Ad­vice for for­eign teach­ers new to Tai­wan

The China Post - - LOCAL -

Be­ing now in Oc­to­ber, the thrill of ar­riv­ing in Tai­wan has come and gone. For­eign teach­ers new to Tai­wan are be­com­ing more and more at­tuned to liv­ing here. The first month of the school se­mes­ter has also ended. Teach­ers and stu­dents alike may be get­ting into a rou­tine in their classes. So, what can for­eign teach­ers do to over­come cul­ture shock and build upon their ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing in a for­eign coun­try? Well, start­ing my sixth year of liv­ing and teach­ing English here, I am happy to be a help.

Here are some bits of ad­vice and words of wis­dom.

To be­gin with, learn to say “no” po­litely. In Western cul­tures, at least in the U.S., it’s ac­cept­able to say “no” in work sit­u­a­tions. Here, not so much. This is pri­mar­ily a cul­tural dif­fer­ence and when em­ploy­ers or col­leagues hear it from the for­eign teacher, their re­ac­tion may not be so pos­i­tive. So, I have learned to say “no” in a po­lite and in­di­rect way.

For ex­am­ple, if my boss or col­league asks me to do some­thing, I al­ways ask about the dead­line. This helps me pri­or­i­tize my own tasks. Then, I may say I am over­whelmed with work or I have other re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that are more im­por­tant. When­ever I go about it that way, the re­ac­tions are pos­i­tive and I’m un­der­stood.

Next, you have to start learn­ing Man­darin. The lan­guage is so very dif­fer­ent from English, yet I feel it’s im­por­tant to learn it. Not that you have to. It’s easy to live in Tai­wan and not know Chi­nese; Tai­wanese are very ac­cept­ing and will­ing to help when needed. How­ever, learn­ing Chi­nese helps English teach­ers iden­tify and re­late to their stu­dents. It adds to the whole ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing in a for­eign coun­try. And, it def­i­nitely helps in be­com­ing in­de­pen­dent while liv­ing here.

Also, try to make new friends. When liv­ing in a for­eign coun­try, it’s pretty easy to grav­i­tate to­ward peo­ple who were raised in the same cul­ture or even speak the same lan­guage. And, it’s sim­ply eas­ier be­cause you have the same cul­tural foun­da­tion. Yet, I en­cour­age you to make friends who are Tai­wanese and even from other coun­tries. It helps you see from their per­spec­tive and opens the world to you.

At the same time, try to find a com­mu­nity you call “fam­ily.” Wher­ever you live, it’s im­por­tant to have a strong net­work of peo­ple upon which to rely. The same goes for for­eign­ers liv­ing in Tai­wan. Find a com­mu­nity of peo­ple you can call “fam­ily.” Find a group of peo­ple with whom to celebrate hol­i­days, share life, seek ad­vice from or sim­ply to call when you’re miss­ing home.

It’s OK to do Western ac­tiv­i­ties. As a for­eigner liv­ing in Tai­wan, of course your home cul­ture, cui­sine and lifestyle are dif­fer­ent from the norm. There are days when you crave some­thing fa­mil­iar. That’s com­pletely OK. Not ev­ery­thing needs to be new, ad­ven­tur­ous or ex­cit­ing.

Then, travel all you can. Liv­ing in Tai­wan is so con­ve­nient be­cause it’s so easy and in­ex­pen­sive to travel. So, do just that. Travel around Tai­wan. Travel around Asia and visit other South­east Asian coun­tries. This is the one piece of ad­vice I, my­self, need to fol­low.

Mean­while, don’t for­get to greet other for­eign­ers. At least in Taichung, there is this weird un­writ­ten rule that for­eign­ers don’t greet other for­eign­ers while out and about. It’s stupid be­cause, ob­vi­ously, we are not in our na­tive coun­try. That is a com­mon­al­ity al­ready. So, I en­cour­age you to break it.

Last but not least, re­mem­ber that “When in Rome, do as the Ro­mans.” Here is the fa­mous phrase from the Bi­ble. And, it’s good ad­vice what­ever your be­liefs. Wher­ever you are, blend in as well as you can. It helps in daily life. It helps in build­ing friend­ships. It helps add to your ex­pe­ri­ence liv­ing here. So, to make it more rel­e­vant to Tai­wan, “When in Tai­wan, do as the Tai­wanese.”

There you have it — eight tips to help you ad­just to Tai­wan, over­come cul­ture shock and make your life here a pleas­ant one.

A re­cent sur­vey con­ducted by the Chi­nese-lan­guage Eco­nomic Daily News and Nan­Shan Life In­sur­ance Co. named Hualien County as the hap­pi­est place to live in Tai­wan, fol­lowed by Taitung County and Penghu County in the south. The so-called Na­tional Hap­pi­ness In­dex also called Taipei City, Chi­ayi County and Yun­lin County the hap­pi­est re­gions among the 20 coun­ties and cities across the na­tion.

If you have been fol­low­ing this is­sue in re­cent months, why don’t you share some com­ments to be pub­lished in next week’s PrimeTalk? Send sub­mis­sions to com­mu­nity@ chi­na­post.com.tw and in­clude your real name, na­tion­al­ity, con­tact num­ber, some photos and a pro­file. Spec­ify “Eye on Tai­wan” in the sub­ject line and en­sure your sub­mis­sion is be­tween 300 and 500 words. Writ­ers whose pieces are se­lected for pub­li­ca­tion will re­ceive one month’s free sub­scrip­tion to The China Post.

Cour­tesy of Beth Di­et­rich

Beth Di­et­rich helps thinks that for­eign­ers learn­ing Chi­nese

iden­tify and Tai­wan, adding re­late

to liv­ing to the whole in a for­eign ex­pe­ri­enc

coun­try. e of

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