這個觀察讓我聯想到「半杯水」的故事。一個玻璃杯，裝有半杯水，僅僅是兩種不同的想法「已經有半杯水」（Glass half full）和「只剩下半杯水」（Glass half empty），便可能讓結果截然不同。我向來是樂觀主義者，而我對台灣如此懷有信心的原因，多少也是因為我能以外人的角度，國外成長的經驗讓我能一眼看出台灣的優勢，不至覺得「外國的月亮比較圓」。
Taiwan: A nation with its ‘glass half full’ or ‘glass half empty’?
It struck me the other day, whilst having coffee with two foreigner friends, how positive they both were on their decision to live here in Taiwan. Like many foreigners who have made the choice to live here long-term, they see Taiwan as a nation with its ‘glass half full’—they believe Taiwan enjoys a healthy foundation upon which to build a brighter future. In contrast, I find many of my local Taiwan friends to be a lot less optimistic. They share what seems to be a common refrain that Taiwan has limited opportunities and not much of a future. Their view of Taiwan is more of one of ‘glass half empty’.
An eternal optimist, I side with the ‘glass half full’ gang. I believe my positivity comes, more or less, from an ability to see Taiwan from an external perspective. This is a result of having grown-up somewhere other than Taiwan. It sharpens my appreciation of the benefits of living in Taiwan, and, at the same time, reduces the propensity for me to blindly assume that other places have something markedly better on offer. This got me thinking: Why not share the five reasons I view Taiwan as such a great place to live?
So here they are, the five things that fill my proverbial glass:
Taiwan has a well-earned reputation for great food. Tourists from all over Asia are now flocking to Taiwan to do nothing more than eat. Variety, quality, and value are second to none, and options are everywhere and at every budget; from street stalls to small cafes and now Michelin-starred restaurants. For those that prefer to cook at home, Taiwan’s markets offer an impressive selection of vegetables and what has to the world’s highest quality fruit.
2.Outdoors at your doorstep
For those who love the outdoors but don’t want to miss out on the buzz of the city, it doesn’t get better than Taipei. What other modern metropolis in Asia grants you 30-minute access to such a wide variety of activi-ties: hiking, surfing, cycling, and much more. The rivers that flow through Taipei now feature over 150kms of cycling paths, with similar networks growing in Taichung and Kaohsiung. Less than two-hours away is the spectacular Eastern coastline, and the central mountains offer some of the best hiking in Asia.
In 25 years of living in Taiwan, I have never once been concerned about my personal safety or that of my loved ones. This is in stark contrast to my experience of living in Los Angeles, where walking home at night was never without worry. Taipei is routinely featured in the top three safest cities in the world, and Taiwan was recently accorded the second safest country in the world. The opportunity to live free from fear and concern for personal safety should fill anyone’s glass more than half full.
4.Generous and equitable healthcare
Taiwan’s healthcare system has received praise from foreign government think tanks, leading international business magazines, and even a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The system is cited for its ease of access and affordable cost for every individual living on the island. While some grumble about one-hour wait times, this small inconvenience stands in contrast to the weeks that citizens in other countries often wait to see a doctor.
Every visitor to Taiwan I meet, when asked ‘what they think of Taiwan’, never fails to remark on the friendliness and helpfulness of the Taiwanese people. The fact that this impression is left upon each visitor to this island says a lot about Taiwanese culture. It also says a lot about what it is like to live here. Taiwan is truly a friendly place. And a friendly place is always going to be an agreeable place to live.
These five reasons alone should fill anyone’s cup half full. For good measure, though, I would like to share three ways I believe Taiwan could top up its glass:
1.Phase out gas-powered scooters
It is unacceptable that pedestrians and cyclists must regularly hold their breath to avoid inhaling carcinogenic fumes from poorly maintained scooters. Almost as bad is the incessant noise generated by Taiwan’s preferred tool of transportation. By my reckoning, ninety percent of the noise pollution in Taiwan emanates from gas-powered scooters. This mechanical cacophony is no way benign, contributing to unwanted stress and even mental-health issues. Taiwan, a global technology leader, should be showing the world the way in a shift to electric transportation. If Taiwan took ambitious steps to convert the island to electric scooters in the space of five years, it would not only win the admiration of the world, but open a door to billions of dollars in exports.
2.News that enlightens rather than entertains
Taiwan’s news broadcasters are doing the citizens of Taiwan a serious disservice. Over the past two decades, news in Taiwan has become nothing more than a collection of sensationalized stories, translated youtube videos and poorly disguised infomercials. The absence of meaningful news and analysis, both presenting and explaining Taiwan’s position in an increasingly globalized world, is only serving to further disconnect Taiwan from the growing global economy. In stark contrast, television news in Mainland China, which by my observation offers some of the highest quality news and analysis in the world today, is raising the global awareness and the acumen of Chinese citizens. If we wish to build a nation in which citizens take pride in their country, we must ensure that every citizen has an appreciation of Taiwan’s role in this world. Citizens should demand better quality news from news broadcasters, or else protest by turning off the news.
3.An education system that works for all children
In my experience and observation, Taiwan’s education system is set up to serve only 20% of the student population, cheating the remaining 80% of children out of any form of quality education. The system appears to cater to a small subset of personality types—primarily those that exhibit INTJ/ENTJ personalities—while retarding the growth and development of others—particularly ENFP personalities. For Taiwan to raise its global competitiveness the island needs a healthy mix of skills and personalities. Taiwan should move to create an education system that gives every child the opportunity to fully develop his or her inborn personality traits. Only in this way will each individual be in a position to contribute their fullest to the development of the nation.
To be sure, there are many aspects of Taiwan society that can and must to be improved, yet, we should not merely be discouraged. Instead, we should recognize the many positives that Taiwan already has going for itself. If we, the citizens of this island, choose to build on the positives and spend less time grumbling about the negatives, we could rather easily take what is already a great place to live and turn it into the best place to live in Asia. Let’s join the two foreigners I met at the coffee shop, and all raise our glasses to the effort. Gan-bei!