After having done business with hundreds of manufacturers in China, Raymond Koot (47, based in Taipei) has a wealth of first-hand experiences and knowledge to share with Club China members
“Fa fa fa”, good fortune!
Good luck is a big thing in Taiwan
Last month, when I was playing golf in Taipei, I almost stepped on a snake in the rough. Ten minutes later, I came across another one. “Fa fa fa!”, my golf pro in awe commented as he watched the snake move away. He congratulated me on not just meeting one, but two snakes, which is considered to bring great luck.
“Fa fa fa” means something like “triple eight”, which he explained by saying that some very good fortune will come my way. In Taiwan, good luck is a big thing and many people believe in reading the signs that tell you that your life is going uphill or downhill. Like with the number 13 in western countries, ‘4’ is not very popular in Asia. Many hotels will skip this number, you will not be able to book a room on the fourth floor there. Luckily, there are also many good numbers. People will pay a lot of money to get a car license plate with series like 0099 on it, or 999 of 888 and 8899. Forget about the 666, nobody wants that.
Some time ago somebody wanted to buy my phone number, because it has a nice number series in it: 98765. Series are very popular among believers in good fortune.
To the Chinese, it is very important to recognise the good fortune signs. Like my pro felt that he needed to tell me about the “fa fa fa”, it is considered bad luck not to pay attention to the signs. Acknowledgement is very important. To stay with golf: if you happen to hit a hole in one, you should definitely share this good luck with the friends in your flight – pay for their drinks and a decent dinner at the club house – and make sure everybody knows of your good fortune. Golf courses know about this too: included in your green fee or club membership is a small amount, call it an insurance fee for the club, that covers the prize you get for a hole in one. At some courses these prizes can add up to € 1,000 and up!
So the signs of good and bad luck are everywhere. Make sure you do not disregard them and do follow the etiquette. One of the rules is never to propose a toast for good luck with your left hand. Use your right hand and act like the Chinese!
Do I believe in all this good and bad luck principles? Like I have said before, I do like to live like the Chinese, to blend in and to be part of local Taiwanese society. So I do honour local traditions and beliefs. And I must say, meeting with the two ‘little dragons’ on the golf course seems to have paid off. A week later I met with a new customer and made an interesting deal. But I am not fully convinced: was this the good fortune that the two snakes had in mind? Or did I just do a good job that resulted in a business deal that is beneficial to both parties?
Do you believe in good fortune?
Want more Ray's Response?
- Investing in Taipei: stocks or real estate? »
- Quanxi: use your network the Chinese way! »
- How I ended up in Taiwan »
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