Name: Huang Zhen-yuan
Job: Taxi driver
Where do the foreigners in Taiwan come from?
They come from everywhere. I consider my wife a foreigner. She came from mainland China. To me anyone who is not born in Taiwan is a foreigner. However, I should tell you that my wife now has a Taiwan passport. When she went to get it, the officials made her cut up her red passport in front of them. Then they took the pieces of it away from her. I guess they burnt the pieces of her old passport. Anyway, she was proud to get that Taiwan passport.
Who are these foreigners in Taiwan?
Most are foreign wives of Taiwan men like my wife. There are a lot of Indonesian wives in Taiwan; but I also meet Korean, Japanese and Philippine wives, and now there are more and more Vietnamese and even Cambodian foreign wives. They come from everywhere in Asia.
What about Westerners? Where do they come from?
America. I think they are mostly English teachers or missionaries. In Taiwanese we call Americans: “bik-go lang.”
Can you speak any English?
Sure. I can say: No problem. This is a book. I am a monkey. Thank you very much. But that is it only.
Then, how do you communicate with Western foreigners when they get in your taxi
I call my close friend. She is a native English speaking foreigner. Still, sometimes she is not able to help me.
Well, as I discovered, not every Western foreigner is from America. Actually, some of these foreigners are from Europe and their English is not very good, so my friend has trouble to understand what they say.
So, what do you do when you don’t understand a passenger?
I just try to tell them to call another taxi. I don’t ask them for money. What can I do if I don’t understand them?
What could people do about this problem?
I think that foreigners in Taiwan need to learn some Chinese, but I understand it is very difficult. If they can’t speak Chinese, they need to find a contact person to help them. Or maybe the government should set up a special phone number for foreigners to call when they have communication problems.
Do you see foreigners doing strange things in your taxi?
Foreigners! There are not enough strange foreigners in Taiwan to compete with all the strange local people. Believe me; I have been a taxi driver for almost 30 years; I have seen some of the strangest things you can ever imagine — or maybe not as you aren’t a taxi driver. Anyway, taxi drivers bump into weird situations and bizarre people every day. It’s just our life.
Is there anything else you want to say?
Yes. I am proud of Taiwan. We are a very international country. We have people from all over the world living here. I think Taiwan people need to take more pride in themselves. Taiwan is a great place. But the economy hasn’t been very good lately, so it’s hard to make money as a taxi driver. Further, a lot of people without jobs buy taxis to make money so it makes things harder for us professional drivers.
Interview by Rosanne Lin. Check out her website at rosannelin.com