Jokes Around the Office: KTV Bragging 「有紅花也要有綠葉」

I heard the phrase 「有紅花也要有綠葉」 in a conversation between two colleagues in the tea room about a prospective KTV session. The guy was singing as he made his coffee, and the other colleague asked why he was so happy. He replied that it’s not that he’s super happy but that given the arrival of a new colleague, he’s looking forward to a KTV sesh. The colleague replied modestly that she is silent as the grave in KTV sessions. The guy then said in jest 「有紅花也要有綠葉」 (lit. You can be the green leaves that set off the red flower). This is used as a metaphor for how a great musician/great actor needs supporting musicians/actors for their performance to be carried off, which made me think of the microaggression that is Bette Middler’s song “The Wind Beneath My Wings”. Of course, he followed it up with a 「沒有啦」 to ensure his modesty was in tact, before blasting another view verses of the song he’d been rehearsing.

Revisiting 「佛系」 with the GooAye and Commute for Me Podcast

It’s always fun to hear a piece of vocab you’ve learned previously in the wild.

When listening to the 「股癌」 (GooAye) podcast I heard the phrase 「佛系」 (Buddhist/noninterference approach) which is a variant of the 「佛系……法」 (Buddhist/noninterference approach to…) phrase I featured in a previous post here.

At the 8:56 (-33:19) point roughly, he says:

「你不要幫上漲跟下跌找理由,但是我發現有些人會去把我講的話有點極端化,就變成說完全不找理由。好像完全是佛系自由。」

“Don’t try and explain rises and falls, but I’ve found that some people have taken what I said to the extreme, and they don’t try and look for reasons at all. It’s like they’re dedicated to noninterference and freedom.”

Here he is cautioning people not to try and try and explain short term rises and falls in stock prices, but then qualifying this by saying that they can look for longer term reasons for price rises and falls.

From listening over the last few months, I found out that the guy behind the podcast was hopeful that Trump would win the election, although his reasons are largely to do with financial policy. The podcast is definitely worth listening to for insights on Taiwanese society and the business world as well as analysis of trends in stocks and shares.

In the same week, the phrase also came up in the 台通 (Commute For Me) podcast in an interview with the spokesperson of the Taiwan Statebuilding Party (台灣基進) Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟), who led the recall petition movement against Han Kuo-yu (from 12:33 or -41:31):

Host: 那你有得到正面的回饋啊。
陳柏惟:對啊。所以那個不是自我說服唉,我覺得那個是有時間的過程。那個不是坐在家裡瞑想佛系態度。
Host: So you got positive feedback.
Chen Po-wei: Yes. So I don’t think it was me convincing myself, I think it happened over time. It wasn’t like I was sitting at home meditating hoping that things would just fall in my lap.

This is also a reference to the 佛系 memes, which play on the Buddhist concept of noninterference that I featured in the previous post.

Chen also used the Taiwanese word 「𨑨迌/企投 」 chhit-thô featured in a previous post as well at the 21:57 (-32:07) point. Although I only mentioned these two, there are lots of gems in this interview and it’s definitely worth a listen.

《陽光普照》影評 ‘A Sun’: Film Review

*Spoiler warning*

“A Sun” is a 2019 film from director Chung Mong-Hong (鍾孟宏), dealing with family relationships, crime and redemption.

The English title, I think is a play on the sounds Sun/Son, as the father in the film, a driving instructor, always says he has only one (a) son when asked by nosy older female students about his family, although the referent changes from one son to the other as the film progresses, first due to his disappointment at his younger son’s failure in school and criminal acts, then due to his elder son’s suicide. The Chinese title 「陽光普照」 (the sun shines over all things) is more a reflection on both sons growing up in the same environment, but having drastically different personal outcomes. The story has echoes of the parable of the two sons in the Bible, in terms of traditional filial expectations:

“But what think ye? A certain man had two sons. He came to the first, and said, ‘Son, go work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he repented, and went. He came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir!’ but went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father?”

“The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Verily I say unto you that the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering into the Kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn’t believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. When you saw it, you didn’t even repent afterward, that you might believe him.”

At first, it appears that A-he is the son who has turned from the path his father wants for him. He gets involved with a dodgy friend, Cai-tou, who goes too far in trying to intimidate someone and lands them both in prison by cutting off the guy’s hand. The family also find out that A-he impregnated his girlfriend not long before going into prison. His brother, on the other hand, has perfect grades and is the apple of his father’s eye. In the end, however, it is A-he who ends up working hard at two jobs, marrying and having a son, while the elder son takes his own life, seemingly due to a combination of being bad at talking to girls, rejection from his brother and the pressure his dad puts on him. Both sons are led to completely different outcomes by the same circumstances, and neither is happy.

Although the film has been described to me as highlighting the value of perseverance, this interpretation is thrown into question by the final twist. The only reason Caitou doesn’t succeed in destroying A-he’s attempt to rebuild his life and drawing him back into the criminal underworld, is that A-he’s father murders him. This seems an unlikely outcome in reality, and one might imagine many young offenders like A-he just getting pulled back into crime. The difficulty in finding redemption for people just released from jail is showcased by the series of interviews A-he goes to, just to be rejected when he tells them where he’s been for the last year and a half. Even A-he’s dad’s job is put into jeopardy by the appearance of Caitou’s dad at his workplace, desperate to find money to pay compensation to the victims. This was another interesting aspect of the film, in that the financial repercussions of criminal acts in Taiwan often fall on the families of the perpetrator.

Overall it is a very compelling film and well-shot. I think there could have been more resolution over the brother’s storyline, as I think the suicide was a little too easy and cliché in terms of Taiwanese drama. The appearance of the ghost of the brother bringing father and son together was also my least favourite part of the film, but led to one of my favourite scenes, when the son served the father in the Family Mart.

Definitely worth watching 5/5

Trash in Taiwan

If you don’t live in a swanky apartment complex that does your garbage for you, then you might find yourself racing home from work/the bar/a date at the most awkward time just to throw your rubbish in the truck whilst being judged by and simultaneously judging all your neighbours for the small size of their recycling bag or their oversized and unsorted garbage (judge first, lest the first stone hit you in the eye (paraphrased)).

Well – there’s an app for that! For those of you in Taipei it’s the one below:

Link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.admin.claire.garbag_truck&hl=zh_TW

Most other cities now have similar apps though.

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Apply for your Stimulus Vouchers to be Deducted from your Credit Card Bill with your APRC

So, it’s happening, a limited group of foreigners (APRC holders) can now access stimulus vouchers. Here’s how:

Go to the Executive Yuan Triple Stimulus Voucher website:

You can pick different options, apparently if you want the printed vouchers you can go to a Post Office branch with your APRC, NHI card and NT$1000, but I’m going to do the Credit Card Link for the purposes of this post. (Beware, going the credit card route is not Instagram friendly, but you can just type #TripleStimulus on any major social network and nab someone else’s photo for some physical voucher sheek on your timeline, without the hassle of having to carry around and spend physical vouchers.)

Once you click, you’ll see a list of banks and pick the one you have a credit card with:

In my case, I have a card with E Sun, so when you click through on their site, you’ll come to a page in Chinese, with several options. What you want to do is tie your digital vouchers to your credit card account, which is the option below in the case of E Sun:

You’ll be asked to enter your ARC number and your date of birth (ROC style, so subtract 1911 from your birth year, eg. 1985 – 11 = 74 and format is YYMMDD) and a captcha code.

They’ll then ask you to fill in a code sent to your phone and the following options will come up>

The first option in the list is to have the vouchers subtracted from the balance of your next credit card bill, which is what I want.

So, just click 送出 and it will check your info and if successful you’ll get the following message:

OK! Job done! And well done you for stimulating Taiwan’s economy like a good little consumer!

Let me know if you have any know-how to share with other readers on other ways to exchange your vouchers or experience with other banks!

UPDATE: I applied to link my account on November 16, according to E.Sun the eligibility started for purchases made after November 23, so for most people the money will be deducted from December’s bill. I also received a text from my bank giving me notice that I’ve already spent enough from my next bill to qualify:

Go gadget economy!

Using Characters to Detect Chinese Phishing Threats in Taiwan

Image by ShiiftyShift

OK, I swear I didn’t click anything… but had to sit through a cyber security lecture on phishing at work. The most interesting part of the largely common-sense lecture though was how you can spot social engineering emails through the accidental use of irregular hybrids of simplified and traditional characters and terms more commonly used in China and not in common use in Taiwan.

In the video they say some of these hybrids are “simplified characters” but many of them attempt to disguise themselves as traditional characters unsuccessfully.

I thought I’d point out some of the examples used below:

「大家可以登入健康信息統計系統提交……」

So in Taiwan you rarely here the term 「信息」 at all, and even less in the context of personal health data, whereas 「健康資料」or 「健康資訊」 are much more common. The term「健康訊息」 is also common but refers more to information about health, rather than one’ s own health data. One way to check this is to Google the terms in quote marks and check out the sources of the web pages and the context in which the terms are used.

“健康信息” returns mostly articles from Chinese media, like Xinhua and the People’s Daily in a context very similar to that used in the Phishing email:

Whereas with “健康資料” the first results you’ll see are from Taiwanese government’s health app and Taiwanese universities. The first one is also a 系統 like we saw in the Phishing email:

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Applying for quarantine subsidy in Taiwan

Photo by Kalyan Chakravarthy under Creative Commons 2.0 license

A friend recently came to Taiwan and completed their quarantine without a hitch. They were a little confused by the conflicting information about the NT$1000/day subsidy though, whether or not they were eligible and how to apply.

Eligibility requirements:

  1. In receipt of a quarantine notice
  2. Applications must be made AFTER completing quarantine
  3. No rule breaking during quarantine
  4. Not in receipt of salary or other compensation during quarantine period
  5. Have not departed Taiwan on an unnecessary trip* to another country or region with a level 3 warning from March 17 onwards. (necessary trips include siblings weddings and funerals of relatives to third degree (incl. aunts, uncles, nephews, grandparents, grandchildren) and business trips.)
  6. Filled out your quarantine notice information accurately and completely.
  7. Taiwanese nationals and ARC/resident visa holders can apply for the subsidy, while foreigners without residence cannot (from June 17 onwards).

Note: If you enter on a resident visa that you subsequently swap for an ARC and your period of quarantine overlaps with the period of residence with the resident visa you can still collect the subsidy.

If you’re still not sure, you can check your eligibility by calling the 1957 hotline.

Applying in person:

To apply in person you need to go to the counter of the District Office (區公所) of the district in which you completed your quarantine. If your quarantine hotel was in Wanhua, for example, you’d have to apply here:
10-12F, No.120, Sec. 3, Heping W. Rd., Wanhua Dist., Taipei City 108, Taiwan (R.O.C.).
Tel: 886-2-2306-4468 https://whdo.gov.taipei/

You’ll need your ARC, your passport and evidence of no income (unless you’re a student).

Applying online:

You can only apply online if you’ve already got a Taiwanese bank account. You should have your passport and ARC handy.

Open this website in Chrome:

Click on the green box 「隔離檢疫者防疫補償申請」 (apply for quarantine subsidy).

On the next page, it will ask you to tick a box, showing that you’ve read the terms and conditions and that you will provide accurate information. Then you follow the remaining prompts to fill in your personal info (maybe get a Taiwanese friend to help if your Chinese isn’t up to it).

If anyone has more accurate information on this process, feel free to send it to me so I can update the post!

There are six stages and once you’ve submitted your application, you can click the yellow box above to check on your application status or make alterations.

From 穿褲仔 to the 婆/T dichotomy Lesbians and putting on a spread in Taiwan

You have to respect a gay male podcast host for doing an entire episode on middle-aged and elderly lesbians! That’s exactly what the WetBoyRoom ( 「潤男的Room」) podcast host did this week, interviewing the contributors to a book about this subject called 《阿媽的女朋友》 (Grandma’s Girlfriends), lesbians from older generations in Taiwan.

If you’re not super familiar with the lesbian scene in Taiwan, many of them of about my generation (30s) tend to identify as either 「T」 (short for the English word “Tomboy”) or 「婆」 (lipstick lesbian). With time, the lines between these categories have blurred just as they have in the male gay community, and many people now consider these terms outdated and being a heteronormative way of perceiving gay relationships (i.e. trying to figure out who is “the man” and who is “the woman” in the relationship). It was interesting to hear in the podcast that this dichotomy was actually a more recent phenomenon in the lesbian community, but a Taiwanese term in the podcast really peaked my interest. At the 10:55 mark, one of the characters is described (in a Mandarin sentence) in Taiwanese as 「漂撇 ê 穿 仔」phiau-phiat ê chhēng khò͘ á (瀟灑的穿褲子/ dashing trouser-wearer). Although I think the host actually said 「穿褲ê」, 「穿褲仔」 or girls who wore trousers, could be identified more easily as lesbians (if they were in fact lesbians) back in the day. So, it can be considered as an older version of the concept of 「T」.

Another handy Taiwanese term in the podcast (which you could likely insert in a Mandarin sentence to compliment a dinner-party host, or, more likely, to mock your friend’s paltry offering of a packet of Lays as an hors d’oeuvre) is 「腥臊」 chhe-chhau (also pronounced chheⁿ-chhau or chhiⁿ-chhau), which is equivalent to the term 「豐盛」 in Mandarin, meaning “rich and sumptuous”:

那天同媽準備了很豐盛的食物,不只是麻油雞,我記得她準備了一整桌非常腥臊chhe-chhau click for audio) 的菜。

(That day, Aunty Tong prepared a bounty of food, not just sesame oil chicken, I remember she prepared an entire table of rich sumptuous food.)

Definitely looks like an interesting books to read, will have to add it to my list!

Word of the Day: Chinese ‘diplomats’ undiplomatic fuck up in Fiji「凸槌」 thut-chhôe / thut-chhê

There’s been a lot of media coverage in Taiwan and elsewhere over the past few days about the Chinese diplomats who allegedly put a Taiwanese official in Fiji in hospital after trying to take names and photos of guests at a Taiwanese reception in the country (seemingly to report to their superiors in Beijing and launch reprisals against said guests).

On my morning commute I was listening to Professor Su Hung-dah from National Taiwan University’s Department of Political Science (who also worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs early in his career) talk about the incident on New98 (a light blue leaning radio station). He’s mainly calling out China for its clumsy efforts, in that actual diplomats showed up to do the dirty work, when a more cunning approach would have been to send some Chinese hooligans with no ties to the embassy to stir things up. He also suggested Taiwan start hiring security guards for these kinds of events. The show is broadcast on YouTube too, and you can rewatch below (the segment on Fiji starts at 5:15):

The interesting part for me was the use of a Taiwanese term in the middle of a flow of Mandarin (from 12:09):

「大陸這個段數不高了,就說今天我用一個正式的外交官去收證。其實這就是……很容易,很容易 「凸槌」嘛!」

(This wasn’t very high-level stuff from Mainland China, in saying today we’re gonna send a diplomatic official to go collect evidence. This is actually… it could very easily turn into a scandal, no?)

The characters 「凸槌」 (thut-chhôe / thut-chhê) are just borrowings from Mandarin to represent the sounds. The two main dictionaries I use seem to indicate that original characters would have been「脫箠」and it can mean “to make a mistake”, “to blow one’s cover”, “to make a fool of oneself” or “to go off the rails”.

Interestingly enough, the Taiwanese translation of the Rowan Atkinson spy comedy Johnny English is 『凸搥特派員』, which really does add a bit of comedy to the word choice.

Penis Jokes Without Borders: Decoding Taiwanese

I heard this joke referenced on yesterday’s Commute for Me (臺通) podcast. The host didn’t actually tell the whole joke, but just the punchline:

「有兩個人一起生活 一個名叫詠蘭,另一個名叫貢九 詠蘭負責打獵,貢九則是負責在家煮飯做事 有一天,家裡發生大火,有人就趕快去通知在外打獵的詠蘭,要詠蘭快去叫貢九逃。 詠蘭叫貢九逃 用懶叫打石頭(台語)」 (I found the original joke on Dcard here).

(“There were once two people who lived together, one was called Yonglan (詠蘭) and the other was called Gongjiu (貢九). Yonglan took responsibility for hunting, while Gongjiu cooked at home and did the chores. One day there was a big fire in the house, so someone quickly went to find Yonglan, who was out hunting, to tell Gongjiu to flee. Yonglan told Gongjiu to flee.”)

Haha, right? (*smile, nod and no-one will notice you didn’t get it*). Yes, the joke doesn’t work in English because it plays on the differences between Mandarin and Taiwanese. So the phrase 「詠蘭叫貢九逃」(yǒnglán jiào gòngjiǔ táo / “Yonglan tells Gongjiu to flee”) in Mandarin, sounds like the Taiwanese 用 lān鳥 摃 石頭 iōng lān-chiáu  kòng chio̍h-thâu (“Using your penis to hit rocks”). Brings back the heady whiff of teenage angst and high school locker rooms, right?

You can listen to one of the hosts telling this joke on the podcast below from the 9:38 point:

「這故事我從頭到尾有點忘記了,然後呢,最後就是出現一句話。詠蘭,裡面有個角色,阿姨叫貢九,然後詠蘭叫貢九逃。是台語『用 lān鳥 摃 石頭』。」

(“I’ve forgotten the ins and outs of the story, but, there’s a sentence at the end. Yonglan is one of the characters, and her aunt is Gongjiu. And so, YongLan tells Gongjiu to flee. Which sounds like “Using your penis to hit rocks” in Taiwanese.