Monday, February 15, 2010

Taiwanese Hospitality

Living in Taiwan I am continually amazed by the kindness shown to us by complete strangers.  Yesterday we were invited to spend Chinese New Year eve with a friend's family whom we have never met.  I spent some time worrying that I would do something wrong, commit some serious faux pas, embarrass myself or worse - offend the family who so generously invited us into their home.  Turns out that was all time wasted.

Walking into their house we had no idea what to expect, but as we all snaked our way back to the room where we would eat it was clear that many hours were spent cooking for this meal.  Our friend knows that Jeremiah and I are vegan, and as the food was brought out (and kept coming out) she pointed out which dishes we could eat.  She explained for everyone what each dish was and how to eat it.  Our friend's mom, our host, came into the room and welcomed us to her house.  Wine was poured, bowls and chopsticks were handed out (along with a few forks, "just in case") and we started eating, everyone a little nervously at first, finding things we loved and discreetly passing along those we didn't.  As we got more and more full, you could feel everyone's apprehensions fading away.

At the end of the meal, dishes cleared away and fruit brought out for dessert, conversations continued in Chinese, English, Spanish and a little Lao for good measure.  Our host quietly handed all of the guests red envelopes.  Xie xie ni, thank you, hardly seemed to suffice to express our gratitude not only for the red envelope, but also the hospitality.  It was a wonderful evening, and we all felt thankful to this family who took us in and shared their holiday with us.


  1. generally, to be polite, whenever you are a guest, bring your host some fresh fruit or a tin of cookies.

  2. Thanks for the tip! Luckily we did ask about this ahead of time and brought a gift for our host.