Taiwanese Culture

Communication

Verbal

  • Communication Style: The Taiwanese are quite deliberate and contemplative regarding how they communicate. They often take care to avoid communicating anything directly that may offend or hurt a colleague.
  • Indirect Communication: The Taiwanese communication style is . In order to maintain throughout a conversation and prevent a loss of on either end, they use ambiguous speech and understatements to convey their message. This is particularly evident when discussing negative topics that may cause embarrassment or offence. It is a good idea to avoid questions that require a solid ‘yes or ‘no’ response. Instead, ask open-ended questions that give your Taiwanese counterpart space to state their point in a more roundabout way.
  • Language: Many Taiwanese who live in or near major cities speak Mandarin and Taiwanese. Those who live in rural areas mainly speak Taiwanese. The younger generation are often familiar with American-style English since it has become a compulsory component of the education curriculum. However, it is not as widely spoken amongst the older generations. In recent years, there has been a push to make other languages, such as Hakka and indigenous dialects, compulsory.


Non-Verbal

  • Physical Contact: People behave somewhat more formally in Taiwan. They rarely demonstrate emotion towards others through physical contact. Actions such as hugging are typically done in private. However, it is common for friends of the same gender to hold hands or to clasp each other by the wrists or shoulders, especially among younger people. Lightly touching someone on their arm when speaking signals a sense of closeness to the person. 
  • Gestures: There are various hand gestures that are used as an alternative to verbal communication. Pay attention to their subtleties during conversation. For example, the typical way to indicate ‘no’ through a gesture is to face the palm outward in front of the face and move it back and forth. Embarrassment may be expressed by covering one’s face in their hands. 
  • Pointing: The polite way to point is to use an open hand rather than a finger. Pointing with a single finger is considered to reflect hostility or accusation.
  • Smiling: Smiling can have different meanings depending on the situation. A smile can indicate embarrassment or nervousness. It can also be a response to an inconvenient request or sensitive topic. Smiling is also often used to indicate an apology.

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