Possibly moving to Taiwan - advice please!

Hi folks,

I’d like some advice from readers of this forum and I’d appreciate comments on my situation

About three years ago while I was at university, I met a Taiwanese woman and we fell in love. We lived together for a while, but she had to go back to Taiwan because her student visa expired.

Both of us want to get married (and have kids) and I’d love to live in Taiwan, but I’m not sure of the future I’d have there. I’ve visited her and met her family and they’re supportive, so I’d have a family network there. If she moved to the UK, we wouldn’t have a support network here (my family aren’t too keen on her)

At the moment I speak barely passable survival Mandarin (gained from trips to Taiwan and the patient tutoring of my girlfriend), but I’m absolutely sure that would improve dramatically after a couple of years there

I’ve got a Masters and PhD in Chemical Engineering and two years experience in software marketing, technical support, and training. I was born and brought up in the UK (and speak extremely clear English), but I’m of Indian descent (so I’ve got brown skin).

What kind of job could I get?

I guess to start off with I could teach English, but after browsing the posts here and on tealit.com, the Taiwanese aren’t too keen on non-white native English speakers. Anyway, I’m trying to plan out a long-term strategy and teaching English doesn’t appear to be a long-term job with retirement benefits!

Could I be considered for a University job? Are university hiring commitees more colour-blind than bushibans? Is there any demand for native English speaking Chemical Engineering lecturers who can barely speak Chinese? Or am I starting to clutch at straws!

Saying I do get a university job (whether it’s a staff or faculty position), do they usually come with benefits like health insurance etc?

I’ve been trying to figure out a future gameplan for the past month and I’d appreciate comments.


Is she moving back in with her parents? If so, be careful! Read posts by Patterson for more information. Patterson’s situation is very common among foreigner’s who come to Taiwan following their girlfriends. PhD in Chemical Engineering? You can possibly apply for jobs in the various Science Parks in Taiwan. There are many wafer, chip development, and chiemical related companys such as Entegris, ATMI, TSMC, UMC, Spill, Applied Materials…so on and so on. Fluent Mandarin would be considered a plus, but definitly check them out. I got hired by a company here in Taiwan because I am able to speak Mandarin. If I didnt know any Mandarin, I would have not been considered for my position. Talk to a few schools in Taiwan such as Tai-Da, Jiao-Da, Ching-Da among others to see if you can apply for a visiting professor position. I know a few expats that were able to teach in Taiwan for a while, but mainly because they had connections. Guanxi (connections) is huge in Taiwan, therefore I advise you to make as many connections as possible. Maybe your girlfriend knows a few important people? Another option for you would be to apply for jobs in the States and US and hope you get transferred to Taiwan, but that will take a long time. Otherwise, English teaching is the way to go. I have heard the Hsinchu (where I live) does not really take skin color into that much consideration (not as much as Taipei at least). My advice is to not waste your education, because English teaching may be a dead end job here in Taiwan if you do not meet the right people. Hopefully this girl is worth it, but just be careful once she steps into Taiwan. This is her soil, and she will be totally in control of the situation. You will depend on her for many things, and many problems may arise from it. Think things over, and good luck with your decisions.


The big chains like HESS and Joy don’t seem to mind much any more if you’ve got brown skin. However I don’t know if you’d be doing your education and skills justice. You could try teaching to begin with, and switch later if you find a job in your area of expertise. With a resident visa based on marriage you wouldn’t have to bother with a work permit, and could easily leave your teaching job if something better came along.

There’s at least 2 Indian engineers living in the community where I live. While the contact between us is limited to a nod once in a while while strolling on the empty quiet streets up there at night, I would still imagine that they are making enough money to be able to afford to rent a big house in an expensive community. Moreover, I would venture to guess that they work the same place as Tim (TheChu), IE Hsinchu Science Park in a relatively senior position.

Perhaps sending your resume to a few of the names mentioned by Tim would be a good start?

You could try the Union Chemical Laboratories link on this job site. I believe there is a program in place or at least a desire to increase the number of international staff within theinstitute. No need to teach English.

Don’t sell yourself short. There are plenty of universities with chemical engineering departments looking for people. There is no reason to teach English unless you have to. Even in an English department, you can avoid it to a certain extent. In my applied english department I teach business stuff – seminars, econ 101, and writing. I have no conversation classes and am dumping my stupid listening classes as well.

OK with your chemistry phd you are looking at either a university or r&d in Xinzhu (Hsinchu). You should not despair, as those prospects are better than the ones most have here when they end on those shores. Once you secured your position, you might want to learn a bit of mandarin on the side. It makes life easier if you are here for the long haul.

Probably a good idea to come to Taiwan and try it out for a year. Then you will know.

What follows is definitely outside your preference for living in Taiwan, but I thought I’d share it with you anyway.

I have no idea what your research interests are/were, but there was a big article in the South China Morning Post on Monday (12/29) about BASF in China. BASF’s Asian Division are trying to merge with many state-owned enterprises in China and are apparently desperate for management talent. Unfortunately, they seem to be focussing on trying to develop talent from within the state-owned enterprises they’re trying to do business with. Actually, what’s happening is that many previously state-owned enterprises are now being privatized in China. These particular enterprises are being linked to BASF via a joint venture; China retains majority ownership. So the problem is linking a results-oriented private firm to a public entity notorious for its preference for bureaucracy. (I have looked at scmp.com, the paper’s website, but it seems this article isn’t/wasn’t posted online; the newspaper is an English daily in Hong Kong. BASF’s Asian division is based in HK, for now anyway.)

You probably know more about BASF than anybody, since it’s a European chemical-substrate manufacturing conglomerate. Although they are trying to find Chinese talent, who knows? Maybe a good European PhD, a good word or two from your faculty advisers/colleagues (your Euro guanxi, as it were), and a willingness to work in China will suffice. Maybe you could get lucky and get put in HK’s Division HQ, which is only 90 minutes away from CKS as the Boeing/Airbus flies. I know this advice does not exactly fit your demand, but I thought I’d pass it along anyway. I just can’t imagine someone “wasting” a chem-eng PhD by teaching English here. Although teaching definitely requires its own unique subset of talents, that subset may not match your own (you would likely be underemployed, you would obviously lose your research/reading edge, and thus I think you would definitely be mis-employed). Anyway, you might check out BASF in Europe, and ask about opportunities in the Far East. Whatever happens, good luck!

I’m sure you’d land on your feet here, Samir. The Taiwanese worship the letters PhD, and anyone who holds one from a decent US or UK university (especially in a field such as yours) is bound to find many doors opening if he or she lives here for a while and gains a basic grasp of how to do things the Taiwanese way.

I assume you’re still fairly young (in your late 20s?), so you’ve plenty of time in hand. Therefore, you could afford to come here on spec, do a bit of teaching to cover your expenses (especially rent, as you’ll want to have your own pad as soon as possible and definitely NOT want to be staying with the future in-laws), concentrate on improving your Chinese, get to know this place and how things work here, and if possible develop some useful contacts (teaching can be very helpful for that). I can almost guarantee that, in due course, fine opportunities for employment will come your way. And don’t worry too much about the skin colour – although there is certainly a lot of racial prejudice here, I think you’d find it more of an annoyance than an insurmountable barrier to getting ahead.

So if you take my advice, you’ll pack your bags and get over here as soon as you can. I’m sure it would be a move you’d never regret. Marry your sweetheart, build a cosy little nest together, and start making those babies. As long as you have a positive attitude, the odds will be stacked in your favour and you’ll have every chance of enjoying a rosy future as a member of the happy tribe of Taiwan’s foreign sons-in-law.


I’d like to thank everyone for their advice and ecouragement. Positive, constructive words make life seem much easier!

The racism concerns me. I was in Taiwan in December and couldn’t help noticing the skin-whitening creams. What I found funny was my girlfriend had some as well!

If there are any non-whites reading this - what are your experiences living and working in Taiwan?

I was living Shulin in Taipei County with my girlfriend’s family for the three weeks I was in Taiwan, and that’s where I’ll probably end up living for a few months. I loved that area - used to go on some great hikes into the surrounding hills and mountains - although the wild dogs were kind of scary the first time I had a pack of them barking at me.

It’s a big step to shift your life completely to another country - but it’s one I’ll be taking soon. If I stayed in the UK I’d probably end up financially secure - but I don’t want to wake up when I’m forty years old and wonder where my misspent youth went! Anyway, you don’t take your money with you when you die - only your memories and the experiences you’ve had.

I’ll most likely be in Taiwan again in 6 months - I’ll see you folks there! :wink:


The indians down here in Yangmei seem fairly content to me, but then I have never really talked to any of them.

Don’t worry too much about the racism, the local see people of Indian descent as being super programmers. That might help you land a job.

I would not teach. I did not when I arrived, and I ended up with a nice job rather fast.