"Legal" racism in Taiwan?

I would like to pose a question to the venerable Mr. Hartzell or to any individual who may have a plausable legal explanation for the conundrum I recently found myself in. While planning to visit Taipei I contacted five-star hotels to ask for a nightly rate. Each hotel receptionist gave a rate which seemed rather exhorbitant, even for a five-star hotel.

A Taiwanese associate then contacted the hotels, and because he possessed “ROC identification”, the rates given were nearly HALF the rates I was quoted. My associate reasoned, “This is the ROC government’s way of giving back to the people” on Taiwan. This explanation seems dubious, to say the least. Unless I’m sorely mistaken, the hotel industry is the private sector and has nothing to do with government social welfare programs. In the United States, if international guests were given substatially higher hotel rates there would be a sharp public outcry.

I ask you, Mr. Hartzell, is this policy legal? I find it inconceivable that Taiwanese citizens and the ROC government would not only permit but condone racism. Any response would be greatly appreciated.

This is not racism. Hotels typically quote ridiculous prices, but are then willing to bring the prices down if you ask for a discount. Also, I suspect that you were given a quote for the most expensive type of room, whereas your associate may have been given a quote for a room with less frills.

Having lived here for many years, I have very rarely come across a case of someone trying to fleece me just because I was a foreigner. Sure, some vendors (at a market, for instance) may quote you an insane price, but they typically expect you to start bargaining with them. Nevertheless, this is no different from the disreputable sellers you’ll find at fleamarkets, antique shops, and elsewhere in the States.

In the future, try asking for a discount or a cheaper rate. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the price can fall. If you don’t like to bargain, as I don’t, just walk away and find someone else. With the economy in the state it’s in, this is a buyer’s market, so there will be plenty of hotels and stores interested in your business.

I asked each hotel receptionist the rate for a “standard room with a single bed for a non-smoking individual for one night” and was asked if I possessed ROC identification, to which I replied no. I was then given a rate. My Taiwanese associate called each hotel back a half-hour later and asked, in Mandarin, the same question and was given a far lower rate. I was told this practice is legal, common, and appreciated by Taiwanese citizens as a goodwill gesture from “the ROC government”.

Perhaps I am not as familiar with the culture on Taiwan as you; however, it would seem to me that at a five-star hotel, regardless of location, one should not be expected to haggle over the price of a room, as one may be expected to haggle over the price of fruit, toys or clothing at a night market or a road-side stand. There is a fine line between right and wrong and in my view, this is overt discrimination and clearly crosses it; however, the question I pose is, is it legal?


I understand your frustration, and I don’t know if its legal, but the local culture consistently has a negotiable element when it comes to price.

If you call them and say, “I am a local foreigner and have been here for the xx years, so you better give me the local price or I’m not going to stay at your hotel.” They should give it to you. I think most hotels will acknowledge that if you have an ARC (some have told me this), they will treat you as a local when it comes to the charge of the room. If the hotel staff has been giving you a hard time during this negotiation, tell them that you’re going to need another 10% discount because of the difficulty they’re giving you. If they’re not willing to give up the discount go to another hotel and tell the first hotel exactly why they didn’t get the business, but leave a number and tell them if they change their mind, they can call you. (the locals hate to lose business under any circumstances and they’ll think twice next the next time they do this).

I would also like to ask a question about racism to Mr. Hartzell.

Is it racist or even morally correct to discriminate against people when it comes to job opportunities by requiring the candidate to have a local ID?

A few years ago, one of my friends who is 50/50 Chinese and American couldn’t get a job at a bank in Taiwan because he couldn’t provide local ID. He was unable to apply for the ID because his father wasn’t Chinese. He had fluent Chinese and a finance major from an Ivy league university in the states. The people at the bank specifically told him that because he did not have a local ID, they would not hire him. Also, the bank employee said that they wouldn’t hire a foreigner because it would make their clients nervous, but I don’t know if the employee was including him in that statement.

I’ve often thought that this isn’t too different from discrimination based on sex, age or race.

I know you do a lot of work in this area and I hope you can reply to my question.



The hotel situation, unlike the taxi proposal as it was originally reported, is not racist.

Everyone with a Taiwan ID (this includes ARC holders) is eligible for the discount (30 percent or so).

The rule is specific – not based upon subjective criteria (“looks foreign” or “looks like s/he might speak English”) – and, to the best of my knowledge, enforced. At hotels, unlike in taxis, people must present ID.

The reason behind the discount in Taipei (and this is primarily a Taipei situation, not islandwide) is that hotels want to have as many full rooms as possible. The only way to get more customers – aside from international visitors, which are a limited pool – is to encourage locals to stay. Thus the discount.

Outside of Taipei the situation is often different. Locals (here defined as Taiwan inhabitants, not people from a specific city) are already by far the largest group of paying customers. There’s no incentive to provide them with such a discount.

Cranky’s pretty much right on everything, except for the “not islandwide” part. I think the id situation depends more if you’re visiting a five star or an international tourist hotel, than on an islandwide system.

No offense, just wanted to make sure that everything is clear.

Thanos, I could be wrong but it appears some companies require a Taiwan I.D. of an applicant because they intend to offer a lower wage. Alas, only the keen Hartzell must know the answer to this one. As an aside, I’ve been asked my age, religion, marital status and even whether I “intended to marry in the near future” on job interviews. Legal? Certainly not back home. Ethical? You decide.

I’ve stayed at a number of hotels throughout Taiwan and have never been asked if I had a local ID. I know I got the same price as locals, since in many cases, my Taiwanese friends were staying in other rooms.

It may help that I speak Chinese. And it may well be that the hotels you spoke with were attempting to fleece you because you don’t. What this sounds like to me is a case of businesses taking advantage of you because of your lack of local knowledge. It probably has less to do with your lack of a Taiwanese ID than with your lack of Chinese skills.

If that is indeed what happened, I’m sorry for your bad experience. Please understand that it has less to do with your race than with a desire of many businesses to make a fast buck, regardless of the impact of such practices on future relations with their clients. In your case, you were probably not regarded as a repeat or future customer, so you were not afforded preferential treatment.


You should go back and read your post again. You sound super arrorgant and pompus.

You didn’t offer him any kind of solution that can be used now for such a problem, and in fact, you just put him down for being new in Taiwan. I’m sure he’ll be learning more about how things work on Taiwan as he continues to live here, and he probably doesn’t need anyone to make him feel that he may or may not be lacking something to survive in Taiwan.

What in your post did you teach by saying that because I have local knowledge and I can speak the language, he wouldn’t be able to recieve preferred client treatment?, Successful living in Taiwan isn’t necessarily because you have the right background of experience and language skills, but more on your personality and how one gets along with others.

If you’re going to write, don’t put others down by saying that you’re special because you have some skills and experiences which they don’t have. Next time try offering a concrete solution next time, rather than telling someone how great you are and rather than telling them what they may or may not lack.

On the contrary :

2 examples :
Chengte Lu : if my (Taiwanese) wife calls, she has to pay full. When I ( the bloody waiguo spouse) call, I got 20 % off.

Hualien :
I call : full rate, wife calls :30 %.

Go figure. :>))

Thanos - I beg to differ, but I actually apologized to the poster for the poor treatment he received.

I believe you have some serious issues with living here, which I suppose is your right. I further believe I offered a viable explanation for the poster’s problem.

No, I don’t have any cracker jack solutions. I’m not going to advise going to the police or starting up a letter writing campaign, etc. since in fact nothing illegal was done.

Might I add you have offered nil solutions yourself. So you may take recourse to your thesaurus and pull out as many insulting adjectives as you wish, but I remain unfazed, since I’ve learned that the only way to peacefully post on these boards is to don my flame resistant gear and ignore the rodent trolls that scurry about anonymously in the dark.

This topic was started by “Overseas Indignation.” My suggestion would be as follows: If he/she would like to write up a full listing (in Chinese) of the hotels contacted, date and time contacted, prices quoted, attitude of the staff, etc., and then a comparison list of what happened when a Chinese associate made inquiries, then this list could be submitted to the ROC Tourism Bureau, and/or local Hotel Associations, along with a full explanation of what “Overseas Indignation” is upset about, and some explanation could be asked for.

Obviously, this course of action does require a certain investment of time to assemble the necessary paperwork. However, over the long term I believe it will achieve more fruitful results than merely continuing to argue about the perceived pricing policies of these hotels in Taipei, and/or the perceived politeness grading of the various comments posted in this Forum.

As always, Mr. Hartzell provides the voice of reason, along with some actual suggestions. Thanks for being in our corner, Richard. Now, if only you could tell me where I can buy nitro cans of Guinness to take home…


You didn’t apologize (and on whose behalf would you be apologizing for anyway?). You said you were “sorry for his bad experience”, which does not carry the same connotation.

I absolutely don’t understand why you would think that I have serious TW living issues. You don’t even know me. It seems to me that you have a problem with other foreigners and how they live here.

I did offer a solution in my first post on this topic. You should go back and re-read.

So, what you’re saying is just absolute nonsense.

I worded my earlier reply badly. I didn’t mean to imply that the situation doesn’t exist outside of Taipei, just that it happens more in the capital than elsewhere. This is because of what Thanos mentioned: a discount for locals is more likely to occur at a five-star or international tourist hotel than elsewhere.

Musasa, it’s possible you paid the same rate as your friends simply because there was only one rate, and thus no one received a disount. Or because you spoke Chinese and were therefore assumed to be an ARC holder, which should have been confirmed by your ID when you registered, just as your friends’ should have had to produce ROC ID no matter what they look like or what language they were speaking. Discounts depend on the hotel and other factors such as time of year, day of the week, and the occupancy for that night.

Others have said this already, but it’s worth saying again: It’s worth asking if there’s a discount. To do so will not necessarily cause you to lose face or look like a cheapskate. This might be weird, but it’s not a situation unique to Taiwan or even Asia. I’ve also received discounts at hotels in the United States just by asking.

FWIW, my knowledge of Taiwan’s hotels comes more from talks with acquaintances who work in the industry than from personal experience. I haven’t stayed in a hotel in Taiwan without my wife (an ROC citizen) in years.

Cranky - I agree all those things you mentioned are possible. There are really a lot of variables when staying at a hotel here! I always ask for a discount just in case. It’s normally not more than 10% or so of the quoted rate, but at times the staff will mention a ‘lower grade’ room at a far cheaper rate, which they normally would not have mentioned. So, it never hurts to ask.

This is related, kinda?

I am Chinese-American. There are a number of government-sponsored programs which encourage young Chinese-Americans and Taiwanese-Americans to spend the summers (if not longer) here to “better understand” the local culture.

One program in particular is referred to as the Loveboat summer camp in which ~ 1,000 overseas Chinese kids between 18-23 come to Taipei for language and culture classes.

When they are here, a number of restaurants and pubs in Taipei will charge ANY CHINESE-AMERICAN WHO SPEAKS ENGLISH – even those that are not on the program – an artificially-inflated entrance fee. From an American standpoint, that is a blatantly unfair pricing policy.

The thing about Taiwan (and other countries in Asia) is that the local governments never claim to honor equality of rights for minorities in the way that the U.S. government does for its citizens, even if such policies are not always practiced/enforced in full.

My two cents.

Is there a need to have more equitable standards in Taiwan … for all persons regardless of race ???

Or should those with Chinese ancestry be given preference ???

We were going to book something for CNY – package from Star Travel to Kending, I think it was, we didn’t bother in the end. Apparently they wanted to charge foreigners a higher price, but we didn’t ask if that meant “foreigners without an ARC” or whatever. It reminds me too much of China. I’d don’t think you’d ever encounter this sort of discrimination in a civilized country, would you?

Mind you, they have a Brighton residents’ rate at the Brighton Pavilion in England. You have to show proof of a local address. But this is because they subsidize the Pavilion through local taxes.