Having Friendly Conversations with Taiwanese Co-Workers as a Returnee from Abroad

I (29M) was born in Taiwan, but only lived here for a few years before I moved to the US. I returned to Taiwan about 4 years ago. I currently work as an account manager in Taipei.

Honestly, I’m lost as to how to have conversations with Taiwanese co-workers. My Mandarin has gotten a lot better compared to when I first returned to Taiwan a few years ago; however, I still speak slower than most people here. I notice that some people at work get irritated and/or uninterested when I’m speaking in Mandarin. It also seems like that the conversations also do not get very far as in my topics often don’t interest them at all. What’s your perspective?

  1. they no longer take you as 100% or even 50% Taiwanese. Once you left, you lowered yourself on society’s totem pole.
  2. they probably think your salary is much higher than theirs
  3. what are the topics of your conversations? if they don’t include standing in line 5 hours to get NT$100 after a vaccine shot or what new LINE sticker you bought, you’re sheet out of luck.

Welcome back, your (parents’) dreams were your ticket out
Welcome back, to that same old place that you laughed about

Well the names have all changed since you hung around
But those dreams have remained and they’ve turned around…


Can I PM you?

sure. As long as you like 70s tv shows.


Stock market, money, houses, cars, kids, in this order. Maybe how much you love your mom?


I did bring up investing in the stock market on a few occasions, but it turns out that almost no one at my workplace invests.

It makes socially interacting more with your colleagues difficult.

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My conversations with my Taiwanese coworkers usually end after a few sentences.

Try baseball, basketball, badminton …

It seems that my Taiwanese coworkers typically talk about eating out, Korean soap operas, music, etc. Also there’s a way of joking that I’m not so accustomed to.

Very few like basketball and baseball

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Start watching Korean soaps, listen to K-pop, go online to the gossip pages about mandopop and k-pop stars. Essential knowledge


That’ll drop his IQ by multipes of 10 immediately.
Don’t recommend such harsh punishment.


Got to lighten up a bit . However that is indeed something that can be tricky to get right

I didn’t really know that Taiwanese made jokes.


I’m just not sure how to go about it. At the same time, I’ve seen occasions in which people felt really offended due to perceived loss of face.

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This is just dumb. Sheer dumbness. Taiwanese have individuality. Each person is different. As evident by the fact that none of your coworkers invest in the stock market which is very rare here. If you want to connect, listen to them and ask them what they like. Maybe you just got shite coworkers or could be you want to engage them on your terms which won’t work out anywhere tbh. In the end we can just give you some generalized possible solutions and you need to see what works.

Anyways I can give you some ideas to try. Anime, food, investing, politics (only one on one. Do not do this in group settings, you don’t want to open that can of worms), videogames and tv shows (Light the night is all the rage now). Also gossips work great but you need to be tactful or it could backfire or even worse get you into trouble.


Yes food, the latest food craze especially. ‘Famous’ food places they’ve been.

I’ve found my coworkers have a variety of interests that might overlap with my own, including food, fitness activities of all sorts, and music. If your interests don’t completely align with theirs, ask them to introduce you one of their interests they tell you about, and they’ll (depending on the person) introduce you to the communities they interact with outside of work. If it’s anything like my experiences, you need to power through your nerves in interacting with people with your limited mandarin, but when you’re outside the work environment and put the effort in to just communicate and ask questions, they’ll usually be nice and accept you as you are.


most of my Taiwanese coworkers are single women 10 to 15 years younger than me. I’m married with kids and I have zero topics in common with them and I think it’s ok.
you cant force friendships with co workers, just be polite and kind and it’s ok. eventually you will find things in common, maybe its watches, maybe its star trek, you never know…


That’s a good sign.