Driving Culture: Canada Vs. Taiwan (My Skills Vs. My Husband’s)

The Wide Open Road in Canada
The Wide Open Road in Canada
Parking in Taiwan [during the Taiwan Lantern Festival]
Parking in Taiwan [during the Taiwan Lantern Festival]

My First Glimpse of Driving in Taiwan

Let me state the obvious: driving in Canada and driving in Taiwan are on two different ends of the spectrum. Canadians [at least where I come from] seemed to obey most traffic rules and well, Taiwanese have their own set of ‘unspoken’ rules for the road.

Can you imagine the shock and surprise I got my first day in Taiwan? Cars squeezing in everywhere, scooters going here and there and everywhere, taxis honking and speeding up just as the light was about to turn red. And let’s not forget about the bumper to bumper parking – a skill that Taiwanese seem to have mastered to a ‘T.’

To me, it all looked like pure madness on that first day, but I gradually saw some logic to it all.

And if someone had to tell me my very first day here that I would eventually drive a car and a scooter in Taiwan [not at the same time, of course], I would have told them to go and get their head examined. But, here I am, driving in this chaos, obeying the ‘unspoken’ rules of the road, and going with the flow. [The ‘unspoken’ rules of the road would take a whole blog post to outline and explore – thus, will not be discussed in detail in this post.]

Road Scene from Da-an MRT Station - Taipei, Taiwan
Road Scene from Da-an MRT Station – Taipei, Taiwan
Road near Taipei 101 - Taipei, Taiwan
Road near Taipei 101 – Taipei, Taiwan

Driving with My Husband: The Taiwanese Way

My husband is a pretty good driver, but he is a typical Taiwanese driver and he kind of makes up his own rules for the road. I just love how things are never his fault as I will explain later.

First off, I am (in his words) the ‘co-pilot’ and a good one at that, but I have to be with good reason. His eyes are everywhere but on the road when he drives sometimes. Can you imagine if someone is driving and you are the passenger and you are the only one who has your eyes on the road? Well, that is my situation with us most of the time on occasion. [However, my husband says I am being too dramatic here.]

Oh, and speed limits have a 10 km/hr forgiveness rule according to my husband, so it is OK to go ‘little faster.’ However, sometimes he has rocks in his shoes (can you detect the sarcasm?) and he just happens to go much more over the limit. However, it is not his fault – why didn’t the car feel like it is going so fast?

Then, we have the situations of people cutting us off and squeezing in front of us. He will complain when other people do it but when he does it, it is OK because ‘everyone else does it in Taiwan.’

But, I do give him credit for not driving on the wrong side on the road like some scooter drivers do if they only have to drive a short distance before turning.

Beautiful Moutain Scenery [Rocky Mountains] - Alberta, Canada
Beautiful Moutain Scenery [Rocky Mountains] – Alberta, Canada
Driving towards Banff [Rocky Mountains] - Alberta, Canada
Driving towards Banff [Rocky Mountains] – Alberta, Canada
Train and Highway - Near Banff [Rocky Mountain] - Alberta, Canada
Train and Highway – Near Banff [Rocky Mountain] – Alberta, Canada

Driving with My Wife: The Canadian Way (written by My Husband)

Whenever Constance drives a car in Canada, she will step on the gas paddle really hard to speed up. I always feel the power of the engine since she always puts me backwards and forwards in my seat. I have to remind her to slow down and I always get the answer like this – “Am I driving or are you driving?” followed by some laughter.

When she is speeding and driving too fast, I will remind her that we are “SHOOING” (speeding). And she always laughs and says something like “Feel the Girl Power”.

I hate the fact that I loose the control of the wheels in Canada sometimes. And to be honest, I don’t like her driving style even though there aren’t many cars on the road.

I do drive in Canada and when I do, she will be just as bossy as I am.

However, I am happy to know that I will regain control when we get back in Taiwan since I’m the one who drives here most of the time.

From time to time when the roads are not too busy in Taiwan, I will do exactly what she did in Canada and let her feel the power of the engine and say the same words back to her ‘Am I driving or are you driving?’ or ‘Feel the power.’ And this will always bring smiles to our faces.

I hardly honk the horn in Taiwan since I’m familiar with the way Taiwanese drive. But I have a good copilot in Taiwan – my wife always reaches over and honks the horn for me even though I feel it’s not necessary. And of course, I will say to her “ Thank you copilot” or “Am I driving or are you driving?” HaHaHa 🙂

However, she needs to remind me sometimes of good road behavior in Canada. For example, to stop at the crosswalk if someone is waiting and a traffic light turning yellow mean to ‘slow down’ in Canada.

How about you guys? Did you ever experience a different driving culture?


17 thoughts on “Driving Culture: Canada Vs. Taiwan (My Skills Vs. My Husband’s)

  1. Hmmm. If neither of you is grabbing onto the “oh sh*t” handle when the other is driving and also screaming, “OH MY GOD WE’RE GONNA DIE!” then you are both safer drivers than my husband. Andy and his Mustang Cobra are working hard to singlehandedly destroy the stereotype of slow, cautious Asian drivers in America.

    And doing a fine job of it, too, I might add.

    1. A Mustang? That has always been my ‘realistic dream car.’ I know I could have so much fun rocking my husband back and forth in the seat if I had one! 🙂 😉

      I have had a few moments of grabbing onto the handle over the door and they are not fun. It will be interesting if/how our driving will change when we have a baby on board.

  2. Constance, I’m not sure you put driving in Taiwan strongly enough. Having driven there for over 10 years I’m some what used to it. Except the toll roads. Speed and overly maneuverable drives make it nerve racking.

    On city streets I’ve found the rule to be “Slow and Steady”. Slowly move out and don’t stop. Oh, and don’t look in the rear view mirror. What’s behind you doesn’t count, it’s only in front that matters.

    As to obeying traffic laws: If you’re in Northern Taiwan the red-green traffic lights are obeyed. If you are in Central Taiwan they are used as reference and in Southern Taiwan they are for decoration. In the 12 years I’ve been in Taiwan I’ve seen a half dozen stop signs. No one stops for them anyway.

    I find Taiwanese are largely excellent drivers. There are few accidents – fewer still if the motor scooter drivers would try obeying the law. Every year the English department in university where I taught would have at least one student fatality or serious injured from a motor scooter accident.

    I’m headed back to Taiwan next month and will be driving – I actually have a Taiwan drivers license and one issued to me on the first try. I could go on about that but I’ll refrain.

  3. Ah, driving in Asia is certainly different from driving in the Western world. Very nice to hear from your husband, and the two of you certainly make a great driving duo 😀 It sounds like driving in Taiwan is similar to driving in Malaysia – you make up your own driving rules as you go. You can make a U-turn even when the sign says no, three lanes can become four lanes. When the traffic lights at an intersection breaks down, the fastest car gets to go first.

    Driving in Canada sounds like driving in Australia. Much more calmer and when you honk, it can be considered considerate. When drivers here are driving out of a narrow one-way alleyway, they tend to go slow and honk to let pedestrians know they are coming. I’ve never seen this happen in Malaysia.

  4. I think you’re well-suited and I enjoyed this glimpse into the humour you share. I don’t really like driving (or being driven) all that much but my sweetheart has learnt to be a great co-pilot. I drive when we’re in England and he drives in America. He sometimes thinks I should change up a gear, so he pretends to sneeze and says ‘Shift!’ until I get the point. As we don’t say ‘shift’ in England it took me a while to catch on!

  5. I never driven in an Asian country, but as a pedestrian I can say that when I was in China, I missed the quietness on the road in Austin, Texas even with the occasional police/ambulance sirens. I didn’t realize how quiet our drivers are here in Texas until I studied abroad in Shanghai, the most populous city in China! You can make a rap to the honk sounds in China LOL!

  6. The driving culture in Mainland China is pure madness in my eyes. Friends who have lived there for many years and drive themselves told me just to follow you own animal instincts when driving there, rules mean nothing. It is rather shocking to see on daily basis cars coming towards you using the wrong lane/ direction, traffic lights being merely suggestions that you should perhaps stop at red light and that pedestrians are like the prey each car driver tries to kill.
    But then again I am from Germany, the country with such rules and people following them that there are very low traffic accidents considering that you can go on many highways as fast as you want…yes if your car can go 300km/h you may drive that fast and it ain’t a problem, trying that in China on the other hand, oh dear

  7. Oh my goodness, your husband sounds like my husband SO MUCH. Where we are living now I suggested when he came home for a brief visit (he’s currently working overseas), he drive a little slower down the main street as there are lot of crosswalks that people simply walk out on, regardless how close the cars might be. Plus as the sun was still not up when driving the children to school combined with walkers wearing black, sometimes it’s hard to see them. Yes, he drove slower but as he was driving slower he took the opportunity to “familiarize” himself with the surroundings. Thankfully I was watching ahead hence managed to scare two pedestrians on two different occasions. Naturally it wasn’t his fault ugh. And he wonders why I never sleep when he drives!😳

  8. Actually there are no rules. There’s only one rule: don’t crash into anything in front of you. Everything else that happens are all in adherence to this one and only ultimate rule. 😀

  9. OMG. Driving, navigating, walking, trying to get anywhere here vs the west is – well – completely different. I could write a book chapter on it! I hate it! Maybe if LIVES were not at state, I could have more fun with it, but alas no.

  10. HAHAHAHA! I can absolutely relate – driving in the US and in the Philippines are of totally different spectrum too. Can’t even compare and my husband also hates it when I’m commenting on his driving skills. Lol. I don’t honk the horn though when he’s driving, it’s a ground for divorce for us, at least I think so. Lol.

  11. Those pictures of the Rocky Mountains are breathtaking!! I want to go there!!

    I have the Chinese driving license but I have never driven in China until now. It is just too scary. It seems in Taiwan it is the same. I just can’t stand all the cutting and squeezing and I’m scared I will have an accident if I drive and some stupid person does something crazy in front of me!

  12. After driving in Johannesburg, I’m never shocked by drivers in other countries, except perhaps when we visited Cairo. That was really scary even though we had a local driver, as there seem to be no rules whatsoever! I really laughed at your husband’s contribution to your post, and also at some of your comments. I remember hubby got a hefty ticket in Canada for doing 20 kph in a 15 kph zone. 😯

  13. Great post! I love hearing from both of you.

    I learned to drive in small town USA, so when we moved to Manila, I was in for a big shock. We shipped our car over, and I started driving right away. Still it took a couple of years before I really caught onto it. Here are some of the rules. #1 Never make eye contact with the other drivers. That way, if you sneak in front of someone, you can always pretend you didn’t see him. #2 Don’t worry about lanes. The number of lanes in a street is determined by the width of the cars and buses. #3 Watch out for the police around Christmas time. They need a little extra money. #4 Don’t worry about speeding. The traffic is so bad, you’ll never have a chance.

    By the time we left Manila, I could zip in and out around taxis and buses as well as anyone.

  14. The French have their own unspoken road rules too. Indicators are fancy lights, zebra crossings maybe one car in 10 will let you cross and it’s the only country I know where approaching a roundabout they’ll say you do not have priority.. But on some roundabouts you do (not joking). There’s also this thing where a minor road on a blind spot has priority joining a major road. Yes a major road. And the last 3 are spoken road rules. They also can’t park for …. .

  15. I’m one of ‘lucky’ people who don’t drive, hence much walking on my blog. 🙂 I’m good at looking out of the window though, like your husband, Constance. 🙂 Happy Easter to you both!

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