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Horror stories about working in Taiwan
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phanseepants



Joined: 11 Jun 2003
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2003 8:15 am    Post subject: Horror stories about working in Taiwan Reply with quote

My fiance and I recently returned from Taiwan after a brief teaching stint there. Sars, coupled with the unscrupulous actions of our employer were our reasons for leaving and although we are really missing our Taichung lifestyle we are pleased to be out of a bad situation.
I am a journalist by trade and have decided to write an objective piece on living and working in Taiwan in order to give other fortune-seekers the full picture. It will be published in the South African newspaper for which I work.
Before I call for your experiences in Taiwan, I will give you a brief overview of ours.
We arrived in Taichung toward the end of April and within two days were set up with jobs, a scooter and a lovely home. We were working at a company which specialised in teaching professional adults conversational English and at first we were very happy there.
But, this was short-lived for when we received our first pro-rata salary payment, the gross recorded on our salary slips was $NT2000 less than what we were told we would be earning during our interview.
When I confronted our American manager/director he told me that he had forgotten to tell me that he had initially thought both my fiancee and I had Master's degree and oly realised later that we did not. This was despite us making it very clear in our first interview that we held postgraduate Honors degrees and not Masters degrees.
Two weeks later 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". We then contacted our managers to find out if this was true and of course it was! I suppose they were expecting the news to spread by word-of-mouth.
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.
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. But I suppose we were lucky since two of the teachers/consultants who were due for year-end contract bonuses were fired before their contracts were up so the company did not have to pay their bonuses. 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.
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!
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wix



Joined: 21 Apr 2003
Posts: 250
Location: Earth

PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2003 8:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Apart from the dispute with your boss over NT$2,000 (which isn't a huge amount anyway) I don't think your experience sounds that terrible. You arrived at a bad time with the SARS crisis. Many teachers had their hours cut as a result of SARS and when you're getting paid by the hour their isn't much you can do about it. If you had the patience to stay in Taiwan a bit longer things would have probably worked out OK for you.
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phanseepants



Joined: 11 Jun 2003
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2003 9:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree that my experience was not THAT bad, but 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.
The whole culture of "not losing face" results in lack of communication from employers to employees and to put it bluntly...a whole lot of back biting.
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.
I don't know about you but scraping the bottom of the barrel is not my style - we are making more money now back in our home country and at least we have rights! And I know from day to day that I have a job and where I stand with my employer.
My call for experiences in Taiwan is to give others, who may be considering teaching in Taiwan, an accurate picture of what it is like.
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.
But, Wix...thanks for your input and I am pleased to hear that your experience of Taiwan has been pleasant. It will be noted!
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Stephen



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 101

PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2003 10:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

phanseepants

Good for you, it is about time somebody did something to advertise what Taiwanese labour law is really about, so people can actually find out about it before they come (as opposed to when they start suffering because of it).

Good luck
Stephen
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MissusFish



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 12:44 am    Post subject: horror stories Reply with quote

I agree that your story isn't much of a horror story. That's sucks that they didn't tell you about closing the school, and I can see why you wouldn't trust them, but you can't really blame the school for being worried about SARS. They had to do something to make the students feel that they were taking precautions. If they don't have students you don't have a job.
I lost a ton of money because of SARS. some of my classes cancelled for a month! But I stayed and it's summer now-the same students are asking to increase their once a week class to two or three times a week so I guess the money part will work itself out.

You say you want a well rounded story, but this:

Quote:
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.


doesn't sound very well rounded to me. There are a lot of things that suck about Taiwan and Chinese business practices, but teaching overseas is really what you make of it. If you come over here thinking this is the kind of thing that will happen to you, then it probably will.
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Aristotle



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1388
Location: Taiwan

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 4:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The question that should be asked is, "Did your school return tuition to the students when they canceled classes?".
This is not the first case of schools trying to make a few dollars out of the SARS outbreak. The students don't get a refund, the teachers don't get paid and there are no classes. The money went to the same place that your pay goes when you find that you have been blacklisted from reentry, when you make a visa run.
The really ridiculous thing about all of this is that the schools will be reimbursed by the government for the salaries they never paid the teachers and the tuition they never returned to the students. The SARS relief fund will pay the school regardless, so long as the officials in charge of allocating the relief money get their kick backs.
It really doesn't't matter what you think before you come to Taiwan. Their are "No" honest Chinese business people. It's a fact that has been known the world over since the time of Rome. The Chinese are also compulsive liars and will state any fabrication that suits their needs at the time..ie. "One China", "The Republic of China", "Organized Crime Task Force".. the list is endless. You not only should have the perception that your employer will rob you, given the opportunity, you should never allow yourself to be put into the position where you cannot avoid it.
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wix



Joined: 21 Apr 2003
Posts: 250
Location: Earth

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

phanseepants wrote:
I agree that my experience was not THAT bad, but 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...

But, Wix...thanks for your input and I am pleased to hear that your experience of Taiwan has been pleasant. It will be noted!


To be honest I don't think teaching English is a good reason to come to Taiwan. It wasn't the original reason I came to Taiwan, but teaching English was just a good way to stay in Taiwan and make a little bit of money. I agree totally that there is a lack of rights for foreign teachers and many employers leave a lot to be desired.

I love Taiwan and will always have some great memories of my times there (I might even go back again), but working as an English teacher left a few things to be desired. Fortunately my life doesn't revolve around work!!!
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EOD



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 167
Location: Taiwan

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 12:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
To be honest I don't think teaching English is a good reason to come to Taiwan. It wasn't the original reason I came to Taiwan, but teaching English was just a good way to stay in Taiwan and make a little bit of money.


So what is a good reason to come to Taiwan?
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wix



Joined: 21 Apr 2003
Posts: 250
Location: Earth

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

EOD wrote:
Quote:
To be honest I don't think teaching English is a good reason to come to Taiwan. It wasn't the original reason I came to Taiwan, but teaching English was just a good way to stay in Taiwan and make a little bit of money.


So what is a good reason to come to Taiwan?


I should clarify myself a bit here. What I mean is that if you come to Taiwan for the primary reason of teaching English and have no other particular interests in Taiwan you will probably end up being disappointed.

There are many good reasons for coming to Taiwan. The most popular would probably be learning Chinese. Studying other things related to Taiwanese/Chinese culture is probably another good reason. Travel, adventure, experiencing a different culture, enormous variety of Chinese food, breaking out of a 9-5 routine, and plenty of other things besides are all good reasons for coming to Taiwan.
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TaoyuanSteve



Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Posts: 1028
Location: Taoyuan

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I feel a certain amount of empathy toward the original poster's situation, I must question his ability to write an "objective" piece on life as an English teacher in Taiwan. For starters, look at the extremely short period of time this individual actually spent here. Most people who write about this place, and life for the foreigner in it, have spent years here. The author of the Lonely Planet guide and Richard Hartznell, another who writes on the subject of life in Taiwan, have both spent well in excess of a decade each in residence here. A month and a half will not suffice for any sort of informed commentary. Secondly, the poster's predicament, was not exclusively the fault of a poor employer. All of us were affected by SARS. Those who work for good employers as well as those who work for bad ones. It certainly doesn't sound as if his experiences were that far removed from those of the rest of us. SARS was anything but business as usual here in Taiwan. If the poster had stuck around a little longer, he would have gotten a better taste of normal, day-to-day life here. Finally, if the writing is going to be about one's subjective experience, is it right to call such writing "objective?"
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EOD



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 167
Location: Taiwan

PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2003 1:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
While I feel a certain amount of empathy toward the original poster's situation, I must question his ability to write an "objective" piece on life as an English teacher in Taiwan. For starters, look at the extremely short period of time this individual actually spent here. Most people who write about this place, and life for the foreigner in it, have spent years here. The author of the Lonely Planet guide and Richard Hartznell, another who writes on the subject of life in Taiwan, have both spent well in excess of a decade each in residence here. A month and a half will not suffice for any sort of informed commentary. Secondly, the poster's predicament, was not exclusively the fault of a poor employer. All of us were affected by SARS. Those who work for good employers as well as those who work for bad ones. It certainly doesn't sound as if his experiences were that far removed from those of the rest of us. SARS was anything but business as usual here in Taiwan. If the poster had stuck around a little longer, he would have gotten a better taste of normal, day-to-day life here. Finally, if the writing is going to be about one's subjective experience, is it right to call such writing "objective?"

Perhaps some learn faster than others.
I agree that for some, Taiwan has been more generous than for others.
I would have to point out that both Mr. Hartzell (Hartznell?) and Mr. Houston have fared better than most because they have pursued fields of assisting other foreigners who have found themselves in difficult situations. Living and working in Taiwan is by no means an easy life. Anyone coming here should not assume anything will be easy because nothing is easy in Taiwan. For many it is the challenge of everyday life that makes Taiwan so appealing.
If you really wanted to write something unusual, try writing about your positive experiences in Taiwan. Do a bit of research and you will find that there is very little positive, professional writing done on Taiwan that is not paid for by the government or local business.
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Stephen



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 101

PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2003 12:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wix wrote:
To be honest I don't think teaching English is a good reason to come to Taiwan. It wasn't the original reason I came to Taiwan, but teaching English was just a good way to stay in Taiwan and make a little bit of money.


Thank you Wix, now I understand; English should be best taught by those who couldn't give a $%&# about it. Preferably, I presume, by those with no qualifications or training who are just here to do something that you consider valid. Talk about being full of $%&#.

With contempt
Stephen
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TaoyuanSteve



Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Posts: 1028
Location: Taoyuan

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 6:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Mr. Hartzell (Hartznell?)


"EOD:" Please spare me the spelling lessons. I don't know the man personally; I only mentioned his name to illustrate how someone contemplating a writing project about life in Taiwan had better do his homework. Anyway, my spelling faux-pas is not as bad as others you can find on this forum.

I do agree with you, though. It would be a more original piece if the prospective Taiwan writer would choose to focus on the positives. Still, I can't get over how he claims an article that would based on his own subjective (and certainly not extensive) experiences would be objective.
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Stephen



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 101

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

EOD and Steve

Actually, I think with South Africans there are some negative things they should be made aware of. The primary one is how much the job they are offered is paying in real terms. I have met a number of South Africans who have taken jobs here (Taipei) believing that they will be earning big money, only to discover that when your here it doesn't go nearly as far as they expected based on their experience back home.

That said ideally any article would try and strike a balance.

Stephen
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EOD



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 167
Location: Taiwan

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 12:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Posted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 6:36 am Post subject:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Quote:
Mr. Hartzell (Hartznell?)


"EOD:" Please spare me the spelling lessons. I don't know the man personally; I only mentioned his name to illustrate how someone contemplating a writing project about life in Taiwan had better do his homework. Anyway, my spelling faux-pas is not as bad as others you can find on this forum.

I do agree with you, though. It would be a more original piece if the prospective Taiwan writer would choose to focus on the positives. Still, I can't get over how he claims an article that would based on his own subjective (and certainly not extensive) experiences would be objective.


I wasn't knocking your spelling, just wanted to make sure we were talking about the same person. As for knowing him personally, most who do are in a seriously bad situation. I agree with you in that there is a lot of bad English on this board. It is the Internet after all so we should happy if they don't type in all capitals and use those annoying little symbols Shocked . Some of the more hands on moderators over at Forumosa used to correct my grammar and prose for me. Talk about annoying thatís just downright obnoxious .
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