Wednesday, March 2, 2011

TECO's Response to Lindsay Craig

Here's an interesting response to Lindsay Craig's article on teaching in Taiwan.  Seems the re-telling of her trials and tribulations during a 7 month stint in Taiwan raised some ire both at home and abroad!  The most controversial travel memoirs I've seen for awhile!

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 Wang
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office Ottawa
If 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.

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.



  1. Although I agree with your comment about how, in a reversed situation, lambasting Craig would be racism, but lets not forget that her comments on the culture in general were not only disrespectful, but she also left in 7 months. Given that Canada has some of the highest immigration rates in the world, with some provinces buzzing cultural hubs, you don't see that many immigrants "culturally shocked" and driven into to nervous breakdowns by, say the Downtown Eastside. They stay, and flourish. Not only did she leave, but she couldn't even accept the "unfamilarity" of a Canadian culture (UBC). These are the people writing for the Gazette? Unadaptable people living in unpolluted, glass houses ?

  2. @Anon: I see your point, and I think her complaints--which she is entitled to express--could be construed as a bit ‘wimpy’ ( a la Julian in my update). But this post was more about the response than the validity of her complaints.

    Culture Shock is culture shock. In my line of work, I experience a large number of immigrants who undergo immense culture shock in Canada. Many leave, some complain, and a few even write articles such as Ms. Craig's (e.g. horrible food, crazy taxes, free but lousy healthcare, etc.) Shock is subjective and even biased at times.

    But I must defend my point about contexts. You can’t analogize the immigrant experience in Montreal and Taichung, let alone make judgments on it. If we do that, it would be as faulty as arguing the protest over her argument was disproportionate because, had she written about a bad experience in Vancouver instead, no one would have cared.

  3. To Lai Wongbao: I don't think She has guts to write about any bad experiences in Vancouver or any other places within North America...because she'd get buried in a massive criticism...much bigger than the one she sabotage about Taiwan, believe me.

  4. What an irony, as a Asian American who speaks 4 languages fluently (English, Chinese, Parisian French, and Japanese), I found that, while travelling to Montreal, not many people, especially those with Anglo names, do not speak a word of French! When I tried to speak French to locals asking for directions or ordering in restaurants, I either got shunned, or my contacts simply walked away from me, language barriers? Of course, I believe stupidity will always remain stupidity, and stupid people will always remain, unsurprisingly, stupid.

  5. Hi! Thanks for your comment. Montreal is an interesting place culturally. Just like Taiwanese and Mandarin (and even then, Guoyu and Putonghua)--you need to know when to speak Quebecois and when to speak English.

    Parisian French might have made it worse for you as the rest of Canada learns Parisian French, but Quebec speaks Quebecois (or Quebec French), and that's a big identity thing right there. Many French don't like the 'joual' that Quebecois speak and vice versa.

    Not trying to justify the rudeness of some people but language, dialect and accent have a lot to do with how you are accepted in a place. Just sayin' ;)