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…?