First of all, I would like to wish my readers a very happy Year of the Ox, which hopefully will be significantly better than the Year of the Rat that just finished and caused great hardship for most of us.
During the last couple of days I have sent quite a few congratulations to my friends around the world and of course, to those in Taiwan, both local and foreign, including my dentist, my veterinarian and my last landlord.
The feedback has been amazing and heart-warming! Some of them still didn’t know that I plan to return to Formosa with my two cats in April, but all of those who read the good news welcomed me back. One even invited me to (finally) become Taiwanese!
Their reaction showed me again that the island really is the place where I belong, especially after realizing step by step that somehow I just don’t fit into Europe anymore.
Before, one big difference that remains between East and West regarding the most important celebration in both cultures, Chinese Lunar Year and Christmas respectively, used to annoy me: the topic of money.
Mentioning it in Western culture during that particular time is considered a taboo, as the birth of Jesus has no material significance or even the slightest connotation of it.
Although in recent decades many have complained about the terror of consumption and the need to buy tons of presents that at the end nobody appreciates, Germans or Spaniards generally still wouldn’t think about just handing over a nicely packed euro bill.
In contrast, in Greater China and among the large, continuously growing Chinese diaspora spread all over the globe, the financial aspect of the incoming year has never been anything to be ashamed of.
As Chinese are pragmatic, foresighted and business-orientated people, to give out red envelopes containing sometimes substantial sums of cash to other family members, even children, before or after a festive dinner isn’t looked down on, but expected.
When I regularly attended such gatherings with my long-term girlfriend at her parents’ place, that’s exactly what happened. Nevertheless, as a foreigner I never got involved in such ancestral practices and brought good tea, traditional snacks or some of their favorite fruit instead.
In the working environment, they also play a very important role and help to secure profitable deals, existent loyalties and future alliances. The given amount indicates the importance of the relationship.
Probably due to the 35 years that I have been in touch with one of the oldest civilizations on the planet, I have slowly come to the conclusion that in a materialistic world, it’s actually a rather honest way of handling things. Once I’m in Taipei again, I might even have to reconsider my good old prejudices!