Apologies to the Bard.
Not really. He cracked more than a few puns in his career, and took more liberties with the language than a texting teen on a cellphone. Of course, Shakespeare’s material was imminently more readable than the traditional “c u l8er m8, good crack 2nite, your gr8!” garbage that passes for communication amongst the IQ deprived. So, the Ideas of March.
They say that things come in threes. Obviously, most people have never submitted short stories for publication. Rejection letters don’t come in threes. They come in droves. All of them politely worded and politically correct, and ultimately, saying the same thing. “No.” In my experience, things don’t come in threes. They come until you stop making them come. Which is why March is looking to be a busy month for my wife and I.
You see, we’ve known for some time that Taiwan wasn’t going to hold us for long. Granted, every time we come to Taiwan, it holds us for a lot longer than we ever anticipate. But even so, the time is drawing near when we will once again be leaving the island. I first came to Taiwan in 2002, an over-sized and pretty much ignorant foreigner with no Chinese speaking ability and no real idea of Chinese culture past a chicken chow mein and bad kung fu movies. I’ll be leaving Taiwan in 2011, an over-sized and still pretty much ignorant foreigner with a smattering of Chinese and a much better idea of Chinese culture. (Still like Chicken Chow Mein and bad kung fu movies though!)
Taiwan is the ultimate comfort zone. If you are able to get beyond the mild xenophobia that exists in Taiwan, you are going to lead an excellent and interesting life. Incidentally, I MEAN xenophobia. The Taiwanese are no more racist or classist than any other nation I have known. And while they might get embarrassed when speaking to foreigners, or feign a lack of understanding to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation, it is far more usual to hear negative comments levelled at the Taiwanese by foreigners living here. One big plus for the Taiwanese is that they are uniformly tolerant of all religions. I have received far more criticism for my atheism in the west than I ever have in the east. Perhaps it is that Islam and Christianity are young religions (As compared to most of the Eastern religions) and are still focusing on proselytizing. Whatever the reason, the Taiwanese are relaxed about virtually everything except work and the traffic.
The “Chinese work ethic” is something that gets bandied about by managerial types over mocha-frappe-choco-lattes and power meetings. And in every case, the speaker has little or no idea of what they are talking about. I am not saying that western people don’t work hard, far from it… I have a father who nearly worked himself to a standstill to provide for us, but by and large, the sheer dedication and amount of hours put in by the average Taiwanese shames western workers. I believe that most of it stems from an inherently Confucian societal work ethic. It can get swiftly frustrating as a foreigner working in that environment. My first instinct when asked to take work home over the weekend is “No.” It certainly isn’t that way for them.
Traffic is, however, the greatest failing of modern Taiwanese culture. Traffic lights are not optional, but they ARE open to negotiation. In a metropolitan area with over 5 million residents, Kaohsiung has some pretty hairy traffic snarls. And scooters, well, they are legion. It is not uncommon to come around a blind corner on a busy road, scooters ahead, behind and around you… only to find some hapless moron driving against the traffic on his own scooter. And the usual suspects are to blame…youngsters and drunks. Youngsters are a particular problem here. Instead of driving a crappy Honda Civic with more plastic skirting than a collection of Goth Barbies, they drive souped up scooters. And of course… there is the issue of hair. The current trend for Taiwanese youngsters is a hair-style akin to a manga series. Spiky, and omni-directional. Said style requires a monstrous amount of hair-gel and time to apply, and thus, they tend to be hideously afraid of wearing helmets. Fast driving and a lack of helmets… well, there is an argument of Darwinism.
But I digress. I was saying that Taiwan was a comfort zone. And it is. In terms of salary percentage, a full-time foreign teacher is sitting pretty. The average salary for a full-time teacher runs anywhere between NT$55,000 and NT$65,000. (If you’re earning less, change jobs… you’re being taken advantage of.) Let’s call it NT$60,000. My wife and I live in a nice part of town, in a four bedroomed, two bathroomed, twin balconied, furnished apartment. We pay NT$ 16500 per month, including all guard and door fees. (That included garbage removal, building cleaners and security BTW) That’s 44k left over to eat and play with. Very comfortable indeed. We know that our move to the UK is going to result in a big change to that standard of living. Taiwan is a great stepping stone to Asia, and with return flights to Hong Kong starting at 10K, well, there is plenty of opportunity to play.
And yet… we are moving to the UK. Why? And the answer is family.
There is no better destination in life than to be with family. (Assuming that you like yours, of course.) My family has done a fairly good portion of the globe over the last few years, and this move will mean that everyone is permanently on the same continent for the first time in nearly a decade. Which is awesome.
To make our move a little easier, the wife and I are beginning studies in TEFL. Nothing serious, but it would be nice to have a UK recognised diploma that reflects the experience that we have gained over the last 8 years. That entails part-time study over the next 3 months. Which is the same time period where we are trying to
b) ship a household full of stuff to the UK
c) apply for jobs in the UK
d) wrap up everything here and
e) arbitrarily relaunch a personal blog.
Yeah. Perhaps that Chinese work ethic has rubbed off a little. Or perhaps I am just a sucker for punishment.
Is it all going to last? I hope so. If nothing else, the next Missive will be a little more personal, and a little more immersive.
If you have any comments or questions, observations or grumblings, leave a comment.
(Written on March 17th, 2011.)