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Under what circumstances, if any, should I bow while I'm in Taiwan?

I know that Taiwan is now a separate country from Japan, and has its own customs and etiquette, but I think I've seen staff bow to me sometimes, and it's not because they think I'm Japanese.

  • 1
    AFAIK Taiwan was part of Japan only for 50 years and I don't understand why do you compare them. – Dirty-flow Apr 30 '14 at 13:20
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    @Dirty-flow if I don't mention Japan, someone will inevitably say "You're confusing Taiwan with Japan". I wanted to pre-empt that. – Andrew Grimm Apr 30 '14 at 13:39
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    This would be a great question for the proposed Etiquette StackExchange site if that makes it into beta. It's currently in commitment, so anyone interested in questions like this should seriously consider signing up :) – starsplusplus May 1 '14 at 10:10
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    @Dirty-flow: If you don't compare Japan and Taiwan then you've either not been to both or had your eyes closed. The first impression I had was "Wow it's nothing like China and reminds me of Japan." This surprised me a lot and my feeling did not change by the end of my month in Taiwan. – hippietrail May 2 '14 at 5:33
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    If you are at hotels or luxury goods shops then the staff will bow to you. But in general it is not that common and you would not be expected to return a bow. – Michael Lai Aug 1 '14 at 5:01
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TL;DR: You shouldn't.

Taiwan is nowhere near as "bow-heavy" as Japan, but the same rule applies: foreigners are not expected to know or understand how to bow, and that's fine. Anybody meeting or being introduced to you is going to shake hands Western style. If you see people bowing at temples, funerals, whatever, what they're doing is none of your business and you're best off watching from the back. If somebody bows to you, it's polite to nod back as an acknowledgement, but that's about it.

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowing#Bowing_in_China_and_Taiwan

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For daily greeting, it's great to wave hands and smile to others. Also, you can shake hands if it's the first time to meet people in Taiwan. We don't bow to others, even if you're in temple.

However, try being yourself in Taiwan. It's great to feel as you're at home. :)

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