Official double pricing for foreigners?!

An article in today’s Taipei Times says, “The Taipei City Government is considering allowing taxi drivers with proven English ability to charge foreign passengers more money.”

Of all the outrageous, stupid, racist things to do! And this in the name of “internationalization.”

Are you ready to have an official government policy that allows people to be overcharged because of the color of their skin? Or perhaps foreigners who say a few words in Chinese will get a discount. Maybe something like “Ma Yingjiu shi ben dan.” Some other, more colorful expressions come to mind as well…

I must agree, as a Chinese speaker, I think this is a travesty…who cares about the people who come here and the cabbies can’t speak English? It makes it more real if they have to fuss around with a name card and point like a monkey because they can’t speak Chinese…and they’ll have a more real cultural experience than if they’re pampered by English whereever they go…well, Ma Ying-Jiu’s middle name is ENGLISH, so what do you expect anyway?

I don’t think it would be very smart for the cabbies, either, because if they can speak English, they can’t take their newly arrived passengers for joyrides…

I think if this happens it will be a terrible precedent. I can just imagine taxi drivers who with theis amazing three week English proficiency, will say hello, thank you and Ok, then charge you extra even if you speak nothing but Chinese to them just because you’re a foreigner. Taxi drivers are bad enough, without giving them licence to rob you.


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they are trying to incentivise english speakers to move into cab driving (good). they want whitey to pick up the tab i the short term (bad). if the government just stuck a crowbar in its wallet and paid the cabbie who passed the exam, it would be one more “+” for taipei regarding “ease of use for non-chinese speakers”. however the city government is too short-sighted to spend this money.
the result will be that all caucasians will avoid these “english speaking cabs” (they will be no doubt marked to advertise the cabbies achievement), and so the designation will work against these cabbies in the long run.
Mayor Ma: nice try but you need to think about the extrenalities of these policies.

Well that’s a load of b****cks. How about this for a plan to accompany foreigner-friendly taxis: Taipei city starts giving tests to determine who qualifies as a cabbie-friendly foreigner! If you can provide your destination’s address in Chinese or mutter it along with a “wo yao chu…” or even a “qing ni dao…” you pass! The city can then issue you a little badge or something you can flash at approaching taxis: “No need to worry,” it can say, “I can tell (or show) you where I want to go!”

Bus and MRT Ho I say!

Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to revert to my old, drunk-driving ways.

Well, add this to the list of Taiwan’s international Public Relations disasters, right next to the plane crashes and the ROC government’s brainless pursuit to join NGOs.
When you consider that Taiwan relies on foreignors to survive (it is an export-based economy), this is just incredible. They already have a hard enough time keeping foreignors here as it is–most English teachers stay about a year, businesspeople a few years, and foreign government officials can’t wait for their next post! Talk about adding insult to injury. Perhaps Mayor Ma should spend less time posing for fashion magazines (His GQ cover was a hoot! Gosh, what a hottie that guy is!) and more time, well, thinking.

In defense of Mr. Ma, I’d like to point out that the policy is, in fact, only being CONSIDERED, and not yet legislated. I know that Mr. Ma and all Taiwanese politicians have been under increasing pressure from the Taxi drivers to DO SOMETHING. Why? Take a look around: there are way too many cabs in Taiwan (Taipei especially) and it’s getting increasingly hard for taxi drivers to make a living. With the advent of the MRT system, more buses to places like the airport, and an economy that is slowing down, there are growing numbers of Taxi drivers and decreasing numbers of customers. (I actually was in a Taxi last week that was from Tainan - he had come to Taipei b/c he thought business might be better here!) I know they did that price hike last year, which helps and hurts at the same time (more money per ride, but fewer rides). So now, Mr. Ma is thinking like any large corporation might: what can a taxi driver do in order to justify charging more? It was natural for the mayor to think of English as a “value added” service that certain taxis could provide. I believe that the idea was that the taxis queuing up at the large international hotels would have drivers that speak English, and could therefor offer better service to the business traveller in Taipei - and in return, they could then charge more. I know that this won’t work in the long run - like people have pointed out, there is far too many opportunities for “exploitation”: charging non-Asians extra even if they speak Chinese; cabbies who learn a few, rudimentary words of English to justify a fare hike. But let’s be fair, ok? Mr. Ma may have fairly batty politics when it comes to certain issues, but here, I believe he was really trying to help a population in Taipei that needs the hand. If he wants my 2 cents (and I’m sure he doesn’t) he should look at cities like New York, where a taxi has to be licenced in order to operate, and where the number of licences are controlled. (Of course, while avoiding the whole mafia connection/corrupt selling of licenses, etc…)

This Taipei Mayor is as we French say “trop beau pour etre honnete” If you are politician there are 2 ways to make yourself liked:

  1. you use the media anyway you can, like a film star,
  2. you use your brain to make your citizens and visitors happy.

But when you have no brain what can you do ??
only use solution One !!! NO??

What do you think about a Mayor going abroad to see how those modern Countries deal with the rubbish, and come back with the only brilliant idea to make every single individual go down the street to put his/her rubbish bag in those haunting musical trucks boxes ??? NO BRAIN. Did you know that in Taipei (depending on which part of the City you are)there is two regulation for the car security belt ?? On one side of the city no need, and the other side you must put it on, or !!! ILS SONT FOU CES POLITICIENS.

Buttercup notes that the racist rip-off “is only being considered.” So what? If Ma said the city is thinking about legalizing muggings of foreigners in order for Taipei to internationalize by catching up to the crime rates in many Western cities, people would be justified in jumping up and down, screaming at what a stupid thing had come out of Ma Ying-jeou’s mouth.

Ma’s taxi proposal is an astonishingly bad, offensive idea and deserves to be criticized as such. Quite simply, some proposals should never be made; this is one.

Ma needs to stop “thinking like any large corporation” (if indeed there could be said to have been any form of real thought behind this proposal) and start considering the welfare and reputation of the city. Besides, he didn’t announce this as something for the benefit of the taxi drivers but rather as something that would help foreigners in Taipei and advance the city’s internationalization. The proposal would aid no one (not even the taxi drivers, as others have noted) and give not just the city but also the nation a black eye. If Ma doesn’t renounce this idea soon, the central government should step in to make sure such a policy could never be enacted anywhere in Taiwan.

You know what’s really funny is that not all foreigners in Taiwan can speak English. I have met many foreigners in Taiwan who do not speak any English. So just because they look like they speak English they’ll probably still be charge extra.

The fact that this kind of thing has even been proposed is disgusting. It hasn’t been implemented yet, but I cannot believe they would even consider charging us more based on having to learn English. It would pointed out in April 30’s Taipei Times that most tourist guides have said that cab drives do not speak English and that you should write the address down in Chinese. It’s the same in English speaking countries. If a person doesn’t speak English, they have someone write it in English for them. They’re not charged extra.

I’d like to remind those of you who said you are being charged just because you are white, that that is not true. The article on April 27th made no mention of that. It said foreigners. Remember there are many countries represented in Taiwan. People from the Phillipines, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Korea, etc., also learn English as a second language and they use it in Taiwan. However, I agree I think it is completely not fair for all of us, and Mayor Ma should rethink his plan.

[This message has been edited by Frizz (edited 30 Apr 2001).]

After staying in mainland China for a year, I went to Taiwan to travel. It felt so good to be in Taiwan for many reasons but one of the biggest was that people there didn’t make me feel like a freak just because I am a foreigner. And they didn’t try to cheat or overcharge me. 10 years ago, it was a policy in Mainland China to overcharge foreigners for everything and now, even though this policy has been abolished and things have improved, the mentality of trying to get the most out of “laowai” is still present and in some places it’s common practice. If the mayor of Taipei wants his city to be really international, it’s not by overcharging the “guests” that he will attain his goal. On the contrary.

Well perhaps one way to try and oppose this proposal if it actually started going somewhere is to say to the council that if such a policy was enacted we would initiate a foreigner boycott of all taxis carrying the “I speak English sticker”. How many taxi drivers would be in favour of the proposal then?


Why teach the taxi drivers English - so they can observe that the destination is spelt 20 different ways in “english” and none of them sound like the place in chinese?

Three points about this obviously not-well-thought-out policy:

  1. Perhaps Mayor Ma’s intentions were to encourage more taxi drivers to learn English, to better ‘internationalize’ the city as others here have said. This seems a little non-sensical, however, for learning English would be to accommodate foreigners who would then have to pay for this ‘accommodation’.

  2. Obviously a plan like this would invite more corruption. ‘Hello’ ‘Have a nice day’ ‘extra NT$50’… Or another question: I was in a cab once and the driver put on a tape of some old American music; not really nice music, but some dark, dreary '70s stuff. Under this plan, would taxi drivers charge for providing this English music? Or even for playing ICRT? Possibilities for abuse abound.

  3. If this plan does get implemented, I propose another counter-plan: discounts for all of us “LaoWai” who can speak Chinese; double discount for those who speak Mandarin & Taiwanese, etc. According to the logic of Mayor Ma’s plan, this would only be reasonable…

– Jason Varner
Pennsylvania, USA

Hopefully, the discussions of increased fares for English-speaking cabbies by members of the Taipei City Government is being carried out in terms that are far less invective than those which filled Brian Kennedy’s Taipei Times article. Terms such as “racist,” laughable nonsense", “the way things work in Taiwan (referring to bribes)”, history of lame-brained plans", “programs were idiotic”, “both idiotic and racist.”

Was I, as a reader, expected to form some sort of reasoned opinion on that matter on the basis of Mr. Kennedy’s article? If this is the highest level to which arguements against the proposal can rise (and Mr. Kennedy, as one trained in the law, should be expected to be especially skilled in making such arguements) then opponents are in serious difficulty.

The title of this forum is “Rants and Raves.” Thus an article of the sort Mr. Kennedy wrote might be appropriate here. One does not expect serious reflection or consideration of the merits/demerits of a position. One expects to rant and rave.

I suppose one of my biggest problems with Kennedy’s article is that it such a drop in quality from the articles that have borne his name in the past.

I also heard they will install special radar equipment to do customer brainscans and verify that English is your first language. The device is 100% Very well Made in Taiwan and has zero trace of radioactive steel rebar. Good luck Mayor Ma.

I have to agree with Ben’s comments. The way the article was written suggests that Kennedy himself holds racist attitudes towards the very place in which he lives and works. While the issue of differential (preferential?) pricing itself is worthy of discussion, I’m not sure that his presentation “style” was warranted.

Hmm. Higher rates for foreigners… I wonder if the offspring of mixed marriages only have to pay 50 percent of the increase!