I have to confess I knew little about Taiwan before touching down in this beautiful island nation. I think the same goes for most Kiwis, in that we hear a lot about China but tend to be a bit shady in our knowledge of its island neighbour, except for the sight of “Made in Taiwan” on the back of technology products in the ‘90’s (noting this reference on Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 1).
Having been to China only once, I jumped at the chance of an internship in Taipei, Taiwan’s biggest city. Expecting the city to be much like those that I had experienced in the Mainland (China), it didn’t take long to draw some contrasts and to experience many pleasant surprises.
Surrounded by mountains, the city of Taipei has a certain charm about it – the people are incredibly friendly and gentle, the city is leafy and easy to get around, and it really is all about the food!
I am now four weeks’ into my internship at TUSA (Taiwan-USA Industrial Cooperation Promotion Office, Ministry of Economic Affairs) and have already learnt so much about Taiwan’s key industries and its important place in the global market playing field.
Did you know that roughly 80 percent of your iPhone components are made in Taiwan? Or that if you’re reading from a laptop or mobile device right now, there’s a high chance the integrated circuit was manufactured in Taiwan? Over half of Taiwan’s exports are now in electrical machinery and computing, a total turnaround from its historic agricultural focus.
TUSA’s mission is to help Taiwan continue its success of a thriving export market in technology by facilitating industry relationships between Taiwan and the US.
The purposes of strengthening US industry relationships is to stimulate investment in the respective markets, sharing research insights and developing stronger trade links. Through the formation of bilateral relationships, organizations from both countries can gain access to new markets and experience synergies of information sharing and fluid cooperation. My role is to assist in business development and research for TUSA to match-make organizations from Taiwan and the US.
My colleagues in the TUSA office are all exceptionally friendly and welcoming. A highlight of most of my days is being taken out to lunch somewhere new and different every day!
I can definitely say that I have experienced the Taipei food culture and that I am being well looked after in that regard – a danger to the waistline, but as they say, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”.
Famous for its night markets, the city boasts a range of cuisines, different eateries and fantastic hideaways for cocktails.
It doesn’t take long to find a great hiking track that leads up the mountain in any direction of the city, where you can find incredible views of the city skyline and an instant oasis from the bustling streets below.
Taiwan packs a population of 23 million into a land mass less than the Canterbury region of New Zealand. This makes it quick to get from one side of the Island to the other. The high speed rail system (HSR) will take you from Taipei at the top to Kaohsiung at the bottom of the island in 1.5 hours. We spent a weekend in Kaohsiung using the HSR discovering the coastal city’s arts, history and great food.
I have been lucky enough to make a whole lot of new friends here including Kiwi’s undertaking Mandarin language training who share an adventurous spirit. In only my second week, they had me running a half marathon through the famous and breathtakingly beautiful Tarako Gorge in Hualien. The drive down from Taipei felt a little bit like driving around those daring, winding New Zealand roads with the rugged coastline below.
I return to New Zealand in four weeks’ time, and I look forward to many more new experiences to pack in within that time!