Working in Taiwan

Expats working in Taiwan will find themselves part of a continuously growing capitalist economy marked by low unemployment rates, rising salaries and increasing output. That said, most foreigners moving to the tiny island are relegated either to the ESL teaching industry or to the confines of the multinational organisation that initially enticed them to relocate. 

As of the last century Taiwan has exchanged its agrarian roots for electronic extensions to become a global player in the information technology and electronics game. The small nation is one of the world's largest producers of computer-related products, and it continues to pump funds and promote enterprise in technology-intensive industries.

As a result, many multinational firms, including over twenty of the top ICT companies in the world, have opened up branches in one of Taiwan's three major cities: Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung.

Finding a job in Taiwan

Based on the large number of international organisations that have set up shop on the island, intra-company transfers are a primary source of employment opportunity for expats working in Taiwan. This is the easiest way for foreigners to find a job in the country, especially for those who wish to find a senior management position.

For those who'd prefer not to become a cog in the corporate wheel, there are management, finance and design/marketing positions available in Taiwan; but expats will need to work hard to prove they hold exceptional skills and a high level of education and experience.

Many of the positions occupied by foreigners in these sectors during Taiwan's industrialisation are now sourced locally. Expats will find that learning Mandarin is a great way to get a foot in the door. More opportunities will materialise for those with even a mediocre grasp of the language.

Overall, though, the most common jobs for expats in Taiwan are related to the English language itself.

All positions require a work permit and an Alien Residency Card (ARC).

Teaching English in Taiwan

Many expats living in Taiwan complain that locals perceive Westerners as capable of only teaching, translating, writing or editing English. While this perception can limit career choices on the island, it also has provided thousands with the opportunity to move to Taiwan and find a job quickly and easily.

English teaching jobs are plentiful. It is not absolutely necessary to have a TEFL certification, though it is necessary to be a native English speaker, to have a university degree and to obtain a work permit. That said, schools are eager to act as employer-sponsors for enthusiastic and creative teachers willing to devote at least a year to working in Taiwan. Future expats must organise documentation beforehand. There are plenty of intermediary companies that can even assume this burden and place teachers within schools.

It should be noted that salaries are not as high as in the past for this particular profession.

Working etiquette in Taiwan

  • The concept of "face", meaning essentially a person's/company's dignity and prestige, governs all actions and behaviour both in leisure and work culture in Taiwan. Expats should keep this in mind and realise that decisions are often made to give face, lose face or save face - not necessarily to act in the best interest of the business.

  • Meetings are formal in Taiwan; expect to shake hands, use formal titles and to greet or introduce the most important person first. It is best expats follow by example initially.

  • Give a business card (with one side translated into simple Chinese) after the introduction and present it with both hands.

  • Expats should make all efforts to avoid confrontation in business. Any loud or angry outburst will be considered unforgivably rude. Indirect communication or no communication at all is viewed as preferable to causing a colleague to lose face.