The flight to rural regions mirrors a trend that began a decade ago in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. Last year some 157,000 people left Taipei, the island’s biggest city and major job market.
This is is a question I get asked a lot. I really can’t provide a simple answer for this question; I’m going to focus more on the personal growth, because I’ve fallen so in love with the island so much that I’ve developed a strong attachment to the place.
While my answers are simple, I feel like they make up a big chunk of what makes a meaningful life to me.
I really want to get to know the people, the culture, and to be able to comfortably read, write, speak, Chinese so that I can make friends who offer me different perspectives of the world. I want to be able to read and write, as well as translate comfortably, the music/art/design/literature/television/culture of Taiwan so I can share this to the rest of the world. I absolutely missed using Mandarin everyday, and want to continue using it on a day to day basis. To me, language growth is a big criteria of what makes a meaningful life because you learn to challenge your own assumptions about how you see the world through interacting with a different culture.
Taiwan’s snacking culture (and vegetarian culture!) is so amazing. I want to bring some of that back into the US, because I think this really helps contribute to the slow-paced lifestyle: there’s so much to eat and so many places to just sit down, relax, and food is a big part of that.
I’ve heard a lot about how Taiwanese vegetarian food is so amazing (compared to the US). I’ve considered wanting to become vegetarian, but the options here are not so great. Living in Taiwan, if I can eat lots of vegetarian food, I think I will easily be convinced to become vegetarian.
A big part of living a healthy lifestyle for oneself and for the planet is understanding one’s connection to nature. Taiwan is known for it’s beautiful, and easy proximity to nature! Once people have a very strong connection to nature, they will begin to have a greater appreciation of how to manage their natural resources and how to simplify their lives. It’s very refreshing: more cities in the United States need this stronger appreciation of nature.
Wow, lots of places I wish I went to when I was in Taipei.
The TEDxTaipei page recently created a page on a TEDxTaipei event in Daodecheng: City of Heartbeats. A lot of talks are in English, and explicitly tackle with issues related to urban development, environmental sustainability, and design issues. Here’s a bio of the speakers.
Never heard a TEDxTalk that summarized my interests in city planning in Chinese so detailed.
But at the same time, I believe a lot of city planning is still backwards in terms of thinking about cities like this. They are too wrapped in policy, regulation, and property development and profits (as the first video shows) that we forget how to spark imagination about how to make our lives better.
My rationale to go to Taiwan is simple: I want to get a different perspective of the world, meeting other people. In other words, can traveling give me an opportunity, some reflection time, on how to approach city planning in an alternative way?
Update (5/13/2013): I was just checking Taiwan’s Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training for information about work permits for foriegners, and it turns out that Taiwan now allows a “consulting mechanism” to waive the 2 years work experience requirement for bachelor degree holders for people who want to apply for work permits in Taiwan.
In other words, if you can demonstrate that you have skills that local Taiwanese do not have, then you can qualify for a work permit and work at a Taiwanese company without the 2 years work experience.
I’ll break down the law in detail below:
They have a pdf which details the process right here.
Here’s the quote:
To summarize the above, the specialized or technical work that foreigners
are employed to engage in shall comply with one of the qualifications
listed under four subsections in Article 5 of the Criteria Standard, in which
under Subsection 2, a foreigner with the credential of a master’s degree or
above from a university in the ROC or a foreign country does not need
working experience while a foreigner with a bachelor’s degree in a
relevant department shall have more than 2 years of working experience in
a specific field; under circumstances in Article 6 of the Criteria Standard,
employed foreigners may be exempted from the 2-year working
experience requirement after this Council consults and agrees with the
specific industry authorities at the central government level.
The consultation process can go like this. There’s an ad-hoc process as well as a general process.
The general process (very detailed and sort of boring to read through) basically requires a series of meetings and consultations with relevant government agencies. I didn’t want to quote that section as it is pretty hard to read (and poorly written).
The ad-hoc process is:
Conditions to initiate consultation: according to the relevant
information for ad-hoc consultation provided by the employer and
accepted by this Council, it is preliminarily decided that the
employed foreigner has the following criteria:
- (A) There is a lack of this kind of professional skill in the country or the skill is less mature.
- (B) It is hard to find or nurture someone with this kind of professional skill.
- (C) The person has a high degree of professional skill or special expertise.
The person shall meet one of the above qualification conditions,
and plan to engage specialized or technical work in the country,
and have a bachelor’s degree but does not have 2 years of
relevant working experience after obtaining the bachelor’s
Because this process of “consulting” seems very detailed (looks very bureaucratic when I see a lot of people talking), I wonder how the press is reacting to this change.
So far I haven’t seen anything from the Taipei Times referring to this change, but it is a sign that Taiwan is trying to make it easier to attract foreign talent. Currently, to get a work permit, one needed a) a bachelors degree w/ 2 years work experience. b) a masters degree c) 5 years work experience of a specialized field (for people w/o degree)
However, the key theme is that when applying to a job in Taiwan (non-English teaching jobs), you have to be willing to sell yourself and show why (or what do you have) that local talents don’t have but will help contribute to the local Taiwanese society and economy. It has to be worth the effort for them to go through this process.
Overseas Chinese students and foreign students receiving education in Taiwan will be able to work in the nation directly after their graduation if their monthly pay can reach NT$37,619 (S$1,600), according the Cabinet-level Council of Labor Affairs (CLA).
Under the existing rules, overseas Chinese students and foreign students as well as other white-collar workers should have two years of working experience to become qualified to work in Taiwan, and their minimum monthly pay is set at NT$47,971.
There are an average of 3,500 to 4,500 foreign and overseas Chinese students coming to study in Taiwan per semester, mostly in the engineering, financial and business management departments.
In order to facilitate their working in Taiwan after graduation, the CLA yesterday resolved to relax restrictions mentioned above.
At yesterday’s panel meeting, the CLA decided to table another liberalization measure-allowing foreign graduates of the world’s top 100 universities and colleges to work in Taiwan without having to be subject to requirement of two years of working experience.
On the Taipei Times, a similar article was written last year:
CLA Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) said one regulation the government is looking to change is the two years of work experience requirement. Under the current law, foreign white-collar workers must have at least two years of work experience before they can be hired and their basic salary must be at least NT$47,971 (US$1,645).
Wang said the work experience requirement was meant to shorten the period employers would need to train new employees.
However, truly talented people will likely have good job prospects after working for two years, meaning there is little likelihood they would want to come to Taiwan to advance their careers, she said.
Wang said that the real cause behind the brain drain and low number of foreign workers might lie in the lack of good employment opportunities and attractive compensation.
Another change sought is the lowering of the minimum wage to “about the same as entry-level salaries for Taiwanese university graduates,” she said.
Wang added that another possible policy change regarding foreign white-collar workers would be the removal of the requirement that only graduates from the world’s top 100 universities may be hired.
The council defines “the world’s top 100 universities” by referring to three prominent rankings: The Times Higher Education Supplement from London, the ranking made by Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University and Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings.
She said she was curious how many graduates from the global top 100 higher education institutes would really want to work in Taiwan once the proposed changes were made.
“I don’t think a graduate from a top university will be willing to work in Taiwan for a monthly salary lower than NT$47,971,” Wang said
I’m still keeping up with this news, but this is making Taiwan more of an attractive place to work for foreigners. Sure, salaries may not be as high as the West, but being able to live in a foreign culture for several years, studying Mandarin, and also eating awesome food….. I think the experience is priceless.
On my vacation at Taipei, I visited Ximending in the weekend, when coincidentally, The City of Taipei was hosting an event engaging people in making a wish for the World Design Capital, by allowing people to write on colorful stones on what they want Taipei to be in 2016.
Taipei is doing a tremendous amount to improve the design scene and culture in order to compete for the WDC 2016. One of the purposes of my trip was to get a sense of what the design culture was like. So, here’s a personal view of what I got. Scroll down for a link of resources on Taipei Design.
Will blog more once I get some rest, but I fell in love in Taipei when I was there. A few key things that I’ve recognized:
- I enjoy hearing the sound of the Mandarin language and being able to interact with locals about a variety of things. I think living in a foreign culture excites me and represents who I really am.
- Being away in a foreign culture by yourself, while not changing yourself personally, will definitely change how you view the world and really teaches you to figure out what your true values and interests really lie because you are away from the rest of your home country and you are out making decisions on your own, without thinking about what people think of me. For me, this is in illustration and design, with some interests in urban planning / design.
- Travelling by yourself doesn’t seem that adventurous, despite what people think. In fact, going out on my own, I felt completely normal and learned a lot in the real world about what I should do rather than being in school. I felt completely safe in Taipei, for example, and felt like a local. Granted, while Taipei is a developed city, and there might be other places that might not feel as safe, I don’t see traveling too scary yet and it seems to be going to be a normal part of life as I move on.
- In this tough world, where you are expected to follow a “specific path of success” in order to be successful, it’s really important to stay true to yourself and your values despite a lot of animosity, fear, doubt, and uncertainty.