China dialect, very similar to the one spoken in Fujian.
Hakka is still widely spoken but more and more young Hakka are just able to understand it.
Around 250,000 persons speak aboriginal languages, that are part of the Austronesian family of languages.
Which are Taiwan religions?
Religion is still important for many Taiwanese, temples and churches are a common sight everywhere.
Most of Taiwanese practice what could be defined a “chinese folk religion”, that is a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian beliefs with a strong animistic background.
Many gods and goddesses are worshipped in temples. The Earth God Tu Di Gong and the sea goddess Mazu are the most popular.
Nowadays more and more Taiwanese practice purer forms of Buddhism, the same kind of Buddhism that we know better in the West. Tzu Chi and other Taiwanese buddhist charity organizations are well known around the world.
Christianity, with more than 4% of the population, have a deep influence in Taiwan life (several prestigious universities and hospitals have been established by Christian organizations).
Actually I might say that every religion under the sky has followers in Taiwan and especially all the religions that are persecuted in China, such as Yi Guan Dao e Falun Gong.
Religious freedom and tolerance are the norm in Taiwan.
What is Taiwan official name?
Zhong-hua Min-guo that means Republic of China (R.O.C.). If you send a letter here it is better to write just Taiwan ROC as the country name on the address, to avoid it to be mistakenly delivered to China!
Where the name Taiwan comes from?
The Portuguese, who discovered Taiwan in the XVI century, named the island as “Ilha Formosa” that means Beautiful Island.
The name “Taiwan” came one century later. Originally this name, that means “terraced bay” in Siraya language, designated the area of present day Tainan and only later was used for the whole island.
What is the capital of Taiwan?
Taipei is the capital and also the largest city with 2,600,000 residents. Greater Taipei reach a population of 6,000,000.
Which kind of government Taiwan has?
Taiwan is a young democracy. The first free presidential elections have been held in 1996.
The two major parties are the Kuomintang (“Blues”), which officially stands for an eventual unification with China, and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP – “Greens”) that at various degrees instead supports Taiwan independence.
Which is Taiwan time zone?
Taiwan is on the same time zone as China, Hong Kong and Singapore: Taiwan Standard Time is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+8). There is no Daylight Saving Time during summer.
Which is the Taiwan Currency?
It is the New Taiwan Dollar (NTD or NT$). Read more about Taiwan Currency here.
How much is Taiwan GDP?
Taiwan ranks 36th for Nominal GDP per capita that amounts to 23,456 USD. Instead Taiwan ranks 19th for the more significant GDP PPP (GDP per person corrected for the purchasing power) with 45,854 USD.
The living standards are quite good in Taiwan, better than in other developed asian countries such as South Korea.
What is the average salary in Taiwan?
The average monthly salary is about 32,000 NTD.
Anyway a lot of people earn lower salaries. Entry salaries of 15,000-20,000 NTD are quite common today and show a fast increasing inequality between rich and poor in Taiwan.
There is a huge disparity between the private and public sector: a telecom employee, for example, earns almost the same salary as a private university teacher and can retire earlier with a real and secure pension.
How is Taiwan living cost?
- Lunchbox: 70-100 NTD (for 100 NTD you can get a really good one)
- Meal (for two in a medium good restaurant) 400-800 NTD
- Haircut 100-250 NTD (chain shops in department stores)
- Water bottle: 20-25 NTD in supermarkets