In my humble opinion, a modern State is also defined by an effective administration that takes its citizens and their issues seriously. Taiwan has proven to me again this week that it can only be considered an extremely advanced country.
This week I contacted both the National Immigration Agency in Taipei and the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine at Taoyuan Airport, which serves the capital and the north of the island.
The first government agency responded extensively in three hours (!) and removed all my doubts. The other did so in more or less a day, providing even more information than I needed and actually confusing me a little bit. Though I know that I can contact them again as many times as I need to and will still be treated not only correctly, but with respect.
Although I read Chinese, in both cases I got a clear response in English. Can anybody imagine that any civil servant in Spain will condescend to use any other language except Spanish? For me it wouldn’t make any difference, as I grew up here. It’s just a problem of attitude.
First of all, because most of them don’t speak any foreign languages and seem to be proud of it. Second, because you can consider yourself lucky if they do so at all. They will definitely not get back to you anytime soon.
In 2018, in Valencia it took me two weeks to make an appointment with the local police department in charge of issuing the Spanish Foreigner’s Identification Number (Número de identificación de extranjeros, NIE), which is mandatory if you want to open a bank account, get a phone, etc.
I didn’t succeed using my mobile as somehow their system wasn’t compatible with Android. By sheer coincidence I got the precious advice to resort to a desktop computer. Of course, this wasn’t mentioned at all on the relevant website. Just keep trying, amigo!
When it finally worked out, they gave me an appointment six weeks later. I arrived at a place that reminded me a lot of a border post at the frontier between the United States and Mexico in the 1950s, technology included. No one else was waiting there except me.
As I didn’t want to stare at the upcoming number all the time, I checked my messages. I must have missed it for about ten seconds. Immediately, a rude policeman came out, reminding me that it was my turn.
To my surprise (well, not really), again I was the only “customer”. The lady who attended me turned out to be relatively nice. Her five colleagues sit there idly, some of them chatting about recipes.
For no apparent reason, I got a little discount on my fee. It would have been too easy to be able to pay right there, so I had to walk 20 minutes to a bank. Fortunately, I succeeded at my second attempt and went back to show the receipt, receiving my NIE!
All in all, for a procedure that would have taken maybe 15 minutes in Taiwan (not to mention the two-months waiting time before I was granted an audience), I basically wasted a whole morning and felt treated like an intruder. That’s actually not true, as many invaders get special treatment, including a monthly allowance…
At least I didn’t have to bribe any of them. But that was the only reason why I didn’t get the impression of being in a Caribbean banana republic. Certainly I better don’t complain, as every foreigner should be thankful to be such in such a welcoming part of the world anyway!