The NGO Eden Social Welfare Foundation yesterday called on the public to respect and learn about the cultures of foreigners married to Taiwanese nationals.
National Taiwan Normal University College of International studies assistant professor Edwin Yang (楊聰榮) said Taiwan was a rather closed-minded community in that it "often asks immigrants to `localize' and assimilate, but fails to reciprocate and appreciate their native culture."
"Instead of saying Vietnamese immigrants are `mothers of Taiwanese kids,' we should see them from their standpoint and respect their cultures," he said, addressing the audience at a Vietnamese movie screening hosted by the foundation to promote interest in foreign cultures.
Chief of the foundation's support section for new immigrants Chu Li-ying (朱莉英) told the audience that Taiwan had approximately 400,000 "new" immigrants.
"I urge Taiwanese to get to know them, because embracing their cultures will enrich the Taiwanese community," she said.
Hoang Oanh, who is married to a Taiwanese man, said: "We may dress like local women in Taiwan, but we are still Vietnamese at heart."
Hoang Oanh said she met and fell in love with her Taiwanese husband while he was working in Ho Chi Minh City.
Hoang Oanh said she liked Taiwan, but added that she experienced discrimination even after 11 years here, which at times made her despair.
"Don't judge a book by its cover," she said. "I had stereotypes of Taiwanese people before I came, but they have changed since I got to know the culture."
Hoang Oanh said she believed the fight against prejudice must start in school, where children should learn to appreciate cultural diversity.
"Not only can they learn about different cultures from their teachers, they can also learn different languages, which will become assets for them in today's global village," she said. Hoang Oanh teaches Vietnamese to businessmen targeting Vietnam for exports.
"Before you judge us and think that we are only here for money, give us a chance and get to know us," she said.