I don’t want to belabor the topic of Chinese tourists in Taiwan, but something I witnessed during lunch today compels me to revisit the subject, if only so briefly. Eating my shrimp dumpling noodle soup and absorbed in Jay Taylor’s biography of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), my attention was suddenly drawn to a trio of people — one aged man and two mid-aged women — speaking louder than usual. From his accent, I could tell that the man was from China. Had their behavior been limited to the usual loudness with which Chinese carry a conversation, I would have written them off and continued on with my meal.
The real problems started when they got up to pay. I eat at that restaurant all the time and know its staff pretty well; the waitress who process their bill is a good-natured and soft-spoken lady in her late thirties. When one of the women started raising her voice and arguing with the waitress (with the man looming not far behind), and when another young waiter joined in the discussion, I knew something was wrong. The whole scene must have lasted five minutes, whereupon the trip departed in a hurry.
When my turn came to pay, I asked the waitress the obvious — that is, whether they were Chinese, and what the problem was. As it turns out, they were Chinese and didn’t want to pay the total amount of the bill, arguing that they’d run out of Taiwanese currency. This is hard to believe, given that there were three of them and the place isn’t exactly expensive (I had lunch there with my mother and aunt a couple of weeks ago for NT$240). The likelier scenario is that the Chinese were once again showing their arrogance and treating Taiwanese like second-rate citizens — in their own country.
Rather than create a scene or call the police, the waitress played the ever-so-kind Taiwanese and paid the difference using her own money, slightly shaking her head as she closed her purse.
This is a minor, thought I’m sure not isolated incident. It makes me wonder, though, if, as cross-strait investment and economic activity intensifies through financial MOUs and an ECFA, Chinese will not also try to cheat their Taiwanese counterparts out of their money, this time on a much grander scale.