Sitting around a small coffee table, we were listening to Felix from Indonesia sharing the culture of Islamic Ramadan with us. The Ramadan is a once-a-year event significant to the Muslims. They are not allowed to eat and drink until the sun has set. The Muslims sympathize with the struggle of the hungry through the Ramadan and at the same time learn to keep their own desire under control. According to Felix, during the time of the Ramadan in Indonesia, a volunteer who is in charge of the “morning call” will shout on the street for everyone to wake up in the early morning so that they can get something to eat before the sun rises. This way, people won’t starve and have the energy to work during the day.
The sharing makes us think of that we had arranged a tour for a Muslim family from Indonesia during the Ramadan in Taiwan before. The experience was very impressive and valuable, which let us learn a lot about how to receive Muslim visitors well.
Janice’s family are Chinese Indonesians. They were the first group of guests that Allan received when he was first starting up as a travel consultant. It was also the case that impressed Allan the most; you can call it his masterpiece.
That year, Janice’s family scheduled a trip to Taiwan in the end of July and wanted to visit Kinmen County. The family had some special requests: they wanted to live in a five-star apartment hotel, they were very specific about the choice of car, and Janice also emphasized that the activities that included sunshine and sweat should be as little as possible. “I guessed the guests would like to have a luxury vacation at that time. I was challenged because apartment hotels were not that common when they traveled out of Taipei” Allan’s memory was still vivid.
From the guests’ dietary of not eating pork and drinking alcohol, Allan deduced that Janice’s family should be Muslims. With further research, he found out that during the time of their visit in Taiwan, it was the Ramadan. A thought struck Allan: all of Janice’s requests made sense! Staying in an apartment hotel was for the convenience of preparing and consuming some food before the sun came up. Reducing the outdoor activities and avoiding sunshine was for the purpose of not dehydrating too quickly. After all, during the Ramadan, even drinking water is forbidden.
“Since there are so many restrictions during the Ramadan, then why do you choose to travel in this month?” Allan asked Janice curiously. It was because that the family members lived on different continents. Janice’s siblings were studying in England, America, and Singapore separately, while her parents lived in Indonesia. The family seized the chance of summer vacation, eliminated all the obstacles, and chose to have a reunion in Taiwan. This showed their strong and inseparable bond. Among all the family members, the oldest sister, Jessica, was the latest to arrive in Taiwan. Their father, David, specifically asked the guide to take the whole family to the airport to welcome Jessica. It was not hard to see how much they were eager to see each other.
Actually, the relationship between Janice’s family and Taiwan goes way back. Janice’s father, David, used to study in Chung Yuan Christian University in Taoyuan city and couldn’t forget the taste of Taiwanese cuisines since then. That time visiting Taiwan, he hoped that he could show his children his Alma Mater. Even though the schedule and the roads that they took were rough, their driver guide, Taddy Zheng, did everything he could to make their wish came true. He drove for nearly two hours to Chung Yuan Christian University so that Janice’s father could revisit his glorious time in Taiwan as a young man.
For the Ramadan, the guide, Taddy, made many sweet gestures. In addition to providing parasol for the guests to hide from the sun, he also avoided eating in front of them. All the details indicated that Taddy respected their culture. Besides, Taddy also prepared boxes of sliced fruit in the container so that the family could eat some juicy fruit as soon as the sun had set. When the sun was about to rest, Taddy could hear some noise in the back seat while driving because after a long day of traveling around, everyone was starving. They all grabbed a box of fruit from the container and were ready to dig in. The father counted down with his watch. As the number zero was announced, everyone started to eat without further delay. Seeing the guests eating with their hearts’ content, Taddy felt satisfied as well.
Fortunately, when the family arrived in Kinmen, the Ramadan had ended; thus, they could relax and enjoy all the mouth-watering food there.
Taddy had never been to Kinmen, so before the family arrived, he took his parents and wife there to familiarize himself with the place and to gather all the information about the restaurants. This way, when the guests came to Kinmen, they could taste the food that was not only delicious, but also was allowed by the Islamic law. Taddy’s professional attitude was worthy learning. Therefore, every cuisine that Taddy recommended, no matter it was the beef noodle or the oyster vermicelli, the family relished with absolutely no worries.
Kinmen is the famous home town of the overseas Chinese. In the earlier period, many people from Kinmen emigrated to make a living. Most of them relocated in the Southeast Asian countries. Many emigrants worked really hard to earn enough money to send home for the local construction, but they never set a foot on to the already unfamiliar hometown. As an overseas Chinese family, there must be a sentimental reason for them to choose to visit Kinmen. The family visited the most classic building in the Shuitou Communities: the De-Yue Building. The magnificent building happened to be exhibiting the dress and food from Southeast Asia. I wondered if the family felt that they belonged to this land. “Many visitors who come to Taiwan have a deep connection with this land,” said Allan. Being able to bring alive the connection was one of the most valuable things that Allan could do.
Allan also went to meet the guests while they were still in Taiwan. The family gave Allan a “Batik” which they brought to Taiwan all the way from Indonesia. This kind of colorful shirt was the dress that represented Indonesia. It possessed the characteristics of their people and was also a precious gift for the Indonesians.
It was well-expressed that the family was very satisfied with their trip in Taiwan. Through the experience of receiving Janice’s family, Allan realizes that every request has its own reason. The travel consultant needs to get to know the guests actively and raises questions whenever needed so that s/he won’t misjudge the guests due to his/her one-sided opinion. For Allan, this trip is an intercultural communication that creates a meaning for his career that can never be reproduced.