Why do so many Taiwanese speak English to foreigners?


About 60% manners, 30% trying to look cool in front of other locals, and 10% sucking up to whitey.


Looks like your husband was correct:


Yeah, the Bruce Lee Act


That’s mainly because they barely know how to speak English, if at all. The new generation in France (20-30 years old) actually tries to speak in English and help foreigners who can’t speak French. They are more comfortable with the language. That’s a good thing.


Ireland used to be really generous with granting citizenship and then the Nigerians started abusing it and… they took away the Jus Soli right and also right of spouses to apply for citizenship from overseas.

We still allow British Brexit refugees to apply for the moment though.


If my cousin in law did give birth in Canada, the child would have had canadian citizenship, but that doesn’t mean my cousin inlaw would get one too. There was a Taiwanese women who tried to do just that a couple of years ago and gor deported while her baby stayed in the states. (This was discussed in forumosa, u can look it up).


You are right - giving birth in Canada would not grant Canadian citizenship to the mother (I don’t think this this was mentioned anywhere until now).

Here is the Forumosa post with the story of the Taiwanese anchor baby that was born in US airspace


I swear this must be a Taipei thing. I live in Kaohsiung and I get spoken to in Chinese basicly everywhere I go. My Chinese sucks too (ordering food and taxi cab level).

The conversation will usually start in Chinese, then if they see me floundering they might switch to English if they can use it, or just look at me like I’m retarded and then start speaking more slowly.

Apart from the odd strange person wanting to practice their crappy English, it is mostly just young people with a strong command of English talking to me in bars or nightclubs or outside 7-11. Their English way surpasses my Chinese so it makes sense we would talk in English.

I have never understood why people get annoyed by having English spoken to you. You live in Taiwan, there are so many chances for you to speak Chinese, why get upset when a few people want or feel the need to speak English to you.

A Taiwanese girl was telling me how a foreigner got angry with her at a coffee shop when she tried to serve coffee to him in English. He said he only wanted her to speak to him in Chinese. Apparently his Chinese wasn’t very good either and she had difficulty understanding him.

I have had one old white guy who lives in my building let off a bunch of rapid fire Chinese at me just for saying good morning to him in English. I also say good morning to the Taiwanese in my building in Chinese and none of them act all weird about that.

Some foreigners in Taiwan are strange.

Strange and Unexpected Impressions While Traveling Abroad

The problem with kiaosiung is that so much taiwanese is spoken. Today the bus driver put up the wrong bus number and didn’t find out until later. He told everyone in taiwanese but was unable to explain that in mandarin.
I also get tons of elderly speaking to me in taiwanese even though i repeatedly told them i dont understand. They just keep on yapping, and i desperately look around to see if anyone can translate. (Its usually when I’m with my toddler, i bet it’s parenting tips)
And family gatherings are mostly in taiwanese. Even though my family is capable of speaking mandarin they still use taiwanese around me.


Some people get all butt hurt over these things


I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. Don’t take this the wrong way.

Not a problem when majority population actually understands Taiwanese.

As a blue collar worker, he may not have had a proper education and could only communicate in that dialect. He also could’ve been lazy and decided to skip mandarin because…buses are mostly used by locals.

I wouldn’t expect the older generation to speak mandarin. I’ve bumped into a lot of ah bei and ah ma in the stores and no matter how much mandarin I speak to them, they will respond and talk to me in Taiwanese. Don’t take it as them looking down upon you or something along those lines, they’re just used to speaking that language.

In lieu of that, they may keep speaking it to you in hopes that you may pick up something. Have you?

They have been speaking Taiwanese at family gatherings for as long as they could remember. Yes, it would be nice of them to consider your presence, but some things are hard to change.

I understand your annoyance, but maybe it would be better to adapt than to sit there and act clueless. If you take some time out of your day from taking care of the kid (kids?) or while the kids are at school to learn some phrases and use them in front of family, I am sure the family will be pretty excited that you’ve shown some interest and maybe want to learn.

You just have to be patient and have an open mind.


I’ve decided to learn mandarin before even trying to learn taiwanese. My brain can only hold three languages at once and trying to keep my French up is really tough. Cantonese is now out the window


Chinese wipes out your mental hard drive in order to make room for the characters, the tone, the pronounciation and the meaning of the words.

If you have more opportunities to engage in Taiwanese, then go for it. I remember one exchange student who decided to live with a locakl family. Problem was they all went to work and school… and left him alone with ama. Hence, he became very proficient in Taiwanese. But had little practice in Mandarin.


I can understand how it’s not easy.

However, you are in a perfect environment to learn! No one speaks your most native language. So if they were to explain something, they would have to use a more generic way of “translating” it in that language.

Be a sponge! You just need to get the basics down!


So, your problem is the opposition of some foreigners complaining that locals don’t speak Chinese(locals’ first language) but English(their 2nd or 3rd language).


not even that much of a taipei thing. and its not even that much of a big deal. but yea, sometimes its annoying no doubt. just one of those weird behaviours taiwanese have towards foreigners. my gf has noticed plenty of them she was oblivious to before or wouldn’t have believed if i told her.


No, they are not strange.
They are just people like me who don’t want to be treated differently in an environment where you look different from the locals.
I totally understand their feelings.
Check my thread about my experience.


Sorry I’m unsure what u mean.
I just wish I would be fluent in mandarin Taiwanese and English . My husband is and he has none of the problems mentioned in this thread.


After a few years here I finally learned to let it go. In business settings I speak Mandarin when I can, but will switch to English (or a combination of the two languages) if that is more efficient. If I’m greeted in English, I never look at it in a negative light. It’s a greeting, after all.

In a social setting it just depends on my mood and that of the other people, but since we’re friends we usually mix it up.

The frustration can be real, however, and I’m reminded of this skit from Japan:


In that video,
It will be more frustrating for the customers if the waitress starts complaining or making nasty comments about foreigners with her co-workers in Japanese.
Yeah, it surely reminds me of a few experiences of mine in the West.
People started making comments about Chinese and China once they saw me, and assume I don’t understand English or have a bad hearing.
One day, I got on a bus, and the women sitting behind me started talking about how primitive the buses are in China and how Chinese push one another through to get on the bus in China, etc nasty and unfriendly comments.
The point is, I did nothing wrong on that bus. I lined up and got on the bus like any other locals there.
What does those comments they made have to do with me?