Working in Taiwan can offer an incredible range of new opportunities that not everyone can claim to have experienced in their lifetime. Whether teaching kids or working in the IT industry, adapting to Taiwan’s working culture takes a bit of getting used to. Here are some practical hints for how to survive.
By Stuart Hill
Culture Tip: Accept That You are Not an Agent of Change
One step off the plane and you can smell the opportunities everywhere. Taiwan, the dynamic go-getting Asian tiger economy is just waiting to be fertilized with brilliant ideas from your recently acquired business degree. But HOLD YOUR HORSES, COWBOY. We’ve been doing okay up until now without your help, 3Qvery muchee.
Many foreign employees are bristling for the chance to try new ways of doing things. Not surprisingly, some processes and modes of thinking at your company DID seem to have died last century back home. So it is no wonder you can see the bleeding obvious. Problem is, your boss is responsible for making millions of dollars each quarter AND has a proven track record. Beats your credentials as a summer intern at that global market leader hands down.
Tip: like you did at play group, learn the lay of the land. Find out who can help you and who won’t. Understand your boss’ agenda and responsibilities. There are reasons for the current mess, but don’t just state what is wrong, have a comprehensive plan for making improvements. Find the right time to make your pitch (say, a year into your job), and then do it gently.
Language Tip: Talk the Talk – But Not Just in English
If Taiwan pooled all the money that had been spent on learning English in the last 20 years, Taiwan could now be a buyout partner for all US and European debt combined. That said, you’ll quickly discover the impact on the average Taiwanese workplace has been pretty patchy in raising the level of English proficiency.
But whose country is this anyway? If you were back home, you’d be the first to say “Speak English” (or French!) to that new immigrant from what country was that? So now that you are the migrant worker, it is up to you to learn some of the local language; Mandarin is just the beginning.
Tip: start with “LaoBan, mei wenti” (老闆,沒問題) and see how it goes. If you ever expect to work as a respected colleague, partner or customer, then a more comprehensive range of phrases will help tip the balance even more in your favor. It will also help make lunchtime more social, and you look like a team player that way too.
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