When I first stepped out of the airport in Taiwan and saw how the country actually looked like, it was quite like Singapore, not what i had anticipated. For example, the climate almost as hot and humid as back here! The whole place was also pretty clean with a fair bit of greenery and plats around, just like back home.
A big obstacle I faced when in Taiwan was the language barrier. I do understand and can speak Mandarin but I am proficient in neither speaking nor understanding. Communication sometimes posed a problem. Very often when I order food, I can say what I want but when they ask specific questions relating to the order to anything else, I would be in a mess because I could not catch on to what they said, since they spoke very quickly. I always needed my friends around to help me if such a situation arose. Even during the company visits, I often had to trouble my friends to translate for me or I would ask them every now and then what a certain word or phrase meant. It was an arduous challenge trying to understand the speakers or sometimes even keep awake since I would space out easily and fall asleep, not understanding what was going on. I guess this taught me that connections are important because sometimes in life we need help from others in order to understand and communicate with others when engaging with counterparts not from the same region, having different ideologies and languages.
After going for the trip, my friends and I really got so much closer and the chance to get to know our teachers who went on the trip was also priceless. Never would I have imagined that we would be able to talk to our teachers as friends. I learnt that no matter where we go and what we do, time is of the essence. Punctuality was probably one of the most valuable lessons taught at the trip. With everyone cooperating and following closely to the schedule, the whole trip was made more efficient and much easier to handle since we often had to travel from one location to another.
One other valuable lesson I learnt is that sometimes it is alright to relax. Usually i keep myself focused all the time to prevent myself from losing track of my goals but actually, by letting go once in a while, it can actually spur myself to be even more determined to continue, eg diet and training. This is probably something i have been missing out, making my life as a whole too rigid and boring. Thus, after this trip, i actually felt more alive.
Over the course of the 8 days in Taiwan, I realised that Taiwanese actually provide better service than in Singapore, whether at the night market or in shopping centres. They tended to me much more polite and genuinely thoughtful towards their customers. Just to name one, when we went to the beef noodle shop on day 7, the staff in charge of serving the noodles was struggling to bring all the bowls out as quickly as he could and we understood that he was already tying his best. Every time he passed our table, he would apologise to us profusely, taking the blame. This is almost the total opposite here when majority of the service staff move rather slowly and always push the blame to others. As such, the service-oriented behaviour of Taiwanese greatly impressed me.
I also found out for myself how Taiwanese are really superstitious. Among all the buildings we entered in Taiwan, i noticed that none of the buildings i noticed had a level 4, which is considered a very unlucky number in the Chinese culture. Other than that, in the hotel, i saw a guest in the neighbouring room ring the doorbell every time before he entered the room, regardless of whether there was anyone inside. This is practiced a lot around the world too. Even when i talked to a shop keeper at a night market about what they do after they close their stalls, they said when everything is cleaned up you are supposed to turn the chairs upside down and rest the seat part on the table top – this is so no ghosts can sit in your place.
There was once when a shopkeeper was quite busy with reorganising his shop and when we went in, he looked frustrated that we would disrupt his reorganising and was a little rude. When we started speaking in English, his gaze changed and he asked us which country we were from and we replied Singapore. Suddenly he started being really friendly and helpful. I did a little probing the following days, subtly asking the locals when I had a chance (with my broken Chinese) and researched on the internet on why the Taiwanese seemed to be friendlier towards foreigners (other than China) and I later found out it is because they wish to showcase to the world that they are better than China. It might not be completely the case for every local but there has been substantial proof from surveys. I found this really interesting how their political conflict between themselves and China has made such an impact on the entire country and how locals are so patriotic and nationalistic.
By visiting various established organisations in Taiwan, I learned that punctuality is very important in business. I remember that one time when we were about half an hour late for the session with OCBC, the speaker indirectly expressed his displeasure of our late arrival a couple of times, saying "Since we have only 45min left, I am unable to go through what i prepared" and "i do not have that much time due to my tight schedule". It made quite an impact on me because I realised that sometimes even though you might have had a good relationship with a customer, a slight problem with punctuality could have a much larger impact in terms of what the customer will think of you, thereby affecting future relations with one another and possibly even relations with close ties of the customer.
Risks should also be coped with and not avoided because avoiding a risk would mean there would be less returns. Being able to handle risks is what makes OCBC stand out from the rest and thus make more profits so similarly we can apply that in the future when engaging in any business.
Mr Brown Coffee:
Integrity was also exemplified when we visited the Mr Brown Coffee of King Car group. It was mentioned that they were only slightly affected by the China milk scandal because they had their own inspection of their goods and reported it to the authorities, knowing that there might be repercussions. After reporting it, the authorities in charge recognised their effort to providing quality products to customers since they were willing to report their defective goods instead of continuing to sell them countrywide and even globally. Thus they were not charged and no further probes were made into their production methods and procedures.
Learning and understanding the work and practices of operating and planning was made much easier. Visiting these corporations definitely also increased my interest in the field of banking, especially the Taiwan Stock exchange. I gained a lot of valuable insights from the speaker and reinforced the importance of knowing what is happening all around the world and incidents not just occurring in the business sector can affect us.
TaiChung Commercial Bank: As explained by the speaker, many officers go the extra mile, to provide extra services beyond that of their job scope and way beyond stipulated working hours, for their customers in order to secure another deal in the future. This taught me that a lot has to be sacrificed for the job and sometimes even though it might be better in the long run when it comes to bonuses and secured deals, personally I do not think that doing such extra work is worth it so I might reconsider working in that line. Just my personal opinion though.
NP Core Values:
Respect: There were actually many opinions and questions raised by fellow students during company visits, some were knowledgeable questions but some were rather shallow or questions that were asked for the sake of it and I found it unnecessary. However instead of expressing my dissatisfaction or making comments that might bring about potential conflict, I kept them to myself and respected them for still making an effort to ask. Through this trip I actually learnt a fair bit of self-control since I am a person who is usually quite direct and I would just make comments without thinking of the other party but this time I managed to control myself and not do or say anything that might hurt anyone else.
Compassion: At the start of the trip, my roommate fell a little sick and I did my best to take care of him, making sure he took his medication, had enough water to drink etc
Gratitude: In appreciation of the teachers planning the trip, taking such good care of us and making the trip enjoyable, a group of friends and I decided to buy a small gift for the teachers.