Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Expat Culturein Taiwan: Everyone is setting up a marketing company

There are a number of stages you go through in Taiwan. This one was called: Taiwanese don't write perfect English so i am going to set up a marketing company.

"Just look at this, buddy,” said Josh holding up the brochure for his student’s hose-pipe company, and blocking access to my food which was sizzling away on the teppanyaki hotplate in front of me. “The English is wrong, and the packaging…Just make a few simple changes and I could significantly increase the value of this person’s product. Differentiate it from their competitors.”

We were having dinner in a teppanyaki housed in one of the labyrinth of lanes that ran between Shih Ta University and National Taiwan University, Taiwan’s best university. There were so many students in the area that a night market plus hundreds of cheap coffee shops and restaurants had sprung up, catering to this crowd. Josh was a young Canadian who had only been in Taiwan around six months, and was still troubled why the Taiwanese weren't making life even easier for him than it was.

I sighed, it seemed I was going to hear another foreigner talk about setting up a marketing company. Marketing was a rather grandiose term for that kind of business: Taiwanese struggled manfully through writing brochures, websites, and email in English. You, the white guy, would do it for them but call it marketing and charge much more than you would for editing. Like teaching, it was a no-brainer.

Typical conversation:

“I am supposed to teach in this company twice a week, but really all I do is to correct their English email. That is the business to get into, fortune to be made,” had said X-foreigner in a bar somewhere in Taipei, as I listened on.

“Not just email, mate. Have you seen the web sites? There is shit-loads you can do,” replied Y-foreigner.

“Yeah, of course. A complete English marketing package. Can’t fail.”

“Fuckin’ great here innit.” Cue to both parties laughing congratulatory at finding the treasure map - They had seen that the Taiwanese did not speak perfect English and they were going to exploit it.

“Yeah, I am thinking about getting out of teaching. Give me your number, maybe, we can set something up!”

“Alright, cheers mate. I’ll give you a call.”

I can tell you 99% of people never make that call.

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