Although I had a nice acknowledgement of my points from Ms. Craig in the comments section, she got slammed by a number of people both here and on Michael Turton's blog when he linked to the piece. (Read the comment sections in both blogs.)
The Gazette comments were just short of a lynch mob. Obviously, if you have a difficult time living in a country or feel any isolation after 7 months, it's your fault because you shouldn't have any difficulties or even try to travel anywhere else if you are going to complain. Many 'travelers' compared their experiences--do I even need to mention what's wrong with that? Culture shock baaaaad. Shame on you, Ms. Craig. It's easy to be annoyed about those who complain about diarrhea when you don't have to drink the local water.
I also laughed at the comparisons to the Taiwanese community in Montreal. People have no idea of the differences in visa requirements, access to language (different education systems) and culture (monocultural vs. multicultural). Whatever happens to you is your fault and if you don't like it, go home. It's funny that were the situation reversed, (saying that about someone who immigrated to Canada) it would be out and out racism. And it stands in stark irony to what Canadians tend to do for others who come here in terms of language support, acculturation and general volunteer services.
Of course, posters to Turton's blog were a bit more understanding because, like myself, many have been there, done that. I found the comments on the whole at his blog to be more balanced. Some liked Taichung, some didn't. In the end, Ms. Craig also didn't and has every right to dislike the smells, bugs and whatnot.
Most interesting was this letter received by the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office and posted in the Gazette:
Re: "Cultural shock" (Gazette, Feb. 26).
Lindsey Craig shared her experience being an English teacher for seven months in Taichung, Taiwan, in 2005. Although the teaching job was in general pleasant to her, she found it hard to cross the environmental and communication barriers, though, as she put it, "if I'd more carefully prepared, it could have been one of the best" experiences of her life.
We are sorry to learn that Craig's stay in Taiwan was not satisfactory to her. We know that many things, such as road signs in English and air pollution, need to be improved so that the environment will be more friendly to foreign visitors.
Taiwan signed an agreement on youth mobility with Canada last year, which allows youths from both countries to work while travelling in each other's country. As Craig wrote, Canadian English teachers are very welcome in Taiwan. We therefore encourage Canadian youths to make good use of the program. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada is more than willing to provide information.
Emily WangIf you've read this blog you'll probably get an idea of what my general feeling for TECO is--although having met some of them one on one, many are good people. The system, as they admit, still needs work.
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office Ottawa
I guess the thing that really bothers me about the letter--although admittedly fair--is that it in a plug for their youth program, it advertises that almost any Canadian kid can be an English teacher in Taiwan. Be very careful about this comment. First off, you need a degree, second off, there are some schools out there with very dodgy reputations looking for kids to capitalize on.
Ms. Craig's original advice still applies. Do your homework and really investigate these type of programs. Not everyone follows labor laws in Taiwan like in your home country and while there are positive aspects to working in Taiwan, there are also a slew of negative teaching experiences by those who thought they would do as Ms. Craig did.