Daily Life in Taiwan: An Interview with Yu-Chen, a Taiwanese Elementary School Teacher
In an interview with Yu-Chen (also known as “Joyce”), a Taiwanese elementary school English teacher, we can see what things about daily life are the same as in the United States, and also what things are different. We can also see the role that international education plays in Taiwanese culture and in its school system. In this interview about daily life in Taiwan, Yu-Chen talks a lot about her experiences with other cultures growing up, which reveals the importance Taiwanese people place on knowing about the world around them.
Introduction: Taiwan is a democratic, developed country located south of Japan, and very close to China’s southern coast. Daily life in Taiwan is similar to that in the United States—people live with their families, they have pets, they go to work every day, and they like to hang out with their friends and have fun on the weekends. However, daily life in Taiwan is also very different from the United States in a lot of ways. Taiwan’s small size and closeness to other Asian countries has made the Taiwanese government put an emphasis on international experience and education. This can be seen in the life of Yu-Chen, an elementary school English teacher in Luodong, Taiwan. Yu-Chen is well educated, and has a broad knowledge about other cultures and countries. She knows four languages, and has traveled to over fifteen countries. While she may be special in how much time she has been able to spend abroad, this awareness of other cultures is something that is very common among Taiwanese people. Below is an interview with Yu-Chen where she describes some parts of her daily life. This interview not only shows what Yu-Chen’s life is like, but also illustrates the large role international education plays in her own life, and also in the lives of other people in Taiwan.
1. What is your full name?
My full name is Huang, Yu-Chen (Hanyu Pinyin is Huang1, Yu4-Zhen1). In Chinese, your last name goes before your first name. My last name is Huang, and my friends call me “Yu-Chen.” Most Chinese people have three words in their names. That is the standard. I also have an English name, Joyce. I use this name when I am in an English-speaking environment.
2. Where do you live? What is your house like?
I live in a small town with more than 70000 residents in rural Taiwan. The town is called Luodong. Luodong has a lot of fields and rice paddies. It is really beautiful in the Spring and Summer when you can see the mountains and the green sprouts of the rice that go on for miles. One of my favorite places to go in Luodong is Meihua (Plum Blossom) Lake, to have coffee and look at the water, the mountains, and the beautiful daoist temple there. I live in a three-story house in the center of Luodong with a garage and a backyard. I have lived in that house my whole life with my parents and my brother. The house is 25 years old but it doesn’t look old.
3. What is your family like?
I live in a small family with my parent and two cats. I have a younger brother and he is currently living in another city. My brother is in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. He is a doctor there. He sometimes comes for a visit every month or so. My mother is retired, but she once worked for the Taiwanese government. She worked at a natural area in Luodong for awhile doing office work. My family members are shy but nice. I’m not a shy as they are!
4. How do you get around?
I drive a car. In Luodong it is more convenient to have a car in case you want to travel. Parking is okay, but in Taipei it is terrible. It is very hard to find a parking space because there are so many cars! So, I only like to drive to Costco on the edge of Taipei city, and try not to drive inside Taipei. Also, it rains a lot in Taiwan, and especially Luodong and Yilan—200 days out of the year!—so having a car is nice for keeping myself dry and warm.
5. What types of clothing do you like to wear?
I always wear T-shirt and jeans in my free time. When I am working, I wear a dress or nicer shirts. I like to buy a lot of international brands. Clothes in Taiwan are very expensive and sometimes the quality is not as good as imported clothes. While it is more expensive to buy things from American Eagle, or Zara (a Spanish brand) or IZZUE (a Japanese brand) or Uniqlo (another Japanese brand), I think it is worth it because the clothes look good and last a long time.
6. What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to read, go sightseeing and meet some friends in my free time. I am currently applying for a PhD in Education, and am doing a lot of work on my proposal and the outline of my research. I am interested in looking at how elementary school children adapt when they participate in an international cultural exchange program. I will be going with some students from my school to stay with them for one month in Thailand, where they will be studying at an English school. So, I spend my free time preparing for this trip and doing some research on cultural adaptation before I go. When I am not busy doing this, I like to meet up with friends for food and coffee. Mostly around Luodong or Yilan, but sometimes I like to go to Taipei, because Taipei has a lot of different restaurants with food from all over the world. The Japanese food there is especially good!
7. What language(s) do you speak? How do you say “hello” in your language?
I speak Chinese, Taiwanese, English and a little bit of French. I grew up learning Chinese, Taiwanese, and English. In Taiwan, we start learning English in first grade. In Chinese, you can say “Ni Hao,” or “Li Ho” in Taiwanese, for “Hello!”
8. Do you have pets?
I have two obese cats. They love to eat. I have to go to Costco twice a month and buy huge bags of cat food for them…it gets pretty expensive.
9. Have you traveled? Where have you traveled to?
Yes. I have traveled a lot and I love to experience different cultures and environments. I have been to Japan, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. I cannot pick a favorite place, because every place is special for its own reasons. But I did really enjoy German food! This summer I hope to visit Vietnam for the first time, even though I hear it is very, very hot!
10. What do you do for work?
I work as an elementary school English teacher in Luodong. Right now I teach first and third grades. I have been teaching for about ten years, and I really love my school and my coworkers. Now, I am looking to get my PhD in Education, and would like to spend some years doing research and living abroad in Europe.
11. Is there anything else you would like to say to students in the United States?
Taiwan is a developed and democratic country in the East Asia. In Taiwan, the weather is always warm. You can only see the snow in some tall mountains in winter. Taiwan is a tourist friendly country where you can meet some nice people, enjoy great food and see beautiful landscapes. Taiwanese people have a reputation for being very kind, welcoming, and generous to foreigners. I welcome all of you to Taiwan. You will fall in love with this small country!
A recent photo of Yu-Chen, aka Joyce, an elementary schoolteacher in Taiwan
Joyce and I at a teaching workshop for ETAs and local English Teachers
Joyce and her friends from her travels all over the globe —Germany, Spain, Japan, and France— celebrating a friend’s birthday
A photo of Joyce in front of the Berlin Wall