Getting Stiffed In Taiwan Or How Checking Out The Details On Your Paycheck Pays Off

A parking garage in Quebec City, Canada. Taken on the 23rd of June 2006 with a Sony Cybershot DSC-P9 5.1MP camera.

I finally figured out today that I was working an extra hour and a quarter a week. And I wasn’t getting paid for it.

Let me just explain.

In education, in Taiwan, you teach a certain amount of hours a week. Every extra hour is paid extra. But on top of the teaching hours, you have office hours, which last from 8 AM to 5 PM. We don’t get paid extra for those hours. Basically, our salary is for being employed full time and staying at work.

Logically,you could be making a lot more money if you were a private teacher or working for a Hard Core Foreign Run Buxiban. As a private teacher or a tutor, you can make between 600 to 1000 NTD per hour, that is between 17 to 29 USD, which is pretty cool. If I were only a private teacher, I would be making around 218000 NTD, that is at 50 work hours a week, which isn’t as much as I work right now. I make a little more than a third of that figure. Right now, I work about 60 hours a week, including tutoring. I tutor about 5 hours a week. This brings in an extra income of about 17000 NTD a month. Some buxibans will pay their teachers up to 150000 NTD a month, after bonuses and profit sharing. Other schools, like American schools and International schools, have the benefits that most foreign teachers take for granted, such as the summers off and paid vacation time during the school year for up to a month.

Most teachers in their first year in Taiwan will end up at a large chain buxiban or a private school. Certified teachers will most probably work in a public school. Most teachers will make between 50000 to 85000 NTD a month, depending on their qualifications and their school. Unless you already know the situation in Taiwan and have friends who can set you up with interviews with schools directly, it isn’t feasible to get the job that you want in your first year.

And naturally, this also changes with your perspective on life and how you want to make your stay in Taiwan. For myself and my wife, we tend to prefer to work full time, the same as in Canada, and try to better our careers by pursuing more degrees and qualifications. We aren’t backpackers and probably will never go backpacking as some of our friends do. I would like to have more time to be able to thoroughly study Mandarin. I would also like more time to work on my photos and my writing, as well as my art. However, most nights, I just get back home, eat something and head out to tutor or I watch something and fall asleep.

Education is something special in Taiwan. You can get paid to study to obtain degrees in Taiwan, because the universities are sorely lacking foreigners. The grants and pay is between 10000 to 30000 NTD a month, which is substantial to study. I plan on studying part time. I wouldn’t mind getting a Masters or a Doctorate in Memetics. Studying the viral nature of ideas is fascinating and with the internet, it can be applied quite easily. I know for a fact that you will get paid for doing an MBA. Most of these schools and degrees are recognized in Canada. Well, in BC at least.

Some of the more plushier jobs at universities, have about 8 hours of work and that count as full time employment. The rest of the time, you are free to work more hours or do anything else. For those jobs, you need a Masters or preferably a Phd. You have about 4 months off every year with a post like that.

Now where was I?

Oh yeah, getting stiffed!

Well, not really but after figuring out all that, it turned out that I was working an extra hour and a quarter every week which wasn’t being paid for. I found it a bit weird that I had to figure this out by myself. I would have expected an employer to figure this out. At least, I will get a readjustment on my paycheck this month. That is good news.

* * * * *

Yesterday, I managed to tutor my kids in French. I had some trouble with my throat, but managed to get through it. I had a coughing bit during the lesson, but I drank a lot of tea and I got through it. We went to the hospital right after that to get some meds. I got there at around 9:15 PM and left 10 minutes later, having promptly seen a doctor, gotten diagnosed and gotten my prescriptions. I got 2 refills for my asthma inhaler and some pills to help with the coughing. I paid 260NTD. I have National Health Insurance through my work. That is about 7 USD. Crazy. I was trying to figure out if it would have been cheaper in Canada. One thing is for sure, seeing a doctor in Canada is quite hard. It doesn’t seem to be a problem in Taiwan. In Canada, seeing the doctor would have been free. Getting the prescription though would have cost something, depending on my health insurance. Since I had none at my previous job, I was self-employed, it would have probably cost me 100 CAD, which is about 3000 NTD. My wife would have possibly paid less, because of her benefits at her old job in the public school sector. At my previous job, It would have cost me 30 CAD, which is about 900 NTD. Naturally, this is for Canada. For Americans, well… Think about it, every time you see a doctor or a dentist, you will pay about 150NTD for everything including all of your prescriptions. It cost more for me because I went to a hospital. Still, it was pretty cheap.

My guess is that my asthma usually will provoke coughing in order to clear up the lungs. If you cough to much, you might get a touch of bronchitis, which has happened to me before during my teens. It is strange because I haven’t used an inhaler for years, at least 6 or 7. The last time I remember was because of a slight allergy to mold. I had to get an inhaler because of that. Surprising, because I get asthma usually when I do a strong physical effort, yet I ran 5 KMs five times a week for 5 months in the beginning of the year without having to use an inhaler once.

I think that I got asthma as a child because I lived in a city that was quite polluted, Heidelberg Germany. This has been somewhat proved to me because I have been getting asthma here. The first time it happened was during our first trip to Taipei in October. I felt a touch of it. During our second trip to Taipei, we had to get an inhaler. Now, for the past 2 weeks, I have been using an inhaler almost daily, but that is because I might have a touch of the flu. My guess is that this is all related to the pollution in the city. I wasn’t wearing a mask on my face, I was simply wearing a scarf. A scarf doesn’t really help you that much if you spend some time on a scooter. And since I have been scootering every day and tutoring all over the city, my guess is that the pollution got to my lungs. The meds are helping a lot. Hopefully, this will all go away in a few days. It has already gotten better.

* * * * *

This week, I started working on their conversation skills. The kids have started watching Tintin in French, which will help them out. To learn a language, I think that total immersion is the best way to go. If you can not do this, having as much contact as you can, through TV, movies, books, music will make you learn the language a lot faster.

I also started making the kids write things in French and gave them simple assignments. I only teach them an hour and a half a week. I think that they have gotten to a point where they would benefit from another hour and a half. I can then work more on conversation and reading as well as some writing. I will come up with a few lesson plans over the next few days or try finding some on the internet. I was lucky enough to have another French teacher in our school. She lent me some books that I have been using. The books aren’t the best. They are from Harcourt and contain too many slang terminology.

I find that I do think that the best way to perfect a second language is by reading as much as you can in it. This is the philosophy of the Macmillan-McGraw-Hill books that we use at school. The only problem is that we are a bilingual school and the kids get a full workload in Mandarin as well. I find that they would benefit from ESL learning books instead. Because the books we use are used in America as class books. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are used a lot, because they certainly are well made and well researched. The big issue for me is that they do not contain any common cultural grounds with the Taiwanese kids. When reading a story about an internment camp where the Japanese were put in during the second world war in America, the kids thought that it was a baseball camp. I had to explain concentration camps, Nazis and a few other things to them. I noticed that the Chinese homeroom teacher was finding this interesting as well.

* * * * *

Since I have advised most parents to make their kids read English books and watch movies in English without the Mandarin subtitles that pervasively invade all the foreign media in Taiwan, I have started showing movies to my kids for one period each class on Fridays. Friday is my longest day, and just doing that makes it a lot easier. And since some of the kids don’t really have that much free time, it is a good thing to make them do this. It also helps them.

I was surprised to learn from one of the parents that her daughter had started listening to English movies without the subtitles after I had mentioned this in class. She did it by herself and encouraged her best friend to do the same. Her best friend is in my class as well. The parents themselves were quite surprised as well. I guess I am doing something right.

My wife tells me that I am a natural teacher. She told me that it shows and since everybody seems to appreciate what I do at school, it feels good to be good. There are always ways of being better. And I haven’t received any complaints really. The one complaint was that I was teaching the kids as if they were American kids.

In the beginning, I didn’t really see that these kids were ESL kids. They are. There is a gap that some kids have managed to bridge but others are just lost in translation. I use creative ways of getting to them. Miming and drawing on the board. If all fails, asking a kid who understands the concept or the word to explain it to the others. With my bigger class, this rarely happens. I have noticed a definite improvement in some kids who work really hard. But in my opinion, these kids need to have more fun. Homework, classwork and lessons shouldn’t be their only life. Some of them go directly to a buxiban after school. Think about it, they leave our school at 5 PM then go to a buxiban to improve their Mandarin skills. They normally get off at 9 PM.

When I was in elementary school, classes ended at 3 PM, then I went home, played with my friends and had fun.

* * * * *

This week, I have been watching some James Bond movies. I started with Dr No, moved my way into The Spy Who Loved Me and tackled You Only Live Twice. I am about to start The Man With The Golden Gun. Part of it had to do with the Fifth Gear episode giving a countdown of the Best car chases from the Bond movies, in hommage to the new Bond movie Casino Royale. Part of it is because the movie channels here in Taiwan keep playing the most recent Bond movies, like Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough. Part of it is because he is just so cool.

Women want to be with him and men wan to be like him.

I haven’t really thought that much about Christmas and gifts, too much had been going on at work. I haven’t had time to really keep up with all of the blogs I normally read, though I do take the time to visit most of them every week.

Well, back to 007. It is past midnight in Taiwan, we are GMT+8, about 12 hours ahead of EST.

2254 words, wow, I am getting quite verbose again.







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