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Tag: lăowài

This web site may be near its end. My US bank was recently bought out by ING Direct, they closed the accounts of all their customers living abroad. That leaves me without a debit card. Unfortunately, even after living in Taiwan for five years, I still haven’t found a local bank willing to give me one. I made a very exhaustive search in 2003, and then again in 2005 and came up with no success. Automatic refusal of all foreigners, including long term residents seems to be the norm.

I asked my current banks again. Taishin and Huanan refused me outright, while Fubon gave me a card specially crippled for foreigners, to prevent us from buying things online. I don’t really have the energy to check with a dozen banks again, especially since all evidence points to them being just as discriminatory as they were two years ago. Maybe I’ll look for a US bank that will serve international customers, but it will take a while.

For now, no debit card means no way to buy books online, no way to buy Skype credit, no way to order stuff, and most significantly, no way to pay for my web hosting. I’m not quite sure when Dreamhost will try to charge me for this month, but when they do, the site will go down. The same goes for everyone else I’ve been sharing hosting with. Such is life.

Related Posts:
No Debit Card for Big-nose
Denied Banking (
First Full Day in Shanghai

Update: If you’re a foreigner and want to be able to get a debit card, try calling the government help number at 0800-024-111 and telling them so. They were the ones who ended up helping me find a way for a couple of my friends here to get phone lines (without a local to sign for them), but when I asked about debit cards, they said that it wasn’t an issue for many foreigners.

Mark S. made a great find over at

Imagine some white guys in a fairly large U.S. city open a restaurant named “Mr. Taiwan Slant-Eyes Asian Cuisine.” And imagine that this restaurant specializes in distinctly Americanized dishes such as egg foo yong, fortune cookies, and California wraps. Now imagine the response. Isn’t this fun?

OK, now imagine a different situation: In Taiwan’s fifth-largest city some locals open a place specializing in Taiwanized Western food and dub their restaurant “Miss UK Cafe Pointy-Nose Foreign Food.”

As you’ve probably guessed, the second scenario is real. The “Miss UK Cafe ㄚ度仔 異國美食” (Miss UK Cafe a-tok-a yìguó měishí) recently opened not far from my apartment in Banqiao.

Asia really isn’t the place for people who are thin skinned about racial sensitivities.

Related Post: No Debit Card for Round-eye

Today, I met Brendan O’Kane (Bokane). He showed me around the city a bit. First we got a meal at a Sichuan place, then we hit a local punk concert, and after that we went to a popular hangout for “intellectual lăowài”, and got some Xinjiang food. It was a great day!

As I’ve previously read and added some of his Chinese writing to my delicious links, I knew Brendan’s Chinese would be good. I was completely unprepared for how good it would be, though. All I can say, is that guy is an animal! Not only does he read and write great Chinese, but his speech sounded just like a local Beijinger’s, at least to my humble ears. Not only that, but I hear he can do a pretty convincing Uygur accent!

I’ve known quite a few foreigners who speak better Chinese than I do, but Brendan was something different. Not only were there no communication difficulties, but his speech and demeanor seemed to put people to ease. When we were in the cab, he and the cab driver were using so much 兒音化 (Beijing “R” pronunciation) that I could barely follow them. What was clear though, was that he didn’t know exactly where we needed to go, and that the cab driver was smiling and happily dealing with route changes and our confusion. That stuff normally pisses cab drivers off. I swear the guy will be fending off CCTV show offers with a stick if he keeps this up much longer.

The Sichuan meal absolutely blew away any Sichuan food I’ve had in Taiwan. It was a nice restaurant, it was the first time I’ve been served genuinely spicy food in a Chinese restaurant outside the US, it was tasty, and it all cost the equivalent of about $150 Taiwanese dollars. A similar meal at a restaurant in Taibei would be at least $600, wouldn’t really be spicy and would be corrupted to suit the Formosan palette. Beijing definitely wins hands down when it comes to food.

The punk concert was also something very interesting and different to me. In my experience thus far, nearly all Taiwanese and HK songs I’ve heard were either wussy love ballads, wanna be hip-hop, or rap. That isn’t to say I don’t like some of it. I do. A-mei, Cai Yiling and Wubai, in particular, have some songs I like. But this was a totally different animal. Beijing has rockers; guys that come here with nothing but a guitar, 100RMB, and a dream; girls with green hair and piercings; foul mouthed announcers; and most of all, harder music. No wonder so many Beijingers think southerners are wusses. I sure felt like one.

Punk ShowPunk ShowHosted on Zooomr

The Xinjiang food and the intellectual lăowài gathering was kinda cool too. I met David, of Adsotrans, Joel of Danwei, some long haired translator guy, as well as some others. All in all, the food and the company were both great. It was an enjoyable ending to an enjoyable day.

I saw this on Michael’s website, today. For those readers convinced that “there is no prejudice against white-people”, maybe this will open your eyes a bit. One reader of my blog argued vociferously that me being kicked out of my appartment a couple of years ago (along with all the other white, but not the Asian-American/Canadian tennants) had nothing to do with racism. How about overt violence?

Recently, a man was dragged out of a club and beaten by three others with a baseball bat. The reason? He was a white guy dancing in a club. That’s it. Here is an account from one of the people involved:

Then he began to tell me that shortly after we’d danced, some men told him that he had to go i.e. leave the club. Some men took him outside and before he knew it there were three men beating him up with a baseball bat and baton. They hit him in the face, on his back, stomach, legs and knees.

More from Michael:

Anti-foreigner prejudices run deep here, and sexual jealousies are just the ticket to bring them to the surface. Lots of foreigners out with their Taiwanese wives and girlfriends have bumped up against this problem. As Feli notes in her original description:

So the five of us ended up going to a local dance club, located behind the Sogo and Mitusoki Department Stores in downtown Kaohsiung. I haven’t been there in about six months because I’d heard about a number of incidents involving Caucasian foreigners being beat up or hit over the head with a beer bottle for simply talking to, or dancing with a local Taiwanese woman.

While the police picked up the victim, so far the attackers have been unpunished. To make it worse, the Apple daily misreported the events, again. I don’t know if it’s because blogging is bringing more of these events to light or if there’s a genuine increase in these kinds of crimes, but I’m hearing more and more about them and meeting more and more people who have been involved in them.

Everybody knows how confused Taiwan is when it comes to pinyin, that’s no news. Likewise, it’s not surprising that few of the foreigners who came here without prior study have a firm grasp on any method of romanization, let alone a standard one. But one thing I’ve been noticing more and more is that all the “old Taiwan-hand” foreigners here seem to use the same funky romanizations. Two different bosses of mine wrote 罰寫 (which is fáxiĕ in pinyin) as “fasye”. Numerous old timers have written 中山 (which is zhōngshān in pinyin) as “chungshan”. One time, I read one of Michael’s posts about a restaurant he visited in Yŏnghé, very close to where I used to live. Despite the fact that I used to live within walking distance of the place, I didn’t realize where he was talking about until I asked him what some of his old Taiwan-hand pinyin meant. Similarly, I was once confused by a Leakypen posting which criticized the romanization used in a document and then went on to romanize 政治 (zhèngzhì) as “chengchi”. I pointed that out, and he defended the romanization as the “correct local romanization”. Knowing he’d been around a long time, I asked him how the system works. He didn’t get back to me, so I’m asking all the “old Taiwan-hands” out there!

If the correct way to romanize ㄓㄥ is “cheng”, ㄓ is “chi”, and ㄓㄚ is “cha”, then how are ㄔㄥ, ㄔ, and ㄔㄚ romanized in Taiwan? Also, are retroflexive r’s romanized at all? I.e., is a distinction kept between 俄 (ㄜ) and 二 (ㄦ) in Taiwanese romanization?

Obviously, I’m going to keep using the standard pinyin romanization system, and I’m not going to change the way my pinyin tone tool works to match some weird Taiwanese convention. I would love to learn what the convention is, though. I’ve read a bit about the history of romanization here and just assumed it was random, but there are way too many old-timers coming up with the same romanizations. There must be more to it than that. Anybody care to enlighten me?

One of the most frustrating things about living in Taiwan (or anywhere as a minority) is all of the racism one sees. One of my good friends when I first showed up, was a black guy. He graduated from a school pretty much equivalent to mine, had good grades, and a degree in linguistics. Neither bŭxíbāns, nor high schools would touch him with a ten-foot pole. Seeing that his work opportunities were so terrible here, he left. Friends have told me not to buy clothes at Hang Ten, because “That’s where Thai people shop.” On one occasion, I was kicked out of my apartment for being white. The landlady wanted to “get rid of the foreigners”, but the Asian-American guy and the Asian-Canadian gal could stay. Stuff like that happens. It’s part of life. Most frustrating of all, is that nearly every Taiwanese person I’ve met is convinced that racism doesn’t exist here; it’s just a “western problem”.

One area in which I’ve seen particular prejudice is in hiring practices. When I first moved to Táibĕi and was looking for computer-related jobs, I was turned down for my whiteness on a number of times.

We’ll hire ABCs as programmers, but not lăowài. Would you like to do some editing on English versions of our technical manuals?

It was often the same story. Interestingly, the situation is frequently reversed in bŭxíbāns, where it’s an advantage to be obviously white (preferably blue-eyed). The Sesame Street and Joy branches where I worked only hired Asians and whites, no blacks. Kiki did the same thing, but took it further by only hiring Asians and whites, and keeping an all Asian (including ABC) management. At both Tomcat and Modawei, blacks were hired, but no Asians. I guess it’s because those schools require that the teachers can speak Chinese. Maybe it worries the parents to see Chinese-looking people speaking Chinese in an English class when there’s no fresh off the plane blond haired Canadian there to back them up. Since my school also requires that teachers explain things in Chinese (in lower level classes), I figured we had the same rules. But we don’t! Yesterday, I saw a new interviewee visiting our school. There were two things special about this teacher.

  1. She’s female!
  2. She’s Asian-looking!

I’ve never seen any women working at HFRBs, and all of the ones where I’ve previously worked also had “no Asian” policies (to the best of my knowledge).

I asked Ron about it today, and was really pleased with what he had to say. He won’t hire “Fake ABCs”- the Taiwanese people who study abroad for 4 years and then come back saying they’re from Los Angeles. He will consider any native English speaker from north America, who has the Chinese skills, the teaching skills and the stability to stay long enough to take classes from the basics to graduation, though. “Black teachers too, right?” I asked. “Yep, I refused to bend on that,” was his response. I guess his local partner leaned on him pretty hard to NOT accept any black, Latino, or S.E. Asian looking applicants, but he stood his ground. There’s no way he can guarantee that applicants will be able to overcome the racist stereotypes of the parents to the degree necessary to open classes. But, anybody who’s qualified has a shot at the job, regardless of race. I know it may not sound anything to brag about to some of my friends back home, but believe me—it is here.

According to the Taipei Times, via Fred Shannon, foreigners in Taiwan will no longer be permitted to teach more than 32 hours per week. For teachers who work at more than one school, the total teaching hours in a week must stay below this limit. The minimum number of hours a foreign teacher may teach will remain at 14 hours per week.

The Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) has anounced that beginning in April, 2006, new regulations will come into effect limiting the number of hours foreign EFL teachers can teach.

Foreign EFL teachers will soon be limited to teaching no more than 32 hours a week. Also, if foreign teachers are teaching at a second school, they must at least teach 6 hours at the second buxiban. However, the total number of hours taught between the 2 schools must not exceed 32 hours a week.

I can agree with the CLA that schools have an incentive to get teachers to work as many hours as possible, and that it’s a bad thing. For teachers who exceed 32 hours a week, the quality of instruction would definitely suffer. The question is, why does this rule apply only to foreigners?

Last night I had the uncomfortable experience of reinforcing some negative stereotypes about lăowài. I’ve been hurt by these stereotypes in the past, and I hate to perpetuate them. Back when I’d only been living in Táibĕi for three months, I was kicked out of my apartment with very little notice because my landlady’s cousin was moving to the city to go to college and she didn’t want her to receive any unwholesome “lăowài” influences. Barely speaking any Chinese, and with little time to find a place to live, I was out on the street looking for “for rent” signs. That sucked.

Anyway, I went over to Mike’s place with Martin last night. Mike picked up some awesome calzones and salads from Alleycats. Then, we played ping-pong in the activity room in the basement of Mike’s apartment. We played “winner stays”, and for nearly four straight hours Mike and I took turns being abused by Martin who is inexplicably a freakishly good ponger. How such an absent minded guy could systematically destroy me in a game that’s so unforgiving of momentary lapses in attention is beyond me… but he did.

At about 2AM, we stopped and Martin and I resumed an earlier game of chess. All was fine, until some security guard came in and told us to get out of the activity room. Apparently, our four hours of ping-pong disturbed no one, but playing chess at that hour was inexcusable. The guard said that nobody was allowed to use the room after 10pm. Mike, being pissed about paying so much money in rent at such a nice apartment and being denied use of the facilities, decided to play the “English card”. That means just smiling and talking in English until the guy leaves. It didn’t work. The guy started getting more and more irritated, and Martin and I felt a bit guilty since we were five hours past the admittedly stupid closing time. We got up and took off, at which point the guard left. Unfortunately, Martin left his salad in the ping-pong room. Doh! We tried going back in a different entrance to get it, and set off an alarm. Doh! With the alarm ringing, our eyes darted back and forth between the already irate security guard coming back to the activity room and the half-eaten salad we had so graciously left for him to clean up. Running out of time and options, we made a run for it!

Sorry, Mike. That guy’s probably going to hate lăowài forever, now. And you still live there.

Well, I won’t be moving to my own host anytime soon. The reason? I don’t have a debit card. My US debit card expired last month. I’ve ordered a replacement, but I’m still waiting to get it. It seems like this is as good a time as any to bring up the fact that my ongoing efforts to get one in Taiwan have failed.

A debit card, for those of you who don’t know, looks like a credit card. It can be used like a credit card to buy things online, but it’s NOT a credit card. Debit cards don’t involve borrowing money or buying things on credit, they just charge money out of your bank account. If the bank account is empty you can’t buy anything, but on the good side there are no interest fees or any other fees involved.

About two and a half years ago, I went to 10 or 15 banks trying to get a debit card. Some didn’t offer debit cards at all; they weren’t that popular in Taiwan at that point. However, China Trust and Taishin have them. Unfortunately neither will give them to foreigners. The question is why not? Since they don’t let you borrow money, there’s no risk to the bank. One clerk said that since I’m American I “could just leave Taiwan at anytime”. So what? I could leave Taiwan, and then the bank would lose nothing since I couldn’t have borrowed anything from them. In fact, after I left, whatever balance remaining in my bank account would be theirs.

After huffing and puffing and complaining, I got China Trust to send me a written explanation. The funny thing is, they lied to me in it. They said that due to a problem with their system, foreigners temporarily couldn’t apply. That was two and a half years ago. I went in last week, and I’m still not allowed to apply. I showed them the letter and they just said, “Oh, the system still has the same problem.” Does two and a half years count as temporary?