The language barrier, culture shock, simple misunderstandings and sometimes discrimination are just some of the challenges that foreign spouses have to face when they first come to Taiwan after marrying a local resident.
Winners of a contest hosted by Formosa Hakka Radio in which foreign spouses were asked to tell their life stories were honored at a ceremony yesterday.
“Before I came to Taiwan, I was told that if we traveled alone in the city, we could get kidnapped. It sounded scary,” said Tran Lam Phung (陳琳鳳), a Vietnamese woman who has been in Taiwan for 11 years since marrying her Taiwanese husband.
While there were many such rumors in Vietnam about living in Taiwan, there are also persistent myths about foreign spouses in Taiwan.
Tran won the first place in the contest.
“My husband objected to it when I first told him that I wanted to work, to go to school and to take part in gatherings of other Vietnamese in Taiwan,” she said. “Because my husband had been told that foreign spouses learn bad things if they go out too often.”
To solve the conflict, Tran decided to take her husband with her so he could see what she was actually doing — she signed up for continuing education courses, found work as an interpreter and taught Vietnamese language classes.
Finally, her husband was convinced that she wasn’t doing anything bad, and even sent their two children to Tran’s Vietnamese class.
“I told my husband even though we have to start our life from zero in Taiwan, many of us were not uneducated people in our home countries,” Tran said, adding that she attended university back home, but was unable to finish her degree because her father’s business failed.
Second-place winner Liang Weixiao (梁為曉), who was originally from China and has been in Taiwan for eight years, felt the same pain.
“I had a college degree and worked as a tour guide back home,” Liang said. “My husband was actually in one of my tour groups.”
However, Liang’s life was completely changed when she came to Taiwan.
“I was so used to working and making my own living, but all of a sudden, I wasn’t allowed to work anymore,” Liang said. “I had to stay home, but I didn’t know how to cook or do household chores.”
Since she could not change the law, she changed herself, Liang said.
“One time, my son pointed at a cake on a Web site, and said it was beautiful,” Liang said.
Right away, she looked up the recipe, bought the ingredients and baked one.
“It wasn’t very good because it was my first time baking a cake, but my son took one bite and liked it,” Liang said. “I saw the smile of satisfaction on his face, and all of a sudden, I realized that that was all I needed to call my life a happy life.”
However, Liang said discrimination is something she has found harder to overcome.
“Sometimes, people befriend me, happily chat with me, but when they learn that I am from China, they express surprise and then keep their distance,” she said. “If you’re my friend that means we share something in common. I really don’t understand why my country of origin makes a difference.”