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The Study of Second-generation Chinese Americans Returning to Taiwan
motives to return emigrate
The chief reason Taiwanese emigrate to America is to study at a US university. With the relaxing of regulations in 1962, the number of Taiwanese studying in America rose rapidly. After graduating, the majority stayed in the US to find jobs, get Green Cards and eventually take up US citizenship. The largest wave of emigration came after 1970, peaking between 1980 and 1990. Reasons for leaving included the perception that pay and conditions and the social services infrastructure in America were all superior to what was on offer in Taiwan, added to which was concern about the quality of education in Taiwan, and about Taiwan’s national security. Several decades later, the children of those Taiwanese emigrants to the US are now between 20 and 40. In the past few years, the number of these second-generation Taiwanese-Americans who choose to reverse migrate to Taiwan has shown an increasing trend. The quality of education in Taiwan and Taiwan’s international status have changed little in the intervening years, so why is it that an increasing number of second-generation Taiwanese-Americans are prepared to overlook Taiwan’s disadvantages, and are willing to return? This research is an attempt to analyze more deeply the comparative advantages Taiwan has which appeal to second-generation Taiwanese-Americans, as well as to look more qualitatively into the trend towards reverse migration; such factors as what are their plans for the future, what difficulties do they face trying to fit in, what help do they need, and so on. In the absence of complete government figures on the reverse migration, this study uses as reference the available literature as well as the results of in-depth interviews. Various research methodologies were selected and the available literature collated to produce a semi-structured questionnaire to be used for in-depth interviews. The research subjects were second-generation Taiwanese-Americans ranging from 22 to 37 years old who had returned to Taiwan. The number of subjects was 22. As regards motives to reverse emigrate, the research results show that some young second generation Taiwanese-Americans making the decision to return are influenced not by one single factor but by the interaction of external and internal factors. External factors include: Taiwan’s comfortable lifestyle, the friendly character of local people, and the perception that it will be easier to get a job there than in the States. Internal factors include: cultural identification and the desire to seek one’s roots, interpersonal and familial ties and so on. Other returnees, however, may be driven by a single motivating factor: the need to look after ageing parents who have returned, or to take over the family business or get ready to do so. Most returnees, already having had some experience of living in Taiwan, find it relatively easy to adapt to day-to-day life here, usually settling in within three months. Some aspects of working life here, however, come as more of a shock, and once they start work, returnees face a difficult task adjusting to Taiwan’s business ethics, organizational culture and so on. In addition, Taiwan’s working culture of low salaries and long hours is cited as the main reason some returnees eventually re-emigrate. From the interviews, it can be seen that young returnees who previously had experience of living in Taiwan with their parents as children have a strong feeling of identification with Taiwan, and the majority of these intend to settle permanently. For them, Taiwan feels more like ‘home’ than their actual birthplace, the US. Other young returnees whose previous experience of Taiwan was merely making trips back and forth to visit relatives express feelings of closeness with Taiwan, making it a natural place to move to in search of new life experiences after graduating. They say that, while they might eventually settle in Taiwan, Taiwan could equally turn out to be a stage in their career path or even a stepping-stone to the Mainland. On the whole, young second-generation Taiwanese-American reverse migrants display an open-minded attitude overflowing with possibilities and a truly global outlook.
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