Clean Underground, Dirty Restaurants – Thoughts About a Taiwanese Contradiction
While I was at Taipei MRT Station this evening I saw the following sign:
As you can see, there is a foreigner on the picture, who of course lacks manners and knowledge so that he eats and drinks in the MRT. A foreign barbarian disrupting the local order – a disgraceful sight. To be fair, I have seen a few foreigners do that before, mostly because we don’t have such regulations in the West, so we can’t even imagine that they exist. I used to eat and drink in Berlin’s underground all the time and never thought there was something wrong or disgusting about it.
Certainly, Taipei’s MRT is superior to most Western underground systems as far as cleanliness is concerned. However, I do not totally understand why Taiwanese are so obsessed with the cleanness of their underground, while they often disregard the cleanness of the restaurants they eat in.
The reason why I am writing this post and share with you my doubts is that two weeks ago I went to a Taiwanese restaurant where I swore to myself never ever to go again. It is a vegetarian Buddhist restaurant in Gongguan area. I’ve been there many times before, and I had already noticed that it wasn’t at all clean. However, I wanted to get used to local life, and this kind of small street restaurants are just like this, and no one seems to care much about it.
But last time … well, that was really too much. Warning – I am going to tell you something totally disgusting, so don’t read it if you are too delicate.
I was sitting at a table at the back of the restaurant, right in front of the wall and a big sliding glass door. Behind the glass door are stored things like rice and other foodstuffs. On the wall there was a huge, disgusting dead cockroach, who must have been there for some time because its body was partly decomposed. You can guess… how disgusted I felt. I just lost my appetite completely, and I wish I could erase this image from my memory.
Now, when I talk with Taiwanese and point out that some restaurants are dirty, I am perceived by some people as arrogant or too picky. And if I say I don’t understand why one cannot even drink in the MRT, I am perceived again as arrogant or disgusting. I mean, what is the point of being so strict about the cleanliness of the MRT when no one goes to check the hygienic conditions of restaurants? I must be really missing something; and I wish I knew what it is.
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