Talented, mandarin but black


i’ve been browsing this site for the past couple of days, and advice about getting a job b4 hand vs. getting a job in taiwan, chain schools vs. smaller schools, etc. is mixed and it’s becoming harder to make a determination as far as how i should go about getting a teaching job in taiwan. what i’ll do is list my situation, and if anyone out there has any recommendations, i’d be happy.

  1. in the us now, to arrive in december
  2. offered a position with hess
  3. no previous tefol, tesol experience
  4. survival mandarin
  5. african-american
  6. trying to pay-off home debt while living in taipei
  7. wondering about where to get health exam, and cost
  8. trying to do everything legal if possible (i feel that as a black guy i’ll be easier to identify and deport if necessary)

so…give me a recommendation, please! the more i read, the more confused i am!


Have you looked in the Teaching Archives ? I will assume you have. You will have seen that the consensus is it is better to arrive and then find a job. However, you may find yourself doing visa trips longer than you expect, and with no experience I doubt if it will be easy for you to improve on the money HESS are offering (what are the terms they have offered you ? Salary ? Hourly ?). The schools that will offer more than HESS will likely want a demo, and/or may not give you enough hours to make the higher hourly rate work in your favour. They may wish to try you out with a limited amount of hours before giving you more classes, and they may drag their heels with your ARC application until they are satisfied with you. HESS have accepted you on the basis you have no experience, and as far as I am aware they don’t have a reputation for not applying for ARCs when they said they would.

One reason people complain about them is that when they arrive they find they are earning less than the average wage. This especially hurts when newbies find out they actually are quite suited to teaching and after a few months think they desserve more. What I would say is that for a while I left teaching and worked in an office for 40k and I was able to live on it. That was compared to the 50-60k I made previously as a teacher with a very relaxed schedule. So if you are on a mission to save money, it can be done on the 55k or so basic that HESS (or any of the other major chains) are likely to offer you.

I have no idea what effect being black will have for you in your search if you choose to arrive with no job. I have met black and Asian teachers working quite happily in chains and kindies, but I have also heard that not being white puts you lower in the pecking order of desirability for teaching. I have never heard of race being an issue in terms of work permit issuance. If being black is an issue in finding work (and perhaps someone will help me here with evidence) it may bolster your credibility in finding private students that you are a legal teacher at a major chain. This is true for anyone. You may have seen threads referred to in the archive, one which deals with discrimination issues for Overseas Chinese and black people.

I have a feeling that the health exams must be done in Taiwan. I assume HESS are not going to apply for the resident visa to be issued to you abroad, so you will be coming in on a tourist visa, and changing status in Taiwan. In this case your medicals must be done in Taiwan. Ren’ai Hospital has long been the favourite. HESS should pay for this, somewhere in the NT$1200 region. (Maybe they won’t - JOY paid for mine, but that was 6 years ago !)

Don’t worry about having no previous experience. HESS will hold your hand every step of the way.

Quick note about the health exam. Hess will tell you to get it done before you get to Taiwan, but they don’t actually apply for anything until after you arrive. (At least that’s how it worked a few months ago) Getting the exam done in the US increases the chance that some bureaucrat will find something wrong with your application, and it also costs WAY more to have the exam done in the US. Do it when you get to Taiwan.

When I came over with Hess, oh… more than five years ago… I had to get my health stuff done in the US, get it notarized and then sent to Taiwan. The costs were not reimbursed. Those tests can be really expensive! If you can get the health tests done in Taiwan, do that.

I got my work visa from TECO before leaving and then Hess got the ARC for me after arrival. It sounds like they’ve changed their procedures. It was a big headache as all things bureaucratic and government processed are. It’s a big headache getting your paperwork done even when you’re already in Taiwan - you can’t seem to escape that no matter how you go about it.

Hess usually suggests coming over with enough money for at least two months of living expenses as it takes time to get paychecks out and there can be various settling expenses, such as deposit money on living accomodations. Also, don’t expect to really start saving money for another few months. Again, it takes awhile to learn your way around, to get used to different money (so you don’t overpay), and to shape your lifestyle. Once you’ve got the school teaching down, you can get more private students. If you stick it out for the first few months, you will start to save money. If you work it well, you can bank a large percentage of your paycheck each month. And remember, the more you work, the less time you have to spend!

It sounds like you’re doing your research so I expect you’ll do fine whatever you decide. No matter what, there will be challenges. A good attitude, and perhaps a good ranting session over a few beers, can help minimize the frustrations that we inevitably are faced with wherever we live or work. Good luck. Let us know how things go.

I work for IACC, not Hess, and my second 60-day visa expires in two days. My ARC “should” be ready “soon”. If you’ve got someone with a good reputation for dealing with that crap then my advice is to go for it.

Do Hess know that you’re black? If they know who they’re hiring then you probably have no worries. My first job here was at a a school (arranged by IACC) where the Principal flipped out when I walked through the door: “Oh, no. He’s a man! Take him away.”

We had a Bangladeshi guy (Schooled in the UK and spoke perfect english.) turn up here a few weeks back, and the school turned him straight around in horror. Wouldn’t even let him call a cab. They said that they were afraid that parents would complain. This part of Taiwan (Jungli) employs quite a lot of immigrant workers in factories and they are generally looked down upon. The worry was allegedly that he would have been confused with a ‘labourer’ by the students.

Also, various of my students have made comments at different times to the effect that white skin indicates some form of evolutionary superiority and darker skin puts you lower on the scale. Ever see a Taiwanese sunbathing? Ever see them cover up when the sun comes out? Precisely.

I’ve heard far more downright offensive comments from a minority in western countries, but from observation I would say that the culture here suffers from a more general low-grade racism.

Black, as opposed to brown, is probably viewed as more ‘western’, but don’t count on it. By and large you’ll probably be fine, and if you’ve had to deal with that kind of shit before then I guess you’ll know how to deal with it. We all have our false starts, but things usually turn out OK in the end.

Wonder when things’ll turn out OK for me?