Taiwanese Culture


Basic Etiquette

  • Winking and ‘uncontrolled’ nervous movements, such as tapping a table, are considered impolite.
  • Objects and food should be offered or received with both hands. This indicates respect.
  • It is expected that people defer to elders in all situations such as offering one’s seat in public transport or allowing the eldest to sit in the passenger seat of a car. However, over-exaggerating or emphasising respect may be interpreted as being insincere.
  • Money is a commonly discussed topic in Taiwan. You may be asked questions relating to your wealth, perhaps relating to the cost of your clothes or how much you earn. It is generally not considered offensive to tell the truth about these matters, regardless of the figures.


  • Taiwanese generally prefer to entertain guests in a public place such as a restaurant rather than their home. This is particularly evident when entertaining foreigners.
  • Being invited into someone else’s home is considered an honour. It generally indicates the developing of a relationship.
  • Bringing a small gift (such as fruit) symbolises gratitude for being invited into your Taiwanese counterpart’s home.
  • People are generally expected to take off their shoes before entering someone’s home. The host may offer slippers and guests are expected to accept the offer, even if the slippers are slightly small. 
  • Often, a compliment is offered towards something in the host’s home. This gives face to the host.
  • There is an expectation that respect will be shown to the eldest in the household. One of the most common ways is to always address them in a polite manner.


  • Hosts may choose the food for guests, at times placing food on the guest’s plate without request.
  • It is a typical practice for people to observe an order of who can eat. This order is based on age, with the eldest eating first. The youngest should not start eating until those older than them have begun their meal.
  • Soup spoons are generally placed on the table when the meal is complete rather than on the plate.
  • Chopsticks are placed across the top of the bowl or on the table.
  • Placing chopsticks pointing down or sticking them vertically into the bowl is taboo. This positioning is reminiscent of incense sticks placed in the bowl of ashes at a temple site, signifying respect towards the dead.
  • Plates remain on the table, whilst rice bowls are held close to the face when eating.
  • When using a toothpick, one hand holds the toothpick while the other hand blocks another person’s view of the use of the toothpick.

Gift Giving

  • Often, when a gift is offered, it is initially refused. Should a gift be declined, most will politely insist until the gift is accepted rather than force the issue.
  • A gift is generally not opened in front of the giver.
  • It is often customary to reciprocate with a gift of equal value.
  • The container and the wrapping of the gift can be considered as important as the gift itself. Thus, great care is taken when wrapping a gift.
  • Many Taiwanese will avoid giving an odd number of gifts since odd numbers are considered unlucky.
  • Typically appreciated gifts are food, such as a nice food basket, or a bottle of high-quality alcohol.
  • For special occasions such as weddings, giving red envelopes filled with money is favourable.
  • Avoid giving a gift that is made in Taiwan as it may be seen as offensive. 
  • Consider the meaning behind an object before it is given to your Taiwanese counterparts. For example, the Taiwanese word for ‘umbrella’ sounds similar to the word for ‘separate’; hence, giving an umbrella may indicate that you want to be separated from your Taiwanese companion. Sharp objects such as scissors and knives also represent a severing of the relationship.

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