Scooter culture in Taiwan

Hawaii has surfer culture, Japan has sumo culture, America has hot-dog culture and France has wine and cheese culture.  Well….what does Taiwan have?  Scooter culture, of course!  These machines are all over the island and a major mode of transportation for the masses.

Back home, when I was less experienced and…well…dumber, I’d turn up my nose at scooters.  They were for women and eunuchs, I thought.  No real man would ride one!

After owning and driving one (legally, if any cops or lawyers are reading this), I absolutely love em.  Besides being super convenient, very efficient on gas and pretty much a moving closet, they’re also incredibly cheap.  Used ones can go for as little as 10 000NT ($333.33) and maintenence is a joke.  I replaced my old engine with a new one for a mere 5000NT ($166.66).  So, suffice to say, I’m a scooter fan now.

To the untrained eye, they may appear to be the same, but trust me, there are different types of scooters and different personalities that ride them.  Over the course of my time in Taiwan, I’ve observed a lot of scooters, so here is a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the categories of scooter/drivers in Taiwan.

The Regular Joe


This is the garden variety type that most Taiwanese drive.  Nothing special, so let’s move on.

The Lightning


This one’s all flash and sizzle.  Usually ridden by testosterone filled, brain dead youngsters, The Lightning can be seen dashing along the roads at a bazillion km/hour.  Portraying the “give-a-damn” attitude, this type wants you to think that it thumbs it’s nose at all authority.  Yet, in a confrontation, if you quietly fart in their general direction, they will run for cover.

Riders of this type of scooter are out for maximum show, and they tend to make the young, rebellious Taiwanese princesses wet in their panties.  Some of us wish that like real lightning, this type would disappear in a flash, but alas, they return to plague the roads night after night.

The Hardcore


Similar in behaviour to the Lightning, but with balls, The Hardcore types really don’t give a damn.  They can usually be spotted whizzing by chewing copious amounts of betelnut, smoking a cigarette and chugging down Whisby (yes, it’s Whisby – an energy drink with alcohol) or Taiwan beer.

Possibly gang affiliated, these types disdain traffic lights and the use of helmets – their hardcore-ness will naturally shield them from any impact, plus their heads will crack the pavement – not the other way around.  I’d recommend avoiding contact with these types on the road.  At a KTV though….they could be your best friends!

The Princess

The Princess

In keeping with the trend of “hao ke’ai” ness (cuteness), this type is for the embodiment of desired femininity in Taiwan.  Perfectly beautiful, this type shines with feminine glory and demureness – but be careful.  Inside, she harbours the same 125cc engine, and if you provoke her, the claws will come out!  Don’t confuse cuteness with weakness.  The Princess IS a man-eater, and will have no qualms about showing you who’s boss!

The Hulk

The Hulk

These types are usually gentle giants – on the outside.  A nice, calm, friendly exterior masks a seething cauldron of strength and rage.  As long as you keep to the rules, The Hulk will do the same, and treat you in a gentle, peaceful fashion.  But you don’t want to make it angry.  You won’t like it when it’s angry.  With a 250cc – 350cc engine, The Hulk will SMASH!

The Workhorse or The Delivery


chinese delivery scooter

These types are constantly on the go.  Of all the types, they truly represent the work ethic of Taiwan.  These types will work all day and all night, even when they reach ripe old ages. The backbone of delivery conveniece and carting goods from A to B is built upon these machines and their riders.  They are crucial to life in Taiwan, and should be afforded the utmost respect.

The Bus


Why pay for taxis or the MRT (subway), when you can have your own private mass transport?  Although illegal, The Bus can be spotted on the roads.  Riders of this type have creatively come up with ways to load maximum bodies in minimum space.  The Bus is handy for families, as well as friends out for a night when everyone’s drunk and there is only 1 designated driver.  I, myself, have caught The Bus on a few occasions – when home is more than stumbling distance away.  No tokens or change needed either – just a good friend!

The Wall Street

The Wall Street

All business.  Strictly legal, The Wall Street will never make any blatantly wrong moves, but if there is room to bend the law, The Wall Street will push it to breaking point.  These types don’t care about you and your day unless you can make them a buck.  Emotionally void but materially rich, The Wall Street will carry the trappings of slick sophistication and monetary stability.  Very appealing to 30 ish Taiwanese women who want a solid foundation.  You will rarely see these types on the road as most of them have upgraded to BMW’s.

The Wannabe

The wannabe

Technically not really a scooter, this one is more of an electric bicycle.  Drawbacks include slowness, dorkiness and a general sense of emasculation.  Positives – they are good for the environment and quiet.  Trying to get into the big leagues, but will forever be doomed to swim in the shallow pool, The Wannabe is like that cousin that really wants to, but can never fit into the family.

The Johnnie Walker or The Drunk

The Drunk

This one hates to see the day because with the morning comes the horrible realization that it has collapsed in a ditch.  The illusions of grandeur generated during the night are swept away by the light exposing a splitting hangover and horrible cottonmouth.  And with Taiwan’s new hard stance on drinking and driving, riders of The Johnnie Walker/The Drunk are generally not present having being carted off to jail sometime last night.  Enough said!

So there you have it.

Many different types for many different strides.  Scooters are like the insects of Taiwan – everywhere, omnipresent.  And there is nothing better than being in the middle when the family gets together for a ride.  Looks a bit like this:

Scooter culture!  Coming to a western country near you!


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