Working With Taiwanese

Working With Taiwanese with Sunny Foehr-Huang

In the ever-evolving landscape of international work culture, Taiwan holds a distinct position, offering a blend of Eastern philosophy and Western pragmatism that's all its own. Imagine a work environment where intercultural competence isn't just a buzzword but a way of life, where the concept of 'guanxi'—the intricate network of relationships—guides professional interactions. You might have heard about this in other cross-cultural seminars, but what sets this conversation apart?

I sit down with an expert in the field, a Taiwan native who specializes in Global HR Solutions and Intercultural Training: Sunny Foehr-Huang. Our discussion goes deeper than you might expect, revealing the often-overlooked nuances and subtleties of Taiwanese work culture. This isn't a mere lecture; it's an illuminating exploration into the hows and whys of working with people from Taiwan.

Sunny Foehr-Huang
"In principle, it really depends, but one thing we can say is that Guanxi in Chinese culture is very important for us; it's essentially about connection."

Sunny Foehr-Huang

In this episode, I sit down with Sunny Foehr-Huang, a Global HR Solutions Consultant and Intercultural Trainer born and raised in Taiwan. Sunny is an expert in East vs. West work culture dynamics and has an extensive background in media, including roles as a Radio Presenter and Newspaper Columnist. She brings her unique perspective to the table, offering insights into Taiwan's work culture and how it compares to Western norms.

Listen in as Sunny unpacks the concept of "Guanxi" in Taiwanese culture. "In principle, it really depends, but one thing we can say is that Guanxi in Chinese culture is very important for us; it's essentially about connection," says Sunny. She discusses how this network of relationships influences business dealings and personal interactions in Taiwan.

Whether you're an executive looking to expand into Taiwan or just curious about the intricacies of Taiwanese work culture, this episode has something for you. Don't miss Sunny's deep insights and practical advice on navigating intercultural differences.

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Key Episode Insights

Guanxi and Business Relationships in Taiwan

  • The concept of "Guanxi" is deeply rooted in Taiwanese culture and has a significant influence on both personal and business relationships.

Taiwanese Work-Life Blending

  • Unlike the Western focus on work-life balance, Taiwanese culture often integrates professional and personal life, emphasizing the importance of building trustful relationships, or "Guanxi."

Taiwanese and Confucian Values

  • Traditional Confucian values still have a considerable impact on Taiwanese work culture, emphasizing respect, family values, and social harmony.

Taiwan's Global Presence

  • Taiwan has been eager to show its capabilities on the global stage, as evidenced by landmarks like Taipei 101, reflecting the country's ambitions and pride.

Taiwanese Communication Styles

  • Taiwanese people tend to blend directness with a high regard for interpersonal relationships, which can be traced back to the importance of "Guanxi" in the culture.
Episode Transcript

Paul Arnesen

Hey Sunny welcome to the working with us podcast how are you today?


Sunny Foehr-Huang

Oh, I'm wonderful we just have a typhoon outside this is special about Taipei.


Paul Arnesen

Oh wow that's amazing what what are we looking at here? If you're looking at this video.


Sunny Foehr-Huang

I have present you and your listener a special Taiwan landmark. The Taipei 101 behind me. This is live. It's not a photo. As Taiwanese, we are very proud of that.


Paul Arnesen

Yeah, no, it's definitely a landmark. It's a little bit cloudy outside, but you still see it goes up in the sky. How tall is that building? Do you know?


Sunny Foehr-Huang

I think they call 101 that's 101 I am not really sure but today is cloudy as I mentioned today we have a typhoon coming so this is a special weather in Asia so today you are very lucky to meet the last of the typhoon in Taipei yeah and.


Paul Arnesen

What'S the purpose of that building? The Taipei 101.


Sunny Foehr-Huang

I think one of the reason they build that is because when Taiwan economic grows, we want to show the world Taiwanese could also achieve as much as other developed countries. And at the time we become the top building worldwide for a few years. And then of course other countries also start to make the higher and higher. But for Taiwanese this was very important to show we can make it as good as the other. Very rich country, very wealth country. And this actually shows Taiwanese specialty of our personality which is we really like to be the best. We didn't start as the best island after Second World War. This island isn't rich we have very hard time. But over these years, 40 years, 50 years, 60 years since 1949 until today, Taipei has become one of the best and even expensive city in the world. Wwew compared to the Tokyo, Hong Kong is already amazing. And living this city, you don't have to go to Manhattan. We enjoy everything here. This is actually one of the things very interest for people like you from the Norwegian. We have many aspects coming from Norwegian because the wind power thing is very now our government is trying to promote it a lot.

So we have many Norwegian companies, which is Denmark, Norway, they are very successful in the wind power. So our government invite them to help us to build the wind power for the green energy. And when some of them came to Taipei, I asked them you used to live a countryside thinking about you live in Norwegian country, you have a very big space and why you live in Taipei, you live your building which is so crowd and why you want to do this? Because for me I want to live in the green. After live 20 years in Europe, I returned to Taipei. I find I have a double cultural shock. I couldn't stand this high building anymore. I want to stay in the green. But then they say oh, we are only here for three years. We want to experience living in the cross building. And you can just take the out of it down to 7/11. Then 24 hours, you can buy everything 365 days. They say this will not happen after we return. I say, oh, I understand. This is totally different to the different lifestyle. And people from other side of the world appreciate this. And here we are just used to this is a big city.

Paul Arnesen

Yeah, and I mean, that's obviously one of the big, I would say, cultural experiences that I would have also when I moved abroad, like to big cities. The 24/7 lifestyle, for example, which is something that we don't see especially you mentioned Norway, where I'm from, where things are closing early or even on Sundays. Everything is closed sometimes in some of these cultures in Europe. So yeah, it's super fascinating. Obviously it's a powerhouse of a city and I think also Taiwan as the island it is. That's why it's a fascinating topic for me to talk about the work culture of the people of Taiwan. So I wanted to start with talking a little bit about if you can try to explain to me a little bit about where, say, the work culture or the culture of doing businesses in Taiwan is coming from historically this concepts such as Guanxi, I think the historical facts of the Confucian time period and everything. I think it's very interesting for the listeners to learn a little bit about the history and why your culture is so unique in many ways for a lot of people.


Sunny Foehr-Huang

Yeah, I think the specialty about Taiwan is Taiwan is actually we are Chinese culture. It's no doubt. I moved to Germany on 2002 and then wherever I go, people know I'm Chinese. This is nothing I can avoid. So I understand that. And as a Taiwanese, we actually learn Chinese culture since long history. So we are a part of China. We are island, a province since long years. And this island has been experienced much more than Chinese culture. We have also Japanese culture, we have American culture. We have today in worldwide different culture. But end of the day, it is very important in our brand. If you are HK, buy a Chinese traditional family like me. Because myself is a very good example. I have took American education, I married German, I work in Germany. I immigrate Germany. I have a mixed. I work in China, I live in Singapore and Hong Kong, several place. But I recognize when I was living together, where I walk together with European culture people, american culture people. Then I recognize how Chinese I am because in my brain I was educated by my parents. So they have told me all the things about Chinese culture.


So, for example, respect to the elders. So this is one of the best Chinese important things. So this come together with hierarchy as you know as well and then hierarchy together they build up the relationship. Guanxi you just mentioned these are all together connected with because this hierarchy system in Asia is actually most of the country have descent but it comes from confucian which is Cunfu. This rule is trying to teach us how important to respect order. And this is very important. Most of the culture crush conflict is actually starting from here. So, for example, some people, they go with a business meeting. You say, okay, now I have five people in front of me. Chinese, they come in and how do you start to greeting? So you will start to greeting with who? Good question. So if I now give you this question I say it's hierarchy for elder. Then you say okay then maybe I always respect the oldest person but it isn't correct because it's not just the age, it's also age precision and how these people is playing the game at the time. So it's necessary when you're doing business with Chinese people you need to really pay attention to get to know who's the decision maker.


And this person of course in general could be an older and senior person but not necessary. But if you address the wrong person I think this whole meeting you get forget it. The key person may just say nothing and then you will waste the time. So this is hierarchy, respect. And the other hand you think to make business Chinese people people say how come everybody say guanxi does guanxi means I always have to pay. I always have to maybe do a little bit something under the table or I have to really know somebody and somebody all of the above things I would say is all true but not all true. So in principle it really depends on but one thing we can say Guanxi in Chinese culture is very important for us is so called connection. Connection means we are connected together. So today, like Paul, we know each other. If next day you say oh Paul you asked me say oh, my friend is coming to Taiwan to looking for a job. Can you help him or her to look and do something else? Normally I would charge this person. But if you ask me, I would say okay.


I won't say I would charge this person. I would say okay, because of Paul, I give the first time for free. And this is guanxi and then because this person, when they came to Taiwan, they need to put someone in contact. People ask you, who's your contact person? Then this person know only me so then he will ask me can I put your name there? Normally someone who even pay me for consultant I may not say yes because in the Chinese we are very much about trust because if this person put me there as a contact person that also means I am kind of guaranteed for him guarantee for her. So why should I do this if I don't know him? He's just my client one time. But because I trust Paul. So I say, okay, if Paul referred this person to me, it cannot be the wrong right. So I try to believe, trust you. So this kind guanxi is referred together. But the other hand, guanxi doesn't mean you can get everything done. Because if you are not good enough today, the Taiwan or the China Society, we are very competitive. Even just with guanxi, if you are not good enough, you still won't get what you want.


So this kind of culture has been changed a little bit early time, you will say if it's a stay owned enterprise because you know the highest manager, probably they will give you the bit without any too much trouble because they are undertable business. This did happen in the history because of guanxi. But today the society has changed. They changed to different level of guanxi. But still there it's important you know someone someone for example, one of the sales partner of my husband is Taiwan. And then they want to bring them into a factory. And my husband is a German, so he went to a factory for a sales meeting and then he asked the partner, how did you know this guy, this project guy? And then the partner said, oh, because he is the classmate of my brother. So this is now a good example.


Paul Arnesen

Of guanxi as this is this is so fascinating. And I think it really tells a lot about the way of behaving and doing business with people from Taiwan and China in that sense. Because you have to be aware of these cultural differences. Because again, as you said, if you do the wrong greeting in an office with five people, you might end the meeting there and the success you wanted from the beginning might already be. So thank you very much for that in depth explanation. I have another word in Chinese about a concept, which is is it Mianzi, face? Like losing face. And I know that's also related to it's also an aspect of the culture that from what I know is very important. And I can actually give you a personal experience about this that happened to me. It's many years ago now. So I was studying in New Zealand. In my group, in my class, we had like this group project was actually an individual from Taiwan. And what happened is that we had an assessment. So I was very young. I didn't really know much about culture, cultural communication and everything. I was still learning, I was at university learning business and culture.


So what happened in this group project was that the teacher told the individual from Taiwan that the answers to the questions that we had done on the project was not correct and he didn't understand why. And then I, as I was Norwegian and Scandinavian, I explained to him that he had misunderstood the questions on the paper. And because I told him this in front of the others, he got very offended, extremely offended. And I had to try to resolve the situation and talk to him. And everything in the end was fine. But I basically offended him by just trying to explain that what he had done was his misunderstanding. So I think this is also something that's important to understand for someone who doesn't know the culture that well. Can you give an explanation of how it works?


Sunny Foehr-Huang

You actually give the best example of so called losing face. I couldn't make any better example as you say, this is the perfect example. We talk about how face for Chinese if you lose face, lose face is very important for Chinese in our old education basic you cannot lose face and why is lose face so embarrassed? Because when you lose face, you also lose the trust from others. You lose respect from others and you also think people see you dumped. And in our hierarchy system, this is not allowed. So this is one of the point later we can maybe talk about it's. Just that I found out the weakness of our culture because we are afraid of losing face. So we didn't teach our kids to admit a mistake. This is fine. I extend. These face things together. And if you work with Chinese, you will find this very serious topic with Chinese. So as you say, you just try to help him. And you're pointing out but this already lead to the fact he fear he lose face. So he lose face. But he cannot admit the mistake. Otherwise he fear nobody will respect him.


So he cannot live like this. So he have to show he's stronger than you. So by not saying he is wrong, you are right. He just turned around and thinking this would go would be a weight. And this is really very typical Chinese no matter happen in the colleague, friends, family or business this happened every day. So we call it losing face. It's very bad. But the other hand, how do you set face is also important. So I recognize if you made this kind of mistake or sometimes we say something too fast, so for example, some people may be just a little bit the figure is a little bit not as slim as it is. And then it's a woman. And you say, oh, congratulations. Are you expecting a baby? I think this person is going to kill you if the Chinese they will kill you okay? But the fact is if they are very embarrassed they fear lose face what should you do? The way is their chance to save face so sometimes you will say I'm sorry because you see my baby is also a baby inside I didn't have my glass, I'm so sorry.


So I recognize these days people if you try to set the face publicly. You can avoid this kind embarrass. But one thing about face, rule number one is never embarrass a Chinese in public. No matter what relationship you are. No matter what relationship you are. Because this is no go, no go. They are going to hate you to the end on this. You try to save the face with makeup in some other way. Otherwise embarrassed Chinese is losing face. This is actually in public, it's not only about friends, for example, in a leadership style as well. That's why we always say the working style leadership in Taiwan. In Chinese culture, the manager, they also try not to point out the mistake of his underlinked in public. They try to check this person aside and say, oh, I recognize these things is not good. But you don't want to embarrass people in public if they are not good enough. This is actually the whole point about losing face is you point this person is not good enough. This is quiet losing face. But the other way is how do you give face? So, for example, how do you give people face?


So if you don't want to lose face, then you don't need to say face. But then you give face. So give face is the other way around. You try to say a good word about everyone, place everyone in public. Then you immediately give this person face. Then this person is thinking you are his best friend.


Paul Arnesen

Exactly.


Sunny Foehr-Huang

You're already his best friend.


Paul Arnesen

Yeah. And you know what is fascinating with this is that this is, for me, good leadership anyways, right. If you want to give feedback that is, say based on bad performance, you do that in a closed room. You don't do that in front of everyone. That should be universal across the world. I don't think that is necessarily something that.


Sunny Foehr-Huang

For German, I think you can do that.


Paul Arnesen

Yeah, well, the Germans and the Dutch, for example, are much more direct. But it's also because they in their culture would probably don't worry too much about this. They don't have it. So they can accept that the feedback is direct in front of others. But I think even so, feedback, it's almost like if something is bad, if I did something wrong, tell it to me. But if I did something good, tell it to everyone.


Sunny Foehr-Huang

Exactly.


Paul Arnesen

It shouldn't be that everybody needs to because everybody makes assumptions about you based on the negative and the positive feedback. Right. So I think we can learn quite a lot about this. Obviously, individual, how you feel about this is probably very different from me than someone from Taiwan or China, right. When they get this feedback directly like this. So I think that's a good learning experience there. So thank you for that. I wanted to change a gear a little bit and go back to the ordinary person from Taiwan. How can you describe them? And I'm thinking in a way of what do they do for fun, how do they live their life, how would you explain them and how do they think and behave?


Sunny Foehr-Huang

If you Google everything about Taiwanese, I think most of the foreigners give us first impression is people are very friendly here. People are very friendly here and open to the different culture. So it's a little bit international city here. Enough. I remember 20 years ago when I first were in China at the time they don't really see the western face. So they are very scared about western people. Everybody want to take photo with my daughter. But this is already after 20 years. Shanghai is completely different. The same as in Taipei. We have used to see all the foreigners here as well. So people are very open to different culture. And we have also the South Asian helper coming to support our society, our marriage mix also together with international different countries. So here we already have the mixed culture generation coming up and principle this culture in Taiwan in general, especially Taipei is quite international. Meaning I have to say, if we're talking about working culture, we are still this very Asian style. People work long hours. People is very much devoted to the work. But the other hand, the young generation, they are very much focused on the life work balance issue.


Compared to ten years ago, I haven't saw about because I returned to Taiwan this in ten years I haven't saw about. People can be so much developed today. So people love biking, love joke, working all the leisure activities. But considering why, I have to say it's because Taiwan in general is a very wealthy and rich place. People are quite rich with a lot of money on hand. So they could day their life really enjoy. This is very much different to many countries to date.


Paul Arnesen

But just to get more into the sort of the personalities of someone from there in my culture for example, or the Scandinavian culture, we often make friends at know that's very common. And I was thinking if someone would go to Taiwan to work, maybe as an expat or someone from Taiwan is maybe doing an expat overseas mission outside. How easy it is to make friends if you're not from Taiwan with other people. And how do the Taiwanese work together? Do they make friends at work or do they have a social life outside of work?


Sunny Foehr-Huang

Taiwanese people actually as I mentioned, we are working too much. So you have such culture in the whole Asia country has one thing in common. It's workaholics so long working hours. So you are right. You made a lot of people in your life every day because from your work environment. And then the second part is you have extend from your family connection. So all from the world connection today you will be very impressed. Taiwan company has actually a perfect system to help you. We have a family day. We have a gym and some even have a kindergarten daycare center. And they do a lot of join group. So the coffee club you meet for coffee, for cocktail. So people could by the job themselves. They also try to help employees life balance. And then you make friends. So for example, one of people working TSMC, one of my friend's husband, he learned how to make coffee. And he then invite us to test all his collection of coffee. And of course this is connection from the job. But then extent. And then you have of course join so called. Many companies also like European style.


They go for hiking together. They want to bike around Taiwan. So they have biking team. So the company themselves, you know, JN is our Taiwan factory. We are famous in bike. So people have a by team from their company. So they meet weekend. So already all day they see each other weekend they meet again. So most of the people is either from the job or from the family. And family things is again from our confucian culture. Family is one of the highest regard in our mind. So family is higher than company. But there are exceptions also Taiwan special. I often talk to aspect about when they assign to Taiwan to become a manager. And they have to manage Taiwanese. I told them one specialty they have to remember is when they came to Taiwan, most of the expats they came with family. 99%, right? You would agree? Yeah, same as me. By the way, we came to Taiwan. We first checked there's a German school in Taipei. So we want to continue with the education and then the points they would not believe the Taiwanese professions. They could leave family behind. So for already since 10, 20 years since Taiwanese company invest in China we have the case professional father relocate himself to China.


But because of the education or the wife has her own job or things. So the father is the one working alone in China. And I call that left family behind. And I have to admit, not many other people can do this. But Taiwan is good. And why they do this? Because the end of the day they want to make much more money for the family to enjoy better life. And for that they sacrifice themselves and they have a good job. And then they take care of the family as well. They come back each quarter for one week, something like this. And they try to also bring the kids to China. Here, there. But this is something I found for western people. They would not believe this exists, but still today it exists.


Paul Arnesen

That's interesting. I did not know about that either. So that's some news for me as well. That's super interesting. Is there also a way of thinking about this? Obviously you have a good knowledge of the German work culture and it just occurred to me when we talk about the difference between business and social life do Taiwanese discuss work outside of work or does that stay within work? And how does work in Taiwan?


Sunny Foehr-Huang

You are actually just in the point taiwanese is very difficult to separate profession and private life you would never happen it's always together so if you want to keep your privacy in front of Taiwanese people you need to really very insist otherwise in my always intercultural 101 Taiwan I say if they ask you are you married? Please don't get married please don't get angry because you don't have to marry because they ask you and you don't have to get angry because it doesn't mean they really want to know are you married or not? It doesn't matter to them but for them it's kind of the feeling if you share this kind of closer relationship guanxi again means you were giving trust. So they are telling you everything about themselves because they think I trust you. So I tell you everything but sometimes you say wow, why you have to tell me this? I'm kind of nervous. You are telling me you have fight with your wife last week or your mother in law is drunk last night. You kind of don't know where to put yourself in this kind of discussion. But this is actually a very specialty about Taiwanese and in general I would say you can even say it's a Chinese culture.


Paul Arnesen

Can I ask you, because this is interesting, would you say that this only happens when the connection is strong enough? Because just from learning about cultures. One of the things that you learn if you do, say cross cultural learning from an American perspective, they would say that. Oh, if you're working from someone from a nation culture such as China for about don't ask them about the personal things early in the relationship because it's a very sensitive topic to talk about their private life unless they know you really well. Is that correct?


Sunny Foehr-Huang

It's generally correct as well in Taiwan generally correct for example, we are actually a very modern society today so there are many much more independent women for example so if you talk about this kind of sensitive family topic for them it's kind of offense, right? So of course you need to know more. But the other hand, if you already show this person is a family man and maybe not even wear the ring because old culture Chinese not necessary with ring, but he already showing his kids photo or talking about something they are ready to share and you should bring that together. And then they fear or you care and you are close. So if they are talking about yesterday so for example, if you went into you always say what do you do last weekend? How's your weekend? Then your employee may say oh I am my kids went shopping and it's so proud and this is impossible. Things are also not even new year yet, something like that. That means they are ready to share with you. Then you of course fear the same, but doesn't mean you have to share. You can still keep your own. But the fact is because you ask, they think you are ready to share.


Paul Arnesen

So if you open the door then the expectation is that okay, I can share because you asked. Okay, got that one. Just to bring a little bit back to the typical Taiwanese and let's talk about career ambitions and sort of from they are young and what is sort of like a typical career path. Say someone who's going to go into typical blue collar work maybe sorry, white collar work their way up to the system. The hierarchy compared to something like you said, there's a lot of emphasis on working hard and long days. Can you tell us a little bit about this kind of idea?


Sunny Foehr-Huang

Yeah, as you start beginning from confucian this inference to us. So Chinese culture value education very high. And this actually is tend to Japan, Korea as so principle education. Devoting yourself to education is something our family is trying to helping us. So for example, I remember in my young term, my parents are business person. So they always say oh, if you could put yourself to study in US, we are going to sell apartment to help you to go to US to study. So I don't have to get a loan, they will pay for me. And for them this is nature. Why? Because they feel proud if they can tell the neighbor my daughter is going to study in US. This worse house or worse apartment. So for them this is proud. So we value the education system very height. So this is coming actually from the hierarchy system. So from the old conufican times. Only people with education can go higher ranking. So in order to go to higher ranking, you had to study, you have to get education. So even your parents themselves couldn't get education in their young town. Because I think 50 years ago Taiwan wasn't they rich.


So not everybody could went for education. My mother was a very talented people. But she couldn't go to university because she's the first daughter and she made herself to study and act as a babysitter in Taipei because she really want to study. Her life is depend on study. But her family couldn't support her. But she made herself. But today it's different. We try every people can get higher education in Taiwan with very low cost. In general, very low cost. So principle you want to study as a fact. Why you study? Because only we study, you have chance to go higher ranking. Okay. For example, our salary scale is partly depend on your education. It's hard to believe, right? So in most companies they see your experience, your skill and your certificate. But in. Many of Taiwan companies, they say because your master degree, you get a little bit more. Okay, these systems, they are inside our payment system. So then you know why people want to get higher education. It referred to your daily payment already. And then the other hand when you come for interview, then if they have a choice of a Bachelor and Master and PhD, probably they would choose the master people because they think the PhD is too expensive.


The bachelor is not good enough. They choose the master degree people. So something like this. So this you want to be the master, not the bachelor. So people are trying to get higher education. But the other hand we are actually laking like worldwide now. Same in Germany. We need people with professional skill. We need people to do the hand work. We need people to do the operation job. There is now the fat of the suggestion. In Taiwan as we all know TSMC the famous chip company in Taiwan because semiconductor has bring Taiwan economic higher and higher so they need real good people so they pay higher education people also doing operator job but they pay them as good as a master degree bachelor people, master degree and MBA degree. They are doing operation job in the factory for semiconductor and people like me in education and HR consultant. I fear a little. Bit waste of our talent, of our young people. But the other hand, this is the situation now in Taiwan. People work for money. So our young generation is also worth money. So they want to go to the job.


Who pay more. They didn't have to necessarily looking for 20 years later or 30 years. Of course they do. They want to. They want to. This is Chinese nature. We all want to go ranking hierarchy. They want to. But what else is important in the same time is you get very good paid and you ask me what is the Taiwanese looks like if I may say Taiwanese people especially to the worldwide is hardworking and like to make money and saving money. These three specialties Taiwanese and you won't find anyone wired like this.


Paul Arnesen

Is there a discussion in Taiwan among maybe the HR community, or maybe even the younger generation, about work life balance and flexibility? As we have in Europe, for example, there's a lot of work. There even service being done that if you can choose between higher salary or a four day work week, for example, most people say, I would like a four day work week, not a higher salary. Is there a discussion about this in Taiwan as well?


Sunny Foehr-Huang

Oh yes, very much, very much because of course every day with the internet you receive all kind of information then people are talking about American it's so much about the life balance so now the point is we have a group of young people they have, actually, they don't have to worry that much about money. I think the difference back to our culture so lying in Europe, especially Germany, dutch people live home at 18 you have to live home. Your parents keep you up so you have to start to look for your apartment and the things. But this is not in Taiwan society it's quite common. You live with your parents or in one of your parents or family's property so you don't have to pay for the rent. So when you don't need to spend that much and our income tax are pretty lower than Europe than American our tax and then at the same time our living costs are much lower here. So they could pick up a job, give them a life balance which is possible. And there are group of young people, they really work for this. And then the other group of people is they work hard in Monday to Friday and then they try to have their life balance with family together.


And then try to use the weekend but Monday to Friday they are not at home for dinner but Saturday and Sunday they try to live balance and then they take holiday. They have up to 30 days. If you were already more than 15, 20 years with a company, you get 30 years in Taiwan for annual relief as well. So then you go for a trip to Japan. You just take 2 hours. You are in Tokyo already. You take family for a weekend holiday, you go to Korea for a like when I were in Hong Kong, I went with my daughter for a weekend in Hong Kong and then she returned, I continue working. So this is how we try to put the life balance together. And this is one way. The other way is when you are getting certain label in job, you have enough position. Then you say oh, I really want to have my life balance so I change my workplace to be remorse especially after COVID this is possible. So people start to also think about where I am, what do I want? So in a more senior term, then you want to say okay, maybe I don't want to sell my liver because you are so hard working, your liver is dying.


So I don't sell my liver to the company. So probably I change another job or I early retire. So I recognize in Taiwan we have much more higher early retire percentage than ten years ago. So people are retired. Why? Because when you have certain investment, you save some money then you can do investment because it is possible to do the investment as a life here as where then you try to live life balance out from your saving. As I say again, hardworking making money and saving money. So these three points is bring our life balance together. But I think this life balance is actually in Taipei. This big city was Xinju the well received salary payment city in Taiwan is actually one of the trend. I am very impressed how much activity we have every year. This biking tour, this camping. I was so surprised people went camping. But in fact, you have to understand their camping are different to our German style. They went five star camping. So the camping area is five star. They have camping car there, but inside it's five star. And they have a lot of five star food there. But it's important you go out the house. This is a different type of life balance, but people are trying to live life balance. This is the trend in Taiwan, I can say.


Paul Arnesen

So interesting. And I think the luxury camping, it's called glamping, I think was a glamorous camping. We have it in Europe as well. There's like this very five star camping and it's a little bit ridiculous for me being Norwegian. I go camping and I have like I sleep on the ground. But I mean, I understand it's nice, it's comfortable and at least you're outside, right? You're in nature. So that's the most important thing. I'm actually curious about one thing because obviously, as you mentioned earlier, you are training a lot of foreign managers that is going to come into Taiwan or maybe they are managing from remotely a team of an office in Taiwan or something like a team of people from Taiwan. What's the one thing advice you would give someone who is not from that culture in terms of setting up a productive, motivated work culture? Is there something that you can say is more important than others? When I'm talking about motivation, I'm talking about the thing we just mentioned, work, life balance, salary and all those things. Any specific advice you can give for someone in that situation?


Sunny Foehr-Huang

I find it very important is respect. Is respect. Because these days most of the expat people has been traveling many countries. So these three years or five years experience, many people came to Taiwan before they have been in China or they have been in Japan or different Asia country. So they always come to Taiwan and think oh, Taiwan is just one of the Asia country and this is actually not true, this is not true. And then they read a lot of book or the different podcast, different linging story and saying oh, Taiwan is a low cost country. So here people are still working as worker. So they come here because here is cheaper, they invise factory here. But this is not anymore the truth. Taiwan isn't a place you can hire low cost employee anymore. So you have to believe people here are hardworking and you give respect to them and believe they are someone who want to achieve more. They are not just one of the Asian. So I think starting from there is a very important point. So Taiwanese is Chinese but we are also unique and people want to be respect as well.


So you don't prejudge asia all like this? Chinese are all like this. With this prejudge it really would lead you to the end because we are just different. You have to see a different end. Respect me, meaning; when you are trying to listen and you are trying to watch the culture difference, you're trying to be careful, you're trying to learn and you make friend with local people and you try to understand. How come? Because there are more and more aspect. They taking the class. They say, oh, you don't have to tell me, listen, I know this already. I have the experience. I do agree. They know a lot and many things are in common. But sometimes things are in the detail. Right? The detail. Other things we show the respect. And then you have to think the people is worse. To understand, you got to know them. It's like I always tell my client, tell my coach, I say, you don't have to accept who they are, but you can try to understand who they are. You don't have to eat what they eat. But you don't have to say, oh, I would never eat Chinese food.


This is not necessary. You don't have to take everything. They told you what to do. So as a manager, people may tell you oh in Taiwan everybody do this wait, I think people hate to listen to this the manager had to listen to this when you are underlink telling you oh sorry but you are a newcomer to Taiwan you need to know. In Taiwan, we always do this way. Actually you don't have to do the way they say. I agree. But you have to listen. Why they say so. And then you have to tell them yes. You hear? You understand but you don't agree and you are not going to do that you pray to them with respect but sometimes the manager are just saying no, we are German company, we do the German way but you don't spray to the Taiwanese colleague why? And you don't try to understand why they suggest different? I think this is the respect I'm trying to say, yeah.


Paul Arnesen

From your experience and years in this industry, do you have any examples? Where there has been a very clear misunderstanding that led to something and maybe there was a learning to take from this that you remember anything.


Sunny Foehr-Huang

One simple example is, for example, a manager come in. He got a secretary. And this secretary is clearly nervous with the new manager she's afraid she will losing the job. So she start to make mistake. And then the manager is trying to point out her mistake. And one time, even in front of the colleague in public. And this lady quite female. And then this manager was shocking because he never thinking about I'm not your father, right? You're crying here. What are you doing here with me? So he got very angry he think this lady is just out of control. But I think this is actually a big mistake for each other. So principle this lady was fear losing face. Again, if you're pointing out that and in order to show she isn't losing face that much, she tried to quiet to become a veteran so people would feel pity for her beside the manager. Other colleagues would say wow, what a bad manager. They will feel pity for her. So she used this traditional way to make herself in the situation not become a serious victim and then she feel better. But then the manager was losing face in front other colleagues.


Well, because then everybody is looking at him thinking wow, this is such a bad guy, how can he make her quiet? And yeah, she tried how already? Why can you not give her a chance? So I think this manager at the time, he feel very confused. So he asked me how can he set the girl's face? I think yeah, he has to now set the face because he cannot immediately fire her. Of course he could, but then who else is going to work for you? Everybody thinks yeah, next me to be fired, right? And I should find the next job.


Paul Arnesen

Yeah, no, that's a very good example. And obviously some of the things that if you're from a very strong culture, say an American that has a very direct way of managing and communicating, you have to take this into account, right. Otherwise you will basically break a relationship that you don't want to break just because you misunderstood something. We are getting close to the hour here and I wanted to end it with a couple of questions. And the first one is if you could now try to tell the world why should someone work with either a company from Taiwan or a person from Taiwan? What sort of the strengths that you have there in Taiwan that other cultures and companies around the world can utilize?


Sunny Foehr-Huang

Yeah, I think the Taiwan situation now is getting attention in the media every day. So it's quite clear our profession here has experienced a lot of special knowledge development. So we are in different aspect. So this aspect is actually quite experienced in advanced technology. So further, for a company working with Taiwanese people, you get the people with good technical background, technical experience, which is high end and compared to the salary to the worldwide Taiwan salary because our income tax is lower. So it's not as high as you hire the same person in Germany or in US. This is of course one of the advantage role. Again, we are not a low cost country anymore. And second I would like to address again is I have to always say that Taiwanese people are hardworking person. It's not only because the long working hours as German always say, long working hour doesn't count, the relax count. Right. But the other hand, we have good result and they are hardworking so they really want to achieve something and they try hard and one thing is incredible for Western Company if you have a company in Taiwan where you found a business or you have a Taiwanese team, you could always call them in even in holiday.


Or you can always call them in 24 hours because they are doing that as a mission for them. Work is a mission. So I still remember in the Chinese New Year when April is to announce Taiwan Tech a big first iPhone taiwan Tech a big part of this development. So my brother in law was Chinese New Year second day. He got a phone call. He's an engineer, R. D. He had to leave the family dinner and then went back to the factory. He has no doubt. That's the part I was really open my eyes. I said he has no doubt he had to go so I said, hey, this is one of the reason Taiwanese is one of the good success to contribute to the worldwide success so hire them is good. The other hand, Taiwan people has been open to a lot of different international culture. As I mentioned, we have been japanese culture. We have been to american culture and work together with all the different international business in taiwan. So taiwanese has been able to accept more International Economic Cooperation concepts. So they have nothing against to work for foreigner company. So it's different to few of the Asian countries.


They have this problem. The good person work for their state owned enterprise. They don't want to work for foreign company. So, for example, Korea is one of the good example. But Taiwanese is open to work for different industry, different country, and their mindset has also opened to many different culture. So there have been a lot high percentage of our young generation they have been studying us or Europe because besides maybe take advanced education they also go for a summer camp they also go for one year exchange this is so common today, now in our education system. So they have been worked together with foreigners in different way so they could work with international team. I think this is one of the advance with Taiwanese and of course, I think people here are very kind and these people are really respect to the manager if you set up an Enterprise here. I think people love the Enterprise as their own mission. So this is something I find very proud of. My people here. This is something after compared to Germany. The difference is actually quite different. And Chinese, Taiwanese, this is one of our unique specialty hardworking.


Paul Arnesen

Oh, wow. That's really nice to hear. And I think it's interesting when you talk about that. You had this experience of coming back, right? So you can sort of compare and contrast that experience which I think is super important for a lot of people looking at the international assignments and another thing that maybe one of the I think it's the last question I have for you is how can people learn more about the work culture in Taiwan? I mean, they can speak to you obviously and look at your resources but do you have any specific recommendations? Maybe there are some good books they can read that talks a lot about the culture there, or movies or TV series. Anything that comes to mind that you can recommend.


Sunny Foehr-Huang

First of all, if it's about the Chinese culture and then Taiwanese culture. So if people are interested about Chinese culture in general, I always recommend them to watch this movie. Michelle Yong what's the name of the movie? She went Oscar somewhere, sometime all at once?


Paul Arnesen

Yes. The new one? Yes.


Sunny Foehr-Huang

This movie has very specialty the first 30 minutes you see all the Chinese culture there wow. 1st 30 minutes after 30 minutes is another story. 1st 30 minutes if you really want to understand Chinese culture so Taiwanese as a part of Chinese culture this 30 minutes is very important you learn everything inside I can guarantee you all my class I say the same and then about Taiwanese culture, I think the best way I don't have a special movies or book or channel you can see, but I find there's many channel you can see. And what I want to say is sorry, I need water.


Paul Arnesen

No worries. No, I think I haven't seen that movie yet so I'm definitely going to watch that very soon to learn more. I think that's also something that is interesting about popular culture, that sometimes it can be very over the top, but when it's really on point and when it comes from someone like you that knows the culture well, I think it's a very good tip for everybody listening to watch the 30 first minutes of that movie. I'm going to link the name of the movie and everything in the show notes for the episode so you can have a look for yourself.


Sunny Foehr-Huang

And then about Taiwan culture. Actually there are many podcasts in different language you can fire about Taiwan. Most of them are actually very good. So I don't want to point out either one, but one thing I want to say is everything you want to find about Taiwan priests don't only listen to one opinion. This is my point. There are many different kind of opinions and you have to get a little bit border built. Because if you only focus on CNN, we only focus on this focus taiwan, just example. I think the view is maybe not independent enough. So everything about Taiwan, it takes some time to judge. And everything depends on Europe, on Western. So you have to tell that, but collect a lot of information and come here to judge yourself. And when you are here, make friends with Taiwan, people go into their life. We have a high percentage of people speaking ish maybe not perfect, but they are happy to help you. One of Western friends told me if they are in the street, they want to look for a place. There are ten people ask them do you need help? So this kind of feeling you can find every lot of block, they talk about this.


Sunny Foehr-Huang

So come here, make friends, read more information, make your own judgment and see do you like it and you can understand and you don't have to like our culture but respect our culture. This is quite important for us.


Paul Arnesen

Yeah, and I want to emphasize one point you made there about looking at different sources for information about the culture because there's a lot of very trendy, very good books that talks about one aspect. And then I feel like a lot of people are only reading one book and they think they know everything about the culture. But you really need to talk to different perspective because culture is not one thing. There's different inside of a culture, there's different subcultures. So we are generalizing quite a lot when we talk about these things. But it's really something I think the best advice I give for everybody is obviously, like you said, if you have the time and opportunity is to go there, stay there for a little while and learn, like feel the culture, how it is and how it works there. But that's not for everyone. But as you said, look up different sources and you will learn quite a lot more than just looking at one. Okay, so before we end it, thank you very much again for this very good conversation. How can people find you and how do you would like people to connect with you online?


Sunny Foehr-Huang

People can always find me from LinkedIn as every professional, especially my name is Sunny Foehr-Huang. Foerh because my husband is German so you will find me there. I believe you will write down there later. So this is the best way to find me. And then by all the different channel, you will find me because I'm actually also hosting radio station radio show in Taiwan in a national radio station. And I also have writing for newspaper so it would be easy to find me. And if you're interested to come to Taiwan, you want to get to know more Taiwan, you're welcome to write me. We probably made for a coffee and look at the 101 together and now.


Paul Arnesen

You can see it and the cloud is still there, but it's a little bit more clear now outside so you can see more of the tower. So it's amazing. Okay, well, thank you very much. Anything you want to add at the end? Anything you thought about that you haven't had the time to say?


Sunny Foehr-Huang

I believe you have covered a lot of topic. I enjoyed talking as well today. I would just like to address that me as intercultural people. I experience European culture, American culture, Taiwan culture and one of the things after I returned to Taiwan is I never figure out this country is the colorful and they beautiful and my people are they special because when I was young I want to live in US. This is the dream in my age, people all want to live in US. But the other day today we have so many people moved back from US to Taiwan. Why? Because this island is really a brakes place. It has developed so much specialty the worldwide and I would not believe ten years ago we are now in the newspaper every day in worldwide media so how important our society is to influence the world. So I welcome everyone to come to Taiwan and further entrepreneur. I think Taiwan is a good place for you to consider as well.


Paul Arnesen

Perfect. I completely agree and I think it's a good way to end this. So thank you very much. Enjoy your evening as it's getting dark outside at your place there. So thank you very much and hope to talk to you soon.


Sunny Foehr-Huang

Yeah, we're looking forward to the show.


Paul Arnesen

Thank you very much, sonny. Have a good day.

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