As part of a Tang-funded global seminar this summer, a group of 14 undergraduate students from CU embarked on a three-week program immersing themselves in Taiwanese life, culture, politics, and history. We'll be showcasing a series of blog posts from these students to share what the experience has been like in their words.
#1 by Meenakshi Manoj
Taiwan has been very different and very familiar, as most new places are. I’ve never been to East Asia before, so it’s a completely different experience. It’s a combination of familiar elements along with new ones. The markets, fruits, and weather remind me of South India, but the excellent public transport reminds me of parts of Europe. The convenience stores remind me of other places in East Asia, like Japan and South Korea. And there’s a lot of 7-Elevens, to the point where there’s a 7-Eleven every corner you turn. And if there isn’t one, there’s a Family Mart, so you’re still covered. They’ve beat America at the convenience game. I feel like we pride ourselves on convenience (drive throughs!). However, Taiwan is on another level- I don’t know if we could ever approach the one 7-Eleven per every 2,211 people density of Taiwan.
Speaking of 7-Elevens, I recently went to the Hello Kitty 7-Eleven in Ximen. It was pink and adorable, with dozens of Sanrio character plushies. From the moment I first set foot in Taiwan, I have noticed the amount of mascots and characters used for advertisements or even MRT safety guidelines. Throughout Taipei, from riding on the MRT to typical advertisements, there are so many characters and mascots being used. And I understand why- it captures my attention and I’m more willing to actually read it. However, this is not the case at all in America. We don’t have a culture like this surrounding the use of mascots or generally cute things.
I think it’s interesting to keep in mind Japan’s mascot culture and tradition, and the colonial influence it has had on Taiwan. Both Japan and Taiwan share this mascot culture, and it’s probably not a coincidence. Numerous outside cultures have influenced Taiwan- from the mass amounts of Han Chinese migrants that inhabit it to the decades under Japanese rule. The signs on the MRT are in Mandarin, and the mascots themselves are very reminiscent of Sanrio characters. Taiwan is a melting pot of different cultures, and I think simple things like Hello Kitty 7-Elevens are reminders of that!