To me it seems there are only two kind of news from Taiwan that make it onto the international stage: War with China or something utterly silly, like changing the family name to get free salmon, which makes me face palm and feel ashamed of living here.
How everything started
What happened? The Japanese conveyor belt sushi restaurant chain Sushiro had a discount promotion from 17th to 18th March 2021. In that time people whose Chinese name was homophonic to the Chinese word for salmon (鮭魚 Guīyú) could could get discount. Actually the whole table of up to six persons got the discount.
If the name had one character homophonic to one of the characters for salmon, they would get 10% off. If the whole name would sound like salmon, then they get 50% off. And if their name was or contained the exact characters for salmon, then the whole table could get free all you can eat salmon. So far so good.
New name for free salmon
And now comes the crazy part. Actually it’s a combination of three things that probably only work in Taiwan. (1) Taiwanese are absolutely crazy for discounts and free offers. (2) In Taiwan people are eligible to change their name three times during life time. Changing the name is super easy and very cheap here. Don’t know about other countries but in Germany changing your name is 99.99% impossible. (3) New ID cards are printed on the spot.
Combing all these three things together results in the salmon-name-change-craze. People really went to the household registration office to change their name into something with salmon, got the new ID card on the spot and went to the Sushiro restaurant to eat free salmon with their friends. Afterwards they went back to the household registration office to change the name back. In total 133 people in Taiwan changed their names to salmon.
Here are two articles, one in Chinese and one in English
But there is a catch
If you exceeded the three times change limit, then you are stuck with your new salmon name. And it seems that there is at least one case where it happened.
Salmon craze made international headlines
If this news would stay on the island (what happens in Taiwan, stays in Taiwan 😉 then this would be a silly funny anecdote and in one week nobody would talk about it. Unfortunately, now this whole story gets international attention. The international news is full with reports about people in Taiwan changing their names just to get some free salmon.
Here an article in The Guardian:
AFP news agency had a Facebook post:
Article in the German news magazine SPIEGEL:
A Swiss newspaper is reporting about it:
And there are probably many many more newspapers around the world reporting about it.
These kind of things make me feel somewhat embarrassed to live in Taiwan. Taiwan is not very well known in the world. Actually many people confuse Taiwan for Thailand. And the only news they usually hear about Taiwan is about tensions between Taiwan and China and a potential war between China and Taiwan (and maybe the US).
Or then they hear silly stories from Taiwan. When I mention to others that I live in Taiwan, I don’t want to hear as a response some laughter and “Oh, that island where people change names to get free sushi. Haha.” I would like that Taiwan is known for something positive, for something you can be proud of.
There is, but it should be carried out into the world louder to overcome this silly news. Actually Taiwan is trying really hard to promote this country in a positive way to the world, but from time to time its own citizen are destroying these efforts.
Side note: If Chinese are reading the news from Taiwan, perhaps they get a new idea how to conquer this island. Instead of war and bloodshed, they only need to offer free food 😉