I remember watching this scene in Shinjuku Incident a few years back. A local know-it-all is in a room full of Chinese immigrants to Japan. He’s explaining to Jackie Chan (surprisingly not playing a total dofus for once) where each table comes from. Finally, he turns to the last table and says, “Those loud guys over there… Fujian. The noisiest people are always from Fujian.”
It stuck with me because, at the time, I was living in Fujian. There was some serious truth to that hypothesis. It keeps coming back to me now, here in Taiwan– where, notably, most people trace their roots to Fujian.
So, the question begs, are Taiwanese some super-mutant noise-producers?
To get one thing straight, I hate hearing expats bitch about Taiwanese. Ninety-nine percent of the time these expats haven’t been around long enough to even begin to have the cred to start making all-encompassing accusations. And I’m no different, even now, even after all these years; there’s still just a lot that I don’t and won’t understand about people here.
That said, I am going to do my best to provide some scientific method to this experiment. After all, “76% of the world population is exposed to high noise levels above the permissible sound in one ear (65 dB),” according to the World Health Organization. So, let’s have real talk here for a minute, people.
First off, let’s sets some parameters. It’s not as though Taiwanese are turning a deaf ear to noise pollution. The EPA did come out with a “Noise Control Act” a few years back, and it is amended often. So, credit where credit is due, the government is making an effort.
Second, we need a couple of constants: The US and Spain.
My motherland is considered the noisiest country in the world, according to my research (Google). Spain ranks second, surprisingly, followed by Japan. I have spent plenty of time in these countries, and I’m going to use that as a baseline of evaluation here.
Now, some variables and observations…
I had yoga class tonight. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yoga. Deal with it. Anyway, the class is in my building, in a nice big room a couple blocks down. The teacher is this funky old lady who could probably tie herself into a pretzel twice if she wanted– aka the real deal. She always brings in her early-model mp3 player and sets the vibe with really laid back music only a yoga teacher would even know where to start looking for.
I enjoy it. It’s one of those creature comforts– a little down time, you know, after a full day of dealing with rambunctious little kindergartners, kids who think if they keep saying your name over and over and over, louder and louder and louder that eventually you will stop what you are doing. It’s nice to just mellow out.
That is unless my one neighbor shows up. A very friendly lady, this woman is absolutely not bothered to bring her two unruly little runts to class. I am talking non-stop shrieking, darting around the room, through your legs, pulling on your shirt, jumping on the sofa, just absolutely menacing little heathens. Super cute, mind you, but ridiculously naughty.
The amazing thing is, I think I am the only one in the class who gets ticked off by this! Everyone else just starts screaming over the chaos, embracing it; adding to it. Who gives two shits about the weirdo whitey? I mean, if I can’t hear clearly what the teacher is saying (in Chinese), I am completely lost. Just three moves behind, fully fucking baffled. Fully stressed.
But noise is no big deal here. It never is.
Noise? Just pump up your own volume and overpower that shit. Thems the rules, fool.
Granted, a lot of this has to do with the constant din of scooter traffic. It’s not helping anything, especially the Rough Rider punks with potato-shooter exhausts just screaming full throttle every 50 meters red light to red light. That creates a certain baseline daily deafening.
But then you have shops on the street that BUMP techno and pop music on the sidewalk in some ill-conceived marketing ploy to lure your attention. It’s as if they believe the louder their stores, the more likely you are to enter. Call it the “Abercrombie Corollary.”
You’ve got pharmacies and grocery stores blaring lists of sales items on repeat outside the entrance, constantly crying “要买要快喔!” (Wanna buy it, better hurry!”) every 5 seconds. Again. And again. And again. All day long. Soap? ”要买要快喔!” Detergent? ”要买要快喔!” Super absorbent maxi-pads?! “要买要快喔!”
The grocery store down the street from me takes bullhorns, inputs the daily sale, then leaves them on stacks of sale goods throughout the dinky little store I’m talking two bullhorns within an arms reach of each other, spouting out different product pitches. ”要买要快喔!”
Everyone knows about the garbage trucks that play Mozart and fa la la la. Well, as cute as it sounds, you can hear those bastards coming from a solid mile away. If you live anywhere near a residential area, you’d know it takes them a solid hour to do a city block. That’s an hour of five notes of some Bach jam on repeat. Not the whole thing, just the hook. Over and over and over and over.
No Saturday morning is complete without the neighborhood repair guy riding around on his jalopy bicycle creation at the buttcrack of dawn, with a recording of his own on blast. “卦门! 换玻璃!” (Hang doors! Fix windows!) and other mumbly gibberish.
This row of election propaganda trucks lines up outside my house every morning.
Don’t forget now we’ve got the election trucks. Imagine those al-Qaeda Toyotas with the machine guns on back, except change out that machine gun for a four-headed megaphone system. Those guys cruise up block after block at a snail’s pace, and once again, most of the time, you can’t even comprehend what they are saying.
I could go on and on. But that should suffice.
Taiwan is the noisiest country on Earth. Tinnitus, here I come.