I've get some excellent and interesting letters, though I'm no longer adding them to this page.
So without further ado, here they are, with pictures for fun:
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Excellent letter taking issue with my remarks on racism

Two letters from a liberal racist twit who knows more than I do about Taiwan, though she's never been here

Texan says alternative teacher certification hasn't improved

Encouraging letter from reader

Overstays visa ONE YEAR!

Homesick Taiwanese enjoys site

Can my girlfriend withou a BA work?

Letter from Longtermer praises the site

Asian-American Insights

Can I work full-time at a Bushiban and Part-time at a College?

Believes language learning better off in class

Great letter from French-Canadian

You come across as paranoid

Thanks for a great site

The website brings Mother-in-law, 
Taiwanese Daughter-in-Law closer

Praise from US-Taiwanese woman

One of my students says "excellent website"

Letter from Taiwanese woman praises site

I'm over fifty.....

Quick praises

"Every point you make in your website about Taiwan is so dead-on accurate"

Can I teach with a student visa for studying Mandarin?

Thoughtful Letter

Can I work for just six months?

Beautiful, painful letter about growing up in this educational system

Positive Letter from Local Male

You're not too paranoid...

Your site is more real than most

Letter about teaching at a college

Excellent Visa Suggestion

Adds his voice....

Sad letter about perils of work here

A Canadian in Japan Says Good Things

...from Africa, with hope, kind sir...

I get a lot of Hatemail. Here's an example.

Foreigners hate me too

Clueless insists I don't know anything because his experience is different

More ungrammatical ranting about my webpage: "Fuck you, fuck your webpage, and go home."

And for a comedy twist: "driving in taiwan is just safer than in the US. drivers are generally more careful."

More comedy: some letters are dumber than others.

Rice fields, factories, and housing blocks: the real Taiwan.
A sign advertizes its offer of wives from Vietnam.
A family tomb in central Taiwan.
Exploring the hiking paths near our house.
Gates like this signal the presence of a large temple up the road.
A betel nut girl prepares betel nuts for sale. 
A coop for racing pigeons, one of Taiwan's favorite hobbies.

Motorcycles wait in front of an intercity bus stand in Kaohsiung.
Walkways shoot in every direction in a college classroom building.
A woman cleans tables in a highway rest stop. 
A colorful bug makes its way across a parking lot. 

My name is [deleted]. I am a Canadian of African descent living in Taiwan. I have been here for a few months now studing Chinese. As such, I am writing in response to your web site titled "Teaching English in Taiwan." I have a particular interest with sharing my views on the section about racism.

Of all the places I have visited in the world, I must say that racism is more prevalent here in Taiwan. As a person of African descent, I find that I simply don't get the same opportunites as my white nmale compatriots living here do, in terms of employment and relationships with local women. This is something that I didn't notice right away, but over time this has built up.

In the case of employment, I can recall many times when looking for part time work that schools were interested in knowing my "color" whenever I phoned to find out more information. I find this disturbing.... I think it is possible to find work here in Taiwan, but I would have to work for less compared to my white counterparts.

From time to time, I often see white males literally stalked by Taiwanese girls, but those foriengers of color are seldom even looked at.

Previously, I lived in China and I found that "Chinese Racism" was very different than here in Taiwan. There was no trouble with me finding work or having relationships with Chinese women there. As such,  I think you need to differiniate between "Chinese Racism" and "Taiwanese Racism." I believe these are two different things altogether. To that end, I believe that since Taiwan has had a lot of exposure to Western culture,it has sadly inherited  many of it's social problems, particulary, racism and prejudice.

[Of the comments in this letter, this was the only one I disagreed with. I doubt the Taiwanese had to learn race prejudice from Westerners! They do quite well on their own.]

Although most people are friendly to me, I find this to be somewhat deceiving as local people seldom show how they REALLY feel inside.

[Too true. One of the consequences of living in an authoritarian culture is the urgent necessity of constant concealment of self.]

I recall one time when I was eating something on the MRT. This is not allowed, but since I am foreigner people seldom say anything to me. I was with a Taiwanese lady friend of mine and this gentleman comes out of no where and wants to fight me because I was not following the rules according to him. I believe he was sending me a message " stay away from our women."

Looking forward to your reply

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My partner and I are moving to Taiwan in a few weeks time to teach English in Lu-Kang, fortunately we have read a lot of books and surfed through quite a few websites written by people like yourself, or not really, as I have found your site exceptionally depressing.

You dont seem to have a nice word to say on the place...the foods bad, the exchange rate is poor, the roads are deadly (well yes, but its an activity one will get used to and work out for themselves), the money is terrible and your not likely to save anything and I could go on!

Poor girl! She missed the part where I talked about realistic goals and possibilities. Never did I say one is not likely to save anything! Did I really say the food was bad...????

The things we took into consideration when deciding on where to travel to were: Amount of money we wanted to earn
Food type ( I have many allergies to mainly dairy products and the onion family, irrelevant!) Climate Culture Travel to other countries around us Scenery The job we wanted to get So far we have not been let down by Taiwan with reference to any of these.

Amount of money we wanted to earn - the salary paid leaves us with more money to save a month than we could ever dream of in the UK Food type ( I have many allergies to mainly dairy products and the onion family, irrelevant!) - Wide variety of options and dairy products are very rare Climate - Hot and humid but wet, cooler winters Culture - Fascinating, a whole different way of life, we want a fresh start, so to appreciate our own strengths and learn more about others. Travel to other countries around us - Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia, China, New Zealand etc... Scenery - Varied and beautiful
The job we wanted to get - teaching something totally different to what we do here in the UK, a challenge.

Yes I realise that life will be hard at times, and we will have our ups and downs, but we will make the most of what we have and enjoy Taiwan, its good parts and its bad.

I suggest that before you write anymore, you take a step back and realise that no of course Taiwan isnt America, come on, you knew that before you got there.

Cheer up and enjoy life, if you are then fair enough, but your website shows otherwise.

    [After I commented on her lack of knowledge and offered her help if she needed it, I got this steaming arrogant racist pile in reply]

Actually Michael. all the sites I have looked over have been ones written by young persons like myself, who have been in Taiwan for the last 2-3 years and they seem to of had a whale of a time.  Writing articles on a day in the life a Kindergarten teacher and their experiences from settling in etc...

I actually think that you are trying to put people off coming to Taiwan.

     [What does she think? I should lie to my readers? Is it ethical to ignore the many health and safety issues associated with Taiwan?]

<>No thank you to your offer of help, we have made friends with quite a few English people out in Taiwan who have been more than helpful, and very much more positive towards our hopes of an exciting and challenging new life.

    [Yes me, Mr.  negative attitude, former Peace Corps volunteer, former worker for the Taiwan independence movement, general volunteer sap. I just offered to help someone who flung personal insults at me! What a negative attitude I have!]

We know that just like other countries Taiwan has its problems, maybe more so in different ways than our home countries, like you said the pollution, the gangs, the hygiene bla bla bla...... but it must have its good points as well.

    [Of course it has good points. But she was unable to spot the many I mentioned]

When I go to work in my car, in to the city centre of north England, I can not see hills or rivers either, not until I am 20 minutes out into the countryside.  But when we are in Taiwan we can go travelling around on the weekends and discover scenery that we wouldn't see in the UK or anywhere nearby. The smog you describe would be no different to us than an average
cloudy wet and miserable day in the UK, if you've ever been you'll know what I'm talking about!
    ["The smog is no worse than a cloudy wet day in the UK!"] 

Taichung in the late afternoon on a cloudy wet day in the UK.

As for an apology, I dot think so!  I understand you have a wife in Taiwan who is obviously keeping you there, otherwise I'm sure you would have moved away by now.

    [Not only is she an expert on Taiwan, she also has a deep understanding of my marriage. There's just no end to this girl's knowledge!]

I hope that Tim and I keep as open a mind as we have always planned to when we get to Taiwan and that what ever difficulties we come across we will deal with them quickly and without too much hassle.  And we will accept that its not as clean a place as the US or UK but also realise that this is their way of life and that its not necessarily the wrong way but just different.

    [She's OK with pollution and gangsters because, after all.... it's their culture.]

Tim's sister has just come back after 2 years of teaching in Taiwan and although yes she agrees that some areas are grubby and not worth visiting, she feels that you are very harsh on the country and that is has much to offer travellers in the way of culture and beauty and that she loved her teaching job and the children and families she taught, she was invited to weddings, birthday celebrations etc.... and she swears that we will love it.

[Apparently her friend little Miss Expert never noticed that the reason she got invited to all those weddings and  whatnot is that she's a  foreigner, and it gives the inviting party great face to bring a foreigner along to the local wedding, banquet, or birthday. I wonder how often Little Miss Sensitive reciprocated and took her Taiwanese friends out for a change. I'll bet the answer is.....never! Only negative thinkers like this writer  believe in reciprocity and treating others as human beings like oneself. No, for this woman, the local human beings are merely vehicles for ensuring that she has an exotic and unique foreign experience.]
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Just wanted to compliment you on your website.  The photos, thoughts, and comments are really impressive.

I lived in Kaohsiung from 1995 to 2003, so I can relate to (and agree with) everything I have read on
your site, so far.

Regarding the teaching situation in Texas, I saw where you had looked into the alternative certification
programs in Texas. Just wanted to tell you the situation has only gotten more confusing and confused. (No surprise, huh?)

Are you a fellow Texan?  I have lived in North Texas all of my life except the time I spent in Taiwan. It
is pretty funny that I prefer to live in Taiwan, while my wife seems to prefer America.

Maybe it is just a "Grass is Greener" phenomenon.  Just wondering if you and your wife had the same situation.


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Students do group work. 
A betel nut girl preens. 
As we wait at a red light, two cars run it, one illegally and recklessly passing the whole line of waiting cars on the left, the other making an illegal right turn. Meanwhile half the road is blocked by a tent placed there for a celebratory banquet. Taiwanese do not feel any compunction about blocking roads and threatening the safety and convenience of others; the prevailing ethic is that so long as there is room for one vehicle, everything is OK. Michael, I have to thank you for your Taiwan site. I'm getting my TESOL certificate next week and plan to start earning my chops, probably in Japan or Taiwan. I'm already irritated with all the expat and info sites trying to be "positive" about the experience when that's not why I'm looking for. I don't care what's GOOD about Taiwan, 'cause that's not what is going to present challenges to me. I want to know what I'm up against that my be "so NOT cool "(in Seattlese).
So your occaisional lapses into misanthropy are well appreciated by some of us, especially to those off us inclined likewise. A little pollution, danger and rudeness will be almost refreshing after the insipidness of the Emerald City.

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Hello Michael, and congratulations on a great page. I want to ask you if you know what the penalties are for overstaying your visa here in Taiwan. I have a friend (he is a US citizen) who has been in Taiwan illegally for the past 12 months. Do you know what will happen when he tries to leave the country? Any recommendations? Thank you very much in advance.

[Wow! A whole year overstay! The usual penalty is heavy fines and being barred from re-entering Taiwan for five years. But I've never heard of a case like this.]
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The stunning Kaoping River Bridge, easily the most beautiful modern structure on the island.
For you, my friend, a beautiful betel nut goddess is cleaning her stand. My name is ____.  My family immigrated to US in 1989 hope for a better education for me and my little brother (14 years old and 10 years old at the time, respectively.)  Since then I have not gone back to Taiwan to visit at all in the past 14 years.   So I am sure that you can feel me getting really home sick by looking at all the pictures you took in your website. 

This is just an example of a steady stream of letters I've been getting from Taiwanese abroad who look at the pics so they can remember Taiwan.

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Hi,  I just finished going through your entire website.  Its pretty much the best, most honest site I've seen about teaching in Taiwan!  I'd love to get some more information from you that I couldn't find on your site.

I'm looking to take off for at least a year to go to Taiwan (probably Tai Pei).  Just to confirm that I'm understanding correctly, I would buy a roundtrip plane ticket to leave from canada, get to china and then get my 60 day visa there?  Then I would look for a job in taipei, having to find one in those sixty days? And to get that work permit/ resident visa, I would need to present my passport, and photocopies of my diploma and transcripts?  Would it be wise to take an ESL course here in Canada before I leave?

[I don't recommend an ESL course. It would be nice, but it's not necessary.]

Also, a girl friend of mine is looking to do the same, but she only has one year of university credits.  Is this a viable opportunity, or will she be kicked out, denied work, etc?  Obviously she doesnt' want to buy an expensive ticket, and not be able to work to pay it off.

[I think she will be able to find work in a kindergarten. Getting a work visa might be a hit-or-miss affair. Although, if worst comes to worst, you can always marry her!]

I guess thats it for questions, thank you so much for your wonderful website!

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The 85 story building in Kaohsiung.
Tiger City, a shopping mall in Taichung. 
A temple atop a house in Kaohsiung.
A stream full of trash, one of Taiwan's major tragedies.

Dear Mr. Turton,

For what it's worth, thank you so much for your wonderful website.  My bfriend and I have been here for two years and your warnings and advice have been of immeasurable importance.

Thanks! Letters like this make it all worthwhile.

 Interestingly, I found your website about a month before coming here, and all of my foreign friends found my adjustment to be far more painless than their own (though certainly not entirely painless, I can assure you!).  I'm not sure if it's normal to have a rollercoaster of "I love Taiwan" versus "I hate Taiwan" days for the first year,

Ha! After 12 years of involvement with this crazy island, I now have "I love Taiwan/hate Taiwan" hours. I think the duration of the rollercoaster ups and downs slowly shrinks over time.

but things have since settled down and we'll be staying indefinitely until we've saved a good load of moolah. Trouble is, we feel that this is "home" now... And all without shovelling a single footpath or scraping a single windshield, even in the dead of winter (We're Canadians).  And teaching EFL has morphed from "what we do" to "who we are".  Do you find that the same happened to you?

Yes. I went back and found out that I missed Taiwan.

One thing that may be worth noting in your website is the treatment of animals here.  (If you have recently added something regarding pets, please disregard this notice).

Actually, I'd been considering a web page on them for some time. Thanks for the final push.]

Thank you for listening to me rant and rave and keep up the great work on the website!  (The new design looks fabulous!)  And the article about returning home rings far more true than I would like...damn Texans!  Well thanks again for an amazingly truthful and helpful website, and if you're ever in the Chia-Yi area, we'd love to buy you and the family a coffee or something.

Likewise for Taichung! Stop in if you ever pop up here, we'd be glad to host you for a weekend or a week.

ps-  Have you had a chance to check out the forums at ?   They're well worth looking at, especially if you like forums.  If not, maybe not...

Agreed! Segue is great!
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Firemen prepare for their dangerous work. Being a fireman is a low status job in Taiwan. 
Eggs scrambled and rolled up in a crepe, a common breakfast dish.
An increasingly common and welcome sight: a new Vietnamese restaurant. 

Hey there. My name's ___, and yesterday I had the fortune of stumbling across your site while doing a totally unrelated search on the web. And I just have to tell you that I totally love your site and have never seen anything like it on the net. As an Asian American who has spent the better part of his adult life in Taiwan, I am amazed at how well-informed you are and how much insight you have on the island. Most foreigners I meet live in their own protective foreign bubbles and lead lives that basically consist of teaching English, eating at McDonald's, and enjoying the night scenes; hell, most Asian Americans I know aren't much better either, but you blow me away. Here I am in the midst of preparing for a major ______ exam (I'm a ___ student at ___; I recognize the pictures of our ___ on your website!), but all I can do is just sit here looking through your site and nodding my head in agreement with everything you have to say. It contains practically everything I ever want to tell people about Taiwan, and I haven't even gotten through a third of it yet! I've recommended your site to all my friends and we all agree that it is without a doubt the best and most informative website out there on Taiwan. We hope that you will continue to expand and evolve the site as time goes on.

[Many thanks! Letters like this make it all worthwhile]

I only hope that I can accumulate half as many great pictures as you have of the island before I leave.

[Hehehe. Good luck! I've taken more than 10,000 since February alone!]

Hello! First of all, your website has got to be the most honest and complete one out there about working (and living) in Taiwan.  The recent redesign is also excellent.   I am also glad you decided to move back to Taiwan.  I left a few years ago and am itching to get back.  I really miss the place!

I have a question about part-time work at colleges/universities there.  If I am already working full-time at a bushiban, and even though it would be illegal, is it possible to get work as a part-time English teacher (or teacher's assistant) at a college/university?

Most people I know who do this are married to locals. With a work visa, you can work at only one place, and I know of one case of someone getting deported for doing just this.

Also, to get an English teaching position at a college or university can you have a Masters in something other than TESOL, or are they generally quite rigid about this?  (I read on your website that you don't necessarily have to have an MA in TESOL, but I didn't understand if that meant it is acceptable to have an MA in something else to get an English teaching position).

Any MA is theoretically acceptable, but in practice PhDs are preferred. A business-related MA will be welcomed at many schools.

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At an exhibition in front of the extremely offensive memorial to that butcher Chiang kai-shek in Taipei.
Motorcycles park each other in as their owners run errands.
A street vendor and customer.
A ride in a night market, where kitsch is the defining reality.
Customers home in on a bargain in a market.
A bus turns like a whale caught in a hurricane. 
I stumbled across your Web site while playing on the internet the other day (I used to teach English in Taiwan, and speak Chinese fairly fluently).  Actually, I wish I'd had access to it before I went, but I was there in the early 90's...when the internet was fairly unknown.  The main thing I liked tell it like it is!

Thanks! I try!

One thing I wanted to point out, though, is your statement of learning Chinese on your own.  I studied Chinese formally at Indiana University prior to going. I really feel that in order to master the tones (for example) you need a formalized study regimen--say at the Mandarin Training Center.  I have a friend who married a Taiwanese girl (he is from Spain) and "learned" Chinese on his own.  Although his pronounciation is quite good, he has no concept of how the tones work; at this point, I don't know if he could "re-learn" it properly.

Yes, you have a good point. Self-study is not for everybody. The worst is language exchanges. Has anyone found them effective?

Anyway, it is just an opinion, and I am not trying to find fault with your site.  I particularly found the portion on crime interesting.  Even though I know the language well, I had never witnessed or heard of crimes there, so I was under the false assumption that it is safer than it really is.

Most foreigners live in complete ignorance of this aspect of Taiwan. It simply never enters their lives, unless they watch the news in Chinese, or have a Taiwanese wife who can explain it to them.

Overall, my experience in Taiwan was a pleasant one--despite being in an unfortunate working environment.  Who knows--maybe I'll go back again someday.  I do think your site sheds light on some serious concerns, and I am sure those considering relocating there will benefit from your experiences. Thank you..

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In the realm of the beautiful. 
In many urban areas great mounds of garbage for recycling accumulate.
Veggies also make colorful mounds. 
Despite the fact that there was plenty of room, and this is the only road out of our community, construction people felt no compunction about blocking it entirely.
A stray dog eyes me suspiciously. 
A bar in downtown Taichung. 
Parent-teacher association meetings are the same the world over.
A Starbucks in downtown Kaohsiung. 

I'm only writing this message to thank you for the gigantic amount of information your site has given me about Taiwan. The pictures, the dozens of pages... Right now I feel they've helped me prepare a lot better for what I find here.

I've been in Kaohsiung for 3 weeks now. Last year, one of my friends, back in ______, told me about the opportunities available to those who wanted to teach English in Taiwan and Asia in general. She taught for 6 months in Chiayi before going back to Canada. When she told me, I saw there the opportunity to travel and discover another culture without having to spend all the money I'd saved.

Then, in June of this year, I had the chance to meet a Taiwanese girl in Montreal (completely by accident I have to say). She offered me to come to Kaohsiung and stay with her brother and father, at least for a couple of weeks, to give the time to decide whether or not I wanted to stay here and work, or only travel, etc...

So I took my BA, bought my ticket, closed my eyes and entered the plane... I arrived in Kaohsiung on _____, and as you mentioned, I got a job in only a few days. I'm now starting to teach English in a kindergarten called ____, which has nothing to do (according to the other foreign teachers who work there) with the horror stories I've heard from other schools (teachers beating the students, classes of 50 students, troubles to get paid, etc...). I've also found an opportunity to teach _______ in French at ______, for the Alliance Francaise, since I speak both languages fluently. In the future, according to several teachers, I should be able to find a couple of private courses in French, to make my schedule more complete. I also take time to learn Chinese by myself and with my friends (who help me get the tones right :o) ).

Yes, in only 3 weeks, I've met a lot of differents and interesting people, I've seen a lot of Kaohsiung, thanks to _____, my Taiwanese contact. I know more chinese right now than many foreigners I've met, and several have been here for many years. The scenery outside of Kaohsiung is beautiful, I went to Kenting this weekend and I loved it (but got back with a bad sunburn even with sunblock :o) ). My Taiwanese friends also took me to a lot of places and made me taste things and learn a lot of their traditions. I am convinced that in only 3 weeks, I have witnessed and been taught things that a foreigner who never gets in touch with the local language and people will never discover, and this is all because of my Taiwanese friends.

I have a lot to learn about this city and this country (let's say it, Taiwan will never be a part of China), but I am sure that my enjoyment and my discoveries are due to the fact that I wasn't afraid to take a chance 
and get in touch with the Taiwanese culture. And if I can give my advice to foreigners who wish to come here, here it is: come to Taiwan with an opened mind, use the chinese words whenever you can, anyway people will often help you with the pronunciation if they see what you mean, take chances, ask questions, show some interest, it will bring you a lot in no time.

And all of this will help you get more easily over the cultural differences. Personally, I have a hard time living in downtown Kaohsiung. For now, my appartment has no ventilation, no sunlight and is basically falling apart. I've had a rendezvous with a 3 inch cockroach on my 2nd day here. The air is awfully polluted here, and it took me a couple of days to be able to breathe normally. The language barrier in Kaohsiung is very strong, since only a small percentage of the population speaks English. Everything everywhere is written in Chinese, seldom in English. The traffic can be a vicious killing machine, as you described. The Taiwanese are very much less concerned about environment than we are in ______, at first sight. Etc, 
etc, ad infinitum.

I still don't know how much time I want to spend in Taiwan, even with my work permit, but I'm sure that my stay here will bring me a lot. You're never too prepared to embark on such a trip, and everything I found on your site helped me avoid many embarassing situations. I would recommend to anyone who wants to discover Asia to stop by and see what this island looks like, it's worth it.

I, for one, like the fact that in the winter, the temperature doesn't drop to -45oC, like it does sometimes in ________

Thanks a lot Michael!



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Nice site, nice pictures. But, you're not very realistic in some respects:

"In a nutshell, this is it: you can make your stay safer if you never argue or chastise anyone publicly, never argue with your neighbors for any reason and never pick fights. NEVER tick off anyone you must rely on or see on a regular basis
if violence is occurring in your neighborhood, do not go outside to look. Remain indoors. No matter how obnoxious those fireworks are or how loud the howling at the funeral is, do not bother the perpetrators."

You must get this a lot, 

[Actually, no. You're the first to ever complain. Most people who've been here for the long-term understand perfectly well what I mean.]

but I feel compelled to write to you anyway. I''ve been here for almost three years, and my wife (a Taiwanese) and I have done almost all of these things. How do we manage it without getting killed? We temper our actions with common sense--a good rule for any country.

[I've done this too. In fact, I usually break all my rules. But I've also been threatened and attacked by gangsters, had my car scratched. I've been here since 1989, and I've seen everything: friends beaten to death by gangsters for pissing one off, another friend's dogs murdered because he sued his doctor (the doc contacted the mob to fight back), and so on. Hopefully it will never happen to you, and you will continue to imagine I am paranoid.

[I agree with you to a certain extent. But here's something you may not have thought of: newbies don't have Taiwanese wives to advise them, and they don't know what "common sense" is in this context.]

My key point is that you come across as 100% paranoid. The noisy neighbors upstairs are not the Gestapo, they are human beings who you can communicate with (and they will eventually shut up if you complain enough). 

[Certainly. They may take revenge, though, like our neighbors did after we complained about their kids stealing my kids toys (It was our problem, they said, and promptly smashed the windshield of our van -- and even worse, beat their own kids). You and I are here for the long term. Most people aren't. Most people don't know anything, like poor Fred Frontier. Most of my readers need to be reminded that at least some of those smiling faces are not nice people. You and I reflexively understand the politeness to foreigners here as meaningless social etiquette; other foreigners do not.]

Yes, I may well get brutally stabbed by a street vendor for accidentally short changing him 5NT while making direct eye contact, however, I'm much more likely to get killed in a simple traffic accident (Why not tell people to "NEVER" cross the street?). The last thing I want to see as I'm getting gutted is a bunch of cowards silently watching me die from behind their curtains.

Anyway, I stopped reading your site after this part. You probably don't care if I read your site or not, however, other people might be turned off by this too.

[Thanks for the heads up. I'll put your letter up to balance my paranoia, and revise what I wrote.]

He wrote me back a very nice response to my reply. As another friend of mine pointed out, people who have been here only a couple of years have come at a time when Taiwan has improved greatly. Those of us who lived through the period of improvement, and remember the Wild West that this place used to be (and still is in many ways) have a very different perspective. Plus, if you live in Taipei you are very insulated from the reality of life in Taiwan, and if you work in a cram school teaching English, doubly so. Just wait until you branch out into another business. Things will seem very different.....

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A highway snakes between Changhua and Taichung. A map of Kenting and its environs in a restaurant on the way. 
My wife, kids and cousins caught in mid-goof.
A small roadside temple.
You just can't get food like this at any price in the US.
Egrets flock over a mountain stream.
Dear Mr. Turton:

It's been over a year since I looked at your link and was pleasantly suprised to see the update.  Wow!  Thanks for all your hard work.  And the pictures are fabulous--can you put more in?!

I can totally relate to your comments regarding the alternative teacher certification programs in the US.  I also applied to Texas and after completing the TASP was told there wasn't much open in ESL.  What a crock.  What they really want is bi-lingual Spanish, which I refuse to support in any way, shape or form.  Since then, I've investigated about four other routes to certification and the obstacles are mind-boggling.  One of my friends is teaching in an inner-city school district that has been without accreditation for several years.  They are crying for qualified ESL teachers, yet are willing to settle for a high percentage of uncertified subs with an undergrad in anything.  If I wanted to work for them and complete their accelerated certification program, I'd have to pay for 6 credits of undergrad composition and writing.  And I have an MA-TEFL!  I think at this stage of the game, I know how to compose sentences and write coherently on a variety o

The part about wanting to return despite the negatives hit home too.  I guess this happens anytime a person has an experience that leaves such a dramatic impact on their life.

Best wishes to you and your family.  Again, thanks for such a great site

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A traffic jam in a morning market.
I really enjoyed your website!  My husband and I lived in Kaohsiung from 2001-2002 and most, if not all the information you have given is correct. We are thinking about coming back to Taiwan, because for some odd reason we really enjoyed living there! Just like America, Canada is very different and a lot less crowded. It did take some adjusting, especially coming back to Canada (oddly enough). The one thing that we are afraid of, is that we may not like it second time around, but will see, hopefully we can make things work here, before moving back! 

P.S The bit that you wrote about Taiwanese females and foreign attraction to the darker skinned etc...  is so true! 

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I have no plans to visit Taiwan. However my son married a Taiwanese woman here in the States and they are planning a trip there, so I was just browsing around and found your site.

I must thank you for your lovely honesty.  I must say that it has given me more of an understanding of my daughter-in-law and based on what I have observed, your site mirrors Taiwanese existance.

You have done a smashing job, God love you......

[Thanks for all the kind words! Even us unrepentant atheists need a blessing now and then]
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Candy overflows in a Tihua street shop.
A hawk fishes in Keelung Harbor. This attractive northern Taiwan city is built on hills that ring a once-bustling port. Its fabulous potential has been ruined by the inability of the government and locals to engage in meaningful long-term municipal planning to take advantage of the city's marvelous setting. thank you for creating your website, i have been enjoying it.  i am an american born taiwanese woman with children and "american" dh, your insights and information resonate with my feelings and memories from my infrequent travels back to the motherland.  we are considering visiting and moving to taichung.....i'm glad to have read your commentary to appreciate the realities of taiwan, reminding why it is that i remember dreading being there yet still feel a powerfully magnetic pull to go.  plus as an abc i can really connect your observations with how i have been parented, something i reflect on since i am a mamma myself.  plus correlating your views on politics and culture with my parents' social psyche.  thanks again.
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Dear Michael,
"Excellent" is the only word I can say after surfing your website. It seems you know things about Taiwan much more than I do. I've been thinking that should I have to start afresh to know Taiwan because I am a native Taiwanese. I never think about of those many things you talk about of your website. It's amazing to me, I have taken a lesson from it tonight. The website you created is the best one I've ever seen about introducing foreigners teaching in Taiwan. By the way, I didn't write down the correct address you wrote on the blackboard this morning. Could you tell me it, I do want to see those photos.
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Don't want stale furniture? Go with this company! In Taiwan English is a marker of prestige, modernity, and luxury. How an American language ever became associated with luxury is a mystery to me. The Taiwanese themselves considerUS products to be inferior to European and Japanese offerings in just about every aspect.
My wife and I pose.... hello Michael,   first of all,  I really have to say.... you've done a GREAT job on these information about Taiwan you put on the web site. Although some of them ticked me off a little somehow... but it IS SOOO true and so honest!!!( I know  coz'  I am Taiwanese myself  )  My BF didnt' believe  whatever I said about Taiwan before he found your website himself.. thank so much .. for giving him a chance to know my county  better !!!   keep working and hope you have a great time staying there~~ oh, come'on... my people don't really bite .. do they? ^_^ lol
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I just discovered your site and love dreaming over your pictures and the prospects of living and teaching English in Taiwan.  But, I was stopped cold at one of the reasons not to go, If you are over 50. Let me whine for a moment.  I am single, the kids are finally grown and gone, my mother is almost settled into a retirement community, and I am healthy, active [articulate, intelligent, and fascinating account of solid education and experience sadly deleted]

Probably more than you would want to know about me, but do you think it is possible for a 52 year old to find work teaching in Taiwan?  I can take the truth! 

Yes, it is very possible. But realistically, kindergartens and adult language programs are probably your best bet. Teaching elementary school kids at night is extremely draining of energy, and difficult to sustain over time.

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Working with a student one on one.
A small tow boutique. 
It's carnival time at a local international school. By any chance, did you go to the University of Texas at Austin? Were you a teacher? I'm just curious to know since I'm currently enrolled at the college.  Your website is pretty accurate that it's painfully true.  I also see you have learned the 3000 year old Chinese tradition of sucking up to your superiors by any means possible. ^_^  Keep up the good work.

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I had a very enjoyable email exchange with another foreigner who has since moved back to the are some excerpts:

I enjoyed your web-site on Taiwan.  I lived in Tainan for over a year, and I developed a love/hate relationship with Taiwan.  It's really amazing how there was absolutely no middle-ground about my feelings for the country.  Every point you make in your website about Taiwan is so dead-on accurate. 

Overall however, despite the fact that its gritty reality can be overwhelming, I really cherish the time I spent there.  I would go back.  Maybe this time to find a wife.  While I lived in Taiwan, I had no difficulty meeting women.  Here in New York, I have no success at all.  I am not tall and thin, but of medium height and stocky build, though not fat.  I do have blonde-hair and blue eyes.  At any rate, women practically introduced themselves to me.   I was like a kid in a candy shop.  Of course, you are quite right about their sexual naivete.  But I still enjoyed the attention.  Everyone else on the island was very cordial to me, and I know that it was all a front.  Just the same, strangers would wave hello, smiles everywhere, so I could put up with the facade. 

The closest thing I had to any trouble was when I was in a local restaurant eating with one of my girlfriends, and a drunken older guy at another table didn't seem to like that, and he mumbled and cursed in Taiwanese, and then got up to approach me as if he wanted a fight.  A group of men at another table just blocked him and pushed him back into his seat and that was the end of it.  I know about the crime problem, and I walked down many gritty streets in Tainan that most westerners would have avoided. 

In fact, some of the most humorous experiences I had was walking down these gritty streets, where these people apparently had never seen a real life white guy.  Once I heard a woman's voice chime out from some window "Ahtogah!"  I would soon become very familiar with that word.[A mildly derogatory term for "foreigner"]  Most of the times, people would just stare and their jaws would drop, women would giggle, and sometimes the sideways glance that looked like fear. 

I had studied Chinese martial arts in New York for many years, and when I walked down one street in Tainan, I saw a kwando(halberd) in front of a house, on display.  I recognized the characters that indicated it was a school of martial art.  As I passed, a large burly man wearing the sash and clothing of a gong-fu instructor came outside and saw me, and indicated that he could teach me martial arts, as he had taught many westerners.  I stopped and conversed with him.  I would always say in Mandarin "wo de jongwen bu hau", because it was, but I knew that they would then treat me the same as their own , as you indicate.  My Taiwanese girlfriends were the ones who advised me not to demonstrate any fluency in Chinese.  However Taiwanese did show appreciation when I tried to use Taiwanese, which is spoken more widely in Tainan and the south in general. Anyway, as I was speaking to the gong-fu master, a small crowd had developed and just stared at me, as if I had dropped out of the sky or landed in a spaceship.  When I began walking away, one child stopped in front of me and just looked right into my eyes.  When he saw their blue/green hues, he said in English, "Oh my God!"  He tucked on my blonde arm hairs, then felt my bicep, which is sizeable, and his eyes popped open wider, then he just ran away.  I knew that some women would always ask me to go with them whenever they had to go to the utility company in person for a billing problem, or when they wanted tickets for the railroad, or something, because my presence would make it easier for them, as it always did.  I understood many times when I was actually being insulted, but as you say, I just smiled like a dummy and nodded, like aged P in Dickens' Great Expectations, and at least on the surface, I was treated kindly and always got what I wanted.  I did learn from an old Chinese saying which my gong-fu teacher in New York taught me.  "Pretend to be the pig in order to eat the tiger".  Living in Taiwan really taught me the meaning of that adage.  I quickly adapted to life in Taiwan, and once I fully understood the dynamics at work here, as you so excellently describe on your website, life was actually quite good, I must say.  Anyway, I truly enjoyed your website, and if I'm ever in Taiwan, maybe I'll get a chance to meet you, if you are still there.

From the next letter:

Thank you for your speedy reply..... now that I've read every article on your website, it not only brings back many memories of my 14 months spent in Taiwan, it says it as it is, and that's probably why Taiwanese males are critical of your website.  The way the one guy responded to your site by having it investigated reminded me, in an indirect way, of an incident I witnessed where a Taiwanese man on a scooter, smacked into a westerner who was walking along the side of the street.  The westerner was obviously green to the ways of the Taiwanese, and immediately elbowed him as a reaction to hitting him with the scooter, which I thought was more of a defensive reaction than an offensive one.  It just seemed to me as if he was raising his arm to stave him off from ramming into him any further.  The Taiwanese man became incredibly indignant and accused the westerner of attacking him, which was hardly the case.  Then in Mandarin, he said "I'm calling the police, you're getting the electric chair", and a whole lot of other ridiculous verbal assaults. Soon, a crowd of people, myself included, had gathered.  As soon as the Taiwanese man saw the crowd, he stopped his tirade, made a threatening remark to the effect of "I'll get you", and sped off.  As it is bad manners in Chinese and Taiwanese society to yell in anger in public, the man probably felt compelled to leave when he saw the crowd.  After he left, the bewildered westerner looked at me, and asked me if I knew what the hell that was about.  I explained things to him.  As it turned out, the westerner was new to the country, and he was here to teach English.  I did tell him to watch his back, since a threat made by a local may not be an idle one, as you pointed out. I knew of several cases where locals would simply hire thugs to beat somebody up.  This was usually one Taiwanese against another, and I hadn't heard of it happening to a westerner where I lived, but it could. 

When I lived there, one thing I noticed that the males were always gung-ho about Taiwan, and the women I spoke to were always critical of it.  A reflection of the fact that it is a patriarchal society, and most definitely authoritarian.  The women seemed to confide in me, as well as other westerners, in ways they could never do with their own people.  Every one that I dated there expressed anger, disappointment and annoyance with their men.  When I used to go to the most popular pubs in Tainan, I would always notice that groups of men would be indifferent to the groups of women that were there, something that would never happen in the states.  In fact in America, the men usually annoy the crap out of the women.  In Taiwan, the men ignored them.  Of course, I didn't complain because that left the door wide open for me, and the women were always eager to talk to me. 

By the way, I really loved your photos.  I did manage to travel all over the island, and even spent three months in Hualien, which by far was my favorite part of Taiwan, as it was cleaner, and the surrounding scenery is spectacular.  My favorite combination of nature, mountains and ocean. [me too. I can't wait to get out there so I can get some pix up here]  So many of your pictures were of places I have also been to.  They show so much of what I love and hate about Taiwan.  You love the fact that it is a spectacularly beautiful island, and you hate the fact that the cities are butt ugly.[That's so dead-on!]  If there was one thing that I hated the most, it was the fact that a very sinister looking haze always hung over Tainan, even when there wasn't a real cloud in the sky.[Same for Taichung]  I was glad when the typhoons came.  They would clean out the thick smog blanket, and for at least one day afterwards, the haze wasn't as pronounced, and the sky actually looked blue. 

Ironically, after I sent the first email to you, my phone rang, and it was one of my old girlfriends calling me from Taiwan.  I hadn't heard from her in almost a year.  She was telling me that the economy is bad, the people are bad, everything is bad.  I said the same thing is happening here.  This was the first woman I met when I arrived in Taiwan.  I first came to Taiwan just prior to the last presidential elections, and I was immediately taken by the insanity of it all.  Threats from China, election banners hung everywhere, practically covering up every building and park.  Taiwanese were constantly asking me if I was scared that China should attack.  I told them, no, just give me a gun and I'll shoot at them if they ever landed.  That won me over with a lot of Taiwanese almost immediately.  I even met the candidate for vice-president of the Kuomintang on my third day in Taiwan, who must have thought I was an "official" of some kind, though I was dressed up to go to a wedding that a friend was dragging me to, and he shook my hand and asked me questions about Taiwan and China, as if my answers would matter.  I gave him the answer that he wanted to hear, mainly that China needed Taiwan more than Taiwan needs China, and how great Taiwan was, etc.  Not all of it was a complete lie.

 That was another thing.  As soon as I made one friend, I had lots of friends, and my social calender was filling up faster than my bank account.  Does this happen to you too? You try to politely decline, and you have to be sure you do it in such a way as not to offend them.  When it came to social situations, I often felt I was walking on eggshells.  They considered their society "complex" and our society as low, but I think that comes from a certain arrogance and feeling of superiority in the fact that Chinese culture has been around for nearly 5000 years.  However, I really could not, and still don't understand their almost complete disregard for their own and others personal space and safety. 

 I will say however, that 14 months in Taiwan equalled 5 years in New York as far as intensity and the pace of living goes.  New Yorkers arrogantly assume that New York is more fast-paced and frenetic.  Well, it is if you're comparing American cities.  I say, go to Taiwan if you want to see fast-paced and frenetic.  No wonder so many people from Taiwan and China come here and, language aside, adapt so easily here.  The pace here seems slowed down for them.  One Taiwanese man I know who owns a noodle shop in Chinatown told me that he likes it here better than Taiwan because he feels relaxed.  New Yorkers should hear this.  It's funny.

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Hello, I just read your webpage and was very interested.  I am currently a university student looking for a summer job, and I was thinking of teaching English abroad for the summer.  Some Taiwanese sites say I need a BA, but others don't, saying as long as I take mandarin classes I can extend my stay in Taiwan and teach.  So does that make it legal?  Because I don't have my BA, and I'm not sure whether learning mandarin in Taiwan magically makes it legal for me to teach.  Please respond whenever you can, thanks!

Yes, you can teach with a student visa now.

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Children at play at a teahouse in the mountains.

I have just spent the entire day reading through your excellent web site. I am contemplating coming to Taiwan in the new year (2003) with my Taiwanese girlfriend and am keen to find up to date information about job opportunities, working conditions and living in Taiwan. I must say your web site makes discouraging reading for a prospective migrant. But, as one of your other correspondents comments, it is better to be forewarned of the potential difficulties of life in Taiwan than to arrive with unrealistic expectations.

I spent a couple of months in Taiwan last year and was very favourably impressed with the place. It seemed very sociable and safe, particularly in contrast to the anonymous and sometimes brutal condition of life here in London. I was treated respectfully everywhere I went and was made to feel special, like some kind of minor celebrity. In view of these welcome attentions I thought to myself: what a very civilised country this is. Your comments and criticisms provided a welcome corrective to this naive viewpoint. Also your discussion of crime, graft and authoritarianism in its various forms in Taiwan reminded me of some of the privileges which we in the west enjoy but which we tend to take for granted, such as long-established democracy, the rule of law, freedom of expression, critical attitudes toward authority and a relative absence of corruption, etc. This is not to mention the benefits of environmental protection legislation and urban planning laws, which seem largely absent in Taiwan.

Prior to reading your web site I fondly imagined migrating indefinitely to my girlfriend's friendly and (comparatively) sunny country. Now I am wondering whether I should instead persuade her to stay with me here, where we can enjoy an immeasurably rich cultural life and where our (prospective) children will have space to play in London's glorious parks. My greatest fear is that we move to Taiwan, get married and start a family, and then after five years I find I can't stand the place any longer. But then we/I return to England and find we/I can't stand it here either. This nightmare scenario - the inability to find a common home - goes to the heart of all couples of mixed nationality and I would be interested to hear your views in the matter. 

[Wish I had something to say that was as intelligent as this letter!]

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Deploying for the inevitable picture when the class is finished.

Hello!  I have lived in Taiwan before as a student studying Chinese there and couldn't agree more with all the things you say... I am fortunate in that I am still relatively young, have 6 months of freedom coming up soon in my ho-hum life before I go to grad
school and I would love to go back to Taiwan and teach English during this time, despite the SARS threat, which I realize is very real.  Is it possible to teach legally for 6 months or less or will doors be closed to me?  I READ ON YOUR WEBSITE THAT I CAN WORK LEGALLY IF I HAVE A STUDENT VISA...SO, DOES THIS MEAN IT WOULD BE POSSIBLE FOR ME TO STUDY CHINESE PART TIME AS A STUDENT AND TEACH ENGLISH PART TIME? 

Yes! You can, but you won't make much. 

OR...Do I need to  lie to my employer and sign and then break a 1 year employment contract?  (Definitely NOT what I want to do.. but what are the consequences if I do this?   I have a B.A. (< big deal) & an RSA English teaching certificate.  I have done some volunteer English  and paid English teaching  here in the US. I'm hard working and not flakey and have done some volunteer English  and paid English teaching here in the US.  Any advice would be most welcome.   P.S.  I tried to find info about the above topic (teaching for 6 months or less) on your awesome web site but couldn't find it.  Please let me know the loc. if you cover this topic. 

Good point, I'll put in some coverage. You can do it, some organizations will hire you, but what's the point? You don't make too much money -- round trip ticket is more than a grand, after rent and all, you don't save a lot...

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It's a bit abrupt but I can't help but emailing you (after reading your website) to tell you I've never ever met a person understands so much (or dare to say frankly) about the myriad problems of Taiwan's education system, about how frustrating it's to be a student struggling in this kind of society.

I was grown up in  Taipei, I have always been( I think so) a victim of this insane, devastatingly blighting system, I have been dropped out of elementary school twice (rebellious toward "rules", tested into a  five-year technical college and dropped out a year latter (frustrations), tested into different university FOUR times but didn't have the Sisyphean patience to finish even one of them (I thought it's a waste of time and money, as you know, some private colleges name it..unutterable). I wanted to kill myself (like so many students had already done) once in a while (and I still do). I hate myself from time to time, for not living up to parent's (and society's)expectations, I feel like I'm a worthless scum, aimlessly trying  to figure out what I sould do with my life, to no avail.

I have been curious for many years why is it that so many people finally escaped the ordeal, the stiffling toil of the system, and have obtain a position in which they could make a difference,but  the system changed so little( if any). I know my e-mail is a little bit disorganized, I just want to tell you how insightful (and how very right) you are. I have no offence. There are so many thing I want to ssay but I think I better not, for  both of our time are precious and you know well enough about all those.

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Posing with a statue in Kenting.
I'd like to complement you on creating a very comprehensive site on Taiwan. I am a Taiwanese (male! See? Not all of us are critical xenophobes) student currently attending college in the US. Having lived in Taiwan myself for several years, and gone through the public education system there all the way through high school, many of your comments and insights on life in Taiwan (both positive and negative) were right on.

I agree that there are many problems with Taiwan today, and sadly, many of us have fallen back on the time honored Chinese tradition of denial (or, like that Chinese fellow, xenophobia and racism). Nonetheless, I'm hopeful that my generation will be able to make a positive impact and change Taiwan for the better. Despite all it's problems (and tabloid media, and feral dogs, and gangsters, and those pesky mainland missiles...), I still consider Taiwan to be my home, and I'd like to thank you for sharing your insight on the web. Keep up the good work!

[Thanks! Letters like this make it all worthwhile!]

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:Clap: :Clap: Nice site. I have never seen such an accurrate site on Taiwan. Everything here is so true. Especially on the crime section. I've lived in Taiwan for the first 7 years of my life. I'm now currently residing in the United States. you are not paranoid at all. In fact, you've given a better understanding of Taiwan. I know now why my parents never bothered arguing with anyone. This is the BEST site on information on Taiwan i have ever encountered. Some people may call you negative and paranoid but the sadder thing is that all you're saying is the truth.

 Taiwan has seemingly endless social problems. Corruption with triads ruling the streets. Police and there inability to perform tasks. The AIT sites and TW sites will say Taiwan crime is low. But it is not at all. People here do have a penchant for violence. There is a reason why no one in Taiwan will allow there children out past 9. There is also a reason why one of the first things i learned in taiwan Kindergarten were anti Kidnapping drills. Not only that there are people who tend to HOLD GRUDGES forever and  will strike back horribly. I'm 21 years old now and I'm still hated by a neighbor from an act my mom committed against him when i was 6.

 Paranoid is the right way to handle Taiwan for anyone wishing to live here long term. Obviously even though you give negative images about Taiwan. You obviously like it enough not to ditch it. But some parts ESPEciALLY the CRIME section on TAiwan is truthful. As a Taiwanese i am somewhat annoyed but i can't complain because most of the things you said putting down Taiwanese people as revenge seeking fake kissups to foreigners ARE TRUE. It's sad but it's totally true. It's very real and if people have a brain and read your site. You might actually even save there lives.

Keep it going Mr. Turton. Criticism or not this site is very very accurrate. It's what everyone should know before coming to Taiwan


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I stumbled across your site in a search about teaching english in Taiwan. I wanted to thank you for a refreshing read. This was the only site that I found that was not completely set on selling people on the idea of Taiwan. My boyfriend and I are moving to Kaohsiung (from Canada) in a month and i think your site may have saved us from being completely naive. We have a friend that lives there and has for about four years, he is setting us up with interviews and all that jazz. However, because he gets money from schools for supplying English teachers it's hard to get anything negative about Taiwan out of him. Further, as I mentioned all the sites on the net are trying to sell the idea so much it's hard to hear anything negative from them either. Therefore, your site has been a huge help. I feel so much more prepared as a result of reading your site and I have a feeling knowing some of the negative or realistic things to expect will help with the adjustment. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that my boyfriend and I have found your site to be very helpful (not that we really know considering we're still in Canada, but you get the idea). Keep up the great work.

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  The motherof all sound trucks on its way to a political rally.
My wife orders breakfast in the local McDonald's.
XXX here. We met briefly at Anon U. last winter vacation and talked a little about Tibetan Buddhism. Remember?

I've just read with interest your website about teaching at universities in Taiwan and I'd just like to ask one question. Is the resignation letter your own? Was it the one you submitted when resigning from Anon. U.? 

[No, it is someone else's]

I originally found your website when a friend (who doesn't yet know about my resignation as a full-time lecturer there) emailed me the address of the resignation letter, supposing that it referred to Anon U..

Yes, I too have quit. Though not because I have any serious grievances. It's just that I plan to go back to Australia next March (when the academic year begins) to begin my PhD research and I so couldn't sign another 12 month contract. In the meantime, using my status as a part-time lecturer at AnonJuniorCollege and Anon. U. I'll make just as much money, if not more, by charging top dollar for private classes. Perhaps that's something you might wish to mention in your website. I mean, without a PhD, you may not be able to secure a full-time position at a prestigious institution, but private students don't really care whether you are full-time or part-time. Of course, you need to provide them with quality service, or else you'll lose them, but it's still an attractive option for prospective teachers who might otherwise be put off from coming to Taiwan by their lack of a doctorate degree.

The biggest problem I see at Anon U. is lack of standards, both in teaching and learning. Before I decided to return to Australia, the Chair and I had worked out a plan for drawing up a comprehensive list of objectives and testing procedures for each level of the conversation program. But now I'm leaving and Mr Chair is resigning his position, so it looks like nothing will change. 

I really feel sorry for the students. I just failed over half of my 4th year conversation class, despite the fact that I followed the 3rd year syllabus (New Interchange 3). Earlier in the year, I discovered how woeful their English was. They would just string words together anyhow. Whatever rules they knew, they had forgotten, and of course, their actual 'acquistion' of grammar was virtually non-existent. Almost none of them could use the grammar targets in New Interchange 3 and so I decided to revert to it as my basic reference text. During the course of the year, some of them realized that they needed to make an active effort to learn something - and those students passed. The rest seemed to give up with the hope that next year when they repeat, they won't have a teacher who will actually test them properly. After I failed them, they complained that converation class is not supposed to be serious, and could I give them marks for attendance. Gimme a break.

Most teachers, when they found out, expressed amazement that I got my students to answer questions on tape (in the listening lab) for every topic in the course. Didn't it take a long time time to listen to all those tapes? Yes, but hey, it's a converation class. You need a systematic precedure for assessing their oral ability. And you need the washback effect in the classroom to make them speak.

The thing is, my second year conversation class, whom I taught and assessed in exactly the same way, hadn't yet been so corrupted by the lazy teaching practices of some teachers at Anon U. Gradually, during the course of the year, they all began to take an active approach to learning. They all passed. In fact, the lowest score was 69, and the average was over 80. And I DON"T give marks for free or use multple choice tests for conversation classes. My point is, I don't think it really matters that they weren't good enough to get into Another U. (where there are also lazy students, the difference being though, that such students are failed), but with the right instruction, with teacher who can inspire them rather than kill their desire to learn, over the course of 5 years, I believe they can be every bit as good as Another U. junior college graduates.

The reason I'm still going to work part-time at Anon. U. next semester is so I continue to nurture this class.

They are good kids and they want to learn. They value their education and they don't want to waste their lives. It deeply saddens me when that desire to learn is killed.

Thanks for doing the website. It contains a lot of valuable information, and I shall mention it to my friends.

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Firstly, I would like to say how much I enjoy reading your web site! 
I have been in Taiwan for 1 year and 8 months. And I have had many up's and down's since coming here however I am determined to make my time here as worth while and enjoyable as I can. When I first came here I found your web site and many of the things you warned foreigners to be careful about have been so true and are so important to know!  I completely agree that if you do speak chinese it is best to pretend you don't, if you can get away with it, however,  in some situations it is nice to show taiwanese people that you have taken the time to learn some of their language. I understand alot more chinese  than when I first came here and most of the time I pretend I don't understand what people are saying to me when I am out of work or in my Apartment block. 

I wanted to write to you to say hello and to send you what I believe to be one of the most important web sites for all foreigners who have been asking you questions about working in taiwan legally. You may already know it? It is and shows the exact application process to get your ARC.I wish I had known about it before coming here however it was the best thing a friend sent me (who worked for the N.Z government in Taipei) when I ran into a few problems during my first 6 months here.  When I found this site  I printed out the relevant sections and handed it to my Boss, just to let him know that I knew the process of getting my ARC and how long it should take. I needed to give them a 'push' so to speak! I hope this site may help many people who may have questions about working in Taiwan legally. 
Once again, I really like your web site! Have a lovely day!! 
A net friend sent me these pics of beautiful things from Taiwan...the first is the amazing fireworks festival held each year in a southern town, where participants in the festival where armor and padding and the fireworks are fired directly at them and explode, showering them with fragments. The second picture is a gorgeous lantern festival held in northern Taiwan.

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Adds his voice to that ....

of people singing your site's praises.  It's good stuff!  Lots of info, low on sugary interpretation ("Betel nut is quaint and multicultural, not the SE Asian/Indian equivalent of Skoal!"), and obviously well thought-out and kept up.  Again, good job!  Found the site while surfing about the internet and was immediately interested, having spent a little time in Taiwan myself.  Especially interesting to get the opinion of someone who has lived in Taiwan for a long period of time.  My time in Taiwan was short (nine months) and as a blatantly foreign youngster I get the feeling I might have a biased view of the country and its customs.  For instance I had no experience receiving the average level of "casual brutality" you mentioned when I spoke Chinese, probably due to my foreign face and demeanor.  I know my friends who didn't fit the Taiwanese stereotype of American (white, Christian, teaches English) had a different experience than I.

Out of curiosity, how did you come about your information about crime and the tendency towards vengefulness in Taiwan?  I guess at the end of my college career I've become a stickler for the citing of sources.

From experiencing vengefulness, and watching the petty little shit of life that goes on constantly around me....

 I'm certainly not disputing your information, as I'm aware of some of what you mentioned in the "Crime" section of your website, for instance corrupt officials, pick-pockets, and the danger of catching a cab alone (for women).  I didn't have any experience with the cycle of revenge you mentioned, nor did I hear about it from any of my fellow foreigners who had lived in Taiwan for a good amount of time.  Not that it's something you would casually bring up in conversation, but I imagine I'd hear about it.  I was only there for a short while though, so the amount of stuff I don't know about Taiwan is still quite large.

Found the section about learning to speak Chinese especially interesting, not only because I was in Taiwan for the express purpose of learning Mandarin Chinese but because I got in a big argument with my girlfriend about it (she agreed with you, I was ambivalent).  As with any issue, pros and cons either way, and I'm sure my opinion would change as well if I'd lived in Taiwan for the long-term rather than studying language for a bit.

That's about it, just wanted to give a shout out to ye' for the site.  Stay well in Taizhong and keep up the web-mastery!

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You have a great site. I wish I could have found it earlier. 

Here is my story. Been working at the same school for the past year and a half. There were llies and deceit that I told myself I would have to work with. I live in ____ and drive through to ___i every day to go to work. Rather I should say drove since last night out of
the blue I was told I was fired. Basically because I am moving in to my own apartment and not one the school provides at a charge signalled to them that I would 
be quitting anyway so they fired me. Well, I know you are supposed to give a month's notice when quitting
your job and I know that they are supposed to give you a month's notice as well. They are ignoring this. 

I have been studying Chinese at the local university for the past 
semester and have already arranged the neccessary papers to get a new visa in Hong Kong. 

My thing is this. A year and a half of no complaints, working when I am 
sick, being screwed around with hours and of course the normal lies about raises and bonusses not to
mention the travel time and they still do this. Stupid party of one 
please step forward. 

My moral of the story is that no matter how seemingly comfortable your  life is or how much you love your kids or how well you think you get on with your boss never ever trust them. 

I will be more careful in future and will make sure that I have some 
measure of protection at least. 

Thanks for a great website. 

[You're welcome. I'm sorry things didn't work out for you]

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A betel nut seller waits for customers. Taiwan is filled with beautiful flowers. A crowded restaurant.
My name is H. and I'm an Assistant English Teacher on the JET Programme in Japan. You've probably heard about it at one time or another. I was interested to read a link that you posted on the site which indicated that Taiwan was also considering such a program, as early as 2001. I'm not sure whether or not the program has been launched successfully.

Although I was quite excited about working at a school and helping students to learn, I was dismayed after a few months of work about the relative apathy displayed by the teachers and students. I also realised that because I was a fluent speaker of English and hired to "internationalize" my school, it didn't mean the administration of my school saw me in that vein. For the most part, I have been excluded from daily duties of the school. I suppose this is because I don't speak Japanese well, but deep down I think that the administration doesn't perceive me as a regular worker. I sometimes think that I'll never get a chance to do well on the job, because they don't expect excellence from foreigners. Coming to Japan, meant giving up a
promising job as a writer and editor. I am sure that after a few years of that work I would have been promoted. But I chose to have an international experience in Japan.I do think my two years here, have harmed my career prospects at home. It's not that I regret coming here, but I do regret having to work here under these circumstances. Many times, I wondered whether or not my efforts were wasted on those who could not appreciate my perspectives on teaching English.

So in a way, I've been given a lot of freedom. I've read many books while sitting at my desk and have managed to take many weeks of vacation. And yet,I know that to their minds, they must think all western assistant teachers that come to their school are lazy. For one thing, I am completely not habituated to kissing up to my superiors. The personnel manager hardly acknowledges my presence, and it is he that distributes duties and the like.

As well, there are things that I am only beginning to discover, such as where the student roster lists are stored. As well, I've realized that grades don't reflect any true reality. If the grades that I gave students were accurate, most of the students would fail. This is due to their poor learning habits with regards to language learning. There seems to be an obstinate pride in not learning the language of a "foreign culture". And the teachers do not grade the students with the same attitude as they grade other subjects. I think it is ridiculous not to perceive English as a possible second language for them. But then again, what can I expect? The English they learn will help them get into their university. After that, who knows?  I think there is also a great pressure on the students, both from teachers and from their peers, not to succeed. Perhaps it's a hangover from Confucion teaching, that the middle way is the best way. What it means for my classroom is that the students have an unspoken pact not to participate and to practice the language they are learning. They are very passive starting from 14 years old. In my view, most students possess no love of learning, something I always had when I was younger. If they do have it, they hide it. That can be very frustrating. Here, silence is golden, but that doesn't work in oral communication class, does it?

I wanted to complement you on your writing about Taiwan. Your experience living and working in Taiwan resonated with me. Many books have been written about the 'culture shock' of working in Japan. Of course, it seems to me that Taiwan is very dangerous. When I read that people key cars out of spite and jealousy, I found it to be a telling comment on the nature of Taiwanese.And I believe it as well. When I visited Korea, a wonderful and cultured country, I was surprised at the maniacal driving and the aggressiveness of the men there. 

I think most Japanese people are very calm and reserved, so that foreigners don't see that ugly side of them very often. Only in larger centers such as Osaka or cities that are situated close to US bases, can we see gangsters and the like threatening foreigners.

So your website was interesting and it seems very balanced. Of course, not everyone will appreciate your point of view. But for you, what you see and what you've experienced, has given you a realistic portrait of what it means to be a foreign teacher working in the college system of Taiwan. I'm sure if I told my colleagues what I thought about their schools, they would be disappointed and angry. And perhaps those tightly held opinions they hold about me or people like me would spill out.

I'm going home this July. I hope to study or find a good job and integrate within my own country, Canada. I think when I return, I will really miss Japan. I will miss the culture, the cuisine, the safety of life, the countryside, and the orderliness of public transportation.

My Japan experience has helped me to realize how important inclusiveness is for society, and how new immigrants should be given a chance to do well in a new country. It starts with language acquisition and a welcoming attitude on the part of other Canadians.

Thank you very much,

As the Japanese would say to you: Otsukarasamadeshita! Thank you for your hard work! 

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Stray dogs discover something interesting on a college campus.
I get lots of letters like this from Africa and Pakistan:

It's with respect that i am writing to your high office. Please this is to inform you that i have send you an attach file, proposing you Nice, Quality, good and experience English Teachers to you.



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  My site generates a ton of hatemail from Chinese males. Females send me letters that are generally thoughtful and positive. Because of the flow of hatemail, and other hassles, a number of people who maintain Taiwan websites have told me that they simply do not put anything negative on their websites. This is why my website is often jarring for those who have read other websites.

I am a Chinese living in the west countries for quite some time. I happened to get into your website It seems that you have collected a huge amount of information about Taiwan and Chinese culture, but unfortunately your writing was strongly biased by your american background. It shows that you hate China particularly and Chinese culture in general although I can not see how much you know about china.

    It's fascinating how people can write stuff like this. Lots of Chinese send me letters like this.

I have followed the recent development in Iraq issue, and to my suprise the majority people in the whole world, even in the west countries do not like americans. I have been thinking about the reasons why the US is so unpopular in the world. After reading your website I've got the answer: amercians don't respect the rest of the world, and the US government lies before the whole world whenever it wants.

    Hard to argue with that last thought!

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[Here's a canonical example of "I haven't seen it so it can't be true" logic. Note that this clueless writer doesn't speak Chinese very well -- his English isn't very good either -- but still knows that I am wrong. Didn't anyone ever inform this writer that you can't generalize from one example? <sigh>]

I found your story of driving in Taiwan very interesting, but far from true. I am also living in Taiwan, not as long as you, but 5 years  should be long enough to quickly judge your writing as not very factual.

[Alas, no. Five years is hardly enough to scratch the surface.]

I decided to get a Taiwan Licence, and the written test as well as the 
driving test was very easy.  I went to a driving school becouse we  drive on the other side of the road where i come from ans the cars they provided were not sub-standard (Toyota Tercel and Toyota Vios) a you say.  The 
perience gained  because of the  "s" test came very handy on a few occasions over the last couple of years.

[At my wife's school, the vehicles were never accelerated over 20 KPH, and they had little pins stuck in them so that the drivers could calculate where they were on the road. There was no classroom instruction, although it is mandated by law.

Also, I would have loved to hear the occasions on which the ability to back in an unbroken line down an S-shaped curve came in handy.]

I'm living in Judong and has no indoor or underroof parking, and my NEW Toyota Altis 1.8 G hasn't recieve any dents, scratches or acts of vandalism. 

[That's like arguing that, since I didn't have an accident when I drove drunk last night, driving drunk must be safe.]

I'm travelleing all-over the island, by car and scooter and has never 
encountered any of the things or people you've decribed as being a norm for Taiwan. Maybe you anger them with your arrogance.

[Or maybe you haven't noticed what a lot of other people consider routine.]

I'm well-known in my community and the treatment I recieve hasn't 
change a bit from day one.  The people are actually more helpful when I use Chinese and show more respect towards a foreigner trying to communicate in Chinese than those acting stupid and letting the others doing the talking. Again the opposite as you like the people to believe.

[Well, you're the expert. I bow to your superior experience of one person.]

I feel that if that is the way you want to picture Taiwan to other  people, take your wife, (I'm also married to a Tawanes girl - Hakka to be precise) your kids and get back to the states.

Regards from a honest staight-foreward South African.

[You're all man, big fella.]

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Back to Driving page

Exercising in front of the Cultural Center in Kaohsiung in the evening.
Police wait to intercept violators. 
The interior of a large McDonald's.
An orange juice vendor satisfies another customer.
A steak house closes up.
A night market in Keelung.
Students ponder pair work.
Waiting for the subway in Shihlin.
Customs craft and coast guard ships rest in Keelung harbor.
A typhoon takes out a road near our house.
Heavy reading for your students. 
To me one of the most comical things about hatemail is its awful grammar and syntax. In addition to not saying anything worth hearing, this writer can't even string two sentences together without a couple of ugly errors creeping in...he wasn't even man enough to face an answer either.

You webpage was a load of shit that reeked of cultural insensitivity that  (unfortunately) most Americans abroad are famous for.

What a highly amusing comment! An ethnocentric crack at Americans disguised as a personal insult! Well done!

Your unabashed paranoia disguised as a mere 'warning' in the crime section of your page revealed a simple, stupid, ignorant little individual.

The irony is, there is not a single thing on that page that I or another person I know well have not personally witnessed. Whereas, your time in China seems not to have taught you anything. I wish you had been with us during the time when we were selling my wife's english school and her counterparts hired mobsters to persuade us to their terms. You'd have told those mobsters where to get off! Or when a gangster deliberately crashed his scooter into our car to collect the insurance money. A real man like you would have persuaded those gangsters they didn't exist! Or when my friend Daniel sued a doctor and gangsters cut his dog's throat....but of course, the dogs cut their own throats in a fall, and gangsters are a figment of my paranoid imagination.

 To put it simply, your site with its views, and pathetic, overtly patronising little captions under  some photos was evidence enough that maybe you should just fucking leave Taiwan? 

To put it simply, the grammar mix-up at the end of your sentence (along with the others that crop up every three words or so in here) was evidence enough that you probably should just fucking give up teaching English....

To me it appears as if you're a western wash up nobody, who spends his weekends loafing about in foreign ghettoes, complaining that Taiwan 'ain't American enough.' 

LOL. Methinks you've got a problem with Americans, not me personally. I am simply a handy fetish for you to stick pins in.

> I've taught English in China and met maybe simple minded graduates, aimlessly drifting, perpetually whinging.

Ahhh....teaching English in China makes you an expert on Taiwan...

I wouldn't even be surprsied if you're some self righteous evangelising born again that pervades the east.

I'm an atheist who gives regularly to organizations that fight the Right. In fact, I am a regular at, an atheist website. The forums there are wonderful, if you detest evangelicals. C'mon over and join the fun.

> Fuck you, fuck your webpage, and go home.

As soon as I finish this course in Taiwan history I am teaching at the university....and the one on local
economics...and the simultaneous translation course....and the teacher training...and the book I am
writing....and the research project on human caring here.....

People like you are just 1 bit nobodies whose websites are their sole prupose of existence, convinced that the information they provide will enlighten others. 

Alas that so many people have validated that perception....they are probably all misguided too.

Don't reply to me. Just read and reflect, and maybe realise that perhaps Taiwan is not for you.

Perhaps you're right. I am always open to that possibility. 

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 i have finished reading your info on Taiwan. do you get plasure at boasting about you being  American and slagging off the rest of the world? 

Oh yes, it is quite true. I hate foreigners. That's why I (a) served in the US Peace Corps (b) lived most of my adult life overseas (c) spent three years working with the Taiwan democracy movement (d) have a masters in international affairs (e) speak several foreign languages and (f) married a foreigner.

One frustration of hatemail is that it never contains anything specific so that I would know what aspects of the site I need to change. Sadly it is simply mindless vomitus, in prose.

>it is a most negative article , finding fault with almost everything.
>if i had'nt been living here for 4 months i would not even have thought about coming here. 

That's the point, isn't it? Apparently during the whole process of coming here, it never once occurred to this person that moving 12,000 miles away to a completely foreign country which is heavily polluted, crawling with gangsters, corrupt, and a sitting duck for the expansionists across the Strait, to perform work for which he has no relevant experience, might just involve some risks....

As always, newbies know best! >sigh<
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Apartment blocks south of Taipei. Elephants at the Taipei Zoo. [I've provided this letter for some comic relief. The paragraphing and punctuation are as in the original.]

hey you are wrong, you are a foreigner, stop criticizing taiwan 
you dont know the rules here you should learn them

driving in taiwan is just safer than in the US. drivers are generally  more careful. in taiwan you can cut very close in front of a car and you can expect them to notice it and brake.

in the US you would just get hit. also, taxis don't have deals with police, they get fined too. its just they know where the cameras are. 

[A very good point, and the only one in all this dreck]

the reason there are accidents is because of idiots like you who cant 
drive or don't know the implicit driving rules here.

also, everyone passes the driving test on the first time. hell i even passed while flooring the accelerator on the S curve. if you can't pass it on the first time, don't drive in taiwan.

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[Alas, I made this poor fellow unhappy.]


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Street vendors packed into a Kaohsiung street corner.

To my Living In Taiwan Page
I want to come. What should I do? Crime and Safety Recreation and Travel Bringing Kids?
What to Bring Health Learning Chinese Keeping a Pet
Finding, Renting, Housing Money The Social Side Living in Taiwan, Returning to America
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Transportation Personal Services Driving in Taiwan Back to Teaching English in Taiwan home page

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