Greener on the other side

A week-long visit to Taiwan convinced me our lawns need a little more watering.
Read time 3min 00sec

I'm one of those people who get rather heated when others suggest that any other country could be better than ours. Different I will concede, but better? Not a chance.

Nevertheless, spending a week in Taiwan has got me wondering whether the grass might, just perhaps, be a tiny bit greener on the other side.

The country, like ours, has a history of oppression, military rule and instability. Yet it appears to have taken the best lessons from its turbulent history to create a culture that is hard working, respectful and meticulous.

Are there lessons SA, its government and its people can learn from Taiwan? I think so.

Working government

Take for instance the country's government support of its local industry. Last week's Computex show was opened by several government dignitaries, including its minister of economic affairs. Moreover, official representatives from a dozen countries - including SA - were invited to the event.

A culture of hard work is ingrained from an early age and the Taiwanese often give the impression they live to work, rather than the other way around.

Kimberly Guest, senior journalist, ITWeb

Of course, I expected to catch a quick snooze during the political rhetoric. However, there was none - government messaging avoided self-promotion and focused on industry instead.

This was a smart move. Mainland China continues to exert political pressure on the Republic of China - as it prefers to be called - to return to the communist fold. By focusing attention on industry, government officials sidetracked mainland China's political demands of "us or them" and got visitors to focus purely on the business value offered by its companies.

Did the country lose out? Not at all. A significant amount of international business was secured at the faire. This will translate into economic growth, increased tax collections and more money for government to put into its public service kitty.

Citizen support

Nevertheless, government alone cannot make the country succeed and the country's citizens recognise this.

A culture of hard work is ingrained from an early age and the Taiwanese often give the impression they live to work, rather than the other way around. So when government recently decided to reduce its standard six-day working week by one day, many of the country's working population felt somewhat disconcerted.

This conscientious spirit follows through to issues of health, environment and crime. The Taiwanese rarely abuse the government-sponsored healthcare system and the streets of Taipei are surprisingly clean for such a densely-populated region.

As for crime, it is quite possible to leave your camera in a taxi and have it returned to you. (I inadvertently tested this theory and can attest to the general honesty of the community.)

That's not to say there is no crime; rather it resides at levels where violence and public awareness are less warranted than in our own beautiful country.

So has my Taiwan trip tempted me to seek greener pastures? Definitely not! I am still a proud South African girl from KZN, with no interest in deserting my land.

However, I am changing my attitude to those pesky discussions on how much "better" other countries are. Instead of militantly defending my country of origin, I intend to listen carefully to what is so special about these other destinations and see what lessons we can adopt here.

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