Sunday, August 19, 2012

Go Read Me

I did a little writing for Expat Arrivals recently - go check it out. Tell me what you think. Think I'm wrong about something? Tell me so!

Meeting People and Making Friends in Taipei

Working in Taipei

Pros and Cons of Moving to Taipei

Cost of Living in Taipei

I also contributed to Safety in Taiwan - although I didn't write all of it, and I do feel that Taiwan is safer than this page makes it out to be.


MKL said...

I read your post with interest, but it seems that in some regards you don't have any personal experience, so I assume you wrote things based on hearsay. Here are some of my comments:

It is hard for expats who love Taipei and are committed to living here, because often the best opportunities are across the Strait in China, where those expats don’t wish to live.

This is a bit of a stretch, don't you think? I know expats who love Taipei and also love Shanghai and like to live there. These two things are not mutually exclusive. Taipei is great and I like it a lot, but expats are a diverse bunch, so some are fine with living in Taiwan, some are fine with living in China or both.

Male business partners believing that it is rude to extend their hand to a female counterpart...

I've met VPs, CEOs, sales managers, male and female. Generally hands are not shaken, I never saw any gender bias. Taiwanese men or women felt reluctant to shake my hand, so now I just nod, smile and don't stretch out my hand unless they do it first.

“Entertaining clients” that involves hostess bars or KTV with scantily clad companions, or other activities not generally seen as suitable for women.

This is too broad. It does happen sometimes, but never where I worked. I also never heard it from any of my friends. I would say such things with more care.

Locals being afraid to ask for raises

This is not a general truth. I had Taiwanese colleagues who asked for raise and got it or were rejected. And there were no consequences. It all depends on the company and the boss you have and there are cases where people are afraid to ask for a raise. But I would not say it as if it's a general truth.

I like the part you wrote about the importance of face, sexism and staying late. It's definitely what I am experiencing.

What I would like to add is that you can get a job here with little to no experience and once you're in a certain industry, it's a piece of cake to find better jobs and gradually make more money. I would not recommend to aim at higher positions, as it's more like a punishment (you get pushed more, have to show more effort for company, which means long working hours and almost no privacy, but money wise, it won't be that different from a lower position). The skill of acquiring guanxi is very important, if you wanna stay here long term. It's amazing how many benefits you can have, if you have good relationships with certain people. I could say more, but I don't want too many foreigners coming here, I'd rather see them go to China, I heard Shanghai is doing quite well these days. ;)

Andrea said...

Good article and I agree, having just arrived recently. I am looking for a place that does dermabrasion, like in the us.....any tips or recommendations?

Jenna Cody said...

MKL - I appreciate your comments, but I do have experience. I work in corporate training, so I meet so many businesspeople in so many various industries that I can't even begin to describe where I get the experience from, and this is what I've encountered. Hands are shaken, students do often believe that men shouldn't extend their hands to women (although in practice, people I meet do extend their hand to me) - a misconception I've had to correct on more than one occasion - and my students almost uniformly say that neither they nor their coworkers, friends or relatives ask for raises as a rule. They may ask if they've got another offer in hand, but if they don't, they generally won't. I've been told that if you ask for a raise without another job to move to, and are turned down, both you and the boss lose face: you lose face for implying that your boss doesn't pay you enough as is, and your boss loses face for, well, not paying you enough. Most of my students say that to get a raise it either has to be offered, given when you have another job offer, or you've got to jump companies to get it. This is something I've heard from, quite seriously, **every student I've asked**, ever. I don't ask every student - only if it comes up as a natural conversation topic - but when I do, this is a recurring theme. So, I would say it is generally true. But that's OK, we can agree to disagree.

Students of mine in tech, gaming, pharmaceuticals and more talk about the prevalence of business guanxi being formed at KTVs with scantily clad women, so I don't think it is too broad to say that it is a common business practice.

As for expats not wanting to move to China, of course some do. But then, those people can and do make that move. I'm talking about the subset who don't want to make that move (myself included) despite the greater opportunities available in, say, Shanghai. The ones who are willing to jump to Shanghai don't need to be written about: they can go or not. It's the ones who aren't who are in a bind, because staying in Taipei comes at a price.

I didn't mention much about office work or English teaching because, well, the office culture in Taiwan is kind of terrible (it's terrible everywhere, to be fair), and the buxiban system is just as terrible. I wouldn't work in a Taiwanese office for, dunno, $40,000NT a month, doing the hours they put in. Screw that.

Pei Wen said...

Male business partners believing that it is rude to extend their hand to a female counterpart – they may shake the hands of the men but not offer the same courtesy to the woman. Many people believe this is “polite”, that they are supposed to wait for the woman to extend her hand first.

Why do you insert "courtesy" here. Shaking hands is a Western tradition, in traditional Chinese culture touching was avoided, hence the nodding and bowing were common. You put too much Western bias in your observation, but all in all it's a great article.

Jenna Cody said...

Pei Wen - I used the word "courtesy" because the readers of this article will be mostly Westerners, and no matter what the Chinese/Taiwanese counterpart thinks of their action, if a male business partner does not extend his hand to a female one (especially if he did extend his hand to the men), she will see it as rude. To her, not extending his hand is a lack of coutesy. If the article were for a more international audience or aimed at Chinese people, I wouldn't have used that word. It just surprises me how many businesspeople in Taiwan think it is polite to wait for the woman to extend her hand - when a Western woman would most likely be put off, wonder why, or even be offended if someone extends their hands to every man but not her. The Chinese counterpart would certainly want to avoid that, as I do realize they are not trying to be rude.

My point by using the word "courtesy" is that, from a Western viewpoint, doing that IS rude.

Now, if he just bows and nods to everyone, that's fine. But if he treats a woman differently, that's not fine. Not if you're dealing with Westerners, especially women. Women in the West have fought hard to be treated as equals - and in many ways are still fighting - and it was a long road for us to even be considered part of an international business team that might find itself in Taiwan shaking hands. To then be treated differently due to gender, after our gender has worked so hard to be treated the same...yeah, no.

And, at the same time, while we'd see it as a courtesy, a Westerner (especially a woman) coming to Taiwan will want to know about this habit so she can be prepared and not take offense. If a Western woman knows that this is something Chinese/Taiwanese businessmen are taught, and it's not done out of a consciously sexist attitude, she'll be more likely to let it slide. That's better for everyone, no?

But, from her point of view, it absolutely is a courtesy, and she (the Western woman, or Western businessperson) will be the one reading this. When I correct my Taiwanese students on this, I don't use the word "courtesy", or if I do, I say "to a Westerner, that's courtesy" to show that it is in fact subjective.

I'm rambling - oops!