Expat Culture in Taiwan: I am here for the work experience to get a job for a multinational back home

This is another of the assumptions we make: Taiwan is going to give you a leap up into a great job back home, valuable work experience you failed to get back home. For those who come to Taiwan because they failed to get on that graduate training scheme, it is an easy hope to hang on to; unfortunately, it is not true.

If i liked someone I would try and explain.

“I messed around for a couple of years after graduation and now i need to catch up,” said X-foreigner. “I am a westerner with a degree from the west – they love this kind of thing.”

“I am sorry man, you should know the expat market has changed – Gone are the days when companies ship every one from the secretary to the cleaner out to Y foreign country because they dodn’t trust the locals to do anything – Too many foreign educated Taiwanese or Koreans to fill positions now,” I would tell them. In my present position as a marketing director i had interviewed hundreds of foreign MBA holding, excellent English-speaking Taiwanese. Taiwanese had the highest percentage of foreign educated people anywhere in the world.

“But there English still isn’t as good as mine,” they would reply.

This was of course true, but not the point. “Sorry, HP or Barclays is set up in Taiwan to sell to the local market – English is not necessary.”

“Ok, then i can work for one of Taiwan’s big companies – one with an international profile.”

“For example?”I would say say.



To which there was no reply because Taiwan was a nation of small and medium sized businesses. Besides, trying to get to work for one of the larger companies like Acer and Asus needed a hat full of MBAs – And, anyway, they had an office in the UK and USA filled with locals when perfect language skills were necessary.

“Maybe, i can choose one of those smaller companies.”

“Sure, and expect to work fifteen hours a day with no overtime, contract, pension or holiday pay. Sometimes you can get lucky and be given a bunch of shares, but don’t bank on it.”

“It is just for a couple of years – working for a local company and understanding the culture and the language will make me an attractive package for a multinational back home.”

“If you find a multinational that communicates in Chinese, or uses work practices that all the others abolished in the 1950s. This is Taiwan. It is all seniority and boss-is-right management style.”

There was still one industry where expats could get a job because they spoke English.“Hey. Thebig investment banks do business in English, and they hire locally,” I would say.

“Really?” they would answer.

“Yeah. Seven a.m. start.”

“Thanks, man.”

I actually did work for a bunch of local companies. The only white man in a company of Taiwanese, speaking an unfamiliar language, trying to interpret cultural behavior completely alien to me. I also managed some reasonable success, but that is not the point: I did it because i love Taiwan and wanted to live here.

About the Author

I have been in Taiwan for nearly fifteen years, deciding to complicate life by adding cultural confusion to the mix of going from cocky early twenties guy to more mature family man. Along the way I have gone through almost every stage that we foreigners do unconsciously trying to reconcile culture shock, love of Taiwan and home. I have also spent alot of my time outside of teaching, being the only foreigner in local companies - big, small, legit and borderline. Dan blogs frequently at his own site,Betelnut-Equation

Leave a Reply

You can use these XHTML tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <strong>