打工度假瘋,青年逐夢中!

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2013 / 2月

文‧陳建瑋/滕淑芬


有一種認識世界、探索自我的生活方式,三不五時就會被喚起。不論稱之為壯遊、空檔年、背包生活、遊學,或是時下正流行的打工度假,花個一年半載晃蕩、體驗異國文化,是年輕的本錢,也是權利。

從20年前台灣青年爭相出國留學,取得鍍金洋學位,到現在一邊工作,一邊檢視自己的人生腳步;勇敢走出去的方式已然改變,不變的問題是,你想去哪裡?又為什麼而去?


今年27歲的Catherine,3個月前隻身飛抵南半球的澳洲墨爾本,獨自一人在陌生環境謀生,只能透過網路和朋友交換心得。

她找到在居酒屋打工的機會,一周工作35小時,收入已足以支應日常生活所需。

「打工度假的精神就在於勇敢冒險,當然要自己找路走啊!」Catherine表示,周遭有些台灣朋友缺乏自信,覺得自己英文不好,怕在異鄉找不到工作,因此尋求代辦協助;但她認為走捷徑可能花更多錢,收穫卻更少,因為過程是最可貴的經驗。

大學畢業後進入補教業工作四年多的Catherine,為了挑戰自我而出國,希望看看自己若離開舒適圈,能否激發出更大的潛力。自力求生,自然要付出一些代價。抵達墨爾本的第一個月,她幾乎用光旅費。

找工作的真相:競爭激烈

「要在城市裡找工作,就是一個字,難!」Catherine表示,自己的英文流利,學生時代就有打工的經驗,她以為到澳洲餐廳找到服務生的工作應該不難,誰知競爭竟非常激烈。

因為很多澳洲年輕人並不想待在偏遠、看不到未來的農場工作,寧可來大城市求生,當地老闆若有選擇,自然會優先僱用當地人。

最後她花了兩個禮拜時間先考取調酒師證照,然後到街上餐廳一間一間親自敲門遞履歷,才終於找到工作。

出國前,她看到台灣媒體對於打工度假的報導,似乎多著墨在出國淘金,其實,現實環境並不如傳聞中美好。

在大城市裡,房租、物價都高,簡單安貧的生活跟淘金兩字,完全沾不上邊。在台灣收入不差的Catherine說:「以前出門都靠小黃,現在乖乖搭地鐵、走路,根本是來找罪受。」在墨爾本每天光是交通費就要花上7塊澳幣(約合台幣210元),讓她不禁懷念台灣大眾運輸的平價與便利。

代辦、自辦,怎麼辦?

出國找工作不容易,該不該尋求代辦或仲介的協助?答案見仁見智。

有人認為,若能找到優質的代辦,可省下摸索時間,甚至還沒踏出國門就先有了工作,心情較安穩。但也有人認為,出國打工度假就是想跳脫常規生活,在這一年讓自己的人生增添不同色彩,如果交給代辦處理,反而失去了原本自由闖蕩的精神。

真正問題是,現在因想出國打工度假的人數多,許多代辦業者乘勢而起,提供非法的工作機會,誘使年輕人簽下對自己不利的契約而牟利,因此必須小心謹慎,契約內容一定要看清楚。

其次,到底該留在大城市,還是偏僻小鎮,更有助於磨練語言能力和增廣見聞?

Catherine說,她之前在台北教英文,若突然要她跑到農場擠牛奶、剃羊毛,心裡難免「驚驚」。來之前她也做了不少功課,聽說在小鎮上有很多台灣人,可能連說英文的機會都很少,更不用想要融入當地生活,因此決定待在大城市,每天泡在博物館,跟新認識的朋友一起逛街聊天,這才是她期望的打工度假生活。

打工度假的25個理由,賺錢倒數第二

國內青年爭相出國打工度假,曾引發只想賺錢、淪為廉價勞工的爭議。

協助台灣青年辦理國際青年證的康文文教基金會,去年9月發表的一份網路問卷顯示,在25個打工度假理由中,賺錢排名倒數第二。該基金會針對近3年內曾赴他國打工度假至少半年以上者進行調查,受訪的226位青年選擇的理由,主要是開闊視野、培養語言和獨立能力、滿足對新事物的好奇。

當問到未來還想去哪一個國家打工度假?結果選擇加拿大者占19.5%,澳洲占19%,英國占9.3%。康文的分析指出,加拿大是北美唯一開放打工度假的國家,由加拿大進入美國和中南美洲旅行,較為便利;其次,加拿大開放打工度假申請者的年齡上限至35歲,是不少超過30歲還想出國打工度假的唯一選擇。

2010年,林彥潔在溫哥華打工度假一年,出國前他主要從事拍片與製片工作。他在加拿大做過日式料理店服務生、茶餐廳二廚、設計公司助理。他說,加拿大可找到的工作多是服務業,但即使是服務生,在當地也是非常受尊重的工作。

由於曾有媒體質疑打工度假者只想出國賺錢、出國玩,林彥潔決定拍攝一部有關打工度假的紀錄片,希望有助家長了解年輕人的想法,別把打工度假和浪費時間畫上等號。

一支畫筆遊世界

目前多數給予台灣打工度假簽證的國家,都以30歲為關卡,在我們的文化思維中,三十邁向而立之年,是一個生涯轉捩點。此時不少年輕人已累積不錯的工作資歷,該不該中斷在台灣的經驗,聽任自己內心的呼喊,放空一年?而一年回來後,這段人生對日後職涯有沒有幫助呢?是個人必須思考的問題。

原來在台灣從事工業設計,近30歲的莊蕙如(Belle) ,在職場日復一日的改圖、看材料的過程中,漸漸失去了當初學畫時對藝術的熱愛,心中的失落感就像投入池塘的石子,最後化成一句「我的人生不該只有這樣!」

Belle起初只是抱著要用繪畫紀錄打工度假生活的想法,就飛去澳洲,怎料找工作不順利,最後在朋友突發奇想的建議下,她決定當一名街頭藝人。

「如果在台灣,我絕對不敢這樣做,」Belle說,以前學畫時她曾問過老師,有沒有在街上幫人作畫過,老師竟回她:「我還沒落魄到這地步。」讓她無法理解為何街頭畫師是落魄的象徵。

她在伯斯街頭擺攤的第一天,她不停問自己,真的能靠畫畫過日子嗎?直到第一位客人上門,她才放下忐忑不安的情緒,投入作畫。

Belle的作品不一定有清楚的輪廓,但卻能勾勒出人物的個性,讓客人打從心底認同,甚至請她繼續幫家人或是寵物作畫。她心中的失落感,在澳洲的街頭上被人潮給填滿,讓她找回自己的最愛。因此,與其說她愛畫畫,不如說,她愛的是拿起畫筆的自己。

在澳洲一年,她重新找回創作熱血,回國不久後,又動身前往語言幾乎不通的德國挑戰自我,繼續靠著一支畫筆闖天下。

一個德國人在台灣

相較於台灣青年踴躍出國,外國青年來台打工度假的人數至今只有一千多人。今年20歲的德國女孩Michelle是其中之一,她在2009年曾和朋友來台灣旅遊,從此愛上台灣。

「台灣的天氣、食物,還有這裡的人,都是我喜歡台灣的原因。」當時Michelle返回德國後,努力打工存錢,兼了4份差,只為籌措再次來台的旅費。2010年當台灣與德國簽訂打工度假協議後,她欣喜若狂,馬上著手準備申請簽證,一圓美夢。

一個人飛抵台北後,她在朋友幫忙下找到了一間便宜住處,但是找工作就沒這麼容易了。

「很多老闆都不敢雇用外國人,也沒聽過打工度假。」Michelle找過許多餐廳和小酒吧,都吃了閉門羹。徬徨無助之際,想從食物得到一點安慰的她,在板橋莒光路上看到一家紅豆餅攤,這是她最愛的台灣食物之一,沒想到老闆竟然能說一口流利英文,就這樣天南地北的聊了起來。

聊天之中,Michelle得知老闆想搬到宜蘭去做生意,她靈機一動,決定拜師學做紅豆餅,老闆也大方傳授技藝,在老闆離開後,她接下紅豆餅攤的生意,終於有了穩定收入。

金髮碧眼的Michelle本身就是最好的活廣告,德國正妹賣紅豆餅的消息傳開之後,客人多到要排隊等候,還引來許多媒體採訪,讓她樂不可支。

目前她一週工作6天,從下午1點開賣,到晚上10點收攤,收入只能勉強支應台北高昂的生活費,並且存下一點點旅費和學費,希望之後可以去學中文,到處去玩。「台灣很美,有沙灘、有高山,想要衝浪泡湯都可以,」Michelle說,台灣人常常面帶笑容,待人親切,甚至讓她有自己好像生錯了地方的感覺,很想當個台灣人。

生命會越走越寬

台灣的文化風景與濃厚人情味是吸引國外觀光客的一大賣點,但要吸引外國青年來台打工度假,難度很高。

國外青年來台打工度假,涉及內政、外交、勞工、醫療等問題,目前我們尚無一個資訊完整的窗口。此外,台灣的基本時薪只有109元,勞動條件較差,對企業主的宣傳也不夠,外國青年來台後可以找到什麼樣工作,似乎只能靠個人運氣與努力。

但這個困境是可以改變的,若能藉由這些從澳洲、加拿大、日本、韓國打工度假回來的國內年輕人,看見我們自己相對的問題,也許企業主就能以友善的同理心,對待這些需要短暫工作的外國青年朋友。

歐美青少年有個上大學前空出一年時間壯遊世界的傳統,他們稱之為斷層年或空檔年,美國名校哈佛大學自70年代就鼓勵學生這麼規劃。

推翻古巴親美獨裁政權的革命家切‧格瓦拉,在就讀醫學院時,曾休學一年,和一位學長騎著機車,沿著安第斯山脈,穿越南美洲5個國家,在這次萬里長征的旅途中,他目睹無所不在的貧窮而深感震撼,興起投入改革的念頭;若沒有這一年的經歷,他日後可能只是一位默默無名的醫師。

這次旅行徹底改變了他,格瓦拉的父親日後出版他那本《革命前夕的摩托車日記》,在書中寫道:「他旅行,不是為了像遊客那樣,尋找景色怡人的地方拍照留念,而是為了在沿路的每一個拐彎處體驗民生疾苦,並探尋這些疾苦的源頭。他的旅行是一種社會觀察。」格拉瓦也因此成為中南美洲最受人敬仰的革命家與領導者。

一直以來,亞洲人習慣悶著頭向前衝,即使遲疑,也不敢離開既定的軌道;甚至可能已知跑錯了方向,也不願停下來修正,因為害怕落後。但人生猶如龜兔賽跑,跑得快的兔子未必就能先抵達終點。

過去,入學讀書、畢業、工作到老,等著退休的直線人生,已逐漸受到挑戰;現在的新潮流與新思維是,學習、工作、休息,不斷循環的圓型人生。

我們無法掌握人生的長度,但可以決定生命的寬度。人生有時候就在轉念間徹底改變,如果花一年的時間,可以幫助自己找到人生的方向,又何不大膽放心去飛!

相關文章

近期文章

英文

Paid to Travel: Taiwanese Young People Embrace Working Holidays

Kobe Chen and Teng Sue-feng /tr. by Phil Newell

It seems that every few years you hear about some alternative lifestyle that involves seeing the world and learning more about yourself. This lifestyle has gone by many names over the years—“adventure travel,” “gap year,” “backpacking,” “travel-study,” and the currently popular “working holiday.” Young people not only are in a position to take a year or so to wander about experiencing exotic foreign cultures, but indeed even feel “entitled” to do so.

Twenty years ago young people from Taiwan competed for the opportunity to go abroad and gild their resumes with advanced degrees from other lands. Today they are more likely to work as they go while investigating their own life possibilities. But no matter what guise their travel takes, some of the questions never change: Where should you go? And why go?


Three months ago, Catherine, who turns 27 this year, jumped on a plane and, all by herself, went to Melbourne, Australia to live independently in a strange new environment, with the only constant being the chance to share her feelings with her friends over the Internet.

She found work in a Japanese restaurant, and, working 35 hours a week, has been able to cover her living expenses.

“The whole value of a working holiday is in the spirit of taking chances, of facing the unknown, so of course the only right way to do it is to just wing it entirely on your own!” Catherine says. Some of her friends in Taiwan, lacking her self-confidence and feeling that their English was not up to snuff, were afraid to follow her adventurous example, preferring instead to get everything arranged beforehand through an agency. But she decided that such a shortcut would not only be much more expensive, it would also be less rewarding, because the process itself is a valuable experience.

After graduating from university Catherine worked in the cram school industry for four years. She decided to go abroad to give herself a new challenge, hoping to find out whether she would develop new potential by getting out of her comfort zone. Naturally going out on her own meant paying some dues: After one month in Melbourne, she had spent virtually all of her traveling money, and was really getting desperate.

The hard truth

“I can sum up looking for work in the city in one word: tough!” says Catherine. She speaks English fluently, and had worked hourly-wage jobs when she was a student, so she figured finding a part-time job in a restaurant would be a piece of cake. Little did she expect the competition to be so fierce. Because many Australians from rural areas see no future in remaining down on the farm, they go to the cities to find work, and naturally local businesses prefer to hire local people.

Ultimately she invested a couple of weeks in getting certification as a bartender, and then she just went up and down streets knocking on restaurant doors and passing out her resume, until finally she landed a job.

In the big city, the cost of living is high. Catherine, who earned quite good money in Taiwan, relates: “Back home I always took taxis when I went out, but now I can only afford to take the subway or walk.” She spends about A$7 per day (about NT$210) in Melbourne just on transportation, which really makes her nostalgic for Taiwan’s cheap and comfortable mass transit system. But she remains upbeat: “I can’t complain—after all, I asked for it!”

Are agents better?

Finding work abroad is not easy, so wouldn’t it be better to go through an intermediary agency? The answer is more complicated than you’d think.

Those who argue in favor of using a qualified agency say that you can save a lot of time that you would otherwise spend blindly groping in the dark, and that you’ll feel a lot more comfortable going abroad if you’ve got a job already lined up. But others suggest that the whole point of going abroad is to break the patterns of your normal life—that’s where the excitement is to be found! If you just turn your job search over to an agency, you will completely miss out on the sense of freedom and experimentation engendered by doing it yourself.

Besides the psychological effect, there is a more practical problem. Because a lot of people want to go overseas for working holidays, unscrupulous agencies sometimes persuade people to take illegal work opportunities with very disadvantageous contractual conditions. Therefore, make sure you read the fine print before you sign any agreement.

A separate issue is whether you should take your working holiday in a city, or in a remote rural area. It has been suggested that if you live in a rural area, you won’t meet many other Chinese speakers, and by sheer necessity your English will improve rapidly. In addition, a farm job would be a completely novel experience and offer a radically different view of life.

Catherine, who taught English for a living in Taiwan, says that it would have been “too much of a shock” for her if she had gone directly to a farm to milk cows or shear sheep. Also, she did some research before she left and found out that in a small town there might actually be very few chances to meet people for casual conversation, much less blend into the local community. That’s why she opted for the big city, where she can go to museums, or shop and chat with new friends every day—that’s the kind of working holiday she really wanted.

The bottom line?

There has been some controversy over the fad for working holidays, with some saying that the people who go do so only for the money, and they see the willingngess of educated young people from Taiwan to go to another country to do menial labor as somewhat demeaning to Taiwan’s self-image.

However, last September an Internet survey conducted by the Kang Wen Culture and Education Foundation discovered that, of a list of 25 possible reasons for going on a working holiday, the 226 young people who responded ranked “making money” second from the bottom. The main reasons they cited were broadening their perspective, improving their foreign language skills, learning to be more independent, and curiosity to try new things.

In response to the question about which country they wanted to go to, 19.5% of respondents said Canada, 19% said Australia, and 9.3% said the UK. In analyzing the data, Kang Wen noted that in North America, only Canada admits young Taiwanese for working holidays, and it is easy to travel from there to the US and Central America. Also, Canada has a relatively high age limit—35—for working holiday applicants, so for anyone over 30 it is essentially the only option.

Lin Yen­jie spent a year back in 2010 on a working holiday in Vancouver. Before going abroad, he worked in the film industry as a cinematographer and producer. He says that most of the jobs available in Canada are in the service sector, but even if you are just a waiter, you still get a great deal of respect from people.

Because there have been critical commentaries in the media saying that people go on working vacations just to goof off overseas for a year, Lin decided to make a documentary film about working holidays in the hope that it will help parents better understand the motivations of the younger generation, so that they will not equate “working holiday” with “waste of time.”

Brushing aside difficulties

In Chinese culture, 30 is the age by which a person ideally should establish himself or herself in a profession—it is considered a major turning point in one’s career. By this age, many people have built up quite a decent resume. Is this really the time to break off their Taiwan experience and follow the impulse to spend a year frivolously?

Belle Chuang, nearly 30, worked as an industrial designer in Taiwan. Going over industrial designs and checking materials day after day, the routine never changing, she gradually lost touch with the passion for art that had originally driven her to study painting in school. She felt an emptiness inside that eventually crystallized in one sentence: “My life wasn’t meant to be this way!”

Belle decided to go on a working holiday, with the idea of making a record of her thoughts and experiences through drawings and paintings. She flew to Australia, but found it unexpectedly difficult to get a job. Finally, thanks to an off-hand suggestion from a friend, she decided to become a street artist.

“I would never dare do something like this in Taiwan!” she confesses. The first day she set up her stuff on a street in Perth, she kept asking herself over and over: Is it really possible to make a living just by painting? It was only after her first customer sat down for a portrait that she was able to shake off her insecurity and throw herself into her art.

Her experience in Australia has allowed her to recover the thing she most loved in life—not so much painting itself, as herself when she is painting. Not long after returning to Taiwan, she set off again, this time for Germany, determined to again challenge herself and conquer the world armed with nothing more than a paintbrush.

A German in Taiwan

In contrast to the large numbers of young Taiwanese who have gone abroad for working holidays, thus far only about 1000 or so foreigners have come to Taiwan for the same thing. One of these is a 20-year-old German woman by the name of Michelle Wojtkowiak. She traveled to Taiwan with friends back in 2009 and fell in love with this island. She was delighted when Taiwan and Germany inked a working-holiday agreement in 2010, and immediately applied for a visa.

After arriving in Taiwan, with the help of some friends she found a cheap place to live, but finding a job proved to be not so easy. “A lot of business owners have never heard of ‘working holidays’ and are reluctant to hire foreigners,” Michelle explains. She looked for work in a lot of restaurants and small bars, but invariably got the door shut in her face.

One day, as she wondered where to turn, she thought that some good food might cheer her up. On Ju­guang Road in Ban­qiao, she saw a street vendor selling red-bean cakes—one of her favorite Taiwanese foods—and, finding to her surprise that the vendor spoke excellent English, ending up chatting with him about this and that. As they conversed, she learned that the boss wanted to relocate his business to Yi­lan County, and like a flash she saw a chance for herself. She asked him to teach her how to make red-bean cakes, and he generously shared all the tricks of the trade with her. After the vendor moved away she took over his street stall, and finally she had a stable income.

Currently she works six days a week, opening at 1:00 in the afternoon and closing up at 10:00 p.m. She makes enough to cover the costs of living in Tai­pei, which is an expensive city, while putting away small amounts for the future. She hopes eventually to save enough to take Chinese classes and travel around Taiwan.

Michelle says that she came to Taiwan, undeterred by any obstacles, because she loves it so much. But now that she understands the employment situation and the attitude of business owners here, she wouldn’t recommend to any of her German friends to come here unless they first think it through carefully.

The minimum wage in Taiwan is only NT$109 per hour, less than US$4, and working conditions are not as good as in richer countries. Also, little has been done to inform business owners about the working holiday rules. Therefore young people who come here seeking work have to rely almost entirely on luck and their own persistence.

The culture, the scenery, and the friendliness of the people are sufficient to attract short-term tourists to Taiwan. But it will be much more difficult to attract young people from other countries to come here on working holidays.

Living large

It is very common in the US and Europe for young people to take a year off before university and travel abroad. This is often called a “gap year.” In fact, Harvard has been encouraging incoming students to do this since the 1970s.

The revolutionary icon Che Guevera, who helped overthrow the pro-US dictatorship in Cuba, took a year off while he was in medical school and, with a classmate, took a motorcycle trip along the Andes Mountains, passing through five Latin American nations. The journey profoundly changed him, and in a diary of the trip that Che’s father later published, his father wrote: “He didn’t travel like a tourist, looking for scenic spots and taking commemorative photos. He traveled to learn firsthand about the hardships of the people at every bend and turn, and to uncover the reasons for their suffering.”

Asians have always kept their noses to the grindstone, rarely daring to depart from the normal track that everyone follows, even if they have doubts about doing so. Indeed, even people who realize that they’ve chosen the wrong path in life usually reject changing direction, because they fear falling behind. But the most interesting paths in life are not necessarily the straightest ones. Instead of just following the well-trodden line of getting a degree, working until you get old, and then finally retiring, more and more young people are thinking that it might not be such a bad idea to take some detours, or even go in circles of learning, working, playing, learning, working, playing….

No one knows for sure how long life will be, but we all have the power to decide how broad it will be. If spending a year helps you to find the right direction, why not take the risk, jump on a plane, and go for it!

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