Working as an accountant in Taiwan?

I am moving to Taipei with my Taiwanese fiance in January 2007. We don’t plan to get married right away (could be a while actually, her parents do not approve) and I’ve gotten a teaching job with a reputable bushiban school chain to ensure that I can be in the country long-term to be with her. I really don’t want to be teaching. Done that, enjoyed it, but not up for anymore.

So, in the meantime I’m sending out plenty of resumes to some of the big accounting firms in Taipei, posted my resume on 104, and also contacted some of the local headhunters, hoping for a break. Fingers crossed and all that.

I’ll be getting my professional certification early next year, which is the UK equivalent of a CPA, have about 6 years work experience, post-degree, but a bit slow on learning Mandarin (and not enough of my own capital to set up my own shop).

From all the posts I’ve see by other professionals seeking work in TW it looks like it is going to be insanely hard to find work and also tough to find an employer willing to sponsor my ARC.

Any input would be appreciated from anyone in the same boat.

Oh yeah, and thanks for hearing me out.


I don’t think the problem would be getting a propective employer to get a permit for you. Although ultimately the job didn’t work out for me, getting a 3-year permit was relatively straightforward in my case - I was employed as a relatively (by Taiwan standards) highly paid marketing professional with qualifications and experience. Also the type of permit I got didn’t require all the medical exams. Its nothing like the hurdle that UK employers have to go through to get permits from skilled overseas workers.

I think the problem would be getting the job in the first place… you need to find an employer that sees a need to employ someone with a foreign accounting qualification and believes that you will “fit in” with their organisation. If they are serious about wanting you, I think they can sort the permit. A friend of mine has just gone through a similar thing (in a senior sales position) and again the permit application was pretty straightforward.

Perhaps you can look at the big international accounting firms and see if you can get a job with them. My experience of the 104/so called “head hunter” agency thing was not positive. Lots of disappointments - people love “going around” with interviews for jobs that aren’t serious, saying they’ll get back to you when they won’t etc. Contacts are the best route if you have them. Frankly the scene is a bit bleak.

So in conclusion, many of the posters here teach English. Outside of that, the opportunities are more limited. But if you do find a “professional” job, the permit shouldn’t be an issue.

Would it be possible to be a student again - say for a year? Study mandarin hard. It could be a good investment personally and professionally. If you end up back in the UK it looks great on the CV - and could get you sent back here on a decent package.

Good luck!

Cheers for the reply and advice, london-boy.

What aspect of accounting are you into? The reason I ask is that most MNC are now operating on regional platforms which means that general accounting work is few and far between.

If you are talking about the major accounting firms - do you have audit experience or specialized skills? If not - imagine the usual 2 year grind of freshly graduated associates or junior associates Taiwan style - less pay, less respect and up or out.

Unless you are already married, you also need to prove that you have a skill that is unavailable in Taiwan. Once married, of course, the threshhold is lower.

Don’t let this discourage you in any way - just be ready. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the input.

I’ve had plenty of audit experience at a big-4 firm in South Africa and then did just over a year as fund accountant for a blue chip corporation in the UK. Don;t know if these skills would be in demand, but I am bombarding the large firms in TW with resumes and hoping for some feedback. Surprisingly no feedback from any of the headhunters (unusual?).

Just keep on trying and maybe get lucky… Thanks again for the advice :notworthy:

Stick with your approach and all will work out fine. I worked as a lawyer for 10 years before coming to Taiwan and upon arriving here I hand delivered my resume to many of the biggest law firms in Taipei, but no one responded so I ended up studying Chinese and teaching conversation classes for 8 months (not that I’m complaining about that phase, I enjoyed it but eventually wanted to utilize my professional training), till a firm finally hired me – not to work as a lawyyer, but to teach writing and law classes to their lawyers. At least it was a foot in the door, each job got progressively better after that, and finally my present job is very serious legal employment involving a constant stream of multi-million dollar international commercial transactions.

So I think you’re right on track. Buxiban job to ensure that you’re legal and to provide some income and something to keep you busy, while meanwhile bombarding the firms with resumes for accounting type work and keeping on top of the 104 job board. If you stick with that plan and will be in Taiwan for at least a few years, I’m sure eventually you’ll get your foot in the door and can progressively work up to jobs of greater and greater pay and responsibility.

Of course accounting and law are two different fields. I would expect a skilled accountant would be just as important here as a skilled lawyer (incidentally, I spoke no Chinese when I arrived here, but for big Taiwan companies there’s plenty of legal work in English – all contracts, negotiations and disputes with non-Chinese people). But perhaps Chinese skills are more important in your field than in mine (or maybe not). Or maybe it’s necessary for you to be knowledgeable in local laws and practices (knowing how to keep two sets of books and hiding the true figures :wink: ), or maybe not. I don’t know.

It certainly wouldn’t hurt to intimately familiarize yourself with relevant local laws and practices. And, if you really want to improve your long-term prospects here, you might do well to then start writing articles on various facets of accounting in Taiwan (or something like that) and submit them for publication in various trade journals. I did that in my field (finding plenty of source material through Internet research), got a number of articles published and I believe that has helped me to get where I am. Such articles would show not just your knowledge and expertise, but your interest in and familiarity with the ways of Taiwan/Asia.

Good luck. Stick with it and I’m sure it will work out very well eventually.

Reading your post again, I think it comes down to your commitment to Taiwan as the place where you want to live - and this is an issue for you and your girlfriend. Undoubtedly you can make it here - and to some extent its a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you “love” Taiwan and fit in well, then it will be easier to build a career here. If you are only here because of your fiance then you might have a tougher time. Even if you find a job, you might have trouble keeping it down. Undoubtedly some find themselves in the position of compromising their long term career goals just to stay here, others don’t. And some would say their career’s not the most important thing in life anyway.

My brief experience is this. I made regular business trips to Taiwan starting in 1994. I earnt good money, stayed in nice hotels and ate well. During one longer trip I met a great girl and coincidentally had the chance to “be sent” here on a good “expat” package. So we allowed the relationship to start. Unfortunately the company went bust and the chance to work here fell through. We continued with a “long term” relationship for over 2 years before she gave up - she was just too lonely. I was originally based in London and then later in Saigon. I didn’t want to give up a good career “just to become an English teacher”. I was looking for something better.

Then a few months later I got a chance to work here for a Taiwanese company at a decent rate and decent terms. It was too late to resume the relationship, but I came here anyway. Met another girl. I had a 3 year contract but the job didn’t turn out well. Really it was in a “sunset” industry. Despite having a 3 year permit, it only lasted a year. My new girlfriend had the attitude I should leave the firm because it was “beneath” me to continue working for them. I spent a couple of months looking for another job but found nothing and then returned to London. My girlfriend’s attitude is perhaps unusual. She thinks there is little future for Taiwan and especially can’t understand why foreigners work here. She herself wants to work overseas. We made a couple of trips to Vietnam (where I worked before) and she loved it there. Its possible she’ll get a job with a Taiwanese company there - though really for her the problem is with Taiwanese corporate attitudes rather than location.

So for the time being, I find myself in another long-distance relationship!

During my time working here, I met many English teachers. Taiwanese would generally assume I was one too. I’d go to the office by taxi, but despite giving the address in Chinese the taxi would generally stop short at the nearby English school. Out of the English teachers I met some really loved it, and loved Taiwan. They had gone native and loved all the things that most foreigners hate. Others were just hardened to it and letting the years go by whilst holding onto the belief that one day they would make it big. Frankly most were only just making enough money to get by. Lack of money and lack of time meant that they could rarely take trips back to their own countries.

So I think it comes down to personality. If you genuinely love Taiwan (rather than it just being a mantra you recite as you pass a stinky tofu stand) and are committed to a future here, then with the right enthusiasm I think Mother Theresa’s right and you’ll do well here. Teach English or whatever as a way of staying here until you find your niche. I would discuss this with your fiance - maybe you already have. Discuss where you guys want to be in the long term. There’s lots of other stuff on this forum about relationships and you were asking a practical question rather than the whole analysis thing. In my case I still like Taiwan but “not at any price”. Right now I’ve contrived to be here for 2-3 months and am working remotely. Looking back, I regret working here at all - I probably didn’t achieve much. I think it would have been better to have signed up to a full time Chinese language course for year and “cracked” that nut. I think you need a certain amount of serious study before you reach the level where you can build language by yourself. If you have the money, that’s what I would do. It is another way of “staying legal” here and well as improving your job prospects it will demonstrate commitment to prospective employers as well as your future in-laws.

I like what london-boy said. I may not give you the advice about life plan, because i’m a Taiwanese. But my sister is an accountant here, maybe i can give you some idea about the accountting work here.

First of all, Taiwan follow American standard, I wonder is there a big need they want UK equivalent CPA. But I think that it may not be a big deal. Some basic priciples are close, and still a few international companies may need your skills. And the reports here are all in Chinese. My flatmate who is from China told me that he worked with some Taiwanese auditors who went auditing in China, and they wrote report in poor English. Because they don’t have to do so in Taiwan. Most of documents are in Chinese. The problems you may encounter are American standard and Chinese document.

Second, basic accountting job is a very hard work in Taiwan. In peak season, it is very common that auditors work till midnight or they just go back home for a shower and change then back to the office. Off peak season, they sometimes work till 8 or 9, I’ve never seen my sister leave office before 6. And they work 6 days a week. Though they get a not bad pay, compare to the working hours, it is still very low.

Most of my sister’s classmates and my friends studying accountting, they only work in the firm for two or three years after they graduate from the uni, then they quit from the firm to any other company to do accountting job or they prepare the government emplyment exam to become a government emplyee. Cause working in the big-4 is too tough. Unless you pass the national certify exam get the lisence to be an accountant, you “may” get the chance to become a partner one day.
Finally, about the accountting job here, i’ll say it is not that good as that in other countries. The work load is extremely over. My mother feels sorry for my sister because she suggested her to study accounting in the uni. She think my sister suffers in the firm.

After reading your first post, i think you can come as an exchange trainee of big-4, and you said you did work in big-4 in the second post, maybe you can try. My sister worked in Deloite. They have some colleagues work in the firm in another country as exchange trainee. Maybe you can ask the big-4 which you worked in.

I’m not tring to scare you away. I just want you to know some truth. Hope you can find what you want and the reason you move to Taiwan, like what london-boy asked. I don’t know whether you’ve been in Taiwan or not. You don’t have to set the goal that you will move to Taiwan forever. Just visit and figure it out is Taiwan really the place you want to spend your life with your love? Or you just want to show her parents your determination to make them let you get married?

Hope everything be settle down soon, you love Taiwan and have happy family here.

Gentlemen, many thanks for your posts. Your wisened words are inspiring and yet very realistic.

(Prompted by london boy’s words) a little more insight into my situation, I owe you that much …I took a year off from the world of intense overtime (60+ hour weeks, as described by DoD) working for PwC in SA and decided to try something very different and came to TW to teach kids English and see the world. The one year turned into two and half years very quickly after I met my fiance.

She wanted to do a Masters in the UK and I tagged along eager for a break from teaching and looking forward to re-entering the world of high-finance (which is where I truly thrive). Loving TW and more importantly, my fiance, we decided to come back to Taiwan to convince her parents to let us get married. In order to do this I’ll need to show that I can take care of her i.e. get a great job. Once (if) we’ve convinced them, we plan to live in TW for up to 5 years before exploring the option of immigrating to Singapore.

My apologies, most of this stuff belongs in the relationship section.

Mother Theresa, thanks a lot for suggesting more familiarity with local laws and practices. Your idea on writing a few articles for technical journals is priceless.

I will most likely be in Taiwan for quite a while and will do what it takes.

Thanks again :bravo:

It is great to see you care so much about your girlfriend and are ready to start from scratch for her.
Anyway good luck for the job hunting.

Thanks a lot SK.

Still sending out plenty of CV’s. Only one response so far, from a headhunter recruiting for executive positions (Bo Le Associates). Lady called me while in the UK and seems quite optomistic. Due to meet her when I arrive in Taipei, see what happens there.

My fiance has also suggested I look into teaching adults Business English, try to do some networking and hopefully get a break that way.

Try and try again.

[quote=“snowy”]Thanks a lot SK.

Still sending out plenty of CV’s. Only one response so far, from a headhunter recruiting for executive positions (Bo Le Associates). Lady called me while in the UK and seems quite optomistic. Due to meet her when I arrive in Taipei, see what happens there.

My fiance has also suggested I look into teaching adults Business English, try to do some networking and hopefully get a break that way.

Try and try again.[/quote]

Bo Le is a good recruiting firm - sounds like you’re on the right track.

I know you’ve asked specifically about work in Taiwan, and as Elegua suggests it does sound like your path is true, but have you considered getting into Singapore now? The banks are taking off down there and property too. From many accounts it would be much better to get into that market now rather than five years down the track. You could always fly the in-laws down and put them up at your fab pad. Benefits are you are not in their space and all you’ve done is fast-tracked what you already planned.

Singapore is close enough to Taiwan that you could conceivably be back in Taipei for several long weekends a year in any case.

I’m not sure about the upside in living close to the family to convince them to come around to you marrying your sweetness. In fact, everyone I’ve known in that sort of situtation moved away to acheive their aim. Living close rto rels that dont want you in the family can be aprticualrly hellish.

All the best though!


If we’re widening the discussion…

HG… you have your location set to HK. What are the prospects there?

I got back from Hong Kong yesterday - even closer than Singapore! An “executive recruitment” agency’s rep thrust a brochure into my hand as I was walking through “Central”. Didn’t keep it, but that’s never happened to me in Taipei.

Hong Kong never fails to impress me… think I’d prefer it to Singapore or Taiwan as a place of work. For UK people its got so many advantages over Taiwan - more “home” comforts (eg M&S) plus all the advantages of being in Asia. I feel the bars/nightlife are better, and this British guy just gets on better with the urban environment and weather. Its a real financial centre, too. Could write more, but don’t want to go OT.

If nothing else, but be worth a quick side trip just to take a look. (If the OP is flying Cathay from the UK to Taiwan, maybe he could stop over?)

Read the rest of this thread. I’m back in Taiwan for a week - and I haven’t been so happy since I moved to HKG.

Today I rented a BC 400 for a blast to Fulong and back with my brother-in-law (bastard has a harley). Tuesday there is wind so I’m going windsurfing. Sicne I’ve gotten here I’ve just been stuffing my face.

Accounting prospects are good in HK, mind you I;m starting to think I;ld prefer Singapore . . and that’s really saying something. I dont have the best of things to say about HK.

Elegua’s another currently in HK ex-Taiwan . . . see his opening comment above. :laughing:

Elegua, the eating certainly is fantastic back in Taiwan when you’ve been in HK awhile! I blame the English and their Filipino maids for ruining whatever was here before them. It had to have been the poms that put Spam and macaroni on the breakfast table.


From what I’ve seen, if you are going to be in Taiwan for a while, make it an opportunity and seriously study Chinese. You can follow MT’s advice at the same time and break in slowly here by writing articles and meeting people. Joining the Chambers (AmCham, British Chamber) might not be a bad idea. Your GF’s idea about teaching English in a related area is an excellent idea. I’d also suggest that you live somewhere near East Taipei so that you will be close to your potential employers.

The combination of Chinese plus a real professional skill like accounting and real-world overseas experience in a place like London can count for a lot here in the long run. I would really bear down on the Chinese when you first get here. As MT suggested, there may be many opportunities here that will present themselves only after a while. Consider going into business for yourself after a while.

If you are trying to impress the in-laws, perhaps Singapore would be a good choice–I think the expat lifestyle there might be a real eye opener for them. I also think that if she is really serious about you, parental approval will be a nice-to-have rather than a must-have. Kids also tend to bring around even the most dispapproving Taiwanese in-laws real fast.

Feiren, thanks for your comments. Singapore is definitely on the agenda as I’ve heard many good things about this little country. It’s booming, expats are welcome and I’m sure that as a highly trained bilingual teacher my wife-to-be would not have a problem fitting in either.

However, no matter what our dreams may be for the long run, we will need to face the music with the future in-laws and we’re both pretty determined to try and convince them to give us the nob before getting hitched. It just seems like the right thing to do.

In the meantime, i’m getting a little bit of feedback from two headhunters I’ve been dealing with, Bo Le Assoc (as mentioned in my earlier posting) as well as someone I got in touch with through Forumosa at (based in TP101).

See what happens :wink:

Thanks, again

Snowy, my suggestion is to definitely aim for Sinagpore. Seriously, I don’t see any upside with the nearest and dearest’s folks by being in Taiwan.

When you get to Taiwan as a non-speaker of Chinese you will be completely in their world. Your discomfort and inabilty to even get the likes of a taxi will be seen as weakness. You will be spending vast tracts of time in the presence of her family, they will be speaking Chinese and you will be left out.

Bypass the bullshit, set you and your lovely up in Sinagpore where English is the national tongue and you will be a man about town. Then of course, the shoe is on the other foot when you pay for the folks to come down for a weekend. Make them squirm. It is the (clever) Chinese way.


Careful of this one They are good, but can be in too much of a rush to close the deal.