How to Do Business in Taipei
Doing business in Taipei? Bring your sense of adventure, an open mind and plenty of business cards.
Around the dinner table, many foreigners will be surprised at the bluntness of some questions they might hear (“Are most people in your country as fat as you?”). Bryson advises being open-minded and recognize that no one is trying to offend. “They’re asking a question because they really want to know you,” he explains. “The problem is they are thinking in Chinese but speaking English, and some of it isn’t translating well.”
Avoid local politics in conversation, warns Shapiro, as Taiwanese can be passionate about their politics and relations with the mainland. Instead, sports is always a safe topic—particularly American major-league baseball and the NBA. Several Taiwanese players have earned great respect in both leagues over the years, including Chien-Ming Wang, former star pitcher for the New York Yankees, and more recently basketball sensation Jeremy Lin.
As for the business of business, Shapiro says Taiwanese are “tough negotiators but also fair. By and large they aren’t out to nail the other guy or get all the advantage for themselves,” he says, noting that a relationship-driven business culture can work in the foreigners’ favor. Rather than shooting for the quick buck, Taiwanese business leaders “believe in developing a relationship that will work over the long term.”
With all the socializing going on, it’s no surprise that food and drink have a particular prominence in the city. Taipei might be called a foodie’s paradise, with culinary influences from around China and the world. Don’t be afraid to eat local; night markets and roadside vendors offer some of the tastiest dishes in the city, but having a Taiwanese guide will definitely help you find the more accessible options (deep-fried chicken anuses on a stick, anyone?). Chris Fay, managing partner for advertising agency Leo Burnett, suggests getting a group to get foot massages together. “I know it sounds crazy. But it builds esprit de corps.” The golfing here is great, says Fay, and company cycling is becoming more popular. “The roads here are beautiful for that sort of thing.”
Taipei is surrounded by mountains on three sides, and Yangmingshan National Park, located in the northern end of the city, offers challenging hikes and stunning vistas. The Beitou hot springs district lies just below Yangmingshan and has been a favorite leisure spot since the pre–World War II Japanese colonial era. The district’s luxury hotels feature hot spring tubs in each room along with more social tubs catering to Japanese tourists who still flock to the region. Not to be missed on any trip to Taipei is the world-renowned National Palace Museum. The museum contains the world’s largest collection of Chinese antiquities, and interested visitors can spend a full afternoon exploring the many halls. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is also worth a visit.
The Chungxiao-Dunhua shopping district offers lots of upscale shopping and downscale eating that can make for a nice adventure.
With twisting dragons and spooky effigies, the Taoist and Buddhist temples of Taiwan are rightly famous. Longshan Temple is a favorite and is easily accessible by subway.
Taipei Travel Guide
Where to Eat
Din Tai Fung
No. 218, Section 4, Chungxiao East Road, Daan District
+886 2 2721 7890
This remains an essential stop on any visitor’s itinerary. The restaurant has several branches and is world famous for its dumplings. Avoid the Xinyi Road branch as it’s overwhelmed with bused-in tourists from Japan and China. Instead, try the Chungxiao branch for a more comfortable experience.
No. 145, Section 1, Anhe Road, Daan District
+886 2 2702 7011; chinapa.com.tw
Travelers will find not only delicious fusion Chinese cuisine, but also a puzzle—how to actually open the door. No secrets given here; visitors will just have to watch and learn.
No. 7, Section 5, Xinyi Road, Xinyi District
Diamond Tony’s: +886 2 8101 0016
Shinyeh: +886 2 8101 0185; taipei-101.com.tw
What until recently was the world’s tallest building also features two exceptional dining experiences. While no one raves about the food, the atmosphere is glamorous and the views stunning.
Where to Stay
No. 10, Section 5, Chungxiao East Road, Xinyi District
+886 2 7703 8888; wtaipei.com
A newcomer to the city, the W is located in the trendy Xinyi District of west Taipei and has the city buzzing with wonderful restaurants, poolside lounges and excellent rooms.
Shangri-La Far Eastern
No. 201, Section 2, Dunhuà South Road, Daan District
+886 2 2378 8888; shangri-la.com/taipei
Located on the top floors of the 43-story Far Eastern building, this venerable hotel has legions of bright young attendants who take service to a new level for well-heeled guests.
No. 2, SongShou Road, Xinyi District
+886 2 2720 1234; taipei.grand.hyatt.com
The granddaddy of luxury hotels in Taipei, the Grand Hyatt features a wide variety of lounges, restaurants and amenities for business travelers, including the locally famous Ziga Zaga nightclub.
Taipei has a modern and convenient subway system, called the MRT, that spans the city and features clear maps with English language directions. Taxis are also amazingly abundant and indeed present a road hazard as drivers compete for passengers. In most of downtown Taipei, a taxi can be obtained within seconds with just a hand raise. Be warned, though, that many taxi drivers have little to no English. Before getting a ride, visitors should have the telephone number of a Taiwanese friend who can be called to speak with the driver. Buses are numerous and convenient; however, as few of the signs are in English and even fewer drivers can communicate to visitors, they are better avoided.
Timothy Ferry is a freelance writer based in Taipei.