Living in Taiwan certainly offers some unique opportunities to white foreigners. Using the English language and "white faces" in advertising is a popular strategy here for everything including bed sheets (remember our commercial!?), food, fashion, and beauty products. So while at home most of us are just average-looking, here we are a hot commodity.
It should come to no surprise, then, that English schools rely heavily on white-faces to solicit students. Sometimes cram schools (private businesses that are places for kids to go and study after regular school) will even hire a foreigner to just come in once a week to be the 'white face' teaching an English class. Having a foreigner on staff to teach English can legitimize the school and justify a steeper tuition fee, regardless of the foreigner's qualifications as a teacher.
At the company I work for, our staff is made up of approximately 1/3 foreigners (2/3 Taiwanese), however one of our big sales pitches is that we actually have a staff of 50/50. So when our schedulers are planning for the day or week, they have to keep in mind the "foreigner ratio" - basically we have to keep a certain amount of foreigners in the office at all times so that the clients feel satisfied that they are learning English from native speakers even if they cannot understand what the foreigner is saying.
Actually one day, a couple of months ago, I guess some potential investors were visiting the company and so our managers actually sent some of the Taiwanese teachers downstairs to our business office and brought some of the foreigners from the business office upstairs to the teaching office, to help bolster the foreign image of the company!
I have to say, these kinds of things can put us in a bit of an uncomfortable situation at times, but I guess it's just the way it is.
When people are hired at our company, we also sign a waiver saying that the company can use our likeness for advertising purposes. Of course, if foreigners help sell other products, they'll certainly help sell an English school.
Well, after 7 months of working here in Taiwan, my company finally asked Nick and I to do a photo shoot for them for some new advertisements. (it was only a matter of time) Nick's pictures still haven't been used, but just today I discovered that there is already a picture of me on the company's home page!
And, if you click on my picture... I have a full ad!
I'm not really a big fan of the pictures they chose... nor particularly delighted by being one of the faces of the company, but none-the-less, it's kind of fun to be on an advertisement.
... watch out world... my star is rising!