Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Noises of Taiwan

It seems to me that the Taiwanese are much more tolerant of noise than Americans are. As a result, Taiwan is chock-full of noises that you just don't often hear back in the States.

One of the more quirky aspects of life here in Taiwan is the seemingly ubiquitous megaphone.

Megaphones are used every day - all over the place - for advertising purposes. Basically, someone will record some type of sale or promotion and then they will let it play on a continuous loop over a megaphone that they then tie to a pole, or just set down any place they deem appropriate.

They don't only do this outside of their businesses, as my pictures show. These things can be found anywhere, including among bras and panties in a department store. Here is a short video of one of these babies in action:

You may think to yourself, 'hmmm, no one is paying any attention to that megaphone's message,' and you are right! I've never actually seen anyone pause to listen to what these things are saying. Nonetheless, it seems that no retailer, small business, or night market stand is complete without one of these incessantly spewing an advertisement.

Just as omnipresent as megaphones and KTVs are these little blue trucks. The streets of Taiwan are crawling with these moving billboards whose drivers are paid to slowly drive around town broadcasting their special deals with super-powered megaphones.

If it suits them, they may even decide to just park on the side of the road, or in the middle of a busy intersection (no joke) to allow potential customers to drive past them.
Here's a short clip of my friends and I encountering one outside of a restaurant in the small beach town of Kenting:

I'm not sure how effective these things really are at selling their products, but I have to believe that work because they seem to be a very popular means of advertising here.

Last, but certainly not least, on this short list of the noises of Taiwan are the local garbage trucks.

Here in Taiwan, you can't just set your garbage out on Monday night so that it can be whisked away while you sleep early Tuesday morning. Probably due to the fact that almost EVERYONE lives in apartment buildings, it is basically impossible to have everyone in a neighborhood set their trash on the curb at the same time - there is just no place for it.

Some apartment buildings (like ours) have a big dumpster outside that you can throw your garbage in any time. For most people, however, this is not the case.

So what to do? Well take a look at this video to find out:

Basically there are garbage trucks wandering around the city all the time, from early in the morning, late into the evening, all the while playing something that resembles the music you'd hear coming from the ice cream man in the states.

When you hear the ice cream man coming down the street, it's time to run outside and give him your trash. Typically two trucks go around the neighborhood together - the first is the regular garbage truck, and the second is the recycling truck.

The distance over which you can hear this truck is quite amazing. I work on the 42nd floor of a building down town and on occasion I have actually been distracted during an English lesson! 42 floors up!!!

Sometimes, however, a different, blue truck drives around by itself. (I'm not quite sure what makes this garbage truck different, although it is clear to me that these two trucks are distinct.) Now, you may be asking yourself, how do you know which truck is outside your door!?

Well, they play different music of course! The regular garbage truck plays a monophonic song like you heard in the last video, but the solitary blue truck plays a much more grating polyphonic tune... check it out:

Both trucks regularly drive past my house, and these days I typically am able to tune them out. The one exception to this being Saturday and Sunday mornings, when I'm trying to sleep in!

It just goes to show you that even the most mundane, basic things can become fascinating when you're in a different country!


  1. Okay - life is VERY loud for you! I hope that you're not hungover often. On another note, I'm extremely intrigued by the garbage trucks and am amazed at how many people are out there with their trash. I love your blog.

  2. The noise there really is something else. The silence of the suburbs felt a little eerie upon my return. Great blog!

  3. I must agree, those above that you have done great job wit your blog - I just stumbled upon it, and I will come back to read it again for sure.
    For the noise - I agree totally with you. The blue trucks which, I call "driving spam", is one of most annoying here - especially at sunday, when you decide to sleep more late, and then it comes in your yard. But I was told that it's part of the culture, and now, after some years spending in Taiwan I finally can say - I do not see them any more, or at least I ignore them, like if people one day started ignore banners. Banner blindness. Here I would call it "truck blindness". So, i guess after 1 year of stay, you forget about noise and those trucks.
    One more time - great blog indeed