Why white collar westerners shouldn't work in Taiwan or for Taiwanese companies?

Are you an engineer, doctor, researcher etc? Are you considering to come to Taiwan for work? READ THIS CAREFULLY.

I came to Taiwan for work, on 2006. I was 22 years old, just a fresh graduate.
And now I’m 34 years old. Working for Taiwan companies for 11 years already. I have worked in 4 different companies; been to interviews countless times, in many different industries(all non teaching jobs).

Here is why white collar foreigners shouldn’t come to Taiwan for work or shouldn’t work for Taiwanese companies:
No matter it’s a big international or small business, Taiwan companies are always top to down managed. Deep micromanagament is very common by low/high level managers. Common case is company boss micromanage everyone. So in all levels every employee is just listening big boss’ orders or requests.

I want to give a heads up here, don’t misunderstand me; Taiwanese people are quite friendly to foreigners (well, to white westerners) but in work life, things are different.

Due to China’s economic development, Taiwan industries feel the pressure the most. The costs are increasing, as base salaries are getting higher for blue collars. Profits are getting smaller. Results? Here are the results:

  1. Taiwanese companies are loading employees more and more. Overloading is becoming a problem now. Due to employee cost, companies are recruiting less people for more work.
  2. Eventhough government regulation and restrictions, Taiwanese companies are pushing employees to work overtime without any pay.
  3. Society is very stressful and people get angry easily.
  4. Overlong work hours causes people commit suicide, or die due to body exhaustion.

At this point I want to explain character of traditional Taiwanese bosses (Laoban/老板):
No matter big or small business, their boss is probably born around 50s, 60s. High level managers are born at 70s. These people are traditional at core. The only thing they know is work long & hard. They don’t know any strategies or smart efficient way of working. So they expect the same thing from their employees.

They don’t want to change. Most of them already earned their wealth, using traditional methods. But world is changing constantly. Pressure from China and world market increase, pushes companies to reinvent themselves. Those who cannot reinvent, just disappears (e.g. Nokia, Motorola). Companies need to reinvent themselves. Taiwanese companies cannot do that. Bosses don’t want to change the methods that made them rich once upon time. As a result, customers are slowly leaving Taiwanese companies; and bosses’ only action is to push employees to work longer and harder.

You will be surprised how those famous Taiwanese brands (Asus, Acer, Gigabyte, HTC) are managed by traditional bosses who are afraid of investing; has trust problems, don’t listen younger people, or disrespect younger generation’s opinion.

Anyway, these traditional bosses are now counting how much they can save from turning off the lights or A/C; or how much they can save by putting less toilet paper. Taiwanese bosses are infamous with not sharing the earnings with employees. One can call it greed.
Bosses lie to their own employees, giving empty promises; but most of them fail to deliver those promises; leaving the employee in frustration. Taiwanese bosses like to play the game within rules; they give unfair decisions with self protection against law. Remeber: Individuals will change your career path. With same hard working, maybe you would be a director in another country, but in Taiwan, you may stay as entry level white collar, due to that inconfident, insecure manager or boss.

Speaking of managers; seeing many managers, directors for 11yrs; I came to realized that over 90% of managers/directors in Taiwan companies have earned their positions by just waiting. You would imagine they had done something remarkable to earn the position right? NO. They just endure the conditions and wait for those previous managers leave the position. When there is no one left to promote, they get the positions. I had dealt with countless of that type of managers who are lack of common sense, lack of skill, lack of vision, no respect to employees. Somehow by borning at right time, they get the managing position.

Enough with Taiwan Bosses and Managers.

Another reason why foreigners shouldn’t work for Taiwanese companies is related to Taiwan society. Majority of Taiwanese people are still simply say narrow minded, and not international.

The society is very isolated and not open to outside world much. As a foreigner worked in Taiwan for 11 years, I was always treated differently. Sometimes in good way; sometimes not very nice.
In general, Taiwanese people neglect problems at work. I have been warned about this issue at the beginning; and also witnessed many times. When there is a non work related problem, majority of Taiwanese people don’t want to face it. They don’t go for root cause. They just cover it or delay.
At my 11th working year in Taiwan, I was highlighted “to be foreigner and not understanding Taiwan working culture”.

I came to realize that conflicts at work started to happen as soon as I decided to stop being their office clown.
Yes, if you are a foreigner in a Taiwanese office, they just look to you as a clown; something to make their life more interesting.
Take your job more seriously, start to argue with them about work issues; or not show enormous patience to them, you will see things will start to change. They will like you less and less, and at very next conflict they will highlight your weakness(!) from their eyes:
-Being a foreigner.
-Not understanding Taiwan work culture.
Everytime they will raise the RACE card when they are trapped.

About Race: Always remember: so called Taiwanese(except aboriginals) people are actually China originated. No matter how much educated they are, their genes and core values come from China.
Never forget that! You might disagree with me now, but when conditions are suitable, everyone shows their real face. So do Taiwanese.

Given to their non-diversified culture and appearance, they can not accept to see/experience or encounter any foreign culture for long term. Staying in Taiwan for short term, visiting as tourist is probably OK.

Another thing I want to highlight as Why white collar foreigners shouldn’t work in Taiwan is: if you are dreaming going to another country for the rest of your life, Taiwan is not a good choice. Laws, rules, daily life is not supporting foreigners to be part of the society.

  1. Taiwan is not giving citizenship to foreigners, unless you win Nobel Prize. On the other you cannot believe how many random Taiwanese has US, Canada, Australia passports (dual citizenship).

  2. Taiwan government or society don’t look or accept foreigners as a part of society or daily life.
    Simple exmaple: Want to rent a car for weekend? Or buy flight ticket? Sorry, Taiwan Banks are not giving credit card to foreigners, unless you go through a long and embarrassing process with a local person, who can support you in this.
    Do you want to pay your bill in atm? Sorry english UI and chinese UI functions are different. You have limited options in English. People who live in Taiwan could give countless examples.

  3. Legal court results favor local people against foreigners even they are guilty.

  4. Society, media, literally everyone is discriminate foreigners. Demonizing and generalizing foreigners in every single part of life. Check news, you will see: "Foreigner do this, do that….But that news gets to individual level if it’s a Taiwanese person. So, foreigners are a whole body to judge. But it becomes individual when Taiwanese people.

  5. As I mentioned earlier, taiwanese companies only want to squeeze the juice(Know-How, Expertise, Experience) out of you; without giving you a career path or position you deserve. Once you are out of juice, you are not needed anymore.

*China is at least honest on this matter. They clearly say “We are Chinese and we don’t promise you anything. You will be foreigner. You can work here but we don’t promise anything.” So, your expectations is clear. But in Taiwan, they create this illusion that Taiwan is an honest democracy, welcoming foreign expats; trying to attract foreign talents with promises that will never be true.

Think a hundred times before coming to Taiwan for work. Don’t let “seem friendly” TW managers/bosses lie to your face. Things here are very very different than it seems. Don’t let a few 7-11 shops deceive you: Taiwan is not convenient at all.

If you are an expert in his/her field, invest a better country, which offers a citizenship after a few years. It’s not about getting a passport; it’s a basic sign, shows how much a country respects to foreigners in long term.



Might have been worth it if they offered stock options like the old days. Some people could buy houses with what they got in stocks 20 yrs ago from company benefits


I haven’t worked in an office in Taiwan but based on my life experiences here , your experiences are on point.

The dual citizenship thing is a sore spot for me.
They claim they will give it to professionals now but in my experience they will not. It seems to be reserved for only people that will give them big face.

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Hey @TD thanks for this post, tell us some more stories.

Did you have an arch nemesis at your job? Did you ever get revenge on people who treated you badly?

What is your next move? Where will you be working next and which country are you originally from?

Oh, they promise plenty, except the ones who don’t. It’s hard to generalize about 1B+ people. :2cents:

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I always try to follow one rule: “Don’t get mad, get even.”
Although this sounds like revenge, it’s actually giving back same hard times to that person (if any). So I cannot say there was a revenge move anywhere…

Half of it feels like the story of my PhD, at a US uni but working with a Taiwanese boss.

12 years in Taiwan, just joined Forumosa today.
Any reason you chose this topic to be your first post (and probably last post)?
Kind of take these types of first-time posts with a truckload of salt.
But, hey, I give you credit for spending a long time writing it.
:beers: , you earned it.


I’d have to agree with just about everything you wrote here @TD . Having lived here for nearly 20 years and started off right from the bottom of the barrel and only in Taiwan companies, I can honestly say that it is as you put it. In my case though, if it wasn’t for being married to a local back then, I would never have bothered staying in Taiwan to work. Salaries and work ethic are far far better back in the UK where I’m from. It’s also difficult to get a work permit in a local company if you’re not married, due to strict labor laws. Something about companies have to be in a certain tax bracket in order to be able to hire foreigners (I’ve experienced this quite recently).
Taiwan is a great place to live and the people can be fantastic, but work (outside of teaching or running your own company) is a challenge here I feel. It takes patience and a huge acceptance of the way the culture is. Fortunately I got lucky and moved to a western company where we did things properly, but being married to a local at that time made everything much easier.
I feel your anguish though, really I do.


Hey there. I was expecting people like you to come and response with emotion…Proven…
Yes now it’s 12 years already. There are tons of forums out there. I started with Tealit.
It doesn’t matter my first or last post; my experience and facts are there…
If you have any better argument or different experience, write it down…I won’t read anyway.

Nice to see you wrote that in your lunch hour , or I would have to report you :joy:How are you ?

Aside from your #4, this also describes the white-collar work environment in the US.

This is a global trend since the 2008 downturn. European workers are more sheltered from the “hire one person to do the job of 2-4 others” trend and its logical consequences, but workers there are not totally immune.

If you’re grinding your axe here, I’d advise you to take some recuperation time before you start your next job.

If you’re actually trying to help others, I’d advise that you remove these bullet points. Your advice will be probably be ignored because younger workers will read this list and think you just couldn’t cut it. They’ll stop reading. Your larger points about Taiwan in particular will go unread as a result.

Best of luck.


LOL! Clicking your photo I see who you are now. How am I?? WET! South is supposed to have the best weather. Bloody climate change. Hey, I’m expecting your 2 cents on this whole work life in Taiwan. I KNOW you’ve got some stories to tell!

This is true in my experience. Especially with the nerdy males who live with their parents and have severe prince syndrome. :roll_eyes: They couldn’t communicate properly and professionally if their life depended on it.

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Sometimes we don’t realize how injured we are until we get away from the place. Taking time to unwind is a great idea.


I agree, and I think this is good and a valuable insight.

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Holy shit that was some post. I would like to disagree with you but could find fault with very little because working in Taiwan is generally…Not good for most of us including Taiwanese people .


Wow, btw, what was that “office clown” thing about? Anyone else had the same experience apart from OP?

Personally, my experience is much better than OP. I hope OP finds peace in their future endeavors.

He probably means the ‘token foreigner’.
Unfortunately one of the huge challenges in Taiwan for many foreigners is that you are often the only foreigner in the company or department.

This is different than working in say, Singapore, HK , Australia, Western countries。。In those places there’s almost bound to be other foreigners working with you.

So you could be looked at as special or different or privileged but hard to be one of the gang and can often be picked on to give a reaction to random stuff associated with ‘foreigners’. Stuff that has been asked of me in the past is ‘do you all have one night stands’…'do you all have multiple girlfriends '…That kind of slightly personal and offensive stuff .