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Horror stories about working in Taiwan
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phanseepants



Joined: 11 Jun 2003
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OBJECTIVE VS SUBJECTIVE.....the debate continues

Okay, it appears the use of the word "objective" with regard to my call for your experiences of working in Taiwan has upset some of you.

Let me clarify....I felt it was necessary to place my experience in the posting for viewers to either identify or disagree with me.
But by including my experience this does not mean the story will be "subjective".
I am wanting to include the experiences of others living and working in Taiwan (both good and bad)...which would result in the piece being well-rounded and objective.

I have no intention (or need) to stand on a soap box and try to force my opinions on people...it would not be a good story if it only included my experiences. The piece needs to give as many views as possible.

I do not think it is necessary to get into the semantics of "objectivity", but for those idealists out there - here is a news flash:
Very little of what you read and see in newspapers is ever "objective" since it is the product of humans - who cannot be completely objective.
I did my thesis on this and have researched the "subjective vs objective"
debate extensively.
For interest: even a photograph cannot be objective since the photographer chooses the angle from which to take the shot...he/she takes one particular view.

For the record, I really loved living in Taiwan and miss it very much.
Just because I did not like the work ethic, it does not mean that I did not love the diversity, culture and excitement of living on the island.

So, if you have something informative to say about WORKING in Taiwan and would like to share it with others please bring it on!
[/b]
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Stephen



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 101

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear phanseepants

Certainly, I think you should include something about the legal position of foreign employees over useful areas such as labour law and highlight any discrepances with theory and reality (eg. letters of release). Give some idea of what overseas teacher's living expenses would be (both for Taipei and outside of Taipei), and what constitutes a decent salary (in terms of the market conditions here.) For anybody who has not been to the country, this information will be extremely useful. This kind of stuff is generally going to be reasonably objective (the law for example is afterall the law) as compared with say people's opinions of Taiwanese culture, food, etc. I'd go for some positives and negatives on the more subjective parts. Afterall, some people like Taiwan and some don't.

Good luck with the article
Stephen
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phanseepants



Joined: 11 Jun 2003
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Stephen

Thank you for the positive feedback! I will certainly research those points and try to include them. They were after all the topics I had questions on before I left for Taiwan.

If you have any thoughts which I may include I would be most grateful.

Regards
Pp
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Stephen



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 101

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 4:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd suggest for a starting point have a look at the ARC/transfer letter article on www.tealit.com , also see their sections entitled "taxes" and "the local backpacker". Regarding wages my opinions on hourly wages in Taipei were expressed on one of my postings in this thread on Dave's http://www.eslcafe.com/forums/job/viewtopic.php?t=2772

I should point out that my opinions about what constitutes an acceptable hourly wage probably tend to be higher than many other people. Still for a qualified newbie, I'd look for at least NT$600. Getting jobs for the qualified and experienced with good pay is difficult for those overseas, so even with good qualifications you probably won't get a particulary plum job. Universities are possibly the exception; unfortunately, for universities in Taiwan anyone with a Masters will do. There seems to be a lack of value attatched to having a relevant qualification (eg. having an MA relating to linguistics, EFL or education) in most English departments. In other words an MA in under water basket weaving will do.

Hope this helps, if anything else comes to mind I'll post it.
Stephen
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Stephen



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 101

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You might also find the discussion on this thread on Dave's interesting

http://www.eslcafe.com/forums/job/viewtopic.php?t=2976

Stephen
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TaoyuanSteve



Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Posts: 1028
Location: Taoyuan

PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2003 2:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Stephen.

In regards to your point about special problems for South Africans, I wonder if you could explain a little. I'm of the impression that there aren't any special problems for South Africans working here that don't exist for other nationalities. Certainly, people from North America, especially from America proper, have to contend very unfavourable foreign exchange. Is this the sort of thing you mean? There are alot of South Africans working here, so conditions appear to be somewhat favourable.

Anyway, the point of my criticism had nothing to do with nationality. My point was that the originator of this thread likely lacks the experience (having only spent a month here) to write about life for foreigners here, good or bad. I'm not meaning to suggest that people need to spend decades here (as in the case of the authors I mentioned). Certainly some learn faster than others and writers such as Hartzell represent a certain sort of overkill. However, one month does not give one the insight necessary-- no matter how quickly he learns-- to comment on life in a foreign country. I don't mean to be unkind. It's not my intention in this critique. I have been burned as well in my time here, hence my empathetic sentiments regarding the poster's experiences here. Still, one should get over their jet lag before writing their memoirs about their life in Taiwan.
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unclealex



Joined: 22 Apr 2003
Posts: 38

PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2003 3:16 am    Post subject: Reporting on the Horrors of Living and Working in Taiwan Reply with quote

I don't think that a journalist has to spend ten years living in Taiwan to present
an accurate and comprehensive picture of the bleak reality of having to live and work there.
Solid investigative reporting is achieved by conducting reliable research and personal interviews.
Phanseepants can put together a pulitzer piece on Taiwan simply by lying on a South African beach.
Incidentally, I'm contemplating putting together a piece on the injustices of working in Taiwan
for a North American investigative news program. Cool
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phanseepants



Joined: 11 Jun 2003
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2003 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Once again we have another debate!
All I asked for was for people to share their experiences of working in Taiwan and apart from being told that I cannot write a well-rounded piece, I have now also been told that I am not experienced enough to write this article!
To address the latter, I emphasize that I am not writing a personal memoir but have called for others' experiences in order to compile a comparative piece (note: not a book). My short experience might not even feature in the story!

For argument's sake: It has also been said that a month is not long enough to write about life in a foreign country...does that mean that travel journalists who spend three days in a place are not qualified to write a piece on the destination, its atmosphere and the people?
Or, if I am called to interview someone and meet them for the first time when I arrive, does that mean I do not know enough about them to write a good article?
Come now, let's only argue if we know what we are talking about.

Stephen and Unclealex appear to be the only people who actually get it!
For the rest, my request for your takes on working in Taiwan has been in vain since it appears that it is more interesting to tear apart everyone else's posts, quibble about grammar and spelling and argue mute points than be of any help.
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TaoyuanSteve



Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Posts: 1028
Location: Taoyuan

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2003 3:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry to anger you so, Phanseepants. However, this is a forum for opinions, and I will state mine. Sorry if that upsets you.

No, I don't believe you can write a knowledgeable orbalanced piece based your extremely limited experience in Taiwan. It would actually be better if you had none at all, than to write from your perspective (extremely short duration in residence, A- typical negative experience ala sars...). Objectivity would be more possible if you weren't biased by your experiences during your stop-over here. However, you will write your article, if you have not already done so. That is your right. Good luck to you. However, for the purpose of discussion on this forum, I stand by what I've written.
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brian



Joined: 15 May 2003
Posts: 299

PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2003 7:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry about dragging up this old thread but here we are anyway.

I have to go with the majority on this one. Whilst you have every right to write an article outlining your own personal experiences, interpretations and feelings about Taiwan, it is difficult to believe that your article will really give a true idea of how things really are here. These message boards are themselves a testament to the fact that it is easy to get a stilted view of Taiwan due to negative bias. Whilst it is clear that some people have negative experiences here (I have had some myself!), I don’t agree with the portrayal that Taiwan is full of corrupt business people and crims. For a sobering experience, and to show how good we have it here in Taiwan, I would recommend that you spend a year in mainland China. Then you will really have something negative to write about!

I feel that you have misread things slightly and would like to take this opportunity to offer an alternative to your view of the matters that you have raised.

phanseepants wrote:
when the Sars hype had really hotted up we received a call from one of our colleagues to ask if we had heard that our company had voluntarily decided to shut down for 10 days due to Sars and that we would not be paid for the so-called "holiday".


Many of us had forced, unpaid time off due to SARS. In cases where this time off was due to government quarantine restrictions, the government provided affected employees with compensation. Foreigners undertaking legal employment were included within this compensation, and I know of individuals (including myself) who received this type of compensation.

Surely your schools decision to take precautionary measures was a positive and responsible thing to do. Had SARS infected one of the students or teachers within your school you could have found that you were off work for a lot longer than you were, or worse still everyone may have been out of a job if the school lost business as a result of bad publicity. It would have been awful to have gotten, or worse still given, SARS as a result of being in the classroom. Sure it is unfortunate that you didn’t get paid for this time off, but then it is unlikely that the boss made any money either so it was a loss for everyone. Whilst some schools offer full time, salaried positions, it seems that most foreigners choose to go for hourly rates of pay as these generally offer higher rates of pay and more flexibility than salaried positions. The downside to this is that hourly employees generally do not get the same benefits that full time workers do – and I know that this is the same back in my country, and most likely is in yours. It is a trade off that may have worked in your favor at any other time.

phanseepants wrote:
We contacted various labour organisations in Taichung and were told by all of them that there was no policy in place to force a company to pay its employees in the case of a voluntary shut down.


It would be interesting to compare this with back home. I am not sure of the situation where I am from but would assume that part-time hourly employees back home would have been forced to take time off without pay under these circumstances. I would guess that those with salaried positions would have been encouraged to take paid vacation time (which would have then been deducted from their annual vacation time). I am pretty confident that companies wouldn’t pay full wages to staff as a result of downtime due to situations such as SARS. My feeling is that as SARS was such an unexpected entity that even western countries wouldn’t have had a good system in place for dealing with things. Finally, it doesn’t seem that you or any of us were specifically disadvantaged due to the fact that we were foreigners. There are always complaints that we foreigners aren’t protected by the laws and are taken advantage of because we are foreigners, but here is a clear case of what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Everyone, locals and foreigners alike, were treated, disadvantaged…. in the same way.

phanseepants wrote:
When we returned to work after the 10-day break we found that our shifts had been cut which resulted in our salaries being $NT8000 less each month.


The school is a business! If there is a downturn in business, for whatever reason, then it is reasonable that this is carried across to its employees (particularly those on part time / hourly pay). They cannot pay you if the work is not there. To do so would put them at a loss and leave the school vulnerable to closure. Most employment contracts would state a minimum number of hours for the contract, and everyone would be wise to ensure that their contract states a minimum and maximum number of teaching hours. Be thankful that you weren’t retrenched. Once again full time, salaried employees would most likely have been protected against such a downturn in business. An unfortunate situation, but then the whole SARS thing was unfortunate wasn’t it.

phanseepants wrote:
I have also heard horror stories of this same company cancelling employees ARC's without their knowledge and then proceeded to inform the foreign police of their illegal status.


Which company did you work for? There is no shortage of stories like this. Despite this, many still advocate that newcomers should seek out high paying jobs in small schools, which in turn seem to be the biggest offenders with such behavior. As with back home, whilst the bigger companies generally offer lower rates of pay they also generally offer more stability and generally do things more professionally. There are plenty of comments regarding rates of pay in the big chain schools, but I don’t see many complaints regarding them canceling ARC’s in this manner. Newcomers do yourself a favor and land a job with a reliable company for the first year here and then seek alternative employment for the following year if the lure of more money per hour is too great for you.

phanseepants wrote:
I am calling for your horror stories teaching in Taiwan to get a more well-rounded idea of the employment situation in Taiwan and to warn aspiring teachers of what to look out for. I would appreciate your input...so get those fingers dancing on the keys!


Advice for newcomers! Spend time researching Taiwan and any job that you are offered prior to accepting any position. I don’t expect that you would accept a job with a company back home without first checking things out, visiting the place and talking with current and outgoing employees – so why should your acceptance of a position be any different here in Taiwan. Surely blindly accepting a position without asking the relevant questions is going to get you into as much trouble here as it would anywhere in the world. Ensure that everything that has been agreed to is written down in the contract to avoid future misunderstandings.

phanseepants wrote:
what I am getting at is that foreign teachers have no rights whatsoever and that the English contract which you sign with your employer has no validity whatsoever. There is no loyalty and in the case of myself and other teachers I know, your Chinese boss will screw you over given the chance.


I totally disagree with these statements, and the fact that you have made them clearly shows how little you know about life in Taiwan.

Foreign teachers accepting legal employment here in Taiwan have equal rights in many respects to local workers – it is just a matter of insisting upon these rights if your employer isn’t forthcoming about them. In many cases misunderstandings regarding teacher’s rights are a result of employers failing to know what they should know about these rights. Whilst this indicates poor management on their behalf, it cannot be extrapolated to mean that such rights do not exist. This lack of understanding can mean that in many cases the individual teacher needs to chase up things themselves with the relevant government department. Although this can almost always be done in English it can sometimes be an advantage to have a Chinese speaker with you.

Any contract will be legally binding here. The fact that many are written in Chinese and English may complicate things, however it doesn’t reduce their legality. Be aware that the Chinese language version often prevails, so ensure that the Chinese is accurate or that the source of the English version is reliable. I am sure that foreigners seeking employment in my home country need to sign English contracts (regardless of their origin) so I personally do not see any problem with the fact that most contracts are written in Chinese. This is China (?) after all, and if I were a Chinese boss I would want and insist upon a Chinese contract.

Whilst I personally have no sympathy for those who choose to live and work in Taiwan illegally, in my mind the biggest problems are faced by those that have come here with the promise of a legal job, only to discover when it is too late that all isn’t as was promised. This is why I advocate the big chain schools for your first job. They are a known entity and there are no surprises. Once you are here and have a base, then you can start seeking other positions.

phanseepants wrote:
Foreign teachers often do not realise that when you get the prized work permit and ARC through your employer it gives him/her carte blanche and if you do not like it you are most welcome to leave since there will be another foreigner more than willing to take your place.


Let me ask you this! Knowing what you now know about Chinese (Taiwanese) people, would you be willing to sponsor a visa for one that you had never met to visit and work for you in your country? If so, wouldn’t you want to maintain certain rights over them? The rights that you would maintain are identical to the rights that employers here have over us foreigners. It is unfortunate that a small minority chooses to abuse this power, but once again these are generally the little guys or on the rare occasion a genuinely bad company. Remember that many schools have been burned by foreigners before you came, and therefore their current ‘unreasonable’ actions are largely a result of these negative experiences. Just as you feel vilified in writing an article as a result of your single experience here, they feel vilified by their own negative experiences.

Some foreign teachers have a higher view of themselves as far as their value to their school than they should have. Just showing up at work and teaching your hours doesn’t entitle you to god-like status and make you irreplaceable. The fact is that most of us have no teaching experience nor qualifications to offer when we arrive, and the only reason that we get jobs here so easily is because we were fortunate enough to have been born in a native English speaking country. Before accusing employers of making you expendable, ask yourself if there was really any compelling reason for them to keep you on staff. During your term with them, what did you do that was truly remarkable, and that others cant or don’t do. If you fail to come up with an answer then that is your answer. If you do have a good answer then your previous employer was a fool in letting you go. Nothing malicious about any of this. It is just business after all.

phanseepants wrote:
I don't know about you but scraping the bottom of the barrel is not my style …It is not the land of milk and honey and there are things to look out for. If we had been warned we may have been in a better position to deal with the difference in employment ethics.


I don’t know about others, but I certainly don’t feel like I am scraping the bottom of the barrel being here. I have a good job, a good income, low tax and a great group of friends. I have a job that I enjoy and that I believe I am good at. I get to enjoy all that Taiwan has to offer and then head home for a break every now and again to get those things that Taiwan cant offer. Taiwan is not perfect but then again no country is. You asked for advice to give newcomers, well the advice is simple. This is Taiwan – not America, Australia or South Africa. Things are a bit different here but that doesn’t mean that they are bad. Don’t come here expecting things to be the same as they are back home or you will be disappointed. Enjoy Taiwan for what it has to offer and overlook those things that bother you. The choice to do otherwise makes coming here an exercise in futility!
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