Date
19 September 2017
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (right) receives a watch from visiting British Transport Minister Susan Kramer. The gift had unintended consequences. Photo:  AFP
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (right) receives a watch from visiting British Transport Minister Susan Kramer. The gift had unintended consequences. Photo: AFP

Watch gaffe leaves Taipei mayor, UK official red-faced

Taipei’s mayor is going back to etiquette school and Britain’s transport chief is keen to learn more about Taiwanese culture. 

These are the unintended consequences of a diplomatic gaffe that left both officials red-faced and Taiwanese perplexed, Ming Pao Daily reported Wednesday.

Susan Kramer said she did not know that in Chinese, the act of giving a clock sounds like attending an old family member’s funeral.

“I’m sorry. We learn something new each day,” she said in a statement.

“I had no idea a gift like this could be seen as anything other than positive. In the UK a watch is precious — because nothing is more important than time.”

But Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je saw it differently.

He told a local reporter he might give the watch to someone else or sell it as scrap metal because it would be useless to him.

The remark drew angry comments from people who accused him of lacking etiquette and decorum, forcing him to apologize.

“I would like to apologize to Mrs. Kramer for what I said, which was inappropriate from a diplomatic protocol and etiquette perspective,” he said.

“I am not a person who is tactful in dealing with people and I made indiscreet remarks.”

Also, he apologized to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to some officials, Ko has agreed to take etiquette lessons to improve his social graces.

Ko was a prominent surgeon before he became Taipei mayor on Dec. 25.

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TL/AC/RA

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