Two Western parents raising a kid in Taiwan

The fiction section of any US library, and many corners of the Internet, are rife with the rants of American-born-and-raised kids of Asian immigrant parents, who have severe anxiety and identity issues stemming from the fact that they’re subjected to one set of cultural rules and expectations out in the larger world, but an entirely different (in some cases OPPOSITE) set at home.

Does it go the other way? That is, if I, a white American, were to marry a white American woman and we moved to Taiwan to raise a child, sending him/her to local schools / buxibans / extracurriculars / sports leagues and encouraging them to make Taiwanese friends, would this child likely run into the same types of identity crises that 2nd generation Asian-Americans so frequently do? If so, about what age / grade level would this likely become most acute?

I ask because this is a very possible situation. I’m now living back in the states, and seriously dating a woman who is, like me, a serious world traveler. We are both convinced that if we get married and have a child, we do NOT want to raise that child in the US. I have lived in Taiwan, and have friends there, both foreign and local, that would gladly help us get set up there. My girlfriend does not speak Chinese. I do.

I assme we’d fall into the pattern of English in the home, Chinese outside. I’d want to live in a regular middle class Taiwanese neighborhood, with Taiwanese neighbors, rather than in a secluded residential area marketed to foreigners.

Can any foreigners who are or have been in this situation comment? What particular pitfalls would we as a family need to watch out for?


It is a possibility that your child will will left out from both cultures. Esp. if you hire a nanny or housekeeper and allow your kid to play with the local kids. They WILL pick up bad habits.

You had better reexamine your objections to raising a child in the US. There are very few countries witch can equal the environment the US provides. Look at yourself as an example.

Your child would get a LOT of attention from the locals. My boss has two kids (he’s British, wife is Taiwanese, but the kids look more “foreign” than Chinese), and he always tells me stories about the locals shouting, “here comes that foreign man and the foreign kids!” at the top of their lungs when he and his family approach, or about other “special” attention they always get (I live in the south of Taiwan).

Not only do they suffer from undue attention, but both kids (under five) suffer from asthma, poor appetite, nosebleeds, and are ill constantly. Of course, it doesn’t help that they are being raised by a Taiwanese nanny and stuck in cram school classes for hours a day, like the local kids…

I am surprised that anyone would want to purposely raise kids in such a polluted, crowded, unhealthy place, where the kids go through so much pressure at school that some even have gray hair, and all suffer the stresses of performing for teachers and parents. Local kids are also sheltered and don’t have much of an opportunity to mature and grow emotionally before adulthood. Those would be your children’s peers if you decided to give them more of a Taiwanese upbringing.

How about the fact that this is a ME ME ME ME ME ME culture where people think of themselves before others? And where money is the most important thing, sometimes more important than family and friends? Do you want your children to be surrounded by this mentality? How do you think it would affect them?

Why not think of a nicer place internationally to have and raise kids? I don’t have kids, but honestly, if I were to get pregnant, I would be headed out of here as fast as possible, mainly because of the health issues in raising children here. Heck…the water is undrinkable and you must bathe in it every day, the air is horrific, the food you eat here is loaded with chemical pesticides…and it’s also emotionally unhealthy here, IMO.

Why not try Europe, Africa, or a different country in Asia?

I kinda agree with the other 2 replys in a way. I am also American and moved here recently with my husband who was born in Taiwan.
We have an almost 2 year old.
Even though my husband is from here and loves Taiwan, he never experienced it with a child…needless to say, it’s a totally different experience.
Where as in American there are usually big clean parks on every corner (depending where you live) or gyms at the mall for kids to climb through in a clean environment…There are many more resources in the U.S. that I think are more kid friendly.
Ofcourse there are places here for kids, but you do deal with the big city life, doging mopeds and cars, being literally dirty at the end of the day by the pollution… and honestly, if you want to live like the local taiwanese…prepare for a culture shock…even if you’ve lived here, I promise you, while you sit in your clean apartment or house in U.S., it doesn’t sound as bad, but your girlfriend’s thoughts will change when you get here of the way some people live…the majority of the people live.

I agree with the pressure being so difficult…sometimes I feel pressure from my husband’s famly to get my daughter into a strict learning program…she’s not even 2 yet…
Even though you know chinese…your girlfriend will have her own experience of learning…could be good…could be frusterating.

I would definately think about it a little more, because if you are coming with just intentions on raising a child outside of the U.S. you should do it in a cleaner environment…

[quote=“WanderingDave”] … if I, a white American, were to marry a white American woman and we moved to Taiwan to raise a child, sending him/her to local schools / buxibans / extracurriculars / sports leagues and encouraging them to make Taiwanese friends, would this child likely run into the same types of identity crises that 2nd generation Asian-Americans so frequently do? If so, about what age / grade level would this likely become most acute?

I ask because this is a very possible situation. I’m now living back in the states, and seriously dating a woman who is, like me, a serious world traveler. [/quote]

My advice to you is to lighten up a bit. Why be so serious?

My boy is being raised here primarily as an American of US citizenship. Nonetheless, he has attended local school from kindergarten to the present (he’s in the 8th grade) and is pretty well assimilated to the local ways and means.

When not doing Taiwanese school stuff, he hangs out with me and a few of the folks who post here, including other Americans (both from the US and Canada), Irishmen, Scots, Englishmen, Kiwis, South Africans and Australians. He even met a beautiful Croatian woman this past weekend. We drink a little beer, tell jokes, cuss a bit, watch silly movies and play with our two canine friends. I have done a good job, I think, of not being very serious with him. He seems fairly well-adjusted.

He doesn’t even have any objections to living in the US some day in the future.

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Wise words Tigerman.

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I think that coming here to raise your child doesn’t make any sense. Why do you want to leave the US education system? Just curious.

Very interesting that you should mention that because that’s what I dislike most about American culture (I’m American but then again, I come from a place that’s American… and not. It’s a little complicated. :unamused: )

Anyway, positives and negatives to raising children here. I don’t like that my 4 year old girl gets enough attention that if someone compliments her friend (ke-ai!) but not her, she is offended, as if she needs to be told she’s beautiful and cute all the time. That cannot be healthy.

I also don’t like the pollution, and as mixed children, even if they speak/read/write Chinese and are half Taiwanese (my husband was born here but grew up in California), they will never fit in here completely. I have mixed feelings about that.

I also have a hard time wrapping my head around the numbers we’ll be spending on private Christian school when the three children are all in school, not to mention the cost of a home here.

As for the positives, we have a great life here. I never thought I would move away from my home, always intended to raise my family there, sheltering them from the world as much as I could until it was time to send them off to college. But six years later, I’m grateful that I have such a great support system here, that my children have friends from all over the world, from differnet backgrounds, that I’ve found a great church community that feels very much like the church family I left behind. Lifestyle wise, I like how we can hop in the car and be in the mountains in half an hour. Public transportation, parks, libraries, museums are a hundred times better than anything we’d have had at home (except for the ocean and sunshine of course). I guess it depends where you’re from–I’m from an island in the middle of the Pacific, but I’m sure there are many small towns “back home” that aren’t that much different.

My wife and I (Australian) have out two kids in the local system where they are thriving. The schooling has its downside but their school and teachers back home weren’t perfect either. I simply look at them and see happy kids who are relaxed and are confident.

The “ME ME ME” cultural label can be as easily applied to the western cultural focus on material wealth, as Peter Sellers said “people will swim through shit if you put a few bob in it”. No culture is perfect.
What do my kids get?
*fluency in a second language
*the realisation that American/Australian Idol is not the peak of human cultural achievement
friends who they can walk to see unlike International school kids who usually see peers at school

  • a reality check - not all people have a safe, happy and secure life, don’t take it all for granted
  • a chance to travel (If Daddy gets paid)
    *maybe a greater appreciation of their home country

Just my 2c worth.

This has me confounded at times. As much as I value my education and wouldn’t have ever been the man I am without it, there is more than what is learned in school, even in American schools. And sometimes I do just want to take my son and wife and go live in Africa for a while, or jump around, living in inexpensive beautiful places…just because it is different. America is becoming a cookie cutter existance. I see it more and more in my friends when I go back for visits. I want my kid to be different, and not think that by simply sticking shit in his tongue or ears or eyebrows makes him special.

I think the important question is can you educate your children? Can you put in the time and effort and teach your kid that learning is fun? Can you teach your young kid to read? It ain’t easy.

Pretty much any place in the world that has internet access means that a quality education is possible. Can you provide the guidance?

My problem is that I am not very good at math and higher harder sciences. Who will teach my son these things? Therefore, returning to the US for his schooling is not out of the picture.

Well, I know what you’re saying… but, it still seems really funny to compare my home town back in southwestern Pennsylvania with your home in the middle of the Pacific! :laughing:

In the words of lama lote…
"maybe a greater appreciation of their home country "

This will definately happen…maybe your kids won’t know much difference if you just raise them here…kids are adaptable, but you and your girlfriend will definately miss and appreciate the U.S from living here for a little while.

Well, I know what you’re saying… but, it still seems really funny to compare my home town back in southwestern Pennsylvania with your home in the middle of the Pacific! :laughing:[/quote]

Don’t get me wrong, I love my home, would move back there in a heartbeat if my husband would agree, but Taiwan has been a blessing in more ways than I ever expected. I’ve accepted that it’s going to be my “home” for a long long time. :astonished: But then I’m lucky that Home is just a short plane ride away. :sunglasses:

First off, a little clarification. I haven’t lived in the south of Taiwan, only the north. My g/f anf I are both from the northeast of the US – both of us have roots in New York City, though neither of us have ever resided there. She’s an 8th grade math teacher at a public school in the greater Trenton, New Jersey area. She has very little faith in the schools here anymore – the kids run the school, and the administration is corrupt to a degree most outsiders never see.

This is not the place to get deeply into it, but both of us have a rather jaundiced view of where the US is headed. Both of us think it’s very possible something very catastrophic could hit the US within our lifetimes, if our government keeps handling foreign relations the way it does. We feel it would be a gift to a child to give him/her a foothold in another place entirely, that he/she could fall back on if need be.

Having spent a lot of time in both, I honestly think the metro Taipei area is in the same league with the tri state greater NYC area, when it comes to population density and pollution. My Taiwanese ex, who was born and raised in Taipei, agrees. I live in a minor city in upstate New York, and the standard of living here isn’t that high. I feel Taipei is far less dangerous, and cultivates much less of a “dog eat dog world” mentality, though. Also, there’s a streak of rabid anti-intelletualism running through US culture. One thing I like about Taiwan is that people there don’t make others feel bad for being book-smart and showing it.

Tigerman, if we end up doing this, I’ll definitely be in touch. I’m actually not as serious in person as I come off when I write, honest :slight_smile:

I take issue with Taiwan being a “me me me” culture. I think this is something they got as a side effect of modeling their mass media after America’s. I’ve met a lot of Taiwanese people who were very devoted and giving to their families, neighborhoods, and local communities. Does any culture have a corner on the selfishness market? I don’t think so.

You guys DO bring up several good points worth considering, though:

  • Undue attention from other kids, because my child stands out, could be a negative influence.
  • If my g/f didn’t speak Chinese and has never lived long term in Taiwan, the experience could be very stressful for her.
  • Although education is a huge value of ours, we would want our kid to be a bit more worldly and well rounded than the kids in Taiwan who’ve been overdosed with buxiban. AND WE WOULD NOT WANT TO TAKE FLACK FROM LOCALS OR GET TOLD WE’RE BAD PARENTS FOR THIS CHOICE!

A lot to think about. Thanks, guys.

It’s an interesting question the way you ask it (asian kids are alienated in the US; are non-Asian kids alienated in TAiwan?), but I wouldn’t worry about it. You’re not even married to this woman and you’re already wondering about raising kids with her in Taiwan?

Take it one step at a time. If you get married, great. If she agrees to accompany you to Taiwan, fine. If you decide to have a child together in Taiwan, OK. But unless there’s something you didn’t tell us (or she didn’t tell you), it sounds like the child’s not likely to be born for at least a year from now, maybe longer. I’m a white American with Taiwanese wife and child almost two years old. Our kid gets a lot of attention. Lots of folks come up to say how cute she is and teenage girls sometimes want their picture taken with her, because there’s a fixation with mixed race kids here. If you have pure foreign babies here, they’ll probably get lots of attention too, especially if they have blond hair. But that’s not really such a big deal.

As for raising kids here, yes Taipei’s dirty and polluted and most of us foreigners come from clean, beautiful places with green grass and places to play outside. But Taiwan’s not so bad. We picked the apt we live in because it’s directly across from a large neighborhood park with dogs and pigeons that the babies love to watch, people rollerskating, bicycling, playing ball and dancing on the marble courtyard, old men playing checkers, and a great rubber-floored area with slides, swings, etc. It’s right out our front door, we take our girl there almost daily and she loves it. In the US, I wouldn’t have such access to such a park. Perhaps I could drive to one. But here it’s so close that even I, who barely speak Chinese, know many people in the neighborhood, chat with them regularly and our girl happily plays with the other children.

I don’t think I’d want my girl to attend school here; by the time she’s 4 or 5 I expect we’ll move back to the States. But I think a kid would have a great advantage spending the first few years in Taiwan. Even with two non-Asian parents, the child is likely to learn some Chinese. In fact, If you really do end up coming to Taiwan and having a child, I would strongly recommend getting a local nanny for that reason. Our girl’s just 20 months old and she has recently passed me up in Chinese language skills, even though I’ve been here for 6 years. I think that’s great and I regret that I didn’t grow up learning two languages. And it’s not just language; I think kids who grow up in two cultures have an advantage over kids raised in just one. Perhaps they may have less comfort and security of being raised in a cocoon, but they’ll acquire more knowledge, experience and independence from an early age.

So, at least for the first 3 - 5 years of the child’s life (4 - 6 years from now in your case?), I think Taiwan is just fine for raising a child. Nannys are extremely cheap here, the food is great for children (ours loves noodles, dumplings and soup), there are scores of neighborhood parks and lots of people close by to play with. And, what are the odds you and your now-girlfriend will both be happy and content in Taiwan 4- 6 years from now? That’s distant future, anything could happen. Worst case scenario, if you really do move here together and stay that long ( :wink: ), Taiwan’s just fine. It’s a dirty, noisy, polluted pain in the ass at first, but it really does get better with time.

My boy has never set foot inside a buxiban. We’ve never heard a word of criticism re this. I wouldn’t worry about that.

I am from NY State and spent a lot of time in the city. I have to disagree with you about the pollution here being the same there…I think it is FAR worse here in Taiwan.

My husband and I buy as much of our food organic as possible and eat very well, and we exercise a LOT…swimming, biking, hiking, and the gym…and still, we never feel really good here, like one should with that amount of exercise. Instead, I feel like an old lady a lot of the time. I attribute it to the poor air quality.

Not to mention the lack of regulation on chemicals sprayed on the food, and the fact that most tap water is untreated and has god-knows-what in it. And, the farmers burn whatever they want at all hours of the night.

Yes, American culture can have the me-me-me element to it, but the “Me” culture here is quite a different pond of fish. Everything here revolves around the self, not just on the job for example, like you see at home. I mean, people value their sons because they will be used as their retirement policy. “Oh, you had a daughter? Too bad” is the attitude. Many young elementary school aged boys say that they will be doctors when they grow up, because “My mother told me I have to be a doctor because they make a lot of money.” Selfish on the parents’ part? uh hu. I have never heard that in the US. And that’s just one of the hundreds of examples I could think of…

People here can be cold and outrageously self-centered. Much of the time (not all the time and not every single Taiwanese person on the island, of course) they will appear to be kind and think of you when it benefits them. That’s the catch. Generally, Americans do not think this way. I was raised to think of others before myself. Here, ITS THE OTHER WAY AROUND. There is no comparison!!

Yes, I am jaded :frowning: sorry about that…but I have been here for a while, tried very hard to like it here and to find redeeming qualities, and it hasn’t worked for me.

I love the foreign friends I have met here, the safety throughout the country, driving to the beach and the mountains on the weekends, and paying all of my bills at 7-11. I love my apartment too, and I do love the teaching. The kids are great and very well behaved (I wish I could say the same for the parents!!!). There are some positives…but enough to keep me here for years and years on end? No way.

I totally understand how you feel about wanting to leave the country, I had the same feelings as you when I left (still do). I lived and worked in Africa, the Middle East, and in Europe before coming to Taiwan (I have been here for 5 years now). Taiwan has been good financially, and to be honest, that is what has kept me here this long. My job pays very well and I save a bundle, even though my husband and I travel a lot and have an active social life. But, in a year, my husband and I will move on with the cash we have saved to continue our education and after that, to a healthier place abroad.

If you are both certified teachers, I would suggest the United Arab Emirites, Africa, or Europe…all are far more interesting and healthier places to live long term.

She’s the only one who’s a US certified teacher. She’d love to find a job abroad at an international school doing math. She already has experience with this in Bolivia. I’m actually applying to medical school this year. I think it would be cool to just set up a little clinic somewhere abroad where the living’s nice, with a sign that just says “American Doctor”, and just see what happens.

No actually I want to do research on aging, and east Asia is a good place to be for that!

No old folks in the US? :sunglasses:

Oh, so you would move to Taiwan when you complete your residency, in 8 years or something like that?

Cool, maybe, but how do you intend to pay off your $100,000 in student loans?