:facebook: Is working for a Taiwanese company really that bad?

I realise that there is no end of topics discussing the pros and cons of working in Taiwan, but I’d really like to get directly to the heart of the matter before I actively start looking for a job in Taiwan in a short couple of months…

When I lived in Taiwan before, I worked for a big American tech company that seemed to do it’s best to try to emulate Silicon Valley. As I work in London now, I can look back at how things were in that company and I can safely say that the work culture was considerably more demanding and less rewarding than what I’m experiencing now, with longer working hours, the expectation of overtime with no reward, very little annual leave, and much worse pay than what I get now (even when factoring the lower cost of living out there). On the plus side, there were many team-building events during work hours (so many that I sometimes found them annoying), free Chinese classes during work hours, opportunities for bonuses throughout the year (not just the rather generous Chinese New Year bonus), and more public holidays than in the UK.

But working at a Taiwanese or Chinese company sounds considerably worse still. I’ve heard all the rumours about not being allowed to leave the office until your boss leaves, working weekends, being guilt-tripped into not taking what little annual leave you have, poor pay, condescending attitude towards foreign employees, etc.

Is it really as bad as this? Are Taiwanese start-ups more enlightened? Or should I only look for jobs at big international companies, like Yahoo and Amazon?

Man, it’s really hard to give one answer to your questions. A lot really depends on the company. I think it’s fair to make the following general statements:

  1. Hours are at least a little longer than in Western nations. A standard work day is 9-6, as opposed to 9-5. Some companies do have a work culture/environment where you can’t leave until the boss does, but not all. The company I work at requires overtime when work that has a deadline approaching needs to be finished, but they compensate well for overtime, and if no work on a deadline is needed, I can always leave at 6. I think bigger companies that have employed foreigners before are also more used to foreign employees leaving on time. For example, I have a friend at ASUS who rarely works overtime. This is not true for all companies though. There are many that expect long hours.

  2. Compensation will not be as high as in Western nations, especially for entry level positions, but bonuses and staying with a company for a long time/moving up in a company can close that gap. Also, when you factor in cost of living, the pay difference may not amount to very much. But, this will vary a lot depending on experience and the company you end up working for.

The best one sentence summary I could give would be, “Longer working hours and lower pay are common, but more and more companies are becoming exceptions to that norm.” If you have talent and take your time finding the right company, there are good jobs to be had. If you just take any job in Taiwan though, there’s a good chance that it will be a bad experience.

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Ultimately the opportunity cost of being here with a lower salary and potentially less L&D opportunities and training compared to the west will always hinder your career in most sectors.

On top of that unless you’re at a reputable global company, working in Taiwan for an unheard of local company is probably not going to catapult your career much outside of Taiwan.

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This is the same conclusion I’m starting to reach. When I first worked in Taiwan, I took whatever job I could just to stay there and gain some experience. But now that I’m already in a perfectly good job in London, I should bide my time, keep my ear to the ground, and wait until the right opportunity opens up rather than rushing to go back out again as soon as I can (which is what I really want to do).

This is especially true if you are relying the on job to sponsor your visa. There’s nothing worse than having to stay at a job you dislike because you’ll need to leave the country if you quit.

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In that situation, if you find a new job while in employment at the job you hate, can you easily switch your sponsorship over to the new company (assuming the new company provides sponsorship) or is there a requirement that you have to stick it out at the company that originally gave you sponsorship?

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No. And even if your ARC ends, you can apply for a job-seeking extension which is almost always granted.

They aren’t rumours , they are or at least were more the norm than the exception .

There are foreign folks with some reasonable gigs at Taiwanese companies and orgs but not that many . The few I know seem content to do the same job forever.

Good news is that overtime requirements are less these days as rules are enforced now . Working weekends also rarity these days I believe .

Working for startups…I don’t think that will be a good idea for you.

I recommend you to try any get a remote gig with an international company possibly by working in their HQ or regional offices first and becoming a trusted employee .

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Labour standard law determines on which condition you can break/terminate the contract.

There’s no requirement to stay at your current job. Just be careful when you sign the contract. Some companies try to add an unreasonable notice period when you want to resign or put in non-compete clauses that are way too broad. A lot of time the MOL will eventually say that they are not enforceable, but it can be a pain to go through the process anyway.

This would certainly be the dream scenario, but how do you find such a company? Not to mention that it’s a gamble to assume that they’d eventually (after how long?) let me transfer to the specific country I want to go to.

A more likely scenario for me to pursue would be to work remotely for a European company and then move to Taiwan. But I don’t think Taiwan would provide right of residency for that.

Another reason to be picky about the kind of company I work for. Thanks for that.

This seems a very good option to pursue.
As for getting a resident visa there may be different avenues you can pursue. You could be hired or become a student or apply for one of those gold card thingies…

Curious, how long is the extension? I remember years ago my was expiring, they called me but didn’t offer that to me at all.

6 months. I never expect them to offer anything. Best is always to ask.

Chances are yes, you will hit a company that will give you a hard time. Many foreigners I’ve met or foreign raised Taiwanese kids who come to Taiwan work more or less end up being self-employed or manage themselves somehow because of the culture shock. I won’t go into the long hours thing too much as much is mentioned above already, or even free hours outside what’s expected of your work description.

I worked with a few companies which all I had a hard time adapting to the cultural environment, not to forget noting Asian bosses don’t like employees that are “too intelligent” or have their own minds, which we’re taught to have in the west. Basically, you’re not human to them, a machine who has no opinions. The rare chance you’ll hit a company who has excellent management and care for their employees, maybe 5-10% chance? Everyone says it’s because of the poor economy, employers can’t afford to pay employees much. I disagree partially due to many employers making a load and still treating the workers the same. It’s Chinese culture nowadays to think “practically” or “materialistically”. Why give them more pay than necessary? One of the best things I did is no longer work for any companies here, they were all getting tired of my westerness too :stuck_out_tongue:

By the way, you also have to put up with the whole “hierarchy thing”, whoever is senior is to be more respected to whoever comes later crap. People here look down on those younger and newer. I had a difficult time accepting that because I saw myself having more work experience and capabilities than some who came way before me, I got bossed around for being “young” and they certainly didn’t enjoy realizing I was fine doing the work without trouble… or finding better ways to do things. #thecultureshockisreal

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While I agree that on average, there are more companies in (many) western countries with management that facilitate better work from their employees and a better work environment, I think estimating Taiwanese companies at 5-10% is too low and a little unfair. I think it’s fine to make general statements like, “many Taiwanese companies do not have strong management that promotes growth/individualism,” but it’s not fair to introduce a number as low as 5-10% without any real evidence.

On a separate point, this may be an unpopular opinion, but I think the stereotypes of Asian bosses not liking employees who are “too intelligent” and Asian companies putting emphasis on seniority and not valuing individual thought are all greatly exaggerated. Is there more of this than in western countries? Probably, but all of these issues exist in almost every field. Part of having a job is learning how to be respectful within a work environment. Sometimes you need to show extra respect to someone with seniority, even if they don’t really merit it. Sometimes you’ll have an insecure boss/superior who feels threatened by your intelligence, and you just have to deal with it. There are times when you should express your opinions about work strategy, and there are times when you should just fall in line for a variety of reasons. Yes, culture shock is a real thing that exacerbates these issues, but these issues exist in all jobs and in all places.

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My evidence…Over a ten year period I worked in five Taiwanese companies and two government organisations.
The 10 per cent estimate seems about right to me.
I could literally write a book about some of the bullshit in those places.

Since them I avoid working for Taiwanese companies , Taiwan govt doesn’t pay enough so I don’t consider them either.

Are there some good places to work? Undoubtedly, good luck finding them and getting paid well to match it!

A few years ago, I took a position with a start up. The “boss” had about a dozen local employees and then added me to the mix.

Now, the contract I negotiated seemed to good to be true. I had a ton of tasks to accomplish each day, but had the option to work from home if I so desired. I also didn’t have to wait around until the end of the day, nor report or “punch in” at 9 AM.

It was a sweet gig and I quickly developed a routine that allowed me to finish my tasks in about 4 hours.

Of course, boss man didn’t tell the other employees that I had this perk in my contract. So the atmosphere quickly deteriorated.

Long story short, we ended up in court a number of times and it was amazing to see him parade all his staff in front of the mediator and listen to them all bitch about how lazy I was.

I won all my cases, btw. I went to the mat with them and emerged victorious. We had to freeze his bank accounts and threaten to repo his car before he finally paid off my outstanding salary.

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So this is your personal experience with a total of 7 entities. That’s way too small to make a general statement that “5-10% of companies have excellent management.” If you want to say, “based on my personal experience with a half dozen or so entities, I would guess that most companies in Taiwan do not have excellent management,” that’s fine. But representing that only 5-10% of companies have excellent management without pointing out your limited personal sample size is misleading.

So, again, I agree that most government jobs do not adequately compensate for the work required, but that’s true of government jobs in America as well. It’s not a problem specific to Taiwan, it’s a problem for a lot of democratic nations.

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Totally agree with @Mac_Jay’s points.

There’s a bit of an optics issue here as well, due to the singular nature of the froeigner experience here. the vast majority of foreigners going to work for a local company are coming to it either as their first office job out of college, or as an escape from English teaching, still being their first office job out of college.
Time and time again, we see that a large portion of complaints that are characterized as “problems with Taiwanese companies” are, in fact, simply “problems with companies”.
I’ve known scads of folks who wrked for big (and small) companies here who then moved back to the World and found their Western offices to be just as, if not more (I’m not kidding) screwy and dysfunctional.

Of course there are still snake pits galore, holdover Galigong environments still running on the Trading Company/Noodle stand business model, where insane shit happens because the whole enterprise revolves around the Laoban’s fucked up personality, this is known.

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