台式款待 / Hospitality, Taiwan Style

台式款待

在早先的博客中我曾提到,初到香港时,我没打算长住。我想找一个说普通话的环境,在那时候,台湾是个顺乎自然的选择。

在我找到工作后,整个情况便朝着不同的方向发展了。我在香港定居,开始定期到中国大陆去旅行,做起了自己的生意。结果,一直到上世纪80年代初,我才第一次踏上台湾之行。

当时,我已经听过很多关于台湾的好话,包括许多在那里学习、生活过的同学的溢美之言,因此我对第一次去台湾充满期待。

在预订酒店时,我遇到了一点小麻烦。旅行社通知我,在我计划停留的那5天里,有两个晚上酒店没有空房。可我不想再改变行期,于是按原计划出发了,以为车到山前必有路。

在办理入住手续时,酒店前台的年轻女接待员非常友善地帮助我,答应尽力帮我解决在台这几天的住宿问题。她解释说,由于这周台湾要举办几个大型展销会,各大酒店都快订满了。

我们用汉语交流,她问我在台湾生活了多长时间。我回答说这是我第一次来台湾,她非常惊讶,而且似乎对此行能否一路顺风感到十分担心。她建议我第二天再来问问,到那时也许会有一些订房的好消息。

第二天上午,我去看了一下,下午又去了一次。女接待员满怀歉意地说,房间很紧张,虽然她和经理说了,但还是没能在他们宾馆里为我找到那两天的住房。她让我明天上午再来问一下情况,我请她尽量帮个忙,因为我喜欢这家酒店,实在不想搬出去。

尽管她的服务态度非常专注和热情,我还是觉得最好有一个备用方案。我找到了另外一家宾馆,正好在余下的几天里有空房,为防万一,我做了预订。

第二天上午,我回到那家酒店的前台,女接待员再次表示很抱歉,尽管求了经理,但他们实在没有空房给我。

她特别担心我的首次访台之旅受挫,甚至在前一天晚上吃饭时把我这个会说中文、首次来台的美国游客的困境告诉了父母。她的父母表示,假如我实在找不到酒店,可以到她家里去住。

如此慷慨友善的示意着实令我感动,我对她深表感谢,还告诉她我已经在其他酒店找好了房间。并请她向她的父母转达我真挚的感谢,无论如何,他们的好意已经给我留下了深刻的印象。

我把周六这一天作为观光时间。我上了一辆出租车,用中文告诉司机,我要去博物馆。路程很长,我们聊起天来。他问我在台湾住了多久,我再次解释说,我是头一次来。

他既惊讶又迷惑,问我在哪儿学的中文。我告诉他,是在美国的学校里学的,还在香港住了好几年。他还是很好奇,对我说香港人都是讲粤语的。

然后,我说起自己曾多次去过大陆。这对他来说可是个大新闻,他的问题就像开了闸的洪水,一发不可收拾:大陆是什么样子,我去大陆都住在哪儿,等等。我仿佛突然变成了一名从太空返回地球的宇航员。

可是,交谈随后就发生了转变:当我告诉他自己去过大陆的哪些城市时,其中包括湖南长沙,这是他父亲的故乡。

听到这儿,他似乎深受触动。

接下来我看到,他关上了里程表,对我宣布,如果我不反对,他要一尽地主之谊,领我去博物馆,带我参观,请我吃午餐,再把我送回酒店。

随后发生的事情和他说的丝毫不差,我就这样结束了难忘的一周,先后享受了两次不同寻常的台湾式款待。

Hospitality, Taiwan Style

As I wrote in an earlier post, when I first came to Hong Kong, I didn’t intend to stay long. I wanted to be in a Mandarin-Chinese speaking environment, and Taiwan was the logical choice at the time.

Things took a different turn after I found a job, settled into Hong Kong, began travelling to the Chinese mainland regularly, and set up my own business. As a result, my first visit to Taiwan didn’t take place until the early 1980s.

I’d heard many good things about Taiwan, including from many schoolmates who had studied and lived there, so I was really looking forward to my first visit.

There was a small problem with my hotel reservation. My travel agent told me that for two nights in the middle of my planned 5-day stay, the hotel had no vacancy. I didn’t want to change my dates, so I went ahead anyway, assuming I could sort the problem out after arrival.

The young lady at the Reception Desk of the hotel was very friendly and helpful when I checked in, and promised to try to solve my problem and find me a room for the duration of my stay, explaining that major hotels were heavily booked that week due to several large trade shows.

We spoke in Chinese, and she asked how long I had lived in Taiwan. When I explained it was my first visit, she was surprised and seemed genuinely concerned that it be a smooth and successful one. She suggested I check back the next day, at which time she hoped to have good news about my reservation.

When I checked back the next morning, and again that afternoon, she was very apologetic in explaining that they really were very tightly booked and despite speaking to her manager, she had failed to find me a room in their hotel for the two nights in question. She asked me to come back the following morning for a final check on the status. I asked her to please do her best because I liked the hotel, and really did not want to have to move out.

Despite her very attentive and helpful service attitude, I decided it would be wise to find an alternative. I found another hotel with vacancy for the rest of my planned stay, and made a reservation, just in case.

When I returned to the front desk the following morning, she was again very apologetic, saying that despite her appeals to her manager, they really had no room for me.

So concerned was she about me having a good experience on my first visit to Taiwan, that she had mentioned the plight of this first-time American visitor to Taiwan who spoke Chinese to her parents during dinner the previous night. They responded by telling her to invite me to stay with them in their family home in the event there were no hotel rooms available to me.

I was, of course, amazed by the warmth and kindness of this remarkable gesture, and expressed my great appreciation. I also explained that in the meantime I had found another hotel, and asked her to relay my sincere thanks to her parents. The gesture left a deep impression nonetheless.

I kept the Saturday free for some sightseeing. Boarding a taxi, I told the driver in Chinese that I wanted to go to the museum. It was a fairly long drive and we got talking. He asked me how long I’d lived in Taiwan, and again I explained it was my first visit.

He was surprised and puzzled, and asked where I’d studied Chinese. I explained that I’d studied it in school in the U.S., adding that I had also lived in Hong Kong for some years. Still curious, he countered that Hong Kong was Cantonese-speaking.

I then mentioned that I had been to the Chinese mainland many times. This was big news to him and opened a floodgate of questions about what it was like there, where I had been, etc. I had suddenly achieved the status of an astronaut returning from space.

The real turning point in the conversation, however, came after I answered his question on which cities I had visited, one of which, Changsha in Hunan Province, was his father’s home town.

He seemed deeply touched and moved by this.

The next thing I knew, he turned off the meter of the taxi and announced that if I did not object, I would be his guest that day. He would take me to the museum, tour it with me, invite me to lunch, and drop me back at the hotel.

All of which is exactly what happened, capping off a very memorable week with two extraordinary displays of hospitality, Taiwan-style.


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