Why do so many Taiwanese speak English to foreigners?


Well my wife just came back from a vacation in Germany and had several Germans come up and speak to her in Chinese.

She was on the train there with 2 other companions from Taiwan and an elderly German couple sitting across from them spoke pretty good Chinese as they had lived in China for a long time and they had a conversation in Chinese till they got to Berlin. More and more Europeans are learning Asian languages.


No, but I remember in the late 80s after living away from Vancouver for a while thinking that a group of young Hispanic boys speaking Spanish on the bus must have been exchange students. Why? Because we didn't have a Hispanic community in Vancouver. I chatted with them and discovered they were refugee families from Central America who had arrived over the past couple years. Soon as I learned that I thought fine, Vancouver has a new ethnic group. Now when I her Spanish speakers in Vancouver I don't think they are necessarily foreigners. But I once did and with good reason.

So if someone sees me in Taiwan and assumes I am not a passport holding citizen I think that is a pretty normal thing for them to do. If after talking with them they refuse to accept that I consider this place home now and have a stake in what happens, then yes, that would piss me off. But very few do. A good example of the level of acceptance I feel is that I can discuss politics with locals and they don't tell me it's none of my business. They know I care about this place, consider it home, and so of course have opinions on how it should be run. Sometimes people will tell me I should become a citizen then so I can vote. I tell them that I plan to. No one gets all weird about this.

That's what we all mean by the level of acceptance here. Touduke could turn most situations around in a minute to where the locals were showing respect for his long residency and love for this place.

I also think at some point when the majority of the people in a very similar situation to yours are having a very very different experience (especially positive to your negative) then a it of frickin soul searching is in order. It's time to look inward for the trouble, not outward.


GC Rider, a German, left Germany for those very reasons you say he would not encounter there. Mainly that most Germans do not very accepting of others who are non white living in Germany, no matter if they are born and raised there. It was not an odd encounter over years of living but a common one.


I get a very positive response from locals when I tell people I have ROC Nationality. They will often ask did I have to give up my own nationality to get ROC Nationality, and I just affirm that. I don't know if Touduke loves this place or not. I know quite a few expats who stay here simply because their wives refuse to live in their husbands country of origin. So they stay, some of them may learn Chinese, but they are always stressed up about being foreigners living in Taiwan. it's like an unending tour of duty.

I have always maintained my belief is that Touduke doesn't feel comfortable here because he himself doesnt want to really be accepted here. He needs to be that foreigner, otherwise he'd have nothing to rant about. Just mho

Have I had the few locals in the last 12 years say I can't be a Taiwanese, sure. But a few in 12 years of citizenship here with a packed population. Not even noteworthy. I am happy if the locals here want to speak to me in English. it doesnt make me feel as if I am treated any different, it would be just the same as if they had just started speaking to me in Chinese. After all it's just chit chat, and usually it's just about general things when you go shopping and what not.


MM please don't take this as a disrespect, I see clearly that you do not understand my point. Gao Bohan tried to make you see, but I think something very heavy is obstructing the view. Strange indeed!
What do you mean with I can turn "situations around"? Do you want me to explain my personal situation to every Taiwanese I encounter to gain what, :s their respect? Respect is no problem. Doing this would easily triple my level of annoyance and would lead to a standstill of my daily affairs.


Yes Toudue thinks 90% of the time the locals are very nice and helpful, but his life would be so much better if they wouldn't speak to him in English because it makes him feel, well, like a foreigner. It's pretty clear to all he is, doesnt mean he isn't being accepted here just because they try to speak English to him. He also claimed the locals were trying to exclude him from their local lives here. But complete strangers do that to everybody. It's not a language thing.

Touduke stand up for yourself man. If you think people laugh behind your back go and tell them it's fucking rude. Use your best Chinese swear words you know of. You don't need to explain dick to anybody. You'd get rid of some of those issues you have. Your problem is you dont do that and you let it build up on you. It wears you down. Grow a pair ffs You say you speak Chinese well enough, so start yelling in Chinese at the few people acting like knobs around you. They will probably never do it again.

I was once in a 7/11 picking up the Apple Daily news and some juice for my wife. When I go to the front of the queue the staff asked me ( in Chinese ) if I had bought the right newspaper as this newspaper was in Chinese. So I started reading the front page to her, δ»Šε€©ζ˜―ζ˜ŸζœŸδΊ”2月5ζ—₯,ι€™ζ˜―θ˜‹ζžœζ—₯ε ±.ζ˜―ηœŸηš„ι€™ε€‹ζ˜―εœ‹ε­—ζœ‰ε•ι‘Œε—Ž? ζˆ‘εˆδΈζ˜―η›²δΊΊ and waited for my change. Basically read the date, the name of the newspaper and said yes this really has the ( Chinese ) national characters, so any problems? I'm not a blind person.

The other patrons wating to be served just started laughing. They appreciate a bit of off handed humour. That 7/11 lass sure did feel a bit silly though. You can have a lot of fun with the locals here when they assume maybe you don't understand Chinese, or even if the only thing they can say in English is How are you? or Sorry.


I answered Gao. In many case I would wonder if a foreign looking or sounding person was indeed a citizen when I was growing up in Vancouver as other than Japanese and Chinese and white, there weren't a lot of "ethnics." So I perfectly accept that most Taiwanese are not immediately going to think passport holder when they see me.

I also answered you. Many times. At each junction you just throw up more questions. Is this ever going to end? I have work to do.


It will never cease until Touduke can himself feel he is not treated as a foreigner. But it's his perception of that not anybody elses.

Most locals just don't give a hoot just because they see another foreigner. It's not a rarity, you see foreigners on the streets of Taichung all the time.


Well...as the poor bastard that has had to clean up this thread several times (six or so times)...

Ah f&^$ it. Never mind.

Edit: I just had a thought (yeah, yeah, I know...). Two reasons I can't really relate to most of this thread is because the two biggest "problems" I have in Taiwan are:
1. Successfully hiding my paomian stash from my wife.
2. Getting my school manager etc to NOT speak Chinese to me. WTF? It's an English school! But she's cool and backs me up on anything and everything, so I don't really mind either way.

And that's classic! Love it. :bravo:


Which is why I said the situation would change if Taiwan experienced more immigration. I'm not saying Taiwan needs more immigration, not at all. Just that perceptions would change, for all the reasons you stated. I think the reactions from Taiwanese that frustrate touduke are perfectly normal for a country with little experience receiving immigrants from non-Han/Hakka cultures.

That makes sense to me. :thumbsup:


Well we have had about 300,000 SE Asian brides join the family and they are about the only ones having babies these days. CSL (Chinese as a second language) classes are standard in a lot of communities because of this. Taiwan's ethnic and linguistic makeup is a lot more diverse than people realize.

But yeah, more white-man immigration would be good. :laughing:

Some of the reactions yes. Certainly. But some don't seem to be what the rest of us experience often which is why we are wondering if the problem rests with him.

Again at some point, when your experience does not match that of others in the same situation, you have to wonder if the fault is not your own.


More white man immigration? There are two types of expats here, ones here for a short term 2 or 3 years, and those who are here for the long term like Touduke. Those short termers usually have that I'm a foreigner mindset and are quite happy here ( but always feel like, well., foreigners ) even though the locals are nice and friendly. Always something to whinge about.

Then there are foreigners like myself Mucha Man and others who just go about our lives the same as any other local, because we are locals. We forget that when we walk the streets we aren't from here originally. We probably sometimes too "stare" at other foreigners just like other locals do :wink:

Here we are calm and happy here, yet Touduke is in heartbreak alley because people treat him for what he is. A foreigner and not a local. There are subtle differences that can be detected. I doubt he gets all these things that have happened to him on a daily basis, more likely it's happened over his years of living here. We've all had similar instances of going to a restaurant and and one staff member wetting their pants because a white person comes and and they go jelly headed so much they cant even understand Chinese anymore let alone English.

Have I been into a McDonalds and had the counter staff leave to get somebody who speaks English before they even ask me if I can speak Chinese? Sure. I've also had others want to help me order my food. No need to get your knickers in a knot over it. MAybe Touduke should just expect to be spoken to in English by locals here. I know when I have met other foreigners and just started speaking to them in Mandarin first, they get all inflamed and upset that I am so rude as to not speak to them in English.

I was with a friend Ivan Buskins, his office partner Grace, and a Ivans client from Belgium at the Tavern for some eats. The conversation is all in English.
Suddenly Ivans client switches to Flemish with Ivan. So Grace and I just start chatting away in both Malay and Mandarin about what we wanted to eat and where we would go to out after dinner. Ivans client suddenly flips his lid and barks out how rude it is that Grace and I started speaking in a language he didnt understand.

So I asked him did he think that Grace and I understood Flemish? White mans thinking is really fucked up sometimes. It's not only the locals that can give you interesting moments.


Taiwanese are not deep thinkers as most people around the world in general, but they are even more into their assumptions here. That is why most still run through the 'are you an English teacher', 'were in America are you from' routine. Just yesterday we were going to Taipei on the HSR and some lady started asking my wife 'were we going to America'...when we saw we had some luggage with us. This was AFTER we had passed Taoyuan airport, so I'm still trying to figure out how we were to get to 'America' from Taipei Main Train Station. Satellite TV has it right to say he is from Alishan as at least the conversation doesn't just die. I tell them I'm from some small country in Europe and the conversation just drops dead 99% of the time. They basically speak before thinking in a lot of instances. Some of the speaking English thing is genuinely thinking you don't speak English, a large amount is them practicising their English whether you want to hear it or not (you know this when you speak Chinese and they speak English back). I'm with GaoBaohan and others and see it as an impediment to a normal conversation..it's annoying although not intentionally annoying, the English speaking 'industry' is very strong here at the expense of living and seeing the world properly (this will change as more young people go backpacking and working part-time overseas). If it's in a hotel or somewhere with lots of FOBs or tourists or English teachers I just speak Engilsh to their crappy English most of the time, resistance useless. The simple way to cue people that you are not FOB is to say 'ni hao' first and they relax and you can avoid awkwardness in place's like doc's offices etc.


Its better then being in the USA where people are generally afraid to speak to strangers , or is it not?


Yeah it's better than lots of stuff overseas...nobody is saying Taiwan is unfriendly, far from it, the point of the thread is 'why do so many Taiwanese speak English to foreigners?'. But Taiwanese don't speak to each other as much as where I am from originally, so there is a social difference too (I'm not from the US so not very relevant to me what they do over there...).


Yeah the conversation doesnt die, I get the reactions of like this

You live in Yangminshan? ( as if I must have made a mistake, after all who the fuck lives in Alishan? )

No, I reply Alishan.

But many foreingers live in Yangminshan!

Well I am not a foreigner, and I live in Alishan not Yangmingshan.

Oh, you are not a foreigner? But where were you born?

Like Ma Ying Jiao I was born overseas.

But where?

I was born in the back seat of a taxi, my mother was too late to get to a hospital.

So you are mixed race?

yeah I reply half of my mother and half of my father


The answer is... because they can. There are many places I go to in China where they will only ever attempt to speak to you in Mandarin, because they cannot speak English.

The ones that can speak English in China will also speak to expats in English.


this thread includes a lot off topic assumptions, some of it is rather awful.

Talking about a scale of how welcoming countries are to foreigners I really think we have to set the record straight by saying that following the traditional immigration countries like the US, Canada and Australia we have countries in Europe (UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands etc) who are by far more welcoming to foreigners than Taiwan. Taiwan policy is straight forward anti-immigration and it shows in the numbers of foreigners and in the way people here see foreigners.


What is Taiwan policy? No, don't go Googling it. If you can't summarize what it is then please don't pretend you are going to set the record straight. :bow:


Which are? I entered this discussion when certain posters began to decree that Taiwanese were behaving rudely and inappropriatly when talking to white western foreigners in English. Another poster detailed how he deliberately spoke in Hebrew to avoid acknowledging a local person's attempt to communicate. These people are assuming rude behaviour, an attempt to exclude and annoy them as well as outright racism are the motivations behind a choice of language (which is also, btw, the international language of business and communication). I am responding to the posters based only on what they have written here and said themselves. There are no "off topic assumptions." You just don't like our opinions.

You don't like that I think a foreigner who projects his own subjective standards for polite behaviour (as seen through his own ethnocentric lense, no less) onto a foreign culture is a little out of line. You don't like that I disagree with people who label harmless behaviour as rude, inappropriate or racist. And you don't like that I think a person who plays little games with language in order to force someone they don't know to speak a particular language to them is basically behaving like a loon.