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June 23, 2017

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Lack of English announcements, signs make life difficult for foreigners: expats

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The lack of English announcements regarding important policies, as well as the lack of bilingual traffic signs, make life difficult for expatriates living in Taiwan, foreigners told the Central News Agency (CNA).

Paul Groff, an American who currently teaches English in Taiwan, told the CNA that he often finds it difficult finding out whether or not he needs to work whenever a typhoon hits the country, because virtually all TV news announcements are made in Mandarin.

There is no English-language government website that a foreigner can log on to, in order to find out whether he or she needs to work when typhoons land, he added.

Furthermore, all the traffic signs are in Mandarin, Groff said, adding that he has often found it difficult to determine whether he was observing traffic regulations properly given the lack of bilingual signs.

Groff went on to say that he has also often resorted to "illegally" dumping his trash by the roadside because he couldn't figure out where or when he was supposed to throw out his garbage.

Foreigners constantly face numerous challenges when it comes to learning the latest information, he added.

Liz Wiest, a 27-year-old from California, told the CNA that she found it difficult to see a doctor in Taiwan.

Wiest explained that she had wanted to see a female gynecologist, but that she found it hard to determine the gender of doctors by their Chinese names on hospitals' websites.

This is a very common problem that has inconvenienced many female expatriates, Wiest added.

Timothy Barnes, a 31-year-old American, said that he was also having difficulty finding a doctor who speaks fluent English.

Barnes added that the language barrier has made it hard for Taiwanese doctors to treat him properly; however, he also gave high marks to Taiwan's medical system.

Gov't Considers Plans to Make Life Easier for Expats

When asked to comment on the complaints, Taiwan's National Immigration Agency (NIA) told the CNA that it is planning to upgrade its bilingual website to accommodate the needs of English speakers in Taiwan.

In 2005, the NIA established the Information for Foreigners Hotline, 0800-024-111, which provides free around-the-clock consultation services in Mandarin, English and Japanese regarding questions about work visas, taxes, residency, education, transportation and health insurance.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet's Directorate-General of Personnel Administration, which is responsible for announcing work and school suspensions due to typhoons, told the CNA that it is planning to offer English services.

For updated weather, travel, and traffic information in Taiwan, foreigners can also log on to The China Post's website at

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