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Someguy

Studying in Taiwan or China (used the search function)

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Someguy

Hello all! Next year I plan to study abroad but can't decide weather to go to Taiwan or China and I am wondering what you all percieve as the main differences between the two.

In regards to things such as people,nightlife, general environment and esp. Chinese study.

I have posted a thread on this topic at forumosa(http://www.forumosa.com/taiwan/viewtopic.php?t=65379) and have gotten many replies. The third to last post makes me really consider going to Taiwan when before I was pretty set on the mainland.

Anyway if you're to busy to read, a lot of them seem to think that Taiwan is a more sociable atmosphere and it's easier to make friends that one can talk about a myriad of things with and not have to censor yourself. Also that it may be hard (as a foriegner) to make genuine friends in China because a lot of them just want foreign friends to practice english or for the sake of having one.

I am also wondering which would be better for studying chinese. I have heard mixed opinions on this matter.

Anyway any input would be appreciated and by no means I'm I trying to start some sort of flame war. Opinions are subjective and as such no one opinion can be held as truth.

Thanks!

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cdn_in_bj
Anyway if you're to busy to read, a lot of them seem to think that Taiwan is a more sociable atmosphere and it's easier to make friends that one can talk about a myriad of things with and not have to censor yourself.

Well I have never had to "censor" myself here. I find my friends and coworkers here to be very open about and willing to discuss social issues and politics. The 老北京 types are especially not afraid to speak their minds about the latter.

Also that it may be hard (as a foriegner) to make genuine friends in China because a lot of them just want foreign friends to practice english or for the sake of having one.

I think this is an unfair generalization to make about the mainland. It's more about how and where you go about meeting said friends. If someone makes friends with you, just because of the fact that you are foreign, then this should send off alarm bells right away. Also, common ways of meeting people in western countries, for example, at bars or clubs, may not be the best ways to make friends here. I will grant that due to the large wealth gap here there are people who will not hesitate to take advantage of you, but you would have to be on the guard for this in other less developed countries too. It could very well be that you would encounter less of these problems in Taiwan, but on the otherhand I don't think it should stop you from choosing to come here either.

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zhiming

People are people. No matter where you go you are going to find all kinds. I haven't noticed any differences between the two peoples other than their political views.

The languages aspect is something I can tell you something about. China offers a much broader range of accents. The accents come from the geographic dialects and the fact that Mandarin has only been taught in Chinese schools pervasively for the past few decades. In Taiwan you pretty much get one accent. There are a couple of dialects (Hakka and Taiwanese) but they have had very little effect on the people's pronunciation of Mandarin.

Many people consider the Beijing pronunciation as the base pronunciation of Mandarin and everything else is a deviation thereof. It is true that for a novice student of Mandarin, the Beijing pronunciation is relatively easy to understand and pickup compared to most other regions of China.

This being said, the Taiwanese pronunciation is very similar to the Beijing pronunciation. In fact the Taiwanese accent removes much of the usage of the 'r' predicate constant. Such as in "Deng yi huar", and "xiao har". This can make it easier to pick up; the 'r' sound addition is one of those things that most Chinese courses don't teach early on.

Most teachers of basic to intermediate Chinese courses try to mimic either the Beijing or the Taiwan accents.

Taiwan has standardized their characters to the traditional set of Chinese characters. China has standardized on simplified characters. Both are important to learn but this mostly depends on what your goals are. If you are going to have future relations in either country, you should learn your target country's character set. That being said, there are only somewhere between 600 - 800 characters that are different between the two. It just so happens that they are the 600-800 most common characters that have been simplified.

Many Americans feel more at home in Taiwan because of its overall education level and American commerce. You can find many of the same stores in Taiwan that you see in America. This is not the case in China because because of its closed commercial history. There are more English speakers per capita in Taiwan than in China. The biggest difference between the two countries is land mass and subsequently cultural diversity. You can travel around China your entire life and still feel as if you haven't seen it all.

My suggestions: If you are just starting out learning Chinese and you want to work on your basic pronunciation, go to either anywhere in Taiwan or to Beijing. If you have a good grasp on the pronunciation of Chinese and want to improve your speaking / listening abilities you might want to try other parts of China. Only a small portion of the Chinese people use the Beijing accent and it is good to become familiar with others.

~Zhiming

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coolnicholas

Zhiming!! i want you to understand that Taiwan and mainland is only one country is China.don't write Taiwan and China,Taiwan is a part of China, they are not two countries.

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Lu

Coolnicolas, please don't go into that. You know as well as we all do that opinions vary on that issue, we can have a mile-long discussion on it without getting anywhere, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the OP's question.

Someguy: I'd describe Taiwan as China-light, not as much of a culture shock, life is very convenient (every Taiwanese will tell you this, and it's true). There is an accent: people in Taiwan tend to have less retroflexes. But teachers generally have a good, standard accent. People here also speak more clearly than on the mainland. Chinese to foreigners is usually taught in pinyin, not in bopomofo/zhuyin fuhao.

As to making friends, it really is easy here. Made more local friends here than I did in Beijing (but that might also be because by the time I came here, my Chinese was better and I more sociable than when I was in BJ). People in Taiwan are really nice. Much less of a wealth-gap, that makes it easier to go places with people and hang out, as they have approximately the same budget as you do.

People who only want to know you for your English are on both sides of the Strait. They are avoided most effectively by not speaking English to them. People who are not at all interested in learning English can also be found on both sides of the Strait.

The nightlife in Taipei is fine, don't know about other places. But I think that for studying Chinese in Taiwan, Taipei is the best place, for the simple reason that the best schools for teaching Chinese to foreigners are here. As to culture, Taipei has the Palace Museum, and it is awesome. But apart from that, China is a better place for culture, both ancient and modern.

Lastly, I don't know if money is an issue, but the mainland is cheaper than Taiwan.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

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shanghaikai

First off, I haven't had the chance to read all the responses you've gotten on forumosa.com but did notice that there were advocates for both Taiwan and China. If there is a something specific they've said that you'd like to get more opinions on, please let us know.

Like cdn_in_bj, I hope you don't accept those generalizations about China as they are more false than they are true. If nothing else, the same could be said for both Taiwan and China together as opposed to one or the other. Zhiming also gave you a decent rundown of some similarities, differences, and background.

My suggestion is for you to come to China. Given its rising influence in international politics and the global economy, this would be a better place to see how the world is changing. While you're unlikely to learn everything there is to learn about Taiwan during your stay there, China is simply a bigger sandbox for you to play in. As such, I do feel that you'll have more potential to encounter and learn new and different things than you would in Taiwan.

I would argue that simplified characters are easier to learn than complex characters, if only because there are less strokes to memorize. Like it or not, Chinese characters will require memorization. While I personally find complex characters to be more beautiful and balanced, I don't find it too difficult to figure out complex characters when I encounter them. That said, going from complex to simplified is obviously easier. For you, however, I doubt the written language will be a major priority until you've become sufficiently fluent in oral communications.

I'd like to say there is less English speakers and fluency in China compared to Taiwan but I wouldn't have any exact figures. Regardless, I'd wager that China would force you to speak Chinese more than Taiwan. As zhiming also said, you'd be exposed to far more Mandarin accents in China than elsewhere. This is a good thing for helping the brain grasp and develop new sounds when associated with meanings.

Nightlife really depends on what city you're in. Most major cities will have decent nightclubs and activities to get yourself into trouble with. I wouldn't really worry about this and if you came to Shanghai, I'd personally show you both the ropes and around if you like. China can be a bit seedier than Taiwan in this regard just due to socio-economic realities, but you have plenty of options...unless you like the seedier options, which would then be better for you. ;)

Again, I recommend China. As Lu said, Taiwan is sometimes like China-light. If you're going to come to Asia for Chinese, might as well go to the buffet rather than the tasting table. Cheers and good luck!

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wushijiao

Another thing to consider, I've read hear on the forums (and I can't remember who said it) but there is a better range of books for learners of Chinese published in Mainland China than there is in Taiwan (whether that is true or not for taiwan, I don't know). But I can say, since I lived on the Mainland for 5+ years, the number of books and the quality of the books got better every year. That might be one factor to think about.

On the other hand, I would agree with the idea that you end up censoring yourself a lot in the Mainland, especially if you are really into politics and don't want to sound really rude. At least in Taiwan there is debate about a lot of issues.

But if you would want to get as fluent as quick as possible, it might be worth it to just go to some small city or town in the middle of nowhere in northern China. That's what I would do.

But then again, I've heard that some programs are really good in Taiwan.

It all depends on what your goals are, and what your personality is like.

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deezy
Anyway if you're to busy to read, a lot of them seem to think that Taiwan is a more sociable atmosphere and it's easier to make friends that one can talk about a myriad of things with and not have to censor yourself. Also that it may be hard (as a foriegner) to make genuine friends in China because a lot of them just want foreign friends to practice english or for the sake of having one.
Sounds like some over-hyped China-bashing here...that really is of minor influence. Honestly, there are not Gestapo on every streetcorner in China eavesdropping on your conversations. Gotta love that stereotype - right up there with streets littered with girl babies and dog meat at every meal. :roll:

Well, here's the REAL significant differences you should be aware of:

China uses simplified characters and pinyin.

Taiwan uses traditional characters and bopomofo.

Now, you decide which one has more future potential and is easier to learn for you.

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adrianlondon

Many Mandarin schools in Taiwan will use pinyin and I think some will use simplified characters if you search hard enough. However, once you walk out of that classroom you won't see simplified characters anywhere although you will see some pinyin. And Wade Giles. And that's confusing.

However, in China, outside of public transport you're not going to see a lot of pinyin either, just characters.

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lilongyue

I've been living in the Mainland for three years.  I visited Taiwan and stayed for a few months, so I have a little experience with both.  I say go to Taiwan.  

As far as language is concerned, at the end of the day it's still Chinese, so nothing to really worry about there.  All the talk about Mainland Chinese vs. Taiwan Chinese is essentially the same argument as American vs. British English. Don't get too caught up in it.

China is a dirtier, more polluted, and an over-all less convenient place to live.  It's also less Westernized, and is not a free country, so people's views and opinions will be much more "China-centric."  As people are pretty much force fed Communist propaganda all their lives, you're mostly going to get the Party line out of them.  Most don't know any better, whatever news they are able to get is filtered through the government's Censorship Bureau.  There are Chinese using proxies and getting news from outside sources.  Also, not all Chinese love their government, but it will take a while to get that out of them.

Taiwan, on the other hand, is a democracy.  You won't always be fighting the Great Firewall of China (if you don't know what that is you can google it) if you want to surf the internet, or find news.  There is a much stronger Western influence due to the island's relationship with America.  Their education system is more Western than China's.  A lot of Taiwanese travel and study in the West, too, so their "world view," if you will, is much more educated, and in line with reality.    It's also a beautiful island.  You don't have people spitting, vomiting, pissing and shitting all over the place like you do in China.  China is an interesting place, don't get me wrong, but for over all quality of life Taiwan wins hands down.  However, if you're just a kid in his early 20s looking to get a wild experience in a exotic place, China might be more suitable.  Taiwan really is China-light.  

For the record, I've spent more than enough time living in third-world Asia, and am ready for some modern conveniences (my year in India broke me of any fascination I had with developing countries).  I am also getting ready to start a family some time in the next few years.  I have a lot more to think about than a young man or woman just coming to Asia and so I've written from this perspective.  The only reason I'm not in Taiwan right now is that my wife is from the Mainland, and it's essentially impossible to take her there.

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Lu

Off-topic, but Lilongyue, since you married your wife, can't you get her a passport of your country then take her to TW?

As to politics, I'd say both in Taiwan and China it's better to not talk about that with localsbefore you have a clear idea of what's going on. In China, you know what to look out for, in Taiwan, you might find yourself stepping on toes just the same, but in a less predictable way, as here, different people have different strong opinions.

As to the education system, I've had good and bad teachers in each place. As far as I could tell the system is not very different, especially for language learning. There are more differences between schools than between countries, I think.

It might be true that there are more books on language learning in China, but in the end, you only need one decent book, and there are good books in Taiwan. And what adrianlondon said, bopomofo is taught and used here, but language schools for foreigners generally use pinyin, as foreigners tend to prefer that. Romanization outside of the classroom is a royal mess.

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rezaf

as far as i have seen if chinese girls make friends with you it's just because of practicing english but personally i find chinese boys very nice people. they tend to help foreigners without expectations.

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Someguy

Hello all! Thanks for all your replies, it is very much appreciated.

It's true people are people and no matter where you go you will run into a multitude of different personalty types. People are unique. However since we cannot have a holistic view of the world, all we really have are generalizations. Also I think that though people are people a persons place of origin does somewhat influence how one looks at the world and therefore people of the same origin have some sort of a thread that binds them all. I.E. because of Chinas communist background lots of people there have many of the same political ideas implanted in thier heads and thus could make it hard to discuss the positives and negatives of political views (though the same could be siad about any group of a people with a strong political affiliation).

Anyway enough rambling.

"Much less of a wealth-gap, that makes it easier to go places with people and hang out, as they have approximately the same budget as you do."

I never thought of this, but it does make a lot of sense. The wealth gap could make it hard to go out with Chinese friends because they might be a bit more cautious as to how they spend thier money (as in not on just beer hehe). Though at the end of my stay in Beijing I ended up having to borrow 100 kuai from a chinese girl friend of mine (talk about role reversal)

I have had a look on thebeijinger.com and it seems like Beijing winters can be kind of bleak (I actually got kinda depressed reading some of the posts about Beijing). Can someone explain to me what winter is like in Beijing? I went over in may and the weather was pretty nice. I keep fearing that I fell in love with a faux Beijing, rather the idea of Beijing and the cheap prices and nice weather kept me from seeing things I may have not actually liked. Though I think this is self doubt more then anything as I met some really nice people there and just loved the energy of the place. ( I lied earlier when i siad "enough rambling")

Shanghaikai-I think you make a good point of China being more of an experience. and I think that is more what I am looking for at this point in my life. Also the reference to Taiwan as China light really does say a lot. and If I ever make it to Shanghai again (was there for a couple days once)which I am sure I will, I'll def. PM you. What are you doing in Shanghai, work or school?

Lastly, I heard that holidays and religous clebrations are less, well celebrated over in China then in Taiwan, due to the cultural revolution and all. Can anyone speak to this?

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roddy

Winter in Beijing is certainly cold, expect a long sub-zero stretch with iced over lakes and canals. Very little wind and only a couple of snowfalls though usually, so as long as you have decent heating at home (almost everywhere does) and you wrap up warm when you go out, you'll be fine.

As for viability of political discussions - there's no doubt that Taiwan has the more vibrant political scene. There's a greater range of opinion on the mainland than you might think, but unless you're taking the time to get to know people you're unlikely to see much of it. But in a way the state-controlled press, censorship and superficial toeing of the party line is all part of the fun. Think of it as North Korea-lite. :wink:

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shanghaikai

Hahaha, "North Korea light." :mrgreen:

I'm in Shanghai now for work but I've studied here as well.

Here's another way of looking at it: If you're like most people, it would be better to stay in China and be pleasantly surprised by going to Hong Kong or Taiwan rather than stay in Hong Kong or Taiwan and be disappointed when going to China. It is easier to "rough it" when you're young and more open-minded so I do think going to China where the overall environment may be a bit more different than what you're used to would be good for you. It could help you break your own comfort-zones and thus develop you further as a person. Of course, this isn't what everyone aspires for so the decision is up to you. I do think China, so big and diverse as it is, offers you a lot more to "grow into" than Taiwan.

Good luck!

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cdn_in_bj
"Much less of a wealth-gap, that makes it easier to go places with people and hang out, as they have approximately the same budget as you do."

I never thought of this, but it does make a lot of sense. The wealth gap could make it hard to go out with Chinese friends because they might be a bit more cautious as to how they spend thier money (as in not on just beer hehe).

I guess it depends on what you like to do for fun. Yes, there is a large wealth gap in this country but I'm not sure to what degree it will affect your social life. You'll most likely make friends and hang out with members of the middle-class, who are actually better off here than you might think. And though you may have a hard time convincing them to eat out at expensive western restaurants or go clubbing with you every week, there are other fun social things to do here.

And over time, depending on how well you adapt to the local culture, you may appreciate that you can live happily on 1/5 to 1/10 of what you were spending back home.

I have had a look on thebeijinger.com and it seems like Beijing winters can be kind of bleak (I actually got kinda depressed reading some of the posts about Beijing). Can someone explain to me what winter is like in Beijing? I went over in may and the weather was pretty nice.

I'll take the Beijing winter over a Canadian winter anyday! The nice thing about the Beijing winter is that it transitions fairly quickly and is relatively short. The lack of snow is really nice, as well as the fact that it doesn't often get below 10 degrees C.

May is a good time of year because the sandstorms are usually over by then and it hasn't started to get too hot. Yeah, the sandstorms in April can suck, but I'd take this over snow flurries/ice storms too.

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Lu
Here's another way of looking at it: If you're like most people, it would be better to stay in China and be pleasantly surprised by going to Hong Kong or Taiwan rather than stay in Hong Kong or Taiwan and be disappointed when going to China. It is easier to "rough it" when you're young and more open-minded so I do think going to China where the overall environment may be a bit more different than what you're used to would be good for you. It could help you break your own comfort-zones and thus develop you further as a person. Of course, this isn't what everyone aspires for so the decision is up to you. I do think China, so big and diverse as it is, offers you a lot more to "grow into" than Taiwan.
Shanghaikai is right about this. If you feel you're fully up to the culture shock, China is a great place to go.
heard that holidays and religous clebrations are less, well celebrated over in China than in Taiwan, due to the Cultural Revolution and all. Can anyone speak to this?
Absolutely true. China has New Year, and sort of celebrates some other holidays, but here you have the whole set (and for many of these you get a day off). Ghost Month, Zhongqiujie, Teacher's Day, Chinese New Year, Dragonboat Festival, and whatnot. You can see people burning ghost money in front of their shops on the 1st and 15th of the lunar month, and put up tables with offerings. Religion is very much alive here. Temples are actually in use (which also means you don't have to pay an entrance fee for them), with people praying there and burning incense and all. Some streets have rows of fortunetellers who can read your hands, face, yijing, anything.

Apart from Confuci-Buddh-Taoism (sometimes combined in one temple), there are Christians, and I know at least in Taipei there is a mosque. Also the FLG is not illegal here.

I'm sure it's all still there in China as well, but it's much less visible, and not officially condoned (by holidays and the like).

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Someguy

"The lack of snow is really nice, as well as the fact that it doesn't often get below 10 degrees C."

I'm from Minnesota, thats swimming weather.

I guess the lack of holidays and 'culture' is kind of in itself a culture. A lot of people there seem to struggle with idea of anythin coming after death and I met a few who had not thought about it at all. It's like the people are just beggining to think of the questions that have confounded man since the dawn of time. Though I do know religion still exists there and it might be fun to have to seek it out.

And yea, paying entrance fees to get into temples just seems wrong.

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Lu
I guess the lack of holidays and 'culture' is kind of in itself a culture.
Every culture is a culture, but if you want to see religion, Taiwan is a better place to go than China, because there is more of it to see without a lot of effort.

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Long Zhiren
Lu: Chinese to foreigners [in Taiwan] is usually taught in pinyin, not in bopomofo/zhuyin fuhao.

Thank goodness. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I studied in Taiwan ( 1988 ), we used bopomofo/zhuyin fuhao. I hated that stuff. I don't think that I ever used it or bothered to learn it (I'm sure that it is easy to learn, but it was making me have convulsions). I managed to just plain ignore it. pinyin wasn't an option at the time so I dove straight at the characters. People did it before so why couldn't I? It's very possible.

lilongyue: Taiwan, on the other hand, is a democracy.

That's a matter of opinion. The officials didn't let the masses vote on that switch of country name did they? But freedoms, that's a different story. It's a lot easier to find churches.

adrianlondon: Many Mandarin schools in Taiwan will use pinyin and I think some will use simplified characters if you search hard enough. However, once you walk out of that classroom you won't see simplified characters anywhere although you will see some pinyin. And Wade Giles. And that's confusing.

Confusing is an understatement. It's a pain in the ****.

Taiwan is certainly easier for a student to get around and see stuff. There's an amazing diversity of things to see on the island and you don't have to do overnight trains/airport shuffles like on the mainland to see as much diversity. Of course, thanks to Taiwan's "democracy," :roll: it's a pain to get to the mainland from Taiwan. Practically everyone on Taiwan wants direct flights, but the "democracy" there will not permit it because the overwhelming desire for more reunification would become impossible to cover up. Perhaps that will all change as soon as Taiwan gets a new president in 2008. And if it doesn't change at that point, Taiwan may become a crater as soon as the Olympics are over.

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