Have to ask: why do people come to Taiwan to be teachers?

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Re: Have to ask: why do people come to Taiwan to be teachers?

Postby Omniloquacious » 02 May 2012, 10:16

And if I were a professional teacher, I'd gladly swap what Guy's got here for what he'd have as a teacher back home or in most other Western countries.

Guy's post should be put up and highlighted on all international teacher recruitment boards. Maybe the Ministry of Education could even swallow national pride and use it to help recruit teachers from the West.
If I prioritized the acquisition of wealth above other purposes in life, I might still have come to Taiwan to study Chinese, but I doubt I would have remained here.
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Re: Have to ask: why do people come to Taiwan to be teachers?

Postby GuyInTaiwan » 02 May 2012, 10:53

Omni: At some point in the future (whether I am still teaching here or have stopped doing that), I may very well try to get into recruitment of foreign teachers. However, I just think that what I would suggest would be too radical for these guys here. I do think a lot of that is because they just couldn't swallow their pride. I could be saying, "Country X is doing this, and Country Y has been doing this for four years, and they've both radically increased their recruitment and retention rates" and I don't think it would make much difference.

I think there are some major problems with recruiting foreign teachers here. I am in a different set of circumstances because I have essentially turned my back on the West (for both positive and negative reasons). However, the average foreign teacher simply won't ever do that. Coming over here to teach is really unattractive for a lot of people simply because it's not in their long term plans to live in Taiwan. As such, to some extent, they get people from the following three groups of teachers: people who have basically retired in the West (so they might be getting a pension already) and can extend their working life a little longer here (because it's an easier job and they can live well here between that income and their pension or investments), people with family connections here, and people looking for a break or adventure for a couple of years maximum.

The trouble with that model is two-fold though. Firstly, it doesn't necessarily attract the best teachers, secondly, it doesn't really do anything with them/for them professionally. The average person coming over here and getting placed out in Jiayi County is going to spend the first year or two just getting his head around this place, doubly so if he has absolutely no background in teaching EFL and/or teaching elementary school students. The government must be getting really poor returns from those guys. However, there's nothing really done to really nurture those teachers who have overcome their culture shock and can fend for themselves. Surely, it's better to retain (and continue to improve) one teacher than to have to find a new one and bring him up to speed. Isn't this basic good sense in a business? The best customer or employee you can get is the one you already have.

Other countries take a long-term view of this. The contracts have good benefits, but more than that, they are two years long, and they undertake serious measures to make it a career. They realise that getting someone to leave where they're from (and their family, all the things they're used to, etc.) for one or two years is easy. To get them to do it for six, eight or ten years is another thing entirely (especially if they're not married, and won't ever marry, a local). There's ongoing professional development and a real career path (you can become a trainer or reach some position of authority). None of that happens here. In Taidong County this year, as far as I know, there's only been one professional development day, and that was the one I had to organise. Professionally, it's a dead end. As such, anyone with any ambition leaves after one or two years precisely because they know that not only will they not advance here, but it will start to hurt any possible advancement back home. For those who stay, it does become an easy ride, but it becomes too easy a ride in my opinion. I've tried to advance myself here, but there are real disincentives for doing so. I'm largely faced with frustrating myself or phoning it in, yet I could probably get away with phoning it in very easily. Surely, relying upon people to be conscientious (especially over the long-term when constantly faced with frustrations) is very dicey. People respond to incentives. Where are the incentives? Now I am putting my ambitions into other things, and I have a fairly feasible medium-term plan to just get out of the profession entirely.

I mean, to be honest, I don't recall the MOE ever even asking me what I like or dislike in my job, how I could improve my effectiveness as a teacher, how my life could be improved here, how they could keep me here, etc. They're just hoping that I (and everyone else) will stay.
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Re: Have to ask: why do people come to Taiwan to be teachers?

Postby PigBloodCake » 02 May 2012, 11:00

Omniloquacious wrote:So there it is: From a promising career path at home, to a pleasant and stimulating life in which I earned my bacon by teaching English, to having all the key parts of my life – including the bread and butter provision – in as fine a shape and form as I could ever reasonably ask for. A very typical story for us long-stayers, I’d say.


Now you'll just have to figure out a way to get the hell outta 林口. :lol: :D
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Re: Have to ask!

Postby dan2006 » 02 May 2012, 11:10

bigduke6 wrote:There are a million different answers to your question.

I had a well paying, senior position back home, in a large company, with all the perks. However, it played havoc with my family life and personal life.

I was overseas for 2 weeks every month, going to multiple countries, staying in great hotels. All my mates used to tell me what a great job I had, especially during the economic downturn. I am highly specialized and experienced in my field. Even with the huge layoffs companies were going through, I was bulletproof.
People thought I was insane to resign and come to Taiwan with my wife and teach English (I still dabble a bit in my industry).

For me it was a lifestyle choice. I was constantly tired and stressed out. I used to suck down pills to make me sleep, and then suck down a few more to wake me up.
I had no personal life, or time to do the things I enjoy as I was basically working seven days a week. On the weekends and evenings the Blackberry did not stop beeping, and I was expected to answer due to my position. It was f*%ked.

Now, I work 2 hours in the AM, come home have lunch, walk the dogs, do another 2 hours in the afternoon, come home and chill for a few hours, and then go do a few hours work in the evening.
I have weekends free, can spend time with my wife, do my outdoor hobbies on the weekend, chill at home in front of the TV at night, read books. Stress level is down to zero now.

Sure, I make a fraction of what I did at home, but to me it is worth it.

Well, thats my reason. I am sure others have plenty different ones.


bigduke, your story reads like mine.. I thought I was alone feeling that way.

I am leaving a senior position in Canada as well, I am putting in my notice next week for the exact same reasons as you.

Everyone says the same thing, that I should be glad I have a job in this economy and I am crazy to consider leaving it. But I also realize now that the job completely messed up my health, and no amount of money in the world is worth that.
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Re: Have to ask!

Postby bigduke6 » 02 May 2012, 11:30

dan2006 wrote:
bigduke6 wrote:There are a million different answers to your question.

I had a well paying, senior position back home, in a large company, with all the perks. However, it played havoc with my family life and personal life.

I was overseas for 2 weeks every month, going to multiple countries, staying in great hotels. All my mates used to tell me what a great job I had, especially during the economic downturn. I am highly specialized and experienced in my field. Even with the huge layoffs companies were going through, I was bulletproof.
People thought I was insane to resign and come to Taiwan with my wife and teach English (I still dabble a bit in my industry).

For me it was a lifestyle choice. I was constantly tired and stressed out. I used to suck down pills to make me sleep, and then suck down a few more to wake me up.
I had no personal life, or time to do the things I enjoy as I was basically working seven days a week. On the weekends and evenings the Blackberry did not stop beeping, and I was expected to answer due to my position. It was f*%ked.

Now, I work 2 hours in the AM, come home have lunch, walk the dogs, do another 2 hours in the afternoon, come home and chill for a few hours, and then go do a few hours work in the evening.
I have weekends free, can spend time with my wife, do my outdoor hobbies on the weekend, chill at home in front of the TV at night, read books. Stress level is down to zero now.

Sure, I make a fraction of what I did at home, but to me it is worth it.

Well, thats my reason. I am sure others have plenty different ones.


bigduke, your story reads like mine.. I thought I was alone feeling that way.

I am leaving a senior position in Canada as well, I am putting in my notice next week for the exact same reasons as you.

Everyone says the same thing, that I should be glad I have a job in this economy and I am crazy to consider leaving it. But I also realize now that the job completely messed up my health, and no amount of money in the world is worth that.


There are more people than you think with the exact same story. Once you get over caring what other people think, it's gravy.

I am still in touch with my old company.

The guy that took over from me burnt out totally in less than 2 years, and they have asked me on a few occasions to come back, with a really attractive package. Not a chance.

I value what little sanity I have above all else.

I see my mates back home sweating to make their payments every month for cars, houses etc. And these are guys that are earning decent money.

When I went back home for a visit after 2 years, these guys looked like they had aged 10 years. No joke, I did not recognize a few. No thanks.
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Re: Have to ask: why do people come to Taiwan to be teachers?

Postby Omniloquacious » 02 May 2012, 11:37

Excellent analysis, Guy. If only someone in a high position at the MoE could read it and take it in. If the government truly wanted to do the best it could for its schoolchildren through the recruitment, placement, retention and development of high-quality foreign English teachers, it could hardly do better than employing you as an advisor on designing a complete and effective set of mechanisms for doing so, incorporating much of what you've described here.

PigBloodCake wrote:
Omniloquacious wrote:So there it is: From a promising career path at home, to a pleasant and stimulating life in which I earned my bacon by teaching English, to having all the key parts of my life – including the bread and butter provision – in as fine a shape and form as I could ever reasonably ask for. A very typical story for us long-stayers, I’d say.


Now you'll just have to figure out a way to get the hell outta 林口. :lol: :D


Oh yes, coming to live in Linkou is by far the worst thing that's happened to me since I arrived in Taiwan. It has severely diminished the sum of positives that I get out of living in Taiwan. If only I can move away from here soon and get my life back to more or less how it was before, all will be right and well again.
If I prioritized the acquisition of wealth above other purposes in life, I might still have come to Taiwan to study Chinese, but I doubt I would have remained here.
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Have to ask: why do people come to Taiwan to be teachers?

Postby headhonchoII » 02 May 2012, 11:46

It depends on your setup. Obviously it's an ideal situation to come here with money in the bank as costs and taxes are much lower in general, but it's not so easy to get a big income unless you have your own business or take another nose to the grindstone job.
I am in a similar situation now but if I gave up my job it will take me 2-3 times the amount of time to save the cash than a more easygoing option. My health does suffer from the stress and travel. International travel is hard on the body, I almost always come home with a cold or indigestion or something!
The main problem is the stress on my brain due to the various and complex activities I must plan and coordinate and report on. I read a report about brain aging a few months ago and I can really believe it. I believe english teaching is a lot less stressing on the brain and this is it's inherent attraction. It can be tiring but not so much mentally tiring. It is not very complex and you mainly get in, do your thing and get out.

Being away from family can be okay for short trips but more than a week and I start to really feel it. This is also something English teachers don't have to do.

A lot of people with well paying jobs make the mistake by overloading on debt and buying the best house that they can afford and sending their kids to the best schools and basically nail themselves down for the rest of their lives. They will have to suck up the crap from their boorish managers and the corporate reporting treadmill. To be honest it suits the wives and the kids in some manner but if the father is being run into the ground it's not going to end well.

Taiwan is a good place to try out some alternative businesses I think, although it can take almost all your time running a biz it should be more fulfilling. I am gong to drop out of the corporate race aswell to try my own thing once I've saved a bit more.
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Re: Have to ask!

Postby dan2006 » 02 May 2012, 11:54

bigduke6 wrote:
dan2006 wrote:
bigduke6 wrote:There are a million different answers to your question.

I had a well paying, senior position back home, in a large company, with all the perks. However, it played havoc with my family life and personal life.

I was overseas for 2 weeks every month, going to multiple countries, staying in great hotels. All my mates used to tell me what a great job I had, especially during the economic downturn. I am highly specialized and experienced in my field. Even with the huge layoffs companies were going through, I was bulletproof.
People thought I was insane to resign and come to Taiwan with my wife and teach English (I still dabble a bit in my industry).

For me it was a lifestyle choice. I was constantly tired and stressed out. I used to suck down pills to make me sleep, and then suck down a few more to wake me up.
I had no personal life, or time to do the things I enjoy as I was basically working seven days a week. On the weekends and evenings the Blackberry did not stop beeping, and I was expected to answer due to my position. It was f*%ked.

Now, I work 2 hours in the AM, come home have lunch, walk the dogs, do another 2 hours in the afternoon, come home and chill for a few hours, and then go do a few hours work in the evening.
I have weekends free, can spend time with my wife, do my outdoor hobbies on the weekend, chill at home in front of the TV at night, read books. Stress level is down to zero now.

Sure, I make a fraction of what I did at home, but to me it is worth it.

Well, thats my reason. I am sure others have plenty different ones.


bigduke, your story reads like mine.. I thought I was alone feeling that way.

I am leaving a senior position in Canada as well, I am putting in my notice next week for the exact same reasons as you.

Everyone says the same thing, that I should be glad I have a job in this economy and I am crazy to consider leaving it. But I also realize now that the job completely messed up my health, and no amount of money in the world is worth that.


There are more people than you think with the exact same story. Once you get over caring what other people think, it's gravy.

I am still in touch with my old company.

The guy that took over from me burnt out totally in less than 2 years, and they have asked me on a few occasions to come back, with a really attractive package. Not a chance.

I value what little sanity I have above all else.

I see my mates back home sweating to make their payments every month for cars, houses etc. And these are guys that are earning decent money.

When I went back home for a visit after 2 years, these guys looked like they had aged 10 years. No joke, I did not recognize a few. No thanks.


I think what happened with me is I questioned if I could do the same job, day in and day out, with all the stress it entails forever and the answer was no.

Also, about your comment on payments, we just got our bonus at my company recently, and mostly everyone said they were using it to pay off visa and mortgage bills so it seems that a lot of people are in over their heads. Whereas in Kaohsiung, I didn't need some expensive cottage up north, I could simply go to the mountains and go climbing for a day, or to Taidong to swim etc, which was all free. What's not to love eh?
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Re: Have to ask: why do people come to Taiwan to be teachers?

Postby GuyInTaiwan » 02 May 2012, 12:17

Omni: You don't have any friends or contacts in the MOE do you? :D

What's stopping you from leaving Linkou, other than selling your place there (probably a big one, I admit, though you could potentially rent that place out and rent elsewhere)? Do you need to be in/near Taipei for work, or could you live elsewhere and work from there? What about your wife?

HH: People live the lifestyle, and that's what interests me. Someone earlier in this thread, I think bigduke (so this is also addressed to him), said he was earning more in Canada, but also spending more. What exactly is it that makes big earners spend more? I've noticed this a lot too. I have two theories. One is keeping up with the Joneses and the other is stress relief. Yet from the little I know about this topic, the benefits in terms of happiness of spending money on stuff are very short-lived (it's called the hedonic treadmill). I wonder to what degree, if at all, it's possible to earn a lot of money in a very stressful job, but not feel compelled to spend a lot of it. Because it would seem that if someone could do that, then they could probably have a plan to get out of whatever they were doing and into something else within five to ten years.

When I was in Turkey in 2003, I met a British couple who would have been perhaps mid to late thirties and had two kids about eight and five years old, respectively. The husband had previously been in finance and had made a lot of money. I don't know about the wife. He quit his job and they moved to Turkey. They were running a business doing tours on their yacht around the Mediterranean and Aegean. They seemed pretty satisfied with the switch. Obviously, they would have needed a fair bit of seed capital for that business, but I'm guessing they were probably pretty frugal for five or ten years beforehand. They were over that hump though. It's all about getting over that hump, and then things really take off.
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Re: Have to ask: why do people come to Taiwan to be teachers?

Postby bigduke6 » 02 May 2012, 12:47

GuyInTaiwan wrote:Omni: You don't have any friends or contacts in the MOE do you? :D

What's stopping you from leaving Linkou, other than selling your place there (probably a big one, I admit, though you could potentially rent that place out and rent elsewhere)? Do you need to be in/near Taipei for work, or could you live elsewhere and work from there? What about your wife?

HH: People live the lifestyle, and that's what interests me. Someone earlier in this thread, I think bigduke (so this is also addressed to him), said he was earning more in Canada, but also spending more. What exactly is it that makes big earners spend more? I've noticed this a lot too. I have two theories. One is keeping up with the Joneses and the other is stress relief. Yet from the little I know about this topic, the benefits in terms of happiness of spending money on stuff are very short-lived (it's called the hedonic treadmill). I wonder to what degree, if at all, it's possible to earn a lot of money in a very stressful job, but not feel compelled to spend a lot of it. Because it would seem that if someone could do that, then they could probably have a plan to get out of whatever they were doing and into something else within five to ten years.

When I was in Turkey in 2003, I met a British couple who would have been perhaps mid to late thirties and had two kids about eight and five years old, respectively. The husband had previously been in finance and had made a lot of money. I don't know about the wife. He quit his job and they moved to Turkey. They were running a business doing tours on their yacht around the Mediterranean and Aegean. They seemed pretty satisfied with the switch. Obviously, they would have needed a fair bit of seed capital for that business, but I'm guessing they were probably pretty frugal for five or ten years beforehand. They were over that hump though. It's all about getting over that hump, and then things really take off.


With hindsight is is easy to earn a decent amount and save a lot.
However, you are right when you say stress relief, but I would not really say keeping up with the J's.

I will admit it did feel good to basically buy what you want without really worrying about the price (within reason). I am not talking about mansions or yachts. Maybe a nice watch, nice clothes etc. Retail therapy is a lot cheaper than seeing a shrink where I come from.

Regarding the Joneses, it is more about peoples expectations of you. Especially on the work front. If you are in a senior position, you cannot really rock up to work in a car cheaper than your subordinates. This might sound a bit snobbish/shallow, but things like this are "important" in many business environments.

If you got a space in the front parking lot next to the entrance you need a nice car to fill it. What would customers think when they see, Merc, BMW, Lexus, Jag,Toyota Corolla? This might sound ridiculous, bit it is indeed the truth. Image is often as important as knowledge.

Nothing a mother likes more than telling her friends her son just got himself an expensive car and got her an Omega for mothers day. Yes, I know. Shallow and stupid, yet the way of the world.
Going to expensive restaurants with the wife a few times a week and suchlike, also eats away at the $$$$.

Yes, I probably sound like a right tosser in this post. But, hey! I call it like I see it.
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