[ LETTER ]

Tue, Oct 02, 2012 - Page 8

The use of working holidays

I am writing in reference to working holidays which have been much discussed recently.

Over the past few years I have taught Japanese language and culture to a number of young Taiwanese men who were preparing to go to Japan for a working holiday.

All these men were working as chefs at a Japanese restaurant in Taiwan, but hoped to improve their skills and sense of service by working in a more sophisticated working environment in Japan. None of these men had graduated from college.

In fact, some of them were junior-high school graduates from very modest backgrounds.

They were happy in their current jobs, but wanted very much to broaden their horizon and skills in a country more developed than Taiwan.

In some cases, they were willing to pay for a referral fee (of up to one month’s salary) to find employment in a fine dining establishment — something that is very difficult even for skilled Japanese restaurant workers without the right connections.

I think the Working Holiday is a fine idea for these ambitious people.

How else would somebody with just a junior-high school diploma be able to learn new skills, earn money, travel and make friends outside of their small circle in Taiwan?

Some of my students have come back from their year in Japan, and they tell me about the incredibly long hours and hard work during their time abroad.

They also tell me about some of the unfortunate things that happened, perhaps due to the language barrier or cultural misunderstandings.

However, they all came back with a new sense of pride and felt that they had achieved something valuable and not easily translatable into purely monetary terms.

I applaud these young men, and hope that the program could be expanded to many others from all backgrounds.

In addition, I think it might be useful to conduct an exit interview after participants of working holidays come back to Taiwan, because although the stories are anecdotal, they could be useful for the development of the working holiday program to give an insight in to what participants truly thought of and gained from the program.

Vickie Wu

Taipei