Working office standards in Taiwan – what issues couldn’t pass in Poland?

By Michael Glasek, Class of 2023

Talking about cultural differences is like walking on a landmine full of old bombs – most won’t bother anybody, but what if I set that one off? Comparing countries, people, places and others is very much like that. You may say one thing that won’t bother anybody, but picking THAT topic might be the bomb you were trying to avoid. Nevertheless, I will compare how people (by generalisation) work in Taiwan and Poland. I will mostly touch on businesses and institutions that are larger in size and touch upon topics that are more familiar to an average Joe. While the chosen aspects of work in Taiwan are generalised, they are based on my personal experience with a couple of Taiwanese companies, educational and governmental institutions and countless stories from friends and colleagues living in Taiwan for a few months to decades.

Working environment issues in Taiwan? (Photo by Jose Losada) 

A short disclaimer - if I offend any readers, please don’t take it personally as this article is not to ridicule or belittle any of the countries but rather to show certain flaws that could be improved.

 1. Working hours

As most of the world has adapted to the standard nine-to-five working cycle, I am always baffled to hear so many people are working after hours. The idea of staying late is natural, and I believe nobody minds waiting for an extra hour or two once in a blue moon. However, as I moved to Taiwan, I noticed a multitude of people staying late, not getting paid for it, and being somehow proud of working twelve hours a day, just for the sake of “that is what my boss wants”, “I have to come before and after my boss”, “If I don’t stay late, I won’t get a promotion”. While dedication to your lifestyle – be it work, hobby or personal life is a great trait, following this kind of logic is a straight path to losing your life/work balance and a quick way to work burnout. And please, don’t remind me of my friends constantly in standby mode – even on a Saturday night.

Why would you work on a Saturday if you could visit this? (Photo by Thomas Tucker)

 2. Physical vs digital paperwork

Back in the good old days of fewer internet things, I was used to going everywhere to take care of the government, work or school-related stuff. I am happy to say that in most of Europe (partially due to the Covid-19 pandemic), there was a massive advancement in digital transformation. Most things are done online – including opening bank accounts, taking care of university procedures, applying for various documents and permits and much more. I am wasting so much time having to travel to banks in Taiwan, having to sign more and more agreements and statements like opening an app account or getting the possibility to transfer money (yes, I needed to sign an extra form to gain access to most basic uses of a bank account). While this might be different for the locals (they can do much more online), foreigners face these issues regularly.

Also, as Taiwan is now adopting a more remote work style for some fields like engineers, and retail, it is still relatively uncommon to work remotely in a Taiwanese company.

 3. Communication issues

While I love Taiwan and the Taiwanese (among the top 3 nicest people in the world), getting things done here can be tricky. Everybody around you wants to feel appreciated (and while I agree it is nice to be friendly, people do jobs for a particular reason) and treated like they are your boss/own you. The idea of niceties and dozens of emails sent back and forth just for the sake of it is a complete waste of time in cultures like the ones in Europe or Northern America, where we think taking less time and being more direct and precise is a much better solution to the never-ending paperwork and the need to ask a supervisor.

Who doesn’t want to finish their tasks fast (Photo by Marvin Meyer)

There are many more differences between Poland and Taiwan, like the fantastic public health care system in Taiwan, taxes and easiness of opening up your business, or the proximity to a beautiful beach or mountains everywhere you go. Still, the ones stated above are the ones that a European like me has to deal with regularly and make my life a little bit worse.

However, putting aside all those issues, I believe Taiwan is a spectacular place to live or visit, and I invite all of you to see how life here actually is.