By Trista di Genova, The Wild East
I met an experienced Australian radio producer last month. He’s been living in Tamshui for a few months (and Taiwan for almost five years), and after completing his contract with a well-known corporate giant, he again started looking for employment in media, teaching or tutoring. But he’s having a very hard time, and has almost come to the end of his rope here. Why? He says he finds discrimination – because of his accent (he’s not American!), his sex (Taiwan schools are now able to employ many more females that have come to Taiwan), and age discrimination (although he’s only 42) …
Here is a summary of our discussion. Please feel free to leave suggestions below.
The Wild East: Hi there! How are things going?
Damned (?) in Damshui: Not really good. I really need to find some work, preferably near Danshui, otherwise I’m going to literally starve. As I was telling you, I am way too old for buxibans (cram schools) that teach children. They just look at me and find some excuse to rush through the interview and get me out of the building. Have not really taught children since age 36-37, the time when the (Taiwan) age discrimination really starts kicking in. (I’m now 42).
This is a common problem with older male migrants here in Taiwan — just NO work. I know many that are totally miserable and have no hope for the future, French, Austrians, South Africans, and a few Americans – some escaping to small country towns… But they are all so poor and unhappy…. tutoring a few rich kids in tiny country towns, somewhere in outback Taiwan.
My contract at ### has finished (it was never much money anyway), and if I don’t get some work soon, I’m going to wind up dead. Seriously. Can’t take many more years of this, and am ‘stuck’ in Taiwan because all my stuff is here now.
The Wild East: Sorry to hear this. But I think it’s easier to hustle up some work than that. Go to the cram schools in your neighborhood and walk in, talk to their manager about if they need English teachers, that’s how I get bushiban teaching hours. I’ve heard they’re hurtin’ for teachers in Tamshui… you’re still youngish, like me… I talked to my friend Teacher Mike about your teaching there, and he said they prefer American accent. However, most Taiwanese seem unable to distinguish between the accents. And I know a Macedonian who has taught for years, telling everybody he’s American, even though he’s got a thick accent (but I think it sounds nifty… and he’s a great teacher!).
Otherwise, try forumosa.com and tealit.com, and ACI (agents), try that Facebook jobs page. I’d introduce you to my agent, but he just let me down badly recently, and I won’t be dealing with him anymore… gypped me on paying for my last job for him.
You can find a job with all of your qualifications and experience and social advantages (= being white! haha). Just gotta hustle! Try the universities, teaching broadcasting, journalism and whatnot… Hey the China Post is always hiring and they’re on the red line MRT. However, they’re total a**holes and will expect slave labor and to pay you like a Filipina for 6 nights a week….
I’m the one to talk to for journalism jobs, ’cause I’ve done them all, but only to say they’re few and far between out there, here in ‘Wan!
Hang in there.
Damned: There are only three cram schools in Danshui. I went to one, they almost laughed at me; it was all over their 30-year-old faces that they were talking to a ‘very old man’ (me)… I saw their ‘teachers’ — all North American, 25ish, all wearing caps and beach shorts. And the Giraffe one here prefers American accent. Hess are here. They just have very young Americans as well, and are very picky on image… I’m old, bald and skinny and do not look like an American, more EU look. With my experience, you don’t think that I have already investigated all avenues? Really, I have.
Being an American and a woman, you get a very different life here…. When the economic crisis hit in early 2008, many more North American women came to Taiwan, and they took the home tutoring work I had sometimes done — precious additional income. Even other Americans have told me this: young, American women currently have it made here in Taiwan.
Image is absolutely everything. I could be an illiterate from Miami, but if I’m female, below 36-37, and have relatively fair skin, I can make a very handsome sum of cash in Taiwan, teaching kids and teens. So no, sorry, cannot agree with you about Danshui. Only three chain cram schools… Also, Taiwanese parents NEVER want to deal directly with a ‘foreigner’. They always want a Taiwan middleman.
Believe me, you are not in the same position that I am in (and other foreigner ‘old men’), so you cannot see how impossible it is. In fact, most Americans in Taiwan do not have any interest in hearing this, as it does not really affect them (although it will affect even U.S. guys once they get ‘too old’ to teach in Taiwan, after what I consider the 36-37-year tipping point).
This is what I thought of your friend, when you told me he only wants ‘an American accent’, (even though I have heard this bullshit at least 700 times), I thought – ‘another selfish American asshole that doesn’t know the pain his discrimination causes AND doesn’t care WHAT idiot teacher he gets — as long as he/she has ‘American accent’.
Such people sometimes say, ‘This is what the parents want’… Although there is some truth to this, it is not the full story. Any competent buxiban owner (whether Taiwanese or Westerner) is able to tell xenophobic parents that this teacher has a ‘neutral’ accent that is very suitable for teaching standard English — an English accent that could come from anywhere. This solution used to happen to me, but now with the age problem, the influx of more North Americans, and the fact that many are women, the schools don’t even try to explain to the parents that accent is not an issue. ‘Here’s your 24-year-old, blonde girl from New York – and would you like fries and a Coke with that?’
As I said to you when you were here — I have known many FINE, highly qualified U.K. and Australian teachers (REAL teachers) that have abandoned Taiwan (and gone to Japan, Thailand and China) because here it’s more important to employ any moron with a U.S. accent (even a Bronx street accent!) than a qualified teacher from Sydney.
As for Australian accent, why do you think CNN Hong Kong employs six former Sydney newsreaders, plus three field reporters? It is because there is a middle-class east coast Australian accent that is perfectly understandable to Asians — from India to North Korea. Many Americans have actually complimented me on my accent, saying it is like a traditional accent from the far north, leading up to areas like Nova Scotia… So this accent preference (which amounts to total outright discrimination) is based on some bullshit Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee) stereotype. It’s like saying, all Americans probably talk like MC Hammer (Yo – break it down man, wat’s up man – check it out dude…), and maybe that’s what Taiwanese parents will adore hearing from their 11-year-old Kevin or TingTing!
RE: forumosa.com, tealit.com, and others — They’re mostly agents and chain schools — and desperadoes… And yes, I apply for those jobs too. Same old story — age and accent. Most schools that use agents are so absolutely hopeless at communicating with/treating Westerners in a fair way, that they think the far-away agent will do it all for them. But it never works… The Westerner spends all the time with the cram school boss, NOT the agent. For example, I have known Taiwan cram school bosses to phone agents because they are so xenophobic to even tell the teacher that there will soon be a public holiday and not to come in.
They don’t want to communicate with Westerners — or learn anything about our logic, way of life, thinking etc at all (yet they are teaching OUR language — how can they!). They just want a buxiban to make lots of relatively easy money from unsuspecting parents… So agents usually get the worst sorts of buxiban work – remote, hard-to-reach locations and owners who are totally closed to Western culture and practices. Of course, they also want a young American ‘Uncle McDonald’ to jump around like an idiot all day… A lot of the time, it’s about child-care, rather than any real education.
With accent, age and gender discrimination, life here is hell for me… never told you that last time we met. And it’s been like this a long time now.
I have now delivered my pamphlets to 5200 Danshui households ON FOOT. They are written in Chinese. Never got one email reply. My pamphlet was written by a Chinese advertising person.
The Wild East: Jesus H. Christ, this is horrible, really… wish I could be of more assistance…maybe I could put our discussion into an article for The Wild East addressing age, sex and accent discrimination in Taiwan, and see if others have better suggestions or perhaps leads…?
23 thoughts on “EXPAT CHAT: Is there age, sex, accent discrimination in Taiwan?”
To “Damned in Damshui”
You are not alone. There’s discrimination here on the other side of the globe…’the Wall Street Journal reports that the Arizona Department of Education “recently began telling school districts that teachers whose spoken English it deems to be heavily accented or ungrammatical must be removed from classes for students still learning English”:State education officials say the move is intended to ensure that students with limited English have teachers who speak the language flawlessly. But some school principals and administrators say the department is imposing arbitrary fluency standards that could undermine students by thinning the ranks of experienced educators.’
To give credit to the source – By Amanda Terkel on Apr 30, 2010.
No consolation, I’m sure. Hang in there. Or maybe start an ‘Occupy Taiwan’ and join the rest of the world.
No temper having risen here. Glad yer man found work. (However, my point about the Filipinos stands). And yeah everything is getting squeezed. Red Queen Hypothesis all the way…
Temperatures are starting to rise here… A few points to help clear the air. First — sure, many people have it way harder than the White Man in Taiwan. That a white dude can have problems finding employment here is probably one of the ways that Taiwan’s job market for foreigners is getting squeezed — albeit a little bit compared to say, the US job scene.
Secondly, I ran in to this White Guy in question last week, and he HAS found jobS now, both in teaching adults and in sound production. The fact is he DID hustle, he DID try really hard, and he succeeded.
More power to ‘im.
“on an online magazine” needs to read “on an online magazine article” ARTICLE. sorry. didn’t mean to offend the editors here at the Wild East. I’m not calling bullshit on the WHOLE thing. That would be mean.
Is calling bullshit on an online magazine what passes for the inhibition of free speech now-days? My lord how thin skinned, self-important and vapid we’ve become. “One cannot raise good crops and good fighting men.”
“Are you trying to inhibit his right to complain because he his ‘white’? Sure sounds like it! Trying to inhibit free expression and speech based on skin color! – This makes you as bad as any other xenophobic twat in Taiwan.”
Since you will be answering my questions for me, I can come back when you’re done arguing with “me”. Lemme know how I do.
frankly who the hell cares? Grown Men have no right to complain. He should suck it up and move on. And for the record, I am worse than any other xenophobic twat in Taiwan.
Actually, to be fair – this guy has NOT EVEN vented his feelings online. As the story states, these are COPIES OF AN EMAIL EXCHANGE BETWEEN TWO PEOPLE. The ‘story’ is from an email exchange.
@jmcn. What’s your point? That there are other types of discrimination, meaning this guy has no right to complain? What’s your logic? Is that your point? And just as those Philipino (who get treated like shit from many Taiwanese) have a right to complain (and I’m sure they do complain – on Philipino websites), so does this guy have a right to complain… Are you trying to inhibit his right to complain because he his ‘white’? Sure sounds like it! Trying to inhibit free expression and speech based on skin color! – This makes you as bad as any other xenophobic twat in Taiwan.
Slow news day? Of course, there’s discrimination against white folks in Taiwan. Hell, there’s Han on Han discrimination in this country! Best of luck to the gentleman, but I’ll never understand why people spend multiple years in a country where they do not speak the language. (I am assuming the gentleman does not speak Chinese.) I don’t understand why we should feel bad about this English-Speaking Australian with a university degree who can always return to a life in a developed country. The guy is in the top 1% of humanity. He’s complaining about discrimination, yet he’s still treated with some modicum of respect due to his white collar visa status. Does the gentleman know ANY Cambodians or Filipinos? I know Cambodians who speak five languages, who transact most of their daily business in Taiwanese, and are still treated like criminals and dogs while white people k-head and diddy-bop their way around this country on three phrases of toneless Mandarin. I know Filipinos who have to sleep at their work because they can’t afford an apartment AND the commute. It is profoundly and deeply unfair. Like “Whip out the AKs and go Liberation Theology on the Rich!” unfair. And this guy is complaining about discrimination? Fucking really? As my mother would say: “Offer it up.”
Well that’s your experience – I believe it, but secretly the first thing many parents ask the cram school owner is “is he from America” – so it’s a stereotype thing, that becomes a pseudo request. As complainant said, many bushibans owners are now too lazy to try to explain to parents that UK accent is more ‘global’..
To be honest, the only people who care about the ‘accent’ are the school managers/boss, the parents actually couldn’t give a shite. I stated working at an ‘american english’ school which ‘prefers north american accents’ and, being a brit, i just said in the interview that i would fake one, and then just didnt. far from inciting the parent’s rage, all i’ve got it positive feedback from parents who have said they really like having a teacher with a british accent, because it sounds good and teaches their kids to be comfortable with different accents. So my advise is to appease in the interview and just ignore it afterwards, After 2 days they stopped insisting that i fake an accent and just let me get on with it – the parents are happy after all….
‘a-googling’: I want to tell you – discrimination IS offensive. SO HE CAN BE DEFENSIVE WHEN COMPLAINING ABOUT IT HERE ONLINE. His ‘attitude’ (as you put it) is entirely justifiable. Secondly, he explained in great detail the situation in Danshui, which is representative of other places he has tried. Thirdly, he has been in TW for five years TEACHING… So what ON EARTH do you consider short-term? And he has been TEACHING – so clearly ‘media’ is NOT his only liking””’ ‘A-googling’: you also said ‘Try to emulate’ – Oh yeah, like we can all change our age, accent and gender. WAKE UP!
I dont think there’s anything wrong with his ‘attitude’ . He is just calling a spade a spade. Don’t know what it is about many foreigners here. They are so damn optimistic about this place. Fact is, a lot of things about this place really SUCK. ANd the discrimination is just part of it.
As for other comment above, from guy (60 yr old) who came here 20 years ago – well GOOD FOR YOU (sarcasm). Taiwan English teaching scene was TOTALLY different ($$$$) 20 years ago. They would take anyone! And yeah, I do see all the new U.S girls here the past 18 months. – Loads of them.
And yeah, many cram schools now are asking for picture (to see age) and saying ‘U.S accent’ in their ads. So everything about his story seems totally legit. You can say this guy has a ‘chip’ but he’s just being a ‘real’ person and not afraid to speak out. Full credit to him. Some of you should try imaging what’s like to walk in another persons shoes, before mouthing off that
someone has an ‘attitude problem’ But anyway, it seems that many of you cannot even read! One says he clearly wants to only do media work – but he never said, implied of hinted that. Another said he only looked for work in Danshui, but the article said many other places.
WTF! Most people who make comments on the internet! Are they illiterate? And HERE is a picture composite of all the ads on TEALIT, from today September 13, 2011… Just look at their AGES..
Another thing – he could try to understand better what the schools are looking for, and try to emulate those characteristics. Experience is irrelevant in this market. They’d hire any native-speaking English forenger if they could. The person who’s 60 and married is desirable, well first of all, because schools want someone who will be here for the long-term– understandably! Maybe the schools sense that ‘Damned’ is not here for the long-term. Also, if a ferriner has a marriage visa there are no bureaucratic hurdles for the schools to go through to hire you. Easy as pie. They love that.
I’d like to hear more about the experiences of men older than 40 in Taiwan. I think part of the problem is that teaching is one of the few professions open here to foreigners who don’t speak Chinese. And not speaking Chinese would make it harder for him to get a job in media, no matter his experience… It seems to me to be a combination of several factors, his age, his sex in a rare sector that favors North American females (can’t think of any other in the world hahaa)… and his slightly defeatist, defensive attitude. If you walk in to a school looking for a job, they will be able to sense if you’re just there out of desperation, and not a true desire to teach….and if you think this work is ‘beneath you’. It’s a good job, easy money for basically just hanging out with kids. It’s not gonna get you anywhere in your career, but it gives you time to find something that is more experience-appropriate. I think he should try in the Tamshui area. Get on Facebook and ask around…
60 years old and no problem teaching? Have you been teaching at the same place for a while?
Don’t agree with Mr Ostevo’s comment, that media and teaching are so ‘completely different’… Both professions come from the social/human sciences and are about ‘communication’, ‘subjectivity/objectivity’ and pedagogical concerns… There is a long line of history of media people going TO or FROM teaching… This may be why the person here decided to do teaching in Taiwan to begin with. After all, he’s been here for five years.
I just read it again… It clearly indicates that he has applied for work in many places, but just uses Danshuei as a reference… So E-Star, your comment is irrelevant. There is a lot of discrimination here in Taiwan, like against any man above about 35,just walk into any cram school and look. I have had it increasing every year. There are some people, that will get quite lucky, get married (and use their wife to take care of them when there’s no work) or find a good school (not many of those)… but clearly, above person has not been lucky… I find the fact that two people above have but words into complainant’s mouth (misquoted), very distasteful. Just stick to the facts… Don’t guess and judge without presenting solid evidence.
I never implied that he is inexperienced but I attempted to imply that his experience makes him deserving of a better job than Giraffe, Hess, etc. Taipei City is just an MRT ride away but he obviously wants a job in Danshui, so he desperately goes for jobs that don’t suit him. It’s obvious from the article that he would prefer a job in media or something better than chain school bushibans, so he should go for that. My constructive criticism is ‘You deserve and are capable of much better, so set your sights higher and go for it.’
E-STAR: “insists on living in Danshui” – Did he say that? Maybe he is poor? Danshui is much cheaper than other parts.. I had to go live in Nanshijio area for 12 months when work was bad…
“and teaching kids is not even what he wants to do” Did he say that?
What makes you think that he doesn’t have experience? Your guess?
Come come, let’s try to keep this non-judgmental and productive. Seems an absolutely impossible thing to ask from blogs.
His attitude is what damns him though. Only three bushibans to choose from because he insists on living in Danshui, managed and staffed by a bunch of 20 somethings, and teaching kids is not even what he wants to do. I am older than he and have the same accent, but I don’t have his problems. I teach kids in a school that requires a teacher to take full responsibility for the class, not a young, inexperienced teacher to work under supervision of a young local teacher. I teach adults who require the authority that comes with maturity. I do recording for practice tests that require an Australian accent (TOEIC, TOEFL). The subject of this article needs to pull his socks up and stop crying in his beer.
Also, it seems that this blog called him ‘damned’ not himself.
PS…Just to add to my above comments.After re-reading Damned’s interview ,it seems to me he is not cut out to be a teacher.Maybe he should head off back to Oz and find a more suitable job there.Being a radio producer and being an English teacher are two very different occupations. With his experience of being a ‘radio producer for a well known corporate giant’,he should have no problem finding employment down under…
It’s pretty easy to get a chip on your shoulder when you suffer discrimination over sex, accent and age. Don’t blame him for being so pissed off. As for ‘Ostevo’ – you actually misquoted the article… It did not say that at all. Also ‘Ostevo’, you don’t actually offer any advice… I mean, how do you survive in Taiwan? Do you teach here or are you married? If you are married, then you are in a very different situation. Come come, let’s try to keep this non-judgmental and productive.
Seems to me Damned has a bit of a chip on his shoulders.I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and while it is true that some bushiban lao bans prefer blond ,blue eyed north American females ,many other bosses go for experienced teachers.I have a British accent and am nearly 60 years old and manage to support my Taiwanese wife and 2 kids.So change your attitude Damned.Your name says it all.If you act like you are damned then you will be…