When we were first informed the international trip for our class was to Taiwan, many cultural norms, facts and economic statistics were thrown our way. None of these figures could have prepared us for the experiences ahead. On our first day in Taipei we were astounded by the kind-hearted nature of the locals. Having lived abroad for over a year in Europe, I was conditioned to refuse help on the street, out of fear of being taken advantage of. Here in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, the opposite was true. The only trouble we found was that asking for help could result in a long conversation and relationship building taking up time needed for the task at hand.
We found the same relationship building and kind-hearted respect at the company's we visited. Both the optics company Altek and textiles company Hyperbola put tremendous value on the relationships they had with foreign businesses and placed that far above profits and losses.
Don’t get me wrong, competition is high and many businesses fail. However, the general theme of every business we met was one of nationalism and support for their fellow business owner. Respect was abundant even if that business owner was in the same industry. Of the many other businesses, we visited, from manufacturing companies, to small start-ups in their infancy, everyone saw themselves as a small business and felt a responsibility to the other small businesses of Taiwan.
We saw competitive advantages ignored out of fear of damaging other businesses in Taiwan and opportunities for philanthropy placed at a premium, in every company we toured. Investors and shareholders were never mentioned as the key concern in a recession, it was always the employees placed as the key stakeholders. Although labor rates were lower, we saw quickly this did not mean lower quality and the Taiwanese companies we met with had tremendous pride in the quality of their products, for the companies they partner with, and the end customer. In this fast-paced world, they really care about the relationships they build domestic and abroad.
It is amazing how in such a short time, Taiwan has won our hearts. The competitive advantages their location, population, and trade resources provide, were just the beginning and we are all impacted for witnessing this amazing island. For me personally the tag “Made in Taiwan” will certainly take on a different meaning in the future. One of mutual respect and admiration.
Michael is an Executive MBA student in the on-campus Class XXV cohort. He is a supervisor with CP Rochester.
Read more reflections and perspectives from the global study trip to Taiwan: