ABC in Taiwan

A conversation at work yesterday kept me up all night.

I was chit chatting with my coworker yesterday telling her that I was getting paid less than the other foreign teacher (white guy).

Just a little of background info:
I’m Chinese American. Lived in the states since I was a baby. English is my main language. Chinese is my fourth.

This conversation went down in Chinese by the way. I was very proud to speak Chinese because I’ve been learning it for 3 years.

I: I’m getting paid less than that other foreign teacher despite teaching all the same classes and having the same work experiences.
She: of course, he’s a native speaker.
I: I AM a native speaker.
She: sorta.
I: No. I am an English native speaker. Chinese is my fourth language.
She: well, he’s white. Of course he gets paid more.

I won’t bother with the rest of the conversation because I blacked out after that remark.

Honestly, this is not the first time that this sort of things happened to me. After 3 years, it still hurts everytime.

Just looking for some support and people who understand what I’m going thru on a daily basis working as an non-white English teacher in Taiwan. Thanks!

1.dye your hair and put on blue contact lenses(poor choice, I tell ya)
2.ask for a raise
3.start your own classroom

I did 2 and am on 3. I’m enjoying every moment now with my own groups and loving the flexibility I get to have. There’s definitely a lot more pressure and responsibility I have to bear now that I have my own groups and parents to face, but it’s totally worth it.


Ask for more money from the boss.
Tell your coworker she is wrong.
Think about working in another industry.
Discrimination is rife around the world and in Taiwan too…Ageism , looks , money, passport.
Perhaps a million foreign workers have limited labor rights.

Your coworker probably thinks you wouldnt have got the job without your American passport and she’s almost certainly getting paid less than you so its hard to get sympathy from locals. You are also Taiwanese it seems so she sees you through that lens.

Also you may need to prove that your teaching ability is better than others, it’s competitive out there.

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I think it’s a given that the buxiban industry is very f’ed up and the parents that send their kids to them are moronic sheep, for the most part. Like the poster above suggests, start your own deal or work with adults. Don’t give up, you’ll find your niche.

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Busted :sunglasses:


Oops I did it again! Haha. Ya my grammar sucks.

I actually taught adults for a few years, it’s even worse. It’s a constant battle to prove myself as a native speaker.

People keep telling me to change job but I love teaching and I’m good at it.

Maybe I should just go work at the IGA. Minimum wage is going up I heard!!!

17 posts were split to a new topic: Change jobs vs Change my job

how long did you know that they were paying you less? did you willingly accept it? isn’t there some sort of labour standards to contact for that sort of thing? if they refuse to pay you the same as the white guy i mean.

as for your co-worker, its a typical ignorant attitude from locals. welcome to taiwan. you can try to educate her otherwise but i’m not sure how far you will get. at the end of the day the parents have the same attitude and they are paying the school.

But they hired this guy on the basis of his passport too, there’s no way to verify that he is a good English teacher . So it’s the way it works here

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Were you born in the states? Hold an American passport? If not you’re not considered a native English speaker.

Sounds like a shithole, as someone of Chinese decent who teaches English in Taiwan, go and find a new job, there are places out there that don’t discriminate. Also your coworker is a dick.

I can’t really relate to what you’re going through because A) I’m white, and B) I’m not an English teacher.

Personally, I would not take a job where my compensation was discriminatory. And it’s pretty common knowledge, at least based on anecdotes like yours which are posted here and elsewhere all the time, that Asian-Americans are definitely discriminated against as English teachers in Taiwan.

If I was Asian-American, let’s say I never visited Taiwan in my life, and then I came here and got a job as an English teacher for less pay than white colleagues, I would be seriously angry. I mean, this place is supposedly my heritage and part of my identity (maybe), and now I come here and get discriminated against? Man, that fucking sucks.

Those feelings would probably make me want to move back to the States and teach there, where discrimination is still quite rampant, but at least it’s firmly against the law and you can often do something about it. Nor is it accepted in casual conversations with local Americans like the one you described with a local Taiwanese.

What I’m saying is, personally, I think I would find it difficult to live in Taiwan as an Asian-American English teacher. Maybe that is why you see most Asian-Americans doing things other than teaching English here.

This has been mucho discussed on these boards. It’s swings and roundabouts. ABCs get plum jobs in advertising, PR, marketing etc. etc. here because they are seen as fitting in more smoothly with the “office culture”. Both sides of the coin are bullshit. One other thing is that almost every ABC I’ve ever met suffers from a small degree of “mother tongue interference”. They won’t realize it and it’s often due to English being spoken in the home by less than fluent parents. It’s often negligible but it is there. I know this because I work every day with ABC/TBA translators who constantly mix up non-count nouns. I’m not saying ABCs shouldn’t teach English, just pointing out that the issue exists.


Yeah true. I guess I was thinking more about Asian-Americans whose families have been in the States for many generations and then they come to live in Taiwan at some point in their life. They obviously wouldn’t have any MTI if their parents don’t even speak Chinese.

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You should really know the market value of wages. It’s your own fault for accepting less tbh. In fact many Teachers of Asian backgrounds that fight for equal wages would be pretty annoyed that you make it hard for them to get equal wages by accepting less. I’m not sure why you’re still working there if you know they are paying you less for the same work because you aren’t white. I’d be out the door right away.

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Many moons ago, I worked at a big chain buxiban, and their policy (advertised to customers) was that only teachers with foreign (big 7 or whatever) passports and diplomas could teach above the Basic levels, wholly irrespective of their language ability. This one summer, when things were getting swamped, they came up short for a Basic +1 class, and the AD ended up giving it to this one Taiwanese teacher (who had brilliant English). But they had to make up a whole US history for the guy in case anyone asked. It was pretty funny, everyone was drilling him on where he went to school and all, like he was parachuting behind Nazi lines or something.
One of the details was that he had attended U of Texas.
After that we all called him Tex.

Oh, and yeah, of course, he didn’t get white dude pay pay for it any friggin ways.:roll:


Why would they pick such a distinct state that he can easily be spotted as an imposter. Pick like Ohio or something. No one in Taiwan knows anything about Ohio

Years ago when I taught adult classes in buxibans I was chatting to an ABT and he complained to me about the fact he was only getting 550 an hour. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I’d managed to negotiate 800 an hour for adult convo and 900 an hour for IELTS preparation.

It really isn’t right. But I’m not sure if there’s anything that can be done. I think a lot depends upon your work status. If you’ve got open work rights then grow a pair and threaten to quit. You’d be surprised how quickly they back down. If you are sponsored by your employer then bend over and take it for the time being.

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Don’t they have a lot of potatoes?

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