The Face Thread :facebook:

A month ago I was offered a promising position with a local company and the boss has now told me that the proposed project is a no go for some such reason, out of their control.
Why did this company offer me a job?
Why was I not aware that this position was still pending?
Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that this company is not being honest with me, and has found a different candidate?

In the west, when one makes a job offer, one is expected to honor it.
I would have been better off had they told me, “We’ll get back with you” instead of, “We’d like you to begin soon”

Did I wrongly interpret this to mean I had a job?
This sort of double speak has happened to me on more than one occasion when dealing with Taiwanese, especially in business, and I’m beginning to think I have missed out on important “facesaving” clues.
I would appreciate anyone’s insight on this.

I had the same thing happen at about the same time…was it with a software company in Hsintien? I went through alot of hassle going there, talking to them on the phone (numerous times) and then they simply sent me an email with a half-assed excuse.

Welcome to Taiwan. Play the game.

It’s too bad (for Taiwan) that too many of them equate intelligence and cleverness with sneakiness.

While generalizations are dangerous since individuals differ widely, I’d like to share some of my observations while working for a Chinese company in Taiwan:

Life objectives (for Taiwanese):

  • Wealth, specifically money in the bank
  • Well being of relatives
    (by comparisions Westerners tend to favor accumulation of possessions, well being of immediate family members, and more leisure time)

Respect is shown for:

  • Older or more senior family members
  • More senior people in the workplace
  • Some long term buddies
  • People who can help make you money

Other important considerations:

  • Saving face
  • Appearing to be sincere

Nothing else, and nobody else matters in a way that would seem uncaring to persons familiar with the Western tradition. Chinese society is based on a rather different moral system to that common in the west.

In business being difficult, obstructive, taking advantage, tricks and deception are fine. It is quite common not to tell the truth, disguise motives with alternate rationalizations, do not expect to be told anything you do not need to know. Also expect a lot of negative competitive behaviours within the workplace, and relentless destructive competition between businesses.

In business all action is based on expediency and expect tricks and u-turns. If you get caught out, too bad. Common practices include: Delaying tactics, complex rules and regulations that favor one party, promises that won’t be fullfulled (get it in writing!), shoddy goods and workmanship, accidental damage to persons or property.

On the other hand, people will follow the rules if there is no way to wriggle out. Money will be accuratly accounted for, people will work very very hard when motivated. Working in Chinese business can be very rewarding and fast paced.

If you want to be effective in business in Taiwan, you had better learn how it works. You can be sucessful here, but not by behaving like you would in Western business. Go with the flow, learn the tricks, and how to counter them. Use the same methods where it works to your advantage.


Unfortunately in Taiwan this happens quite frequently, it’s not that they don’t like you or don’t want to hire you, it’s the fact that they are afraid to tell you something which may make them lose face. From what I hear it’s worse in China. Sorry, I wish I had some advice for you, but this has also happend to me many many times.


This sort of thing in prevalent on the mainland, one of my local friends turned up for work, only to be told the job was “awarded” to someone else at short notice. I often think that Chinese people have a real hard time saying “no”. Don’t let the whole thing put you off, I kept banging on companies doors in Beijing until someone felt I had been through the mill enough and just felt sorry for me. Once I had my foot in the door it’s easy for a westerner to shine, just work hard and keep you head down for a few months before trying to change the system (I got the sack in China once for showing a “small Boss” a better way of using Excell) Once he found I understood more than him my days were numbered. Now I work for a japanese company and thats a whole new ball game

Good luck and keep at it!!

Yeah, I read about this in a business book. Saying no flat out to offers is considered rude. Yes doesn’t always mean yes. You have to judge the circumstances and body language often times. It’s like a whole nation of girlfriends. :wink:

I would add the following provisos when judging Taiwanese companies:

  1. More often than not the Taiwanese companies that mess us around are dodgy little software companies, whom, if you checked their “books”, you would realize were on their way out soon anyway. If you apply to a larger company here they will tend to be more straightforward.

  2. Western companies are also in the business of getting away with as much as they can - look at the merchant banks who talked up the dotcoms, the dotcoms who didn’t care if they provided a return on their investment,Enron, Microsoft,and the Canadian online DVD company who lied to my Chinese colleague everyday for more than 6 months over his package of DVDs that they didn’t send. In the end it is only the greater threat of legal action from labor or consumer organizations that keep western companies in check; perversely, i have found many Taiwanese companies to be quite paternalistic considering they could get away with anything if they wanted to.

  3. Taiwanese companies don’t tell us they are interviewing other candidates and we don’t tell them we are applying to others. (On second thoughts i have been in Taiwan too long: Would we tell companies back home we were applying to others?

  4. Taiwanese don’t like to tell you to your face what they think, and sometimes that is a good thing: better to think you were in someway the victim of dirty tricks than know you were a crap candidate! (Don’t worry, i am talking generally, not to people involved in this thread)

I still haven’t heard a single instance of a problem that occurred because a “Taiwanese was saving face” that couldn’t adequately be explained by the presence of either cowardice, ignorance or corruption.
Point is that no matter how much effort you put into trying to hide the truth by ofuscating the issue with “cultural differences,” the fact will always be there that shafting someone on a job offer is totally inexcusable.

Until you a written contract in your sweaty little paws - everything else is just “nice words”. It’s not Taiwan, not the U.S., not the U.K. etc … it’s life! Chalk it down :unamused:

I’m with Monkey. In the west, we look for sincerity in our relationships with others. If you studied Latin, you’ll know that sincere means “without wax”, which was often used to hide defects in sculpture and statuaries. To be sincere meant (and means) that you let others see the real you, even if it means that imperfections of yours are revealed. This kind of full disclosure builds trust. The whole idea of face on the other hand seems to me to be a kind of dishonesty - for the most part a trifling dishonesty to be sure, but still dishonesty. :unamused:

I agree with BH. This company that turned Shaz down probably were certain you didn’t have the connections/lawyers to raise a big stink over an oral promise. This kind of stuff happens all the time. In a situation like Taiwan where you need work permits, etc., it is just smart to have this stuff on paper.

Channel your anger, Shaz, tell the world who this company is and what they did to you. You don’t owe them any respect-they @#@# you over.
Or, just take this all as a big lesson and move on.

I was referred to this company by someone I know who is presently engaged with them.
At the interview, they asked me point blank what salary I would expect, and I told them. Immediately thereafter, they offered me a job and asked me to get back with them after I thought it over. I did reply, by email, and then for the following three weeks, the runaround ensued.
A CBC friend told me that I should have told them a range rather than a firm figure because the Taiwanese, if they think they can get someone cheaper, will never say they think you’re asking too much. I didn’t feel I was asking too much, actually, due to my qualifications.
I feel sorry for the person who had referred me and is presently working for them. They claim to be an upstanding company but they’re as shady as the rest. The woman told me, “We don’t say things that we don’t mean like other Taiwanese.” and the alarm bells went off. Why would a Taiwanese even say something like that?
Finally, I got a call on my voice mail from her telling me the project is on hold and they’d contact me in the future. But, I’m not interested in working for them now.Why would I?

It is interesting that although these people have said their plans are on hold, they are advertising here on Oriented, in both of the jobs sections.
Perhaps I didn’t measure up, or the salary I quoted was too high. I’ll never know. I just know that in the future, I’ll be very suspicious of anyone in Taiwan offering me a job until I have signed a contract with them. I’m not prepared to play these sorts of games again.

They sound like a bunch of tight arses to me. Wouldn’t worry too much about em though.

I realise these stories are endless, but the same thing happened to me too. I was offered a job at a kindy on a Tuesday, told em I’d start the following Monday, then on Sunday night received a voicemail telling me they found somebody more qualified, Pigs Arse. BA and CELTA as opposed to what? I put it down to an American accent versus an Aussie one.

This lady who shafted me was quite helpful though. She then referred me on to a Private School whom, almost 3 years on I’m still with. As it turned out, the Yank who the Kindy employed didn’t rock up on the Monday, so guess what?? Yeah I had the helpful kindergarden shafter innundating me with calls that same Monday evening, telling to me why I shouldn’t stay at her friends Private School. Her friend ‘won’t look after you’ apparently.

Anyway, the fact that I’ll marry in October and settle for a few more years yet is all the revenge I need. I still give her a smile as I pass by her school feeling as good as Tom Cruise in the Risky Business Lounge Room scene.

Meanwhile, in those 3 years, that once available position she had for me has gone through more foreigners than the girls in the combat zone.

Most Taiwanese first judge by passport, then by character. I personally couldn’t give one where your from. A good bloke is a good bloke. :smiley: :smiley:

Oh and they are endless.

Here is one that happened even after I got hired.
About three years ago, I got hired for a job with the government. They had offered me a contract, told me I had the job and what not. I had a clear idea the kinds of hours I would work and the responsibilities of the position. I then left to go to the US (my job didn’t start until a month later) to visit my folks. I came back, went into work and was told that my hours had been cut in half. They had my e-mail address and my da-ge-da number, but nobody bothered to get my consent or ask me how I felt about it.

By now, I had already quit my previous job. Apparently, another candidate had appeared and they liked him more but didn’t have anything to offer him, so they gave him much of what was promised to me.

In the end, it all worked out fine though I was pretty pissed off about the whole deal for about six months. In retrospect, I didn’t need the hours and probably would have been in way over my head.
They had two contracts, both came with visas even though one contract was part time- the one I ended up taking. I ended up with a lot of free time, a decent salary and the chance to make up for the loss with one on one students.

Yet,they had the hubris to ask me two weeks after they had cut my hours to pick up some additional hours and go back to the original contact they offered me. I told them no way and made it absolutely clear that I thought they had shafted me from the beginning and I had no intention of helping them pick up any slack no matter what the extenuating circumstances. I stayed there for two years and they never asked me for anything extra. I was hoping that the tension would prove, in the end, to be a heuristic trial. Unfortunately, I think they have their own interpretation, relying on the simple solutions, smacking of racism, and justifying my actions by saying, “See he didn’t want to work very hard anyway.”

Well, sadly, there it is…

quote[quote] 3) Taiwanese companies don't tell us they are interviewing other candidates and we don't tell them we are applying to others. (On second thoughts i have been in Taiwan too long: Would we tell companies back home we were applying to others? [/quote]

No, coleswarren, you don’t have to tell companies that you are applying other places, or who those others are. Sometimes they ask, but you don’t have to tell them.

I haven’t made it to Taiwan, yet. But, just dealing with my bf has taught me that things aren’t always as direct as here in the US. I’m not sure I’m going to get or like the whole business of “face.”



Why don’t we tell our employers? Is it anything to do with playing the fake sincerity game “It is your company i have always wanted to work for!”?

Gosh…Hmmm…goodness, sounds just like something that happened to me once upon a time in Taiwan…recommended a friend for a position in a firm I was working in…the project folded (actually due to circumstances beyond the company’s control) and the friend freaked out thinking that she had been screwed on purpose. Since I was actually in on the details, I could verify that one (and I didn’t end up working on that project either, although since I had already signed a contract with the firm I was supplied with “other” work). Fortunately the friend had another job offer at the time and was able to continue with remunerative employment in another firm. In that case, the company I was working for had told the friend details about the project and were quite excited about hiring the friend, and of course were concerned afterwards that now the friend was sort of a loose cannon who knew about the details of the proposed project, if it ever got off the ground at a later date (if they ever got the problems cleared up).

So I think there are situations where this kind of thing is sincere. Just because a boss is Chinese doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is not going to be straight with you.

Even in the States, an oral promise is only a promise, not a contract. In Taiwan, an oral promise is something that sounds nice, kind of up there with “gosh, your Chinese is really good” and that kind of stuff.



I understand that everytime that happens it is not necessarily a case of insincerity. However, in my case, I know that there wasn’t any project that fell through or circumstances beyond their control. From the outset they either lied to me or the guy that came in behind me just to cover all their bases. I am also aware of “cultural differences” and generally don’t get bent out of shape over every little thing. What made me really angry was that after they had pulled this stunt, they just expected me to lump it and become a team player, help out with the harmony and be loyal. Even after taking the cultural behavior into consideration, it is extraordinarily difficult to ignore everything you have ever been taught about human dignity and trust and just throw it out the window.