Australian Office

“Ask An Aussie” series: Journalist Dr Martin Williams

“Ask An Aussie” series: Journalist Dr Martin Williams


Ever wondered what it's like to be an Aussie living in Taiwan? This series shares the perspective of a few of our favourite long term expats! 

This month, we caught up with Dr Martin Williams, a journalist who first came to Taiwan in 1994.  An inquiring mind who's always happy to share his insights on Taiwan culture, he's great to have a beer and a chat with.  So that's exactly what we did.  Read on!

Q: Few young Aussies know much about Taiwan growing up.  How did you find this hidden gem - what brought you to Taiwan in the first place?

A: It was a bit of a combination - I was studying Mandarin at university and came here on a Chiang Ching-kuo scholarship in 1994 to study at NTNU's Mandarin Training Centre.  Then I returned again in 1997 - stopping over in Hong Kong to witness the handover of power there - for my PhD study.  I remember on that trip I saw a picture of a young woman in the back of an indigenous affairs newspaper, Austronesian News (which is not published any more).  Though I didn't actually meet her for another year,  that was the first time I saw my wife!


Q: After all these years, and with fluent Mandarin, are you fully integrated?  Or do you feel like a foreigner still?

A: I don't feel like a foreigner.  I don't have citizenship, so I am permanently separate in an official sense.  But I don't feel like it makes a difference most of the time.  As the spouse of a Taiwan citizen, in Taiwan's generous system I don't miss much on a practical level.  Am I completely integrated? No.  My wife is Indigenous, so I am perhaps more integrated in that community than the Taiwan mainstream culture.  But I feel like I am integrated enough, I am at peace living here - more so than in Australia.


Q: You have a PhD in Taiwan ethnic politics and Indigenous history.  Do you think there are things Australia and Taiwan can learn from each other in this area?

A: Definitely, I think there is a rich vein of material.  Both sides could learn a lot by comparing notes.  Essentially, Australia is much stronger in terms of the law.  Taiwan can be much stronger in terms of practical outcomes.  Despite also having a bloody history, Taiwan is somehow one of the safest and most peaceful places in the world.  Taiwan is constantly working on self-improvement.  And Taiwan is less offended by affirmative action - Australia is more like the US, in that sense.  Taiwan can learn from Australian lawmaking - Taiwanese lawmakers often pass poorly constructed law.  Australia has a core of lawmakers on both sides of Parliament with a better concept of lawmaking.  In Taiwan, lawmakers are more focused on the cameras.  So both sides can learn from each other.


Q: You love Taiwan - but is there anything you miss about Australia?  Vegemite perhaps?  The State of Origin? Beaches?

A: Family and friends - I miss them badly and as you get older you see less of them.  That's a terrible gap that you never make up.  And I miss sports - Taiwan mostly follows American sports, baseball and basketball.  I'm a football and cricket person.  The FIFA World Cup is the ultimate series for me.  The weather here is not really suited to cricket pitches - though there's some determined expats who try to play.  But I'm generally very comfortable here - there is a greater sense of a civilised community.