A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette
Having said that, the cultural explanations have been useful. I could explain to my roommates what the red splotches on the ground were and some of the history of Taiwan.
The Taiwanese people have all been exceptionally friendly and warm. Not at all as standoff-ish as the book led me to believe. Also, I am a fairly tall woman and I haven't been given any stares (except from two very small girls when I stood up). All in all, Taipei is a fantastic city, much more Western than the book presents. The cultural explanations have been helpful, but don't expect as much "hardship" as the book implies.
In referencing some of the facts, the descriptions proffered seem to be fairly on the mark, but not always. While it is nice to read a book written with conviction, as this book is, you always have to be careful as to what is true and what is a stretch. Also, as a side note for the authors, it would be nice to not have to hear over and over about the husband's martial arts penchant.
I think the authors portray the average Taiwanese person as a bit more anti-Westerner, rude, harsh, and unforgiving than they really are. My experience with many Taiwanese is that they are more than happy to talk to you (if they spesk English) as long as you are willing to smile and open up. This is not a population of money-first, anti-white people. Sometimes I think the text intones this sentiment.
Thus the notion that the average foreigner will not be liked is not true, at least in my opinion. It has been my experience that in Taipei, where you will likely spend some (if not all) of your time, you will not be ogled and thought of as a freak, as plenty of non-Taiwanese exists there. In more rural settings, this may certainly be the case, as it was for me. (As a side note, if you are black you likely WILL be ogled no matter where you go.)
I think the issues discussed with saving face would make the visiting business person very careful in not [messing] up, as it were. While there is the notion of face, certainly, it is not the be all and end all of the Taiwanese lifestyle. If one were to proceed with such caution, the timidness of the traveller would certainly be poicked up and would cause judgement to be made for the worse.
Those are some problems I have with the book. All in all, there's not a ton of material written about Taiwan, so stacked up against its competition it fares rather well. As an absolute comparison, it could be more inclusive.
I did like the book. It does touch on a lot of issues that would be helpful for someone visiting the country. As a learning tool about Taiwan, this is just as good a start as any short of marrying a Taiwanese man or woman and spending time there. Many issues are briefly covered, but not too briefly to get any substance out of them.
All in all, I recommend it.
The breadth of topics covered is impressive. A bit of language, enough history to teach you why things are as they are, information on doing business and entertaining, what you should worry about and what you should not, climate, traffic, politics, religion, philosophy, the culture of the small business owner, and even varieties of food are addressed. I would recommend it strongly, not only for the traveler to Taiwan but for anyone with close friends or co-workers who hail from it--if I'd had it years ago, I'd have committed fewer faux pas and had a better time.