Taiwan: Language, Numbers and Symbols

  • Flag of Taiwan

Taiwan is quite familiar with the Western culture which makes contacts from European side easier than, for instance, with mainland China. Nevertheless, there is a cultural gap. In terms of language, symbols, colors and numbers, Taiwan is more traditional than China. Hence, the traditional Chinese values and symbolism can even more extensively be applied.


The official language of Taiwan is Standard Mandarin Chinese. English counts among the main foreign languages spoken in Taiwan beside Japanese and Vietnamese. However, there are some differences in the spoken and written language between Taiwan and mainland China. The main difference is the use of Chinese characters. In Taiwan, the traditional Chinese characters are used, whereas simplified Chinese is used in mainland China. That is why Chinese marketing material should not be used in Taiwan. It is rather recommended to use English material as the Taiwanese might not understand it or be offended to be seen as Chinese since they value the differences to the mainland.


Colors and symbols play a high role in Chinese’s everyday lives. However, these differ in meaning and usage from the European perspective. As there is no official source for their meaning, it is recommended to mainly rely on personal experiences during trips to Taiwan or ro consult an expert.


Odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) are considered as yang and even numbers (2, 4, 6, 8) as yin. Combining both creates balance which is valued in Chinese culture. Number 3 is significant as it stands for growth representing the three important stages in a men’s life (birth, marriage & death). Number 8 (sounds like the Chinese word for luck) and 9 (like longevity) are also considered lucky. Number 9 as highest odd number is also considered with ultimate masculinity (odd=male, even=female). Number 4, however, is inauspicious sounding like the Cantonese word for “die”.


In Chinese culture, sharp things and cutting utensils are seen as intention to sever a relationship. Furthermore, there are different symbols which are associated with death such as clocks, handkerchiefs or also white flowers.