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Transnational Professionals in Global Taipei:

Perspectives on Cultural Adjustment and Social

Accommodation among Long-Term Alien Residents

Final Paper
Social Development of Taiwan
International Master’s Program in Taiwan Studies

Submitted: June 17, 2009

Aaron Jensen 96924015

Christy Chang 94924008
Eri Obata 97924009
Jane Chen 97924004
Joe Landgrebe 97924013
Patty Li 97924001
Timothy Hogan 97924012

Professor Hsiao-hung Nancy Chen

Chapter 1: Introduction

This study seeks to gain a better understanding of the experiences of Western

professionals who live and work in Taiwan, particularly the means by which they
professionals integrate and adjust themselves at work, with Taiwanese family members
and with Taiwanese society in general. The goal of this study is to identify the positive
and negative factors which affect Western professionals in Taiwan. As Taiwan and
Taipei City seeks to develop global potential, attracting and retaining foreign
professionals will be an important challenge. This goal can be better achieved by
understanding the positive and negative factors which affect Western professionals in
To gain a qualitative understanding of the challenges and issues which Western
professionals experience, the authors of this paper selected twelve subjects for interview.
Roughly half of the individuals surveyed were English teachers, and the other half
worked in various forms for the government, while two individuals were small business
owners. In order to gain greater depth, we purposely choose foreign professionals who
had spent significant time in Taiwan, at least several years. Most of our participants had
lived in Taiwan for over ten years and some had lived here for over twenty years. Their
Chinese language ability ranged from beginner to highly fluent.
Our interviews lasted from one to two hours and a broad range of topics were
discussed. Interview questions were broken down into three main areas: work
environment and opportunities, family and social relations and government laws and
regulations. These three issues were deemed to have the greatest impact on the lives of
Westerner professionals in Taiwan. Our examination of the workplace environment dealt
with issues of promotion, salary and communication challenges. Family related questions
looked at relationships with in-laws, communication, food choice and religious
compatibility. Questions regarding Taiwan government policy examined issues such as
taxation, health care, residence status and property ownership. Overall, our interviews
were very fruitful and participants generally provided rich detail on their experiences and
challenges in Taiwan.

In terms of structure, this study begins with an examination of relevant literature,
discussed in chapter 2. The next chapter highlights and examines the research findings in
detail. It provides an overview of the interview subjects and their responses to life in
Taiwan. The three main subject areas, work, family and government policy are discussed
in detail. Chapter 4 discusses the major findings and implications of the research
findings. The aim of this chapter is to provide qualitative discussion and insight into the
research findings. The concluding chapter deals with the implications of this study and
provides discussion on research limitations and suggestions for future study.

This study seeks to shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of Taipei’s quest to
become a global city. The concept of a global city closely mirrors the Taiwan
government’s desire to transform Taipei into a regional business and financial center.
First developed by Thomas Friedmann, the concept of a global city describes a large
metropolitan area which serves as a vital link in the world economy. As globalization
breaks down borders, global cities take on increased significance for their economic,
political and intellectual influence on world affairs. These cities are important for
nation’s development due to their ability to create jobs, stimulate the economy and
increase national prestige. As Taiwan seeks to secure its economic and political future,
the goal of transforming the Taipei metro region into a second tier global city has taken
on increased significance.
Foreign residents, especially foreign professionals, are an important component of
global cities. Foreign professionals provide essential linguistic, managerial and
intellectual capital. As English is the current world language, Taipei desperately needs to
attract English speaking professionals and develop the English ability of its residents.
This study directly addresses this issue as our research focuses entirely on Western,
native English speakers. The extent to which Taipei can, or cannot attract and maintain
Western professionals has direct bearing on its developmental potential. This study will
examine those factors which attract Western professionals as well as the areas where
Taipei could improve.

This study is important because it examines the lives of Western professional in
Taiwan. Taiwanese scholars have researched the impact of Mainland Chinese and
Southeast Asian immigration on Taiwan’s society. However, there are no studies which
examine the lives of Western professionals in Taiwan. Although this group is
significantly smaller, the impact which this sector exerts on Taiwanese society is
important. Native speaking English teachers will continue to be a valuable commodity in
an increasingly globalized world. Moreover, Taiwan’s desire to become more integrated
in the global economy will depend in part on its ability to attract Western managers and
business professionals. Many international companies purposely post a Western
representative to their Taiwan branch offices. In most cases, this individual resides at the
upper management or executive level. Western companies have recognized that they
must have a strong foothold in the Asian market. Taiwan, especially the Taipei region,
must be able to attract Western business professionals if it seeks to become a gateway to

Research Design
Our research consisted of in-depth interviews with twelve Western professionals
who had lived and worked in Taiwan for at least several years. It was decided that a
qualitative approach would enable us to delve deeper into salient issues and produce
more fruitful analysis. A quantitative approach was not feasible for this study as time and
resources were limited.
Our research included two rounds of interviews with the same twelve subjects.
The first round of research questions were organized into three subjects with six to eight
questions per subject. Data from the first round was then analyzed by team members who
looked at trends and gaps in information. Two team members were assigned to analyze
information on each of the three categories of questions. As new questions and
information gaps were identified, analysts composed new questions which would help
clarify problems and address information shortfalls. Subjects were then re-interviewed
and the new data was applied to the initial information gaps.
Overall, interview sessions were very open; interviewees were aware of the
purpose of the study and were encouraged to provide relevant opinions and additional

detail on the issues. Discussion centered on the subject’s personal views and experiences.
In some instances, long term residents were able to provide insight into the lives of other
Western professionals who reside in Taiwan. These broader observations greatly enriched
the quality of our findings and depth of our observations.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

At the outset of this paper, our group immediately recognized the very interesting
dynamics of our class make-up. National Chengchi University, in Taiwan, has managed
to develop a graduate school program which invites students from across the globe to
attend classes, taught in English nonetheless. This phenomenon of globalization, taking
place in our common lives, sparked a very interesting debate among our group members.
How globalized is Taiwan? Can Taiwan be considered a global city? From this seed of
interest, our group decided to set out on our research project. We would begin our
research with a very general outlook towards global cities.
One cannot mention the term “global city”, without acknowledging the works of
Saskia Sassen. She is at the forefront of this new and exciting research. She put this
topic on the map with her, book Global City. She approaches global cities as sites for the
production of producer services and as financial market-places for the buying and selling
of securities.1 Next, if Saskia Sassen is the godmother of the global city thesis, then John
Friedmann would be the godfather with his article, The World City Hypothesis. This
paper subsequently formed the backbone of the global city theory. He argues that cities
and urban development in general are closely tied to the changing organization of the
global economy. Specifically, the world urban system is a spatial manifestation of the
“new international division of labor.”2
From our preliminary research, we decided the topic of global cities is much too
large in scope to manage in this short term paper, but one common theme we grasped
from the global city theory is the importance of immigrant communities in helping to
develop global cities. We decided to take the idea of immigrant communities one step
further; thus we isolated transnational professionals. Transnational professionals are a
Saskia Sassen, Global City,: New York, London, Tokyo, Princeton University Press, 2001.
John Friedmann, The World City Hypothesis, Development and Change, 17 (1): 69-84.

key to developing the linkages to the larger global community. We will focus on this
aspect to determine Taipei’s standing as a regional global city.
The migration and settlement of transnational professionals to Taiwan is a
reflection of the wider dynamics of societal change that are a result of global mobility.
Studies in transnationalism to date have tended to focus on the movement of people, in
particular, lower or unskilled migrants, from developing countries to Europe or North
America and wealthier parts of Asia. However, “transnationalism from above”, has been
neglected by scholars. Alejandro Portes contends, “transnationalism from above” is
overlooked, due to the more novel and distinct development of “transnationalism from
Although, the influence of highly skilled transnational professionals circulating
the globe has generally been neglected, some acknowledgement of this recent
phenomenon has been mentioned by various scholars. Russell King mentions, “rapid
growth of skilled international migration-a new breed of executive nomads who, while
quantitively much less important than the mass labor migrations of the past, nevertheless
wield enormous influence over the functioning global economy.”4 The circulation of this
labor regime between key global cities is facilitated by better communication and
transport technologies. Governments, honoring trade agreements, streamline professional
movement by instituting the recognition of qualifications and allowing easier access to
In Lucie Cheng and Marian Katz’s, “Migration and the Diaspora Communities”,
these two scholars identify a trend in Americans participating in the professional
migration flow. One group they identify in particular is the teachers of English as a
foreign language (EFL) in the Asia-Pacific region.5 Taiwan has an abundance English
teachers living and working in Taiwan. We then decided to use this sub-group as our
case sample. But, who are these professionals, moreover, why have these professionals
decided to stay in Taiwan?

Alejandro Portes, Luis E. Guarnizo, & Patricia Landolt, “The Study of Transnationalism: Pitfalls and
Promise of an Emergent Research Field, Ethnic and Racial Studies 22, 1999, p. 223.
Russell King, ‘Migrations, Globalizations and Place’, in D. Massey & P. Jess (eds), A Place in the
World? Places, Cultures and Globalization, UK: Open University Press, 1995, p. 24.
Lucie Cheng and Marian Katz, “Migration and the Diaspora Communities”, in Richard Maidment and
Colin Mackerras, Culture and Society in the Asia-Pacific, Routledge Press, London, 1998, p. 77.

The migration of transnational professionals has not only affected the global
economy but it has also affected interpersonal relationships. As this particular course is
entitled, The Social Development of Taiwan, we will focus our research in the
sociological perspectives of transnational professional migration. As working
professionals set out on their careers to far off lands, their lives cannot simply be put on
hold. They will inevitably pursue the same desires as any other of their peers. This
includes the pursuit of a significant other in hopes of marriage. Today, in Taiwan we can
observe far more intercultural marriages than any time in the past. Intercultural marriage
is simply defined as the marriage between individuals from different cultural
backgrounds. Sometimes, authors will make reference to other terms such as:
“interracial”, “cross-cultural”, “interethnic”, etc. These terms should be applied in the
context of the above definition of “intercultural” marriage.
Some researchers see the analysis of intercultural marital decisions as an
interaction based on the exchange of relative group status and demean the marriages by
“impugning purely mercenary motives to the partners.”6 While others employ Foa and
Foa’s Resource Exchange Theory among the many versions of social exchange theory to
emphasize the exchange of intangible rewards to explain interpersonal relationships
among ethnic groups.7 Increasingly, researchers studying intermarriages are starting to
emphasize the shared cultural inheritances among the groups, the value in creating new
forms of experience, and the bottom line of romantic love that forms the basis of all
satisfying marriages.8 Gaines & Liu argue, that “if we acknowledge that romantic love
forms a major part of the socioemotional foundation for marriage in general, then we
would not expect the interpersonal ‘rules of the game’ to change when we shift from
intraethnic to interethnic relationship contexts.”9

Theoretical Framework

W.R. Johnson & D.M. Warren, Inside the Mixed Marriage: Account of Changing Attitudes, Patterns, and
Perceptions of Cross-Cultural and Interracial Marriages. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1994.
S.O. Gaines Jr. & J.H. Liu, Romanticism and Interpersonal Resource Exchange Among Interethnic
Couples. In S.O. Gaines Jr., R. Buriel, J.H. Liu & D.I. Rios (Eds.), Culture, Ethnicity and Personal
Relationship Processes. New York: Routledge, 1997, p. 91-118.
Ibid. p. 97.

For our group’s research we strive to better understand how intercultural married
couples adjust to each other’s different culture. Wen-shing Tseng distinguishes four
types of adjustment in intercultural marriage: one-way adjustment, alternative
adjustment, mixture of culture and creative adjustment.10 Dugan Romano also
distinguishes four types; obedience, compromise, cancellation and harmony.11 Based on
these models, Shuko Takeshita has created four types of adjustment: Type I (adjustment
to partner), Type II (alternative adjustment), Type III (compromising adjustment), and
Type IV (synthetic adjustment).

Figure 1: Takeshita’s Model of Cultural Adjustment


Type I can be divided into two parts: I-1 (adjustment to husband’s culture) and I-2
(adjustment to wife’s culture). This adjustment means that husband or wife abandons
his/her culture and adjusts husband’s/wife’s culture.
In Type II, both husband and wife abandon their cultures and create their own new
culture. Or it means that husband and wife live in the third country which they are not
from and they accept the third country’s culture abandoning their original cultures.
Type III indicates that both husband and wife abandon some aspects of their
cultures to adopt their partner’s culture.

Wen-shing Tseng, Adjustment in Intercultural Marriage, The University Press of Hawaii, 1977, p.98-
Dugan Romano, Intercultural Marriage, Intercultural Press Inc., 1988, p.72.

In Type IV, while husband or wife retains his/her culture, he/she accepts partner’s
culture. This adjustment is supported by agreement between them. This is said to be ideal
model for adjustment in intercultural marriage since both husband and wife do not have
to abandon anything.12
Noting the similarities of each author’s framework, our group decided to apply the
theoretical framework set forth by Shuko Takeshita as a tool to analyze our data.

Chapter 3: Research Findings

This chapter of the paper is comprised of four parts. The first section summarizes the
results of the questionnaire on the subjects’ socio-economic background. The purpose of
this section is to provide insight into the characteristics of the subjects of this study and
give the reader a deeper understanding of the background of foreign professionals who
have lived in Taiwan for many years. The second section analyzes the subjects’
experiences living in Taiwan in regard to the cultural adaptation that they undergo as a
result of their marriage to Taiwanese women. Their responses to questions about
language, food, and religion are evaluated and the results of the analysis are used to
determine the suitability of Takeshita’s model of cultural adjustment for explaining the
acculturation process that these subjects have experienced. In the third section and fourth
sections, we examine the subjects’ answers to questions regarding their employment in
Taiwan and the influence of Taiwan’s legal system on their experience as foreign
residents here. The purpose of these analyses is to identify key features that may have an
impact on Taiwan’s ability to attract foreign professionals and increase its
competitiveness as a global city.

3.1 Socio-Economic Background

To investigate the cultural adaptation strategies of long-term foreign residents of
Taiwan, specifically male, native English-speakers married to Taiwanese women, twelve
subjects were chosen for in-depth interviews. The interviews took place over several
weeks in April 2009. The subjects were interviewed singly, in pairs, or in groups of three.

Shuko Takeshita, Sociology of Intermarriage, Bungakusha, 2000, p.134-143.

All interviews were recorded for later analysis. Each of the subjects was asked to
complete a brief questionnaire prior to taking part in a group interview. Selected results
from the subjects’ answers to the questionnaire are provided below.

3.1.1 Countries of origin

Of the twelve subjects, seven (58%) came from the United States, two (17%)
from the United Kingdom, two (17%) from Canada, and one (8%) from Australia.
According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Interior, in 2008, the total number of foreign residents
from these four countries totaled 13,378.13 Of the total, 68% came from the US, 9% from
the UK, 18% from Canada, and 5% from Australia. These shares are roughly equivalent
to those of the participants in our study.

Table 1: Breakdown of subjects’ nationality

Countries In Taiwan In this study
Total Number Percentage Total number Percentage
US 9,514 68% 7 58%
UK 1,168 9% 2 17%
Canada 2,409 18% 2 17%
Australia 647 5% 1 8%
Total N=13,378 100% N=12 100%

3.1.2 Length of stay in Taiwan, current age, and age at arrival in Taiwan
The average length of residence in Taiwan for the twelve subjects was 16 years,
with a maximum of 27 years and a minimum of 5 years. The ages of the subjects range
from a maximum of 50 to a minimum of 34, with the average age being 42. All of the
subjects arrived when they were between the ages of 21 and 30 years old, with average
age at arrival being 25.

3.1.3 Reasons for coming to Taiwan, visa/citizenship status

As to why the subjects originally came to Taiwan, seven (58%) reported that they
came for adventure or travel, two (17%) to study language or culture, two (17%) to work,
and one (8%) to join family. The one subject who came to join family married his
Taiwanese wife while she was studying in the US, and they came to Taiwan together. Of

National Immigration Agency, Ministry of Interior, Taiwan, Republic of China. (June 2008)

the twelve subjects, eleven (92%) currently possess Joining Family Residence Visas
(JFRV), which grants residency rights to foreigners on the basis of marriage, and one
(8%) has a Alien Permanent Residency Certificate (APRC), granted on the basis of
having met residency and employment qualifications. None of the subjects has applied to
become a citizen of the Republic of China, and all maintain their original nationality.

3.1.4 Occupations
One feature of the subjects’ occupations is the predominance of work related to
English, whether editing, translating, or teaching. Seven subjects (58%) are teachers, two
(17%) are editors, one (8%) owns a trading company, one (8%) is a translator, and one
(8%) is an engineer. All of the subjects originally worked as teachers when they first
arrived in Taiwan, but five of them eventually moved into other lines of work. Of the
seven teachers, six teach English, and one teaches music. Of the six English teachers, all
occasionally work as English editors, whether for instructional materials, academic
papers, or technical publications. In contrast to their foreign husbands, the Taiwanese
wives do a wide variety of jobs, including office work, journalism, teaching, translating,
editing, trading, sales, travel agent, real estate agent, personal assistant, and accounting.
In fact, of the twelve women, no two of them share the same occupation. Several of the
wives, do, however, work in the same field as their husband, notably in teaching, editing,
and in a trading company.

Chart 1: Subjects' Occupations Chart 2: Wives' Occupations

Trade Teaching Translating

Volunteer Accountant
Editing Engineer Office worker Journalism
Translating Editor
Trade Travel agent
Real estate agent Personal assistant

3.1.5 Education levels
In terms of education, the foreign husbands are slightly more educated on average
than their wives. The average length of schooling for the subjects is 16.6 years, versus 15.
2 years for their wives. The most educated man in this study and his wife, the most
educated woman, met in the US and moved to Taiwan after completing their educations.
The two men who are engaged in MA/MS programs are pursuing these in English in
Taiwan, one at a local university, and one through a distance learning program from a
UK university.
Chart 3: Comparision of Education Levels


MA/MS Husband

MA/MS pending


Two-year college

High school

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


3.1.6 Family size

As for family size, five (42%) of the couples have two children, two (17%) have
one child, and five (42%) have no children. The total fertility rate for this group is 1.0,
slightly lower than the average of 1.12 for Taiwan.14 Of the twelve children, two (17%)
are over 20 years of age, two (17%) are between 15 and 20, two (17%) are between 10
and 14, three (25%) are between 5 and 9, and three (25%) are below 5 years of age.

3.1.7 Home ownership

Of the twelve families, eight (67%) rent their home, while four (33%) own their
own home. Of those who rent, none said they were planning to buy a home. Compared to

Department of Statistics, Ministry of Interior, Taiwan, Republic of China. (2008)

the home ownership rate in Taiwan, which averages 88%,15 the proportion of the subjects
who own the home they live in is considerably low.

3.1.8 Transportation
Of the twelve subjects, three (25%) own a car only, three (25%) own a motorcycle
only, and six (50%) own both a car and a motorcycle. The high rate of motorcycle
ownership is a feature of life in Taiwan. Two of those who currently own a motorcycle
only have owned cars in Taiwan in the past but sold them prior to the survey. According
to the Survey of Family Income and Expenditure,16 the rate of car ownership per
household is approximately 59%, somewhat lower than the 75% reported by the subjects
in this study.

3.1.9 Foreign trips

As for trips overseas, four (33%) travel abroad less often than once a year. Five
(42%) travel overseas between one and two times per year, and three (25%) take foreign
trips more than two times per year. According to the DGBAS survey mentioned above,
the number of overseas trips by Taiwanese was approximately seven million, or
somewhat less than one-third the number of Taiwanese citizens, thus yielding an
approximate average frequency of overseas trip equal to less than one per year. This
suggests that the subjects in this study tended to travel overseas relatively more often than
Taiwanese citizens.

3.1.10 Income
Of the twelve subjects, seven (58%) chose not to reveal their annual income. Of
the five who did indicate their income, one (8%) claimed to earn less than NTD1.5
million per year. Three (25%) reported annual net earnings of between NTD1.5 million
(USD 49,197) and NTD2 million (USD65,596), and one claimed to make more than
NTD2 million per year. Of those seven who did not reveal their income, three probably
earn more than NTD2 million, and four less than NTD2 million (based on their

Survey of Family Income and Expenditure, Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics,
Executive Yuan, Taiwan, Republic of China. (2007)

occupations and work history). Overall, these results indicate that the subjects earn at
least double Taiwan’s per capita income of USD17,226, with some earning more than
four times that amount.

3.1.11 Chinese language ability

All of the subjects claim to have some ability to use Chinese. On average, the
subjects have intermediate level speaking and listening ability but only an elementary
level of reading and writing. None of the subjects claim any fluency in Taiwanese
(Southern Min dialect), although some know a few phrases.

Chart 4: Chinese Language Ability by Skill

None Elementary Intermediate Advanced
Listening Speaking Reading Writing

3.2 Family
In this section, we analyze which of Takeshita’s four adjustment models, I--
Adjustment to Partner, II--Alternative Adjustment, III--Compromising Adjustment, and
VI-- Synthetic Adjustment, best describes the twelve couples. The basis by which we
classify the cultural adjustments is the proportion of adjustment that both the husband and
the wife make in terms of three factors, the language(s) the couple speak together, the
type(s) of food they eat together, and their religious beliefs and practices.

Figure 2: Variables Indicating Cultural Adjustment

3.2.1 Four Models of Cultural Adjustment

The following table demonstrates the four models of adjustment and provides key
features for each. The third model, Compromising Adjustment, has four variants in order
to account for the possible combinations of features. For our analysis, “adopt” means that
the husband and wife act in accordance with the features of one culture in particular,
while “accept” indicates that a husband and wife retain their original culture and
incorporate features of both cultures into their life together. “Retain” is used to indicate
that both husband and wife continue to practice their original culture, particularly in
regard to religious belief.

Table 2: Adjustment Models and Characteristics

Adjustment Model Language Food Religion

Type I – 1 (Adjustment to husband’s 100% English 100% Western Both retain
culture) original belief
Couple adopt at least two aspects of
husband’s culture and no aspects of wife’s
Type I – 2 (Adjustment to wife’s culture) 100% Chinese 100% Chinese Both adopt
Couple adopt three aspects of wife’s Chinese beliefs
culture and no aspects of husband’s culture
Type II (Alternative adjustment) Third language Third style of food Both retain
Couple adopts aspects of third culture and (neither Chinese (neither original beliefs.
few aspects of either husband or wife’s nor English) predominantly
culture Western or
Type III (Compromising adjustment A) 50% English and Third style of food Both adopt western
Couple adopts one aspect of both husband 50% Chinese (neither beliefs.
and wife’s culture, rejects one aspect of predominantly
both husband and wife’s culture, and Western or
adopts one aspect of husband’s culture. Chinese)
Type III (Compromising adjustment B) 100% English 100% Chinese Both adopt a third
Couple adopts one aspect of husband’s belief.
culture and one aspect of wife’s culture.
For the third aspect, both partners adopt a
third culture.
Type III (Compromising adjustment C) 100% English 100% Chinese Both retain
Couple adopts one aspect of husband’s original beliefs.
culture, one aspect of wife’s culture, and
both retain one aspect of their original
Type III (Compromising adjustment D) 50% English and Third style of food Both adopt
Couple accepts one aspect of each other’s 50% Chinese Chinese beliefs.
culture, adopts a third culture in another
aspect, and adopts the wife’s culture for the
third aspect.
Type IV (Synthetic adjustment) 50% English and 50% Western and Both retain
Couple accepts two or three aspects of 50% Chinese 50% Chinese original beliefs
each other’s culture.

3.2.2 Questions about language, food, and religious belief

To understand how the couples had adjusted, we asked the twelve subjects to
discuss three aspects of their lives: language, food, and religion. First, in terms of
language, we asked each subject what proportion of conversations with his wife is in
Chinese, and what portion is in English. Second, in terms of food, we asked each subject
what proportion of the meals that they eat together as a couple is Chinese and what
portion is Western. Third, in terms of religion, we asked them to express the amount to
which they believe in or practice Chinese religion. For the first two categories, language

and food, the subjects were able to answer in a straightforward manner by assigning a
numerical ratio. For the third category, we provided suggestions as to how they might
answer on a scale of 1 to 5, with “1” indicating “complete disbelief” and “5” meaning
“complete belief.” They were told that an answer of “1” might indicate that they refuse to
take part in any Taiwanese/Chinese religious activity, such as going to a temple,
worshiping the ancestors, or any similar practice; a “2” would be appropriate if they
usually did not take part in religious practice but might have done this one or a few
occasions; if they do not believe, but are willing to pretend to pray, to hold the incense
sticks, to bow to the gods, etc., in order to make their wives and/or families feel that they
are filial, they could select “3” as their answer; if they believe there might be some
supernatural benefit to praying along with their wives/families and they therefore actually
pray with the situation calls for it, but they do not necessarily pray on their own, they
could select “4” as the appropriate response; and if they pray, light incense, and bow to
the gods without their wives or family members necessarily being aware of this activity,
they could choose “5” as their answer.
The following table presents the subjects’ answers to the questions about the
language they use when conversing with their wife, the percentage of Chinese meals they
eat with their wife, and the extent to which they adopt Chinese beliefs. The column on the
far right indicates the adjustment category that best describes each subject.

Table 3: Adjustments by Language, Food, and Religion

Subject Percentage of Percentage of Index of Adjustment

Chinese Chinese meals religious belief category
1 100 80 1 I-2
2 25 80 1 III
3 40 70 3 III
4 50 50 2 IV
5 10 25 2 I-1
6 10 80 3 III
7 30 80 2 III
8 0 75 1 III
9 50 30 3 III
10 10 60 2 IV
11 50 70 1 IV
12 70 70 1 I-2

3.2.3 Results and Data Analysis
Chart 5: Adjustment Type Distribution

Type IV Type I-1

3 Type I-2
25% 8% 2

Type III

From the above data, we can see that one subject, comprising 8% of the total, is
classified as correlating with I-1. Two subjects, making up 17% of the total, are
categorized as I-2. No subjects were classified as II. Six subjects, comprising 50% of the
total are grouped with III. While three subjects, 25% of the total, are associated with IV.

Chapter 3.2.4 Western Spouses’ Adjustment

According to the results of survey, 75% of the total was classified as Type III
(Compromising) and Type IV (Synthetic Adjustment). To see how the Western spouses
actually adjust themselves into Taiwanese family more deeply, we conducted
questionnaire again about their relationships with Taiwanese in-laws. The following chart
shows their answer to the question about their relationships with in-laws.

Chart 6: Relations with In-laws

Other Good
2 3
Bad 17% 25%

Both good and No conflicts

bad 4
2 33%

Overall, approximately 60% of the subjects answered they had relatively good
relationships with their in-laws or at least no conflicts with them. One explained the
reason as his mother-in-law married a man from Hong Kong so his parents-in-law have

an understanding of intercultural marriage. Also, one said he used to have bad
relationships with in-laws but as he tried communicating with them more, in-laws
attitudes changed and now he has good relationships with them. On the other hand, 20%
of them answered that they always or sometimes had bad relationships. The biggest
reason for this bad relationship seems that in-laws are traditional families. Taiwanese
traditional families sometimes do not allow their daughters to marry ‘foreigners.’
Regardless of personality, the problem is that daughter’s husband is a foreigner.
Through the interview, we found some important factors which influenced
relationships with in-laws. The first factor is religion. We asked the twelve Western
spouses whether they have had conflicts with their Taiwanese spouses about religion
before or not. Two answers are not available and the other ten subjects answered that they
have had no conflicts about religion. Also, nine of those ten say that they are not very
religious though some of them have their own beliefs (Christianity) so they do not mind
worshiping their Taiwanese spouses’ ancestors. Remarkably, eight people answered that
they can worship for their spouses ancestors if that will make Taiwanese wives or their
Taiwanese families happy. That means Western spouses regard worshiping their
ancestors as an important factor for good relationships with their Taiwanese spouses and
The second factor is language. Some say that though their relationships with in-
laws are good, they have limited communication and cannot have any deep or close
communications because of language problem. This kind of problem is often seen in the
survey when their in-laws speak only Taiwanese. Also, one who has answered that he has
bad relationships with in-laws says that his parents-in-law are conservative and
traditional and especially his father-in-law never allows intercultural marriage even now.
Also, his in-laws speak only Taiwanese and Japanese so he cannot communicate with
them. We suppose in this case, language problem makes their relationships more
complicated because they cannot communicate well to narrow their gaps.

3.3 Employment
According to the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training, there are
27,064 foreign professional people legally working in Taiwan in April, 2009.17 The
foreign professionals have professional skills, are missionaries and artists, language
teachers in schools or cram schools, are employed in foreign investment, and work as
supervisors, coaches, and athletes. In order to understand in more detail their attitudes to
their employment, we interviewed our subjects about this topic, and below are presented
the outcome and our analysis.

3.3.1 Satisfaction with working conditions

According to Table 4 and Table 5, more than half of the interviewees indicate there
is no room to move up and have no equal chance to Taiwanese coworkers. Of the twelve
interviewees, six (50%) think that there is no room to move up and three of the six says
they are already in the ceiling for promotion. Three of the six people show that the
promotion system for foreigners and local Taiwanese is completely separately so they
have no equal change to Taiwanese coworkers. There is only one agree that all coworkers
have equal chance because all teachers are foreigners. Obviously, according to the
outcome of analysis, it reveals more than 50% interviewees don’t have room to move up
and equal chance to Taiwanese coworkers.

Chart 7: Opportunity for Advancem ent Chart 8: Equal Opportunity w ith Local

6 8
3 4
2 3
0 0
Not at all Yes Yes, with Not applicable
difficulty No Yes Not Applicable

Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training,
The information is from 15th January, 2004 to March 2009. The allowed working forces also include the
number in the science park and export processing zone.

3.3.2 Satisfaction with income
Table 6 indicates that it is a 50/50 basis for happy and unhappy with their income.
Of the twelve interviewees, the occupation of teaching shares 58%. Their pay may
depend on their teaching hours. However, according to the interviewees, there are two
kinds of standards to pay money to teacher, one is that school is based on month to pay
money to Taiwanese English teacher, and the other is that school is based on working
hours to pay money to Foreign English teacher. School arranges “the fixed working
hours” to “Foreign English teacher”, and school never arranges over the fixed working
hours to them. Foreign English teacher could not get extra bonus as Taiwanese English
teacher, for example, they could not get year-end-bonus because Foreign English teacher
are temporary worker. Some who are happy with their pay is because they think their
pay is higher than those of Taiwanese coworkers. According to the Bureau of
Employment and Vocational Training, in order to protect local Taiwanese’s job
opportunities and avoid the employers invite the blue collar work forces into the market
under the name of white collar work force (professional people), the authority concerned
rule these companies who employ the white collar force should obey the minimum salary
NTD 47,971 per month. In our cases, 60% of the subjects have an annual income of
between NTD 1.5 and 2 million.

Table 6: Satisfaction with Income

Satisfaction with income
Yes 5 42%
Yes, but more would be better 1 8.33
No 5 41.67
Not applicable 1 8.33
Total N=12 100%

3.3.3 Communication
Table 7 shows that over 50% of the twelve interviewees have communications
problems at work. Even though all of the coworkers can speak English, communication
problems exist because of cultural different and different way of expression. We can say
they don’t have language problems but have communication problems such as Taiwanese
further intonation or implication. Due to the tower of Babel in bible, the God indeed

confounded our languages and scattered the people on the earth. One of the interviewees
says that “effective communication can sometimes be a challenge and Taiwanese
sometimes misinterpret what he says.” Four of the interviewees indicate the problems
most resulting from cross-cultural communication. For those who answer “No” is
because all of their coworkers are foreigners or think intonation and implication are not
problems for them.

Chart 9: Communication Problems


3.4 Government Policy

One feature of globalization is that it facilitates the migration of people among
various nations. It is vital to form an immigrant community in order to evolve global city
as described in the literature review. In Taiwan’s case, the number of foreigners coming
to Taiwan has been increasing in recent years. In 2004, Taiwan welcomed 2,428,297
visitors, an increase of 616,263, or 34.01%, compared with 2003. Most of the foreigners
in Taiwan are long-term residents. By the end of 2004, the number of foreigners living in
Taiwan totaled 526,049, of whom 445,472, or 84.68%, were resident aliens, and 78,663,
or 14.95%, visiting travelers. The remaining 1,914 accounted for 0.36%. Accumulated till
April in 2009, the number of foreigners classified as residential aliens reached 400,681.18
Thus, cultural exchanges become so common that we face the situation of how the
government policy maker to deal with the new migrants and how the government to make
better policy to attract more foreigner to immigrate in Taiwan.
To understand the issues related to the rising rate of intermarriage in Taiwan and
how best to respond in terms of government policy perspective, we analyzed the
responses of the twelve subjects in regard to the policy of the Taiwan government, in

National Immigration Agency

particular focusing on four aspects, the influence of the legal system on the subjects’ life
experience in Taiwan, the income tax system, property laws, and the health care system.

3.4.1 Perception of impact of government policies

When asked whether governmental policies influence their life, nine (75%)
subjects acknowledged that they do, while three (25%) said that they do not have a major
influence. According to those subjects who they did impact their lives in Taiwan, there
are three important factors: immigration laws, work permits, and laws relating to property

Chart 10: Influence of Government Policies

Land ownership No influence

3 3
25% 25%

Work permit Immigration

3 3
25% 25%

In terms of immigration laws, three subjects (25%) reported that the immigration
laws have been gotten better over time and they were provided a residence certificate
because of their marriage. In addition, the marriage visa law was one of the most positive
reforms for foreigners in Taiwan.
Furthermore, three subjects (25%) said that they had difficulties in regard to
changes to the immigration laws. These difficulties were mainly due to the fact that there
were not familiar with changes that had taken place, and there were therefore unsure how
these changes impacted their own lives. For example, one subject found that he was
denied the opportunity to perform music professionally in 2006 after the work permit
laws were either changed or enforcement measures were strengthened. At that time, the
subject had an Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) through his place of employment and
not a Joining Family Residence Visa (JFRV), which he could have qualified for. After
facing this difficulty, he applied for and was granted a JFRV. Therefore, we assume that

most challenges with work and immigration status derive from the fact that Taiwan’s
government views English teaching professionals as migrant workers.
Three (25%) subjects also discussed the fact that they could not buy property in
Taiwan. They felt that this indicated a double standard in regard to how the government
treats foreigners and local people. They further expressed their disappointment that while
Taiwan denied foreign residents equal rights under the law, Taiwanese living in English-
speaking countries would be treated in the same way that citizens of those nations would
be treated. On the contrary, three (25%) foreign spouses observed that the laws are not
stringently followed in Taiwan, with one subject volunteering that the selective
enforcement of laws was primarily a means of “protecting the rights of the elite class.”

3.4.2 Tax system

Table 8: Attitude toward Income Tax System
Attitude toward Income Tax System
Unsatisfied 1 8%
Satisfied 11 92%
Total N=12 100%

Foreigners who work in Taiwan are required by law to file income tax.19 As the above
table indicates, the subjects were largely satisfied with Taiwan’s income tax system, with
one (68%) expressing dissatisfaction with the tax system and eleven (92%) saying they
were satisfied. Of those expressing satisfaction, reasons such as Taiwan’s comparatively
low income tax rate and the ease of filing taxes were cited as the key determinants of
their positive opinions. The one subject who expressed dissatisfaction with Taiwan’s tax
system suggested that the previous tax system was preferable. Currently, all foreign
residents are supposed to be taxed at the non-resident rate of 20% for the first six months
of each year, regardless of the length of time they have lived in Taiwan and paid taxes.
Some of those subjects who were satisfied with the tax system said that their employers
had not changed the withholding rate on their monthly pay. In the past, and in some cases
now, foreigners were taxed at the same rate as local residents who earned a comparable
income throughout the entire year. This subject works at a language school and says that

National Tax Administration

the new tax law is influencing foreign English teachers to leave Taiwan after working a
relatively short time in the country.

3.4.3 Property laws and home ownership

Chart 11: Property Laws

Unclear 8%
8 Unfair
67% 3

As to home ownership, one (8%) regarded Taiwan’s property laws as fair but
three (25%) said that these laws were unfair for foreigners. Fully eight (67%) of the
subjects professed to know very little about Taiwanese land law for foreign residents,
answering that the laws were so complex that they left those details to their wives. Those
who feel the property laws are unfair expressed the opinion that the right to own land was
limited, and some felt that they could not even register land in their own name but had to
do this in their wives’ name. They were worried about their rights according to the law if
their wife might pass away. Some even doubted whether they could arrange the funeral
and manage the property. In comparison, America does allow Taiwanese people to buy
land or a house in America. In other words, it would be easier for foreigner who married
Taiwanese wife do many things under his wife’s name.
According to Land Law and Regulations in R.O.C, foreigners may acquire or set
the rights in R.O.C. that is limited by their countries' pacts or laws citizen of R.O.C. may
have the equal rights. All agricultural land, forest, fishery, pasture, saltern, diggings,
region of water resource, military zone, and region of the border can not be transferred,
mortgaged, or leased to the foreigners. Foreigners no matter buy or lease the land are
limited to the list such as housing, school for children of foreigners and the investments
which are benefit on economy and farming are ratified by the central related management

department. Except the list above, there is a registration of changes in category of land
for the business. The purpose of the land which is leased or owned by foreigners for the
business that is chartered by R.O.C. can not be changed. Rights and Duties of those
foreigners who have the land rights Foreigners who want to lease or own the land must
first get the approval, and later apply for the registration. After the registration, foreigners
will have the rights and duties over the land under the laws and regulations of the
R.O.C.20 According to the Country and City government Registration of Land statistics,
foreigner Taiwan registered 9,163 plots of land from 2001 till 2008.21

3.4.4 Health care

All foreigners who carry alien resident certificate are required to participate in the
health insurance program. In addition, foreigners employed in business units with more
than five workers are insured under employer.22 In regard to the health care system, eight
(66%) subjects reported face in obstacles to receiving health care and satisfaction with
the level of the care provided available in Taiwan. However, four (33%) subjects reported
that they had difficulty communicating with doctors due to their inability to speak
Chinese well enough. For example, one subject reported that doctors did not want to
communicate with patients. He described going to a hospital, introducing his symptoms
to the doctor, and then immediately receiving a prescription for medicine. He expressed a
desire to have the doctor speak with him at more length and explain more clearly the
health problem he was experiencing. Another subject said that the health care system in
Taiwan compares unfavorably to Canada, his home country, but that the quality of care
provided was comparable. Furthermore, he said that while he had heard horror stories
about other foreigners experience with the healthcare system, particularly misdiagnoses,
he had never encountered these problems himself.

Chapter 4: Discussion

Department of Land “Law and Regulation”
Country and City Government, “Registration of Land and Building Rights Obtained by Foreigner from
2001 till 2008” Statistical Yearbook of Interior
The Department of Health, Executive Yuan

This chapter will discuss the findings of our research into our subjects’
experiences as transnational professionals in Taipei, offering comment on their own
socio-economic background, their adjustment to the local culture, both with their spouses
and in-laws, in terms of Takeshita’s model, and their perception of Taipei’s attractiveness
to foreign migrants on the basis of working conditions and government policy.

4.1 Socio-economic background

Given the very small size of the sample for this study, the results of the
questionnaire survey can in no way be said to be representative of the population of
transnational migrants in Taipei. Selection biases are evident in much of the data that was
collected, particularly in regard to the subjects’ gender, age, occupation, and other
factors, but it also provides for a similarity of background and experience among the
subjects that identified common issues of concern and provided the opportunity for
greater depth of analysis. Despite these limitations, the survey does yield data about
education levels, not only of the subjects, but also their wives as well, family size, home
ownership, income, and Chinese language ability.
Significantly, the research yielded data to show that the subjects of this study had
a slightly higher level of education that their wives, 16.6 years for the men versus 15.2
years for the women. According to Taiwan’s immigration laws, foreign professionals
must have at least graduated from a four-year university to qualify for residency and
employment. This law is now more rigidly enforced than in the past, with closer scrutiny
of diplomas, but individuals are occasionally discovered to have presented fraudulent
documents for inspection.
It was also discovered that family size among our subjects was comparable to
Taiwan’s average, with a total fertility rate of 1, but this rate will probably increase as
some of the subjects, particularly the younger ones, will have children in the coming
years. One contrast with the average in Taiwan is in regard to home ownership. The rate
of home ownership among the subjects is much lower than the average. While there is no
specific data to explain this difference, it could be attributed to the fact that all of the
subjects live in Taipei City or County, areas with the highest real estate prices compared
to other parts of Taiwan. It could also suggest that the subjects are unwilling to commit to

staying permanently in Taiwan. Supporting this explanation is the fact that none of the
subjects have applied for citizenship, although some of the subjects said they would be
willing to hold an ROC passport if they were not required by the ROC government to
renounce their original citizenship.
The survey also revealed that the subjects earned relatively high incomes
compared to Taiwan’s per capita GDP, but it did not have access to data that would link
these income levels to those of Taiwanese professionals and allow for comparison. Based
on anecdotal evidence, compared to other countries in Asia, incomes for transnational
professionals in Taiwan are higher than in China or Thailand, approximately equivalent
to those in Korea, and lower than in Japan. Compared to the subjects’ home countries, the
net income they earn in Taiwan is approximately equivalent or lower than what they
could earn abroad. One advantage that Taiwan has over western countries is the relatively
lower cost of living, allowing transnational professionals to save at a higher rate than they
would be able to at home.
As for the subjects’ Chinese language ability, the survey revealed that
transnational migrants in Taipei tend to have a higher ability to speak and comprehend
spoken Mandarin than to read or write traditional Chinese. In part, this can be explained
by the relative difficulty of written Chinese, but also by the fact that most of the subjects
in this study work in positions in which their English ability is the key factor in their
employment. The subjects speak Chinese to their wives, in-laws, and to a lesser degree,
their children, and in some social interactions with Taiwanese people, but predominantly
use English in their workplaces. The subjects’ inability or low ability to speak or
understand Taiwanese (Southern Min) or Hakkanese contributes to the difficulties they
face in communicating with their in-laws and is therefore significant in terms of their
cultural adjustment.

4.2 Family / Cultural adjustment

According to the result, the percentage of Type I-2 (Adjustment to Wife’s culture)
is bigger than that of Type I-1 (Adjustment of Husband’s culture). This is because we
conducted this questionnaire for Western husbands and Taiwanese wives living in
Taiwan and Western spouses have a tendency to adjust themselves to Taiwanese society,

Taiwanese culture or Taiwanese customs. Takeshita Shuko also conducted questionnaire
for foreign husbands who have Japanese wives and live in Japan and she also got the
same result with ours.
Type II (Alternative Adjustment) is a model for intercultural marriage couple
living in third country so this model may not work in our case. Therefore, we got 0% in
this category.
Half of the twelve couples belong to Type III (Compromising Adjustment).
Takeshita says as the period which a couple has been together is longer, then the couple
approaches Type VI (Synthetic Adjustment), which Takeshita says the ideal adjustment
model for intercultural marriage. Also, she says as the period is shorter, the couple may
have a tendency to belong Type I (Adjustment to Partner’s Culture). Interestingly,
Western Husband 3 and 7 answered that they used to speak only English with their wives
but as their Mandarin improves, the ratio also has been changing. Also, Western Husband
4 said when he and his wife started dating, his wife’s English was not very good and they
spoke almost only Mandarin. However, over the years, her English improved a lot and
now they use 50% English and 50% Mandarin in daily life. That means, as time passes,
there will be more possibilities to approach Type VI (Synthetic Adjustment).
The Western spouses, in our case study, try learning and adopting Taiwanese
language, culture and customs more as time passes. Though some says they have bad
relationships with their in-laws now, there might be possibilities to improve their
relationships like the process of wife-husband relationships approaching Type VI
(Synthetic Adjustment) as time passes. Also, we suppose that Takeshita’s adjustment
model might be extended from husband-wife relationship level into in-laws relationships

4.3 Employment
Being in a global city, the foreign workers should have equal chances to the local
ones. If the foreign work forces have equal promotional system in work field, it is
without saying that Taiwan would attract more foreigners working here and Taiwan
would be more competitive than other countries. When they have equal promotional
system here, local Taiwanese face the international competition instead of limited region

only. The foreigners pour cultural and intellectual differences into the society and inspire
the vivid improvement. Local Taiwanese and foreigners would emulate the merits from
each other and eliminate the narrow-minded way of thinking. All are equal in working
system providing the freedom market mechanism which is survival of the fittest that
upgrades social economic energy naturally. Besides, equal promotional system for
foreigners implies equality in many ways. The foreigners who are treated equally would
be trend to recognize the place they work. Recognizing here helps increase productivity
and benefits. Without saying, Taiwan will be more global, international and competitive
by intercultural actions.
Generally speaking, the pay for foreigners working in Taiwan should be higher in
order to attack better forces. Higher pay is one of the attractions that foreigners are
willing to work. In our interviewing, dissatisfaction with pay is due to two reasons.
Foreigners don’t have equal chance to local ones. They benefit no 7 days special vocation
offered by firms, and no extra bonus in three big Chinese festivals. Therefore, in light of
being globalization, they should have equal chance with local Taiwanese and even much
more pay to attract them to stay.
Judging from the above results, communication is a crucial problem. The
government should provide some regular training courses such as how to communicate
with your coworkers or boss, communication techniques to Taiwanese and so forth
before their entering into the job market. The government could reduce the
communication problems by providing some incentives to firms. The firms will mind the
communication gaps between the Taiwanese and foreigners and provide the proper
training or the course of cultural exchange that they could have success cooperation and

4.4 Government Policies

The results of our investigation into transnational professionals indicate a high level
of satisfaction with the income tax system and the national heath insurance system.
Overall, living and dealing with the government became easier for foreign spouses and it
was easier to take care of taxes and residency issues. Things might be more restrictive if
you are single. Some aspects of laws and circumstances may not be perfect but foreigners

could try to accept the fact that some things will be challenging. Our preferred future is to
have a multicultural society, which accepts different kinds of cultures in one society
without any prejudice against any other culture. To establish this preferred future society,
we need to work out hard in different aspects, including more relax migration and work
policy, multicultural education for the next generation, more social support for the
migrants and more positive reports from the mass media. The only path to the preferred
future society can only be shaped by our present actions.

Chapter 5: Conclusion

This study sought to provide insight into the lives of Western professionals who
live and work in Taiwan. Although limited in scope, this study does raise some important
findings. For Westerners who live in Taiwan, and for Taiwan’s ability to attract Western
talent, the results are encouraging. As Taiwan seeks to globalize its service sector, its
ability to attract Western professionals is critical. Despite substantial cultural differences
between the West and Taiwan, this study found that long term Western residents display
a high degree of adaptability to Taiwan’s workplace environment, family life and cultural
values. As Westerners spent more time in Taiwan, their adaptability and acceptance of
Taiwanese culture generally increased. Many long term Western residents married local
Taiwanese women and their relations with extended Taiwanese family members were
generally positive. The language barrier and prejudicial values on the part of older,
extended Taiwanese family members proved to be a barrier in a few cases but the overall
outlook for family integration between Westerners and Taiwanese looks encouraging.
Overall, Taiwan’s government policies have become more responsive to the needs
of foreign residents over time. Some minor problems still remain for work visas but long
term Western residents noted more freedom in pursuing work opportunities, especially
when they were married to a Taiwanese. In terms of career satisfaction, salary concerns
and communication challenges were the two areas that affected Western residents the
most. Although compensation was generally high, Westerners professionals are paid
under a different system which deprives them of certain benefits and other “extras.” This
system has led many Westerners to feel that they are not fully integrated into the

Taiwanese work environment. Workplace communication was also a challenge due to
cultural differences in communication style. With time however, differences in
communication style could be overcome.
The findings of this study have shed new light on a relatively untouched segment
of Taiwan’s foreign population. Much attention has been given to immigrants from
Mainland China and Vietnam. Western professionals have received little focus from
Taiwan’s media and academic community; additional study could confirm and further
examine the issues raised here. This study was limited by its small sample size. A broader
survey would provide quantitative data to support the qualitative nature of this study. The
case of Westerners in Taiwan could be compared with Western professionals residing in
other East Asian countries such as Korea or Japan. Future research could compare and
contrast the immigration and employment policies of Taiwan with countries like Japan,
Singapore or Honk Kong. The later countries are all highly globalized societies with
significant numbers of foreign professionals. This type of research could offer new policy
approaches as Taiwan’s government continues to develop its policies towards foreign
workers and foreign professionals.
Overall, Taiwan’s relationship with its foreign professional workplace is a
positive one. Taiwanese society is generally hospitable and welcoming to foreign
professionals. This characteristic will be a significant factor in Taiwan’s future
competitiveness and in its ability to attract foreign professional talent. Taiwan can add to
this advantage by enacting policies which ease the rules and restrictions which influence
foreign professionals living on the island.


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