To say I’m disoriented is an understatement. I don’t feel like I’m any part of this place – just looking in on a culture and people I don’t understand. The streets are crazy – if there are rules, no one follows them … I haven’t seen one Caucasian female yet … is there a reason? The pollution is worse than I expected. Imagine putting your head over a sewer on a really humid day and breathing in as deep as you can. That’s what it’s like here, everywhere, all day, all night … Last night I met up with a giant black and orange beetle. Will I have to learn to live with all of this? I can’t even cross the street yet. How am I going to teach little kids?
I no longer follow Canadian culture and news all that much, so I had to find about this article from Michael Turton. It details the horrors of teaching in Taiwan. Lindsay Craig spent 7 months teaching in Taiwan in 2005. She quickly escaped the cockroaches and went back to Canada, somewhat traumatized it seems.
I think that the writer has obviously very strong feelings, but this comes from the fact that she is insular. She hasn’t traveled and spent much time in different cultures. A lot of Canadians, heck a lot of Québecois, rarely leave their home province. Most of my friends are like that. Personally, I was born in Germany, lived there seven years, before moving to France, where I lived for four years, before moving to Québec. I’ve had to adapt to different cultures starting a young age. I’ve learned different languages and made my home without much of a fuss.
When you consider moving abroad to teach, you should consider how much culture shock you’ll experience. If you have never traveled to Asia or have no interest in learning about Taiwan, then you should stay home, even if you are offered nice jobs in Taiwan, Korea, Japan, or China.
Teaching in Taiwan has its good points and bad points. A year after we landed, my wife got a teaching position at a university, went back to school to get a doctorate, and paid off all of her student debt. I’ve also paid off all of my debt and have lived debt-free for years.
There are things I love and hate about Taiwan. Let me say that I am not a lifer, I don’t plan on settling down in Taiwan for the rest of my life. In fact, in about 2 years or less, I’ll be heading to America. Yes, I won’t be going home, to Québec, but I’ll be living in small town USA. Taiwan has changed me. When my wife and I arrived in September 2006, we needed a change.
Racism is rampant, pollution is pretty bad, and sure, there is some bad food. But for all of the bad points, there are good points. Racism has never stopped me from finding good jobs since I am an good teacher. Once they see past my skin color, I usually excel. The pollution is bad, but it’s just a fact of life in large Asian cities. I use a Respro pollution mask and it protects me from the polluted air. I wear it every time I get on the scooter. Getting around in Taiwan isn’t really a problem. With Google Maps, you can easily find where you need to go. And if that’s still a problem, you can get a smart phone with GPS so that your can easily navigate around.
Street names? WTF, I am pretty busy and I’ve stopped taking Mandarin classes, but it’s just a fact of life that the romanization is a problem. You need to figure out the Chinese characters.
Like many foreigners, Lindsay made the mistake of not coming to Taipei. We did the same when we arrived. We stayed in Hsinchu for 6 months before moving to Taipei. Sure, many foreigners live all over the island, but for someone coming from abroad, you need to stay in Taipei. People speak more English and there are a lot of foreigners.
Corporal punishment is a fact of life in Taiwan. While I don’t approve of it at all, as a Canadian I do find it appalling, the Taiwanese have their own way of looking at this. I taught at a school where the parents asked the teachers to beat the kids. When the foreign teachers complained, they took to beating the kids in the broom closet.
There are good schools and bad schools. Some schools actually inform you that you should not beat the kids. Some teachers coming from abroad have different values than North American ones, and they will punish children by pulling their ears, etc. I’ve never done so, but I know of teachers who have.
Since I’ve come to Taiwan, I’ve completed a degree and started a Master’s degree in Math. The classes are all in Mandarin, but that hasn’t stopped me from going to school, working full time, and being a freelancer.
Anyway, I think that the article is somewhat one-sided. There are bad points, but there are good points. Most of my Kindergarten classes have been wonderful and I enjoy teaching the little kiddies.