The Chinese expat blogosphere and twittersphere are abuzz over yet another Why I'm leaving China article by a long term and arguably successful white expat. This trend of writing farewell letters started with Mark Kitto in 2012 and has become a thing ever since. CNN Money published his letter which is now being heavily reshared all over the internet. It's about Marc van der Chijs, a Dutch entrepreneur known as the cofounder of Tudou (the Chinese alternative to YouTube). He is leaving China after 13 years mainly because of pollution, and some other reasons - read his article here. Beijing Cream highlighted some of his key points very well, and it's fair to say that most people's reactions to Marc's letter were less than flattering (check Why nobody cares you're leaving China on Storify or browse through Twitter).
Taiwan, the place were no farewell letters get attention
This made wonder why are there no farewell letters of Taiwanese expats published on sites like CNN Money? There were several letters published on personal blogs and Forumosa in the past months, yet no media cared to republish them. Why is that? It's mainly because Taiwan's size, the political status, and the type of expats that live here. The country is constantly struggling to get international media's attention, and it's very likely that no such letter will ever be published outside Taiwan's blogosphere. But since I know that many of you are curious about how such letter might look like, I decided to rewrite CNN's article, and adapt it for Taiwan. This is of course a parody, a spoof (so please don't pretend to be offended and complain in the comments). I don't know anyone who's like the person in my post below, the name is made up, and all the things I say are based on stereotypes (and as we all know stereotypes could not be further from the truth). If you are too sensitive to satire, please stop here, leave this blog, and never come back. This is how a Taiwan expat's letter might look like on CNN Money:
THE RISE OF TAIWAN
Why I'm leaving Taiwan - opinion
By Kevin van der Schijs @CNNMoney March 27, 2013: 11:22 PM ET
When I first came to Taiwan as an expatriate in early 2000 to work for a buxiban in Yonghe, I had no plans to stay.
But I fell in love with this country and a Taiwanese woman, and ended up making Taiwan my home for more than 13 years. Initially I stayed for the hot girls and easy life, as well as the foreigner friendly vibe that runs through cities like New Taipei and Taichung, but when we accidentally got our first baby, I knew there was no escape for many years.
While living in Taiwan I was able to work for several English language schools, I modeled, and I started my own blog called cycling-in-the-chung.blogspot.com. I also invested in many Taiwanese Internet cafés and betel nut shops and helped them to grow.
However, about two years ago I realized that my love for Taiwan was slowly changing, and I first started thinking about moving to a different place.
Over the years, pretending to be a business man had become more and more difficult for a non-Taiwanese. Although many areas have been extremely welcoming to white guys, outsiders are not able to make double the money with half the work of a Taiwanese English teacher anymore.
For example, foreign looking teachers can only make two times more money than local looking ones. Once you have a buxiban up and running, it will be more closely scrutinized by suspicious Taiwanese parents who are on to something. There are still tons of buxiban opportunities available in Taiwan, but I generally felt less leisurely in recent years as a foreign quasi-entrepreneur.
Much more important than this, however, was the fact that air pollution and food quality seemed to be getting worse in my adopted home.
I have a family with two young kids, and found myself wondering about the health effects of long-term exposure to stinky tofu smell. Without children, the smell may not have been as important a factor to me, but I want my kids to grow up in a stinky-tofu free environment. I also missed being able to exercise outside, having been forced to run indoors on a treadmill for several years -- even while training for a 3 months long trip around the island.
Related Story: Shenkeng, Taiwan's stinky tofu capital
I also won't miss Taiwan's sluggish Internet. Because I traveled internationally at least twice a year (mostly visa run to Hong Kong), I was able to see how fast connection speeds were in other countries, and it frustrated me every time I came back to Taichung and had to depend on the incredibly slow 3G connections. The fact that more and more dating sites were only in traditional Chinese didn't make life easier either. When the government also started to sell Taiwan to China from 2008 on (I support DPP), I realized that the situation was not likely to improve anytime soon.
After looking at many places, my family eventually decided that Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan would be our preferred place to live. It's the city that best suits our desire for good weather, an active lifestyle and new business opportunities. I joined CrossPacific Buxiban Association as a partner, and will help North American English teachers to set up or expand their activities in New Taipei. In that way I have the best of both worlds: I live in a great place and can still travel to Taiwan regularly and use my buxiban business knowledge and network.
Looking back, I had a fantastic time in Taiwan and a much better life than I could have imagined when I arrived there as a 23-year-old. I helped build several buxibans, made tons of expat friends and started seeing the world from a different perspective than the one that the Western media had given me. I liked the international atmosphere of Taichung, with its many expat clubs, expat restaurants and fast-paced scooters.
As for Taiwan, I am an optimist and think the current problems will eventually be resolved. If needed, the Taiwanese government can take big steps to combat the stinky tofu smell and related problems, without having to worry about the next elections. These problems are not things that will go away in a year or two, but I think that over the next decade we will see a huge improvement.
Kevin van der Schijs has lived and worked in Taiwan for more than 13 years. He is the writer of cycling-in-the-chung.blogspot.com, owner of many Taiwanese Internet cafés and betel nut shops. He is now a partner at CrossPacific Buxiban Association in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.