The Finer Points Of Diplomacy And Negotiation In Taiwan

A shot from the top of one of the Lakeshore Hotel buildings onto Minghu Rd. This shot is in the Lakeshore Series 1. Taken in Hsinchu Taiwan on the 13th of December 2006. For some reason, this parking lot is always empty, except on a few days. Taken with a Nikon D200 and a 18-35mm Nikkor lens. Settings: ISO 500, Long exp NR on, Shooting mode P,all other default settings.

All my life, I have tried to be diplomatic with everyone. This culminated as my job as a manager of a staff of 6 people in a little investment agency. I have learned good human interaction skills to push my own agenda forward.

Remembering The Art Of War is always important. Everything is war, you just not might notice it yourself, but to others it is.

What brings me to this is that basically, I believe what people say. However, in Taiwan some people as well as foreigners can not be trusted. Somehow, they are jaded. But that is not the reason why I wanted to create this post. The reason is that yesterday I was confronted with a situation that I could have easily avoided if I had exerted more control.

When you are looking for a job in Taiwan, it is important to have everything in writing, even if the contracts don’t really mean anything here, it is still important. Make sure that all of your tasks and assigned duties are written down. I have calculated that between 600 and 750 NTD per hour at full-time employment will generate a revenue of over 100000 NTD per month. This means that you have to make sure that you are working these hours and that office hours are kept to a minimum.

The other thing you have to watch for is vacation time. Most teachers and foreigners take if for granted that they have holidays every year, holidays that they can take off whenever they feel like it, something like 2 weeks per year. Not so. In Taiwan, when you are working for a private school, unless it is an American or International school, you will be working during the summers. However, be advised that working at an American school does not mean that you automatically get the summers paid. I know of one American school you will pay summers only if you renew for the following year and you don’t get paid during the summer itself, you get only paid in the following October, once the new school year has started.

Most American and International schools will give time off during the school year, paid leave for about a month. Be advised that there are a lot of American schools out there that aren’t real American schools. They have not been certified, which happens a lot in Taiwan.

My best advice is that watch for school that pay between 750 and a 1200 NTD per hour, those are the ones that you want to work for. Those will be bushibans and most of the time, prep work isn’t as much as private school or public schools. You might have to work on Saturdays though.

So I am getting more business as a private teacher, enough that I have done some research in starting my own classes for some prospective students. All in all, the parents enjoy this, since their children are receiving materials and lessons from a teacher in a more stimulating environment than a full classroom. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I teach a one on one. On Thursday, I teach French 101 and on Fridays I have my class of four students. My schedule is pretty full.

We looked into getting more hours part-time at a language school. It didn’t work out because the pay was just too low. It’s about 600 NTD per hour without paid training and yes, you have to pay income tax, which is 20% for the first six months and then 6%. Still, for the 1st six months, you would be making around 480 NTD per hour, which isn’t a lot as private teacher, and you would be making the same salary if you are teaching groups.

I have learned that when you are teaching groups, your hourly rate goes down but you get a rate for each student. So for example if you hourly rate a private teacher in group of 4 is 400 NTD per hour, you would be making around 1600 NTD per hour for all students. The only thing is that you have to find a place where to teach them, but that isn’t really a problem.

I got a request to be a teacher for some children. The trouble was that is was somewhat further away than I normally would accept. It was a 30 minute scooter drive. This means that if I teach an hour, it would involve an hour’s traveling time. This was a referral so I knew how much the other teacher was making. The main problem was the distance and also that there would be 4 students. In my mind, I was going to be charging my usual group rate. All in all, it is actually a rebate for the parents, since they are paying only 400 NTD per child per hour, compared with my full hourly rate if they hire me for one on one teaching.

The woman in question wanted to meet me downtown. So I agreed. She then rapidly mentioned that she would be bringing me to her house to show me where I would be teaching. This instantly made me uncomfortable because she was taking control of the situation right away. I normally like to meet in a neutral environment, something like a school or a coffee shop, anything but the home of the prospective students. Surrendering control like that is giving the advantage to your opposition. Remember everything is war in life.

It made me uneasy enough to discuss this with my wife, with whom I discuss everything as well as the person who had given me the referral. Nothing happened and I then decided to just proceed with caution with the meeting. I met the woman and immediately I felt a bit awkward because her attitude was a bit prejudiced. Either it was because I was a foreigner or either it was because I was brown. Most probably both.

She drove me to her place, explained her situation.

In most cases when I meet potential clients, I always make my rate clear from the beginning so that the parents know what I charge. My rates are somewhat negotiable. Within reason. It depends on what I have to do. If I am only helping the students with their homework, the rates will be lower. If I have to establish a one on one curriculum so that they can improve their English, for example students that go to Chinese school and not a bilingual school, the rates will be higher because I will need to bring my own materials. The prices have evolved in my head and mind since I have come hear. I have done research, asked around, and gotten a lot of input about this so I know that I am not charging too much.

When we arrived, she introduced me to her husband, who was quite unfriendly.

I had already made up my mind that this whole debacle was not going to work for me. It took around 25 minutes to get to her house from downtown Hsinchu, and I am around 10 minutes away from downtown. I was probably looking at a weekly commute of about 60 to 75 minutes. The way she behaved on the phone and in person, taking control and imposing her will on the process, didn’t really make me feel good. It made me quite unseasy.

So she made me some tea and started talking about prices. She told me that since I was new here in Taiwan and wasn’t an experienced teacher (I never told her that and BTW, I have been a private teacher for years before coming to Taiwan) she could only pay me 700 NTD per hour.

I immediately stopped her and asked her how many children I was teaching. She replied four. Then I explained to her how I worked. I told her that my minimum hourly rate for one on one teaching is 800 NTD per hour. If there is more than one child, my hourly rate goes down, but it goes for each student. I told her that as in my other class, my hourly rate for groups of 4 is 400 NTD per hour per student. She told me that she could only pay me 700 NTD for all children. I told her that it wasn’t going to work.

She drove me back and took the time to berate me in the car about my rates. I told her that I was sorry about her situation, but that I was teaching 7 different students and my rates were not a problem for them. She continued to argue and I just told her that she needed to find a cheaper teacher. She told me that a teacher from the American school taught 7 kids for 700 NTD per hour.

That is funny, since I do some of my teaching at a Christian church. Why? Because she was implying that the teacher was charging her less because they were from the same faith or something like that. No one could afford my rates, she told me. I told her that it was actually a rebate, since each parent would be splitting the cost, I guess it didn’t get through to her. I didn’t really care.

I was just happy to leave the car and hopefully will not see her again. It is funny, because some Taiwanese think they speak good English, but you can barely understand them. They aren’t coherent enough. And this woman was an English teacher.


My advice? Just make sure any potential students you meet know your hourly rates well before you meet them. Advertise them on a presentation sheet and give that paper so they are aware what your rates are.

Never give the advantage to your opposition. Always keep the advantage to yourself. The woman in question knew exactly what she was doing. She was bringing me over to her place, far away, leaving my scooter in the downtown area. Making me dependent on her good graces on when I could leave. Trying to not even negotiate but impose the rates that she wanted to pay to me, before even having discussed them.

I found that I was just glad that this type of situation would not be happening again. I am very direct in my negotiations and straight to the point. I observe niceties but in Taiwanese culture, if you continually observe them without leading to the point, you will get walked all over. You will get exploited and you will waste a lot of time.

I can not tell you on how many useless interviews or negotiations I have sat through just to hear the hourly rate at then end, which is always too low for my taste. Basically, I always ask the rate up front. If they are not willing to say, I ask them for a salary range. Normally at this point, they will reveal it. Otherwise I just say that I can not accept not knowing this information. Since Taiwanese culture frowns on confrontation, I just force the issue, just a bit, to make them say what I want to hear, the hourly rate. It is like a game of poker, with them holding a shit ass hand and trying to bluff themselves through, whilst I know exactly what is going on.

I for one do not let myself be pushed around. The desire to conform is great here and the people you will deal with know how foreigners are but still try to impose their way of thinking and going on you. In negotiation, do not accept this. It is a sign of weakness and submission. Naturally, I do only talk in this sense about negotiation. I am learning Mandarin and using the tools provided by this culture to teach my kids better.

While giving up an advantage like home court advantage can be used tactically, it surrenders the high ground too easily. Take the ball back into your own court and dictate what should happen. Before you know it, you will have the job that you want at the salary you desired, because the schools and bushibans are desperate for teachers. It is not uncommon for them to offer double the normal rate if they are really in need of teachers (1200 NTD).

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2 responses to “The Finer Points Of Diplomacy And Negotiation In Taiwan”

  1. Marie Avatar

    Hello, I am applying to the public schools in Taiwan to teach – in a rural area. The going rate is about 2000 USD, free housing, free airfare, no taxes – not sure of vacations but others teaching now were off for about 3 weeks during Chinese New Year. They have been told they will get several weeks off in the summer too. I am not sure if they get paid during vacations or not or how the housing situation is during those vacation/closing times. I plan to stay more than one year – to save money. Is this a good deal or not? I have been told teaching outside the school is not allowed. I don’t know if this includes vacation time periods if someone wants to teach at summer/winter camps or such. I will look into that. Any advice is welcome. Thank you.

  2. range Avatar

    Hi Marie, welcome to the job hunt!

    Make sure that you are applying directly to the schools and not through agencies. The better schools do not accept teachers through agencies because they have to pay the agents a fixed amount every month that you are working there.

    Working as a full time teacher in a rural area…

    If this is what you are looking for, go right advice.

    However, be advised that you will have more difficulty finding tutoring opportunities out there than closer to the city.

    Most vacations at such schools (public) will be paid.

    They all tell you that teaching outside the school is not allowed, but that doesn’t really matter.

    I suggest that you come over directly without securing a job and do interviews from here. It is the best way to judge the schools. Another thing, make sure, if you can, to have a 6month contract. This will allow you flexibility if you decide to change jobs.

    I think you should check out jobs on and look for hourly paid positions in buxibans (language schools) instead of full time employment in a normal school. Buxibans run normally from Monday to Saturday, from 4 to 9PM. By doing this, you will be making about the same amount of money or more as you will be by working at a normal school and you will be working a lot less.

    What kills foreigners and is really exhausting, is that we mostly have to stay at the schools for the whole day. Let’s say you are only teaching one period on Tuesday. You will have to check-in by 8AM and then leave at 5PM, even if you are only teaching one period. Technically, this is illegal, but current practice in Taiwan for normal schools.

    You can only teach up to 32 periods at your school, the normal working week is 26 hours for teachers. Legally, office hours are not supposed to exist, but all normal school require 10 hours per week or more. Most agencies will tell you that you only work for 26 hours per week and try to deceive you about the real situation.

    By contacting the schools directly, you bypass this. Anyways, positions secured through agencies are always approved by an small interview process at your arrival.

    Housing allowances are not what you think they might be. It might be anywhere between 3000 to 5000 NTD (94 and $156USD). Normally, this will only cover partially your rent.

    Also the airfare. This is normally reimboursed after you finish you contract in a year. It is a bit shifty and normally offered by agencies, like IACC, the agency through which we came. We were severely disappointed by the way the agency lied to us about our current jobs. Make sure you do not sign anything during the first day or two, and take time to review the contracts by yourself.

    Do you have a masters degree? If so, you could look for a position at a university, they are desperate for teachers. Technically, those are very good jobs with low teaching hours for full time employment (between 10 and 16) and paid vacations (up to 4 months per year).

    If not, I suggest working at a few different schools at the same time. This way you will make the most money. For example, try working at a Kindergartern in the mornings and early afternoons and in the evenings at a language school. You will be working around 30-40 hours per week and making around 85000 and 110000 NTD (2600 and 3400 USD per month). Compared to 65000 NTD (2000USD$ per month) at a full time school for 42-45 hours a week. All my projections are based on a basic 650NTD per hour, not the best rate you can find as a teacher (20USD$). Salaries per hour vary between 600 to over 1000 NTD for foreign owned language schools, but in most of these special schools, you need to speak a bit of Chinese. Some of them accept teachers who do not speak Chinese, but you would have to try them out first by training. I have seen a few and have selected the best match for me, a small school with great opportunities in the future.

    Supplement your income even further by tutoring in your spare evenings, if that is what you desire. If you tutor, you can charge between 700-1000 (21 and 31USD$ per hour) for one on one tutoring.

    For your question concerning the legality of teaching outside your school, technically you are not allowed by the law, but all foreign teachers do this. To be legal, the other school you work at should be added to your ARC. Again legally, if you teach 26 hours per week at your normal school, you could only legally work another 6 hours at another school.

    In all honesty, no one really does this. I work a few different jobs on top of my main one, which I currently regret taking, and none of them have had any problems with this. Be advised that it is illegal for foreigners to teach preschool (ages 3-6). However, a lot of schools put foreign teachers in kindergartens without advising the teachers of this thing.

    Consider this. Apply to a language school and have them apply for an ARC for a small amount of hours per week, the minimum is 12 or 14 I think right now. Then, you are flexible with your spare time to work at other schools. Be careful not to sign any other contracts, you do not have to since technically, you are not legally teaching there since they have not been added to your ARC.

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