Suggestions on "internationalizing" Taiwan's living environment

The central government’s National Development Council is formulating new policies and measures for creating a more “international” living environment in Taiwan. That basically means making Taiwan an easier place for foreigners to live in or visit, particularly those not fluent in Chinese. It involves such matters as providing adequate information and services in English (plus other languages if resources allow), and adjusting systems so that, for example, ARCs can be used for registrations, applications, etc., in just the same way as local ID cards.

I am peripherally involved in this in an advisory role, and my input can be sure of reaching appropriate quarters, so I’d like to ask all of you here to tell me what you would like done, at both central and local government levels, to make it easier for you to go about your daily life here. For instance, in what aspects of living here do you find or feel that you’re especially inconvenienced by a language barrier or by rules, regulations, systems, practices, etc., that block, frustrate, exclude or disadvantage you in some way? Please mention any difficulty or barrier you can think of that might be amenable to correction or improvement by realistically possible government action.

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If you are referring to English, provide more bus information. Especially how to get around outside Taipei. The bus information for most places is in Chinese, both on the website and at the bus stop. The English information, where it exists is often incomplete compared to the Chinese.

The MRT’s information is excellent, IMO, but it doesn’t go everywhere. The bus app for smartphones that they developed is very helpful, but only applies to Taipei as far as I know. Japan has this web site, which is awesome for visitors, . If Taiwan could do somtehing like it, it would help, especially for visitors.

Well it’s the quality of life issues that apply to everybody. Simple things like flat unobstructed pavements and more courtesy to pedestrians crossing the road. This will be a priority for mothers AND fathers in many cases. Also stop burning paper money on sidewalks it’s dangerous to kids and polluting. And I don’t just mean Taipei city but New Taipei City and every town and city in Taiwan. Have NATIONAL STANDARDS.
Create scooter parking spaces so they don’t need to park on sidewalks. Only allow cleaner and quieter transport like electric scooters in city centers and more MRT lines in cities besides Taipei.
Open the frigging airport MRT line!
Stop building massive power stations in environmentally sensitive areas and close down the more polluting ones.
Make it a NICE place to live and work for everybody.

Paint up the place and give incentives so it’s not so slummy looking in the old areas.

Now I got that out of my system how about improving the railway website which still is quite messy although improved on yesteryear. The machines they use to sell train tickets are also ancient (the greatest innovation being to put stickers in English beside the buttons in Taipei main a few years ago).

Yes, I am deeply frustrated… and I sort of speak/read Chinese.

That they live in this limbo of grey lawlessness is quite frustrating and it makes living here a nightmare.

Regulations are written unclearly, and may or may not be applied as suited. Hence, clear, available regulations, according to their Open Government policies, would be much appreciated.

Make information and processes accessible to foreigners without passing through Taiwanese. Example: if a foreign spouse wants to attend the Mandarin lessons offered by teh government in communities, why aren’t the schedules and locatioons available in teh spouses’ language? Why is it all ONLY in Chinese? If an spouse has to register anyways to get an ARC, how about preparing a little pamphlet with the relevant websites/addresses? Having the info only in Mandarin means the spouse is at the mercy of the Taiwanese local family to know which services are available, what are his or her rights. etc. Not very fair as per human rights.

Good to hear this one. Why can’t foreigners be given ID numbers from the blocks of generally recognized numbers? What’s the need for the extra letter?

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Allow foreign IDs to be used on ruten and other places.
Enforce existing traffic laws
Require garage parking for scooters and cars to get them off the streets
Speed up the MRT expansion so its coverage is like Tokyo or Seoul.

Encourage restaurants and/or provide a service to create English menus.

This is timely: … 6&t=155396

The 6-month waiting period for NHI for children of two foreign, covered parents.

Also a 6-month waiting period for your spouse if you are working here and you are covered. Or has that changed recently?

There’s a Facebook group ’ foreigners for Taiwan immigration’ and the main issues that crop up are residency and work rights for family of person who has the work visa. Also easier path to citizenship also crops up regularly.

No mystery but seems with constant politicking here changes have been slow to happen.

more english. there is hardly any english in restaurants or drink places. i went to china recently and i noticed a lot more things had english translations. it seems like quite an easy thing to do, taiwanese have an image of being friendly to foreigners but getting some food is not easy.

Yup, so many good noodle places, dumpling shops, Beijing or Cantonese style restaurants or tables you sit down as a group, almost none of which have an English translation. How are visitors to Taiwan going to have a good impression when they are relegated to street food you can see, Dante cafe or McDonalds because they can’t order anything. I admit its got a lot better than it used to, but I really think this is one thing that could be improved easily.

Fix the discriminatory pension scheme for public sector workers. In the current system, Taiwan citizens (who are free to obtain as many other passports as they wish) are able to collect monthly pensions; non-Taiwan citizens (who as we all know must surrender or attempt to surrender their given citizenship to apply for Taiwan citizenship–with no guarantees and, of course no dual citizenship permitted) cannot. Not only is this pension system obviously unfair; it is also a significant liability in attempting to recruit and retain skilled international workers.


Am I the only one here who thinks that this is all a bit misguided? Surely as foreign residents here it is our responsbility to adapt and fit in to the place we have chosen to call home? I know that this has been debated on here before, but why should the Taiwanese feel that they have to ‘internationalise’ to meet the needs of a relativley small group of people who have chosen to live and work in their country. If anything, the reposibility is on us to learn Chinese so that Taiwan becomes an easier place for us to live and work in. The same principle is true anywhere in the world: whether you’re a Pole living in London, a Mexican living in San Diego or a Bangladeshi living in one of the northern Indian states.

Chinese really isn’t that hard. Any foreign resident who has been here for any length of time and complains about being unable to read 三民路 on a bus timetable or 雞肉飯 on a menu needs no special effort being made on their behalf as they certainly haven’t bothered to put in any effort themselves.

Having said that, some of the points raised here are still relevant, albeit for other reasons: more English on bus timetables would benefit short-term foreign tourists, increased promotion of Chinese classes for foreign spouses would help these new residents to fit in better, and banning the burning of Ghost Money would reduce air pollution for everyone who lives on this island – local and foreign residents alike.

Suggestion for improving my life personally as a long-term foreign resident in Taiwan: fix/review/do away with the mind-blowingly ludicrous requirements for attaining Taiwanese/dual citizenship. Progress has been made, but still…come on, people.

Suggestions for improving the lives of everybody here:

  • Enforce traffic laws
  • Enforce labor laws
  • Enforce environmental protection laws
  • Fire whoever is in charge of making sure that government websites feature accurate, up to date, non-contradictory information (in both English and Chinese).

Ah, wish list time… Please, Santa, pretty please! :pray:

1a) More English:
Some government departments accept inquiries in English but only respond in Chinese. Departments that have English websites have atrocious records for keeping them up to date, and even when they do, vast amounts of information are still left unavailable, and the two versions of any department’s website rarely correspond to each other page for page (i.e. if you find what you’re looking for in English but want to find the Chinese version to be sure there’s no mistake and/or to show to a Chinese speaker, you may not be able to find it because the English and Chinese versions of the site are structured differently and have no page for page links). When it comes to laws and regulations, official interpretations/orders (ministerial 函 and 令) are not available in English, and some laws/regulations that are of great interest to foreigners are not available in English (such as the one that bans the teaching of foreign languages in kindergartens, which should be fixed anyway if Taiwan wants to be taken seriously and not viewed as a quaint little banana republic (or renegade banana province) where modernity is illegal but no-one cares because the laws aren’t worth the servers they’re hosted on – Work Rules For English Teachers - #182 by yyy).

1b) Better English:
The standards vary, but perhaps the biggest problem is the lack of consistency. Many laws and regulations make reference to other laws and regulations, but many of the translations on the MOJ’s website are evidently written by different translators not working together, not being paid to take the time to read the previous translations, and not referring to the official legislative reasoning or consulting any of the legislators. The translation of technical terms is theoretically already settled in many cases and can be found in whichever department’s bilingual glossary if you spend enough time searching through it, but if the people writing official documents or online notices don’t use the settled translations of technical terms, that means in practice they’re not settled. Sometimes people can still figure out the meaning of a term from a slightly different translation, but sometimes it’s really unclear. When you have, say, labor insurance and employment insurance, you need to be certain which one you’re really dealing with. This also matters for general information bulletins, not just technical documents.

2) Better websites:
In case they don’t already know, government websites frequently become unavailable. (I’ve heard it’s because they get more hacker attacks than most governments do, but that doesn’t mean they should throw up their arms and say mei ban fa.) Apart from the specific problem of English as explained above, they also have this horrible habit of moving things around (changing the addresses) and just assuming that someone else will come along and fix the links. All the links. On that site and every other site. :noway: The result is a lot of broken links and redirects to homepages. As for the “information for foreigners” site, it’s a good idea but has rarely told me what I actually needed to know. Which brings us to…

3) Better explanations for foreigners:
So many mysteries don’t need to be mysteries. The tax system (there are how many kinds of exemptions?), the postal system (there are how many kinds of registered mail?), the insurance/pension system (there are how many kinds of old age benefit thingy?), the labor administration system (the government can provide what information if your employer refuses to? but then you have to pay for it??), the bus system (you swipe the card when and how many times?), the waste disposal system (huh???), and even the plumbing system (can you flush paper or can’t you?!) may all be wildly different from anything a given foreigner has ever experienced or imagined. If you’re a registered blue collar foreign worker, you go to a special counter on arrival at the airport to get some kind of indoctrination into the mysteries of Taiwan (or that’s what it looks like*). Why not make this kind of service available to all foreigners? Not necessarily at airports, but somehow. Like a cute cartoon series on a website that isn’t offline half the time. If people are left to their own devices, they can theoretically figure everything out eventually, if they read or speak enough Chinese and have tons of free time, but even then, most people don’t have that much patience. And god forbid they come to rely on a site like this for information! :unamused: :noway: :runaway: Yet that’s exactly what happens, since the government isn’t very good at making things clear to us.

Also, civil servants who may occasionally need to deal with foreigners should be aware, at the very least, that different laws sometimes apply to foreigners and that when they’re not sure, they should check instead of assuming (e.g. that the same pension system applies, which in most cases it doesn’t).

(*I’ve never experienced this. Last I heard, they were making a new multilingual video explaining why you shouldn’t eat your boss’s dog, and understandably this resulted in some criticism. Ideally, they’ll carefully consider the needs and interests of the people who will actually receive the information.)

4) Better understanding of how the world works:
Like many of the above points, this is not a problem unique to Taiwan, I mean generally speaking. But seriously, how many places in the world can you go to, show a valid passport issued by an English speaking country, and be told to shove it because your passport shows your middle name but the product or service you’re trying to receive is designated for you without your middle name? It must be your evil twin who has the same first & last name, same nationality, same date of birth etc. but isn’t you! :wall:

5) Less red tape and discrimination:
When it comes to things like “are foreigners allowed to have this or aren’t they?” and “is an ARC necessary or isn’t it?”, it would be nice if any two branches of the same bank or telecom gave the same answer, to say nothing of all the banks or all the telecoms. Also, sometimes a document that needs to be submitted for this or that official purpose can be in English, but sometimes a certified translation is needed. Gradually reducing the need for translations would be nice.

Oh, and that whole “your boss fiddled with the paperwork but it’s your fault because you can’t read Chinese, so now we’re going to deport you” thing (as in the kindergarten problem mentioned above), maybe they could do something about that? Like making sure the foreign worker knows the employer’s name and address in pinyin, plus the co. registration no. (in case the name changes) and emphasize to the worker the importance of working only for that one employer at that one location unless otherwise permitted by law.

6) More convenient transportation:
Expanding the range of the Easycard to make it work everywhere is a great idea. And while it makes sense that you need more than just the $100 deposit on a card to use ubike, for people who don’t want to or can’t register, how about making it acceptable to use ubike as long as you have at least a certain amount of money on your card?

7) More respect for/enforcement of the law:
Including the parts about non-discrimination in those international covenants they ratified in recent years.

Perhaps not what the NDC is interested in right now, but since we’re wishing anyway…
8) More Sidewalks:
It’s not so much about having crappy/cluttered sidewalks (though there are those). It’s mostly about sidewalks not existing at all, or existing only as painted strips on roads. Mainland China is so far ahead on this one, it’s downright silly.

9) Less (dangerous) urban wildlife:
Feral dogs! :runaway: :runaway: :runaway:

10) Cleaner air:
Not just a target for reduction of emissions (do the emissions from open burning count in those statistics?), but co-operation between all administrative levels including the very lowest (the “lin”?) and a long-term plan for changing the transportation paradigm.

And finally,
11) A reconsideration of what Taiwan actually needs and wants in terms of qualified foreign workers (who in many cases wish to stay for extended periods or even permanently):
In general, the system is designed to take in the most “qualified” people in a very narrow, conventional sense, but not the most useful/suitable/Formosaphilic people, and if your background is in any way unconventional (as it often is for creative people, and increasingly for people in general), you have so many extra hoops to jump through (proving this and that about your years of experience, whereas the result of all that experience could be demonstrated in a simple test) that it seems like more trouble than it’s worth, or it’s just impossible to do what you’re good at, and what would benefit Taiwan, without breaking the law.

Some examples: (language teaching and the passport issue – fail)
LEGAL way to work with local artists/producers/talent? (music production, translation – fail and fail)
Le Cordon Bleu kicked out (culinary arts teaching – they fixed it, sort of, barely)

Thanks for reading, Santa! :bow:

Some countries let you fill out a passport application in a foreign language. (I’m looking at you, Canada!) They haven’t gone that far over here yet, have they?

I’ll go with the pension thing. I sort of look at it like a fine for being a foreigner and working here. You should be able to get it back when you leave, or use as intended if you stay. Also, as the OP noted above, why do they make it so hard for people to come work here and be a productive member of society? I know that’s a complicated question.

For day to day life, fix the train ticketing system That is truly an embarrassment. Fixing it would benefit both Taiwanese and visitors.

The pension thing goes a little further too, if you have a JFRV you are legally entitled to pension contributions from your job, but this does not apply to APRC holders. I can kind of understand ARC holders being exempt, but as a APRC holder you’ve clearly made a commitment to the country and I don’t think it’s really fair for you to be cut out of a clear work benefit like this.

The other thing that I find mildly frustrating is that ARC numbers have a different format to local ID numbers, so quite often the number won’t work with certain services. An obvious one here is using yahoo and ruten for shopping online, but there have been a few times where this has been a bit of an issue for me, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it.

It’s possible to use an ARC to register on Ruten for buying (but as far as I know, not for selling). I see a few people claiming otherwise, so it seems it took them a long time to make that change.

On topic: I have some experience of landlords saying “oh I won’t rent this apartment to foreigners”. It’d be more ‘international friendly’ if that kind of discrimination was stamped out.