Taipei, June 9 (CNA) Staying optimistic is the key to assimilating into a new culture, said Arelis Gabot, a Dominican Republic native and one of the few foreign born neighborhood ward chiefs in Taiwan.
Speaking from 17 years of experience living in Taiwan, the 40-year-old said that one needs to look on the bright side of things and forget unhappy incidents in order to blend into the culture.
"It would be a lie if I said there have not been any conflicts,” she said in a telephone interview with CNA.
Gabot, who is married to a Taiwanese businessman, came to the island nearly two decades ago. She immediately found herself at a disadvantage because of her poor Chinese and Taiwan’s lack of understanding of foreign nationals, she said.
Gabot recalled how she took the brunt of her mother-in-law’s anger over small misunderstandings and how people would treat her differently because of her Caribbean looks.
"When I wanted to change my mood, I’d go out for a walk, have a cup of coffee, or distract myself with something else,” she said, using fluent Mandarin and Taiwanese that she learned from watching television.
But since then, Gabot’s optimism and enthusiasm for community work has won the respect of her neighbors. Shortly after receiving Taiwanese citizenship, she was appointed last year by her communityas ward chief, one of the few non-ethnic Taiwanese to hold such a position.
“I like to help out and see smiles on people’s faces," she said.
Her duties involve inspecting the neighborhood, reporting damaged facilities and making sure that elders who live alone are cared for. Gabot also actively participates in a women’s congress, offering advice to foreign brides who have difficulty adapting to life in Taiwan.
An eager learner, Gabot has also enrolled in free public career-training courses for minorities, including single mothers and immigrant spouses.
“Taiwan has changed a lot in the past few years... the government is giving us a lot of support right now,” she said. She encouraged the 440,000 immigrant spouses in Taiwan to utilize the resources in the country and create their own opportunities in life.
(By Nancy Liu)