TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwan News on March 23 interviewed Ugur Rifat Karlova, better known as Wu Feng (吳鳳), a Turkish TV show host about his life in Taiwan and the process for applying for Taiwanese citizenship.
Rifat has been entertaining Taiwanese audiences with his unique sense of humor and Mandarin language ability for 12 years now. He has a Taiwanese wife and daughter, is a host of the Taiwanese the popular television travel show iWalker (愛玩客) and can also be found on his youtube channel online.
On March 21, Rifat completed the process of becoming a Taiwanese citizen by receiving his Taiwan National ID card and naturalization certificate.
In 2006, Rifat first came to Taiwan on a scholarship to obtain his Master's Degree in Department of Political Science at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU).
Prior to coming to Taiwan, Rifat says he was already speaking fluent English and German to tourists when he worked as a tour guide in Turkey. He then majored in Mandarin in college before continuing his studies at NTNU, which has renown Chinese language program.
He says that his Mandarin is not actually perfect, but he says his language skills in terms of show business are strong because he likes to entertain people.
First big break in show business
He got his big break in show business when he was discovered on the street by scouts looking for a foreigner to play the famous foreign missionary George Leslie Mackay. In typical self-deprecating fashion, Rifat said that he was selected because he was balding and had a beard, much like Mackay.
In 2011, he received an offer to be a host of a new travel show to promote tourism in Taiwan called iWalker. He was so successful as a host of a show that he won a Golden Bell Award (Taiwanese equivalent of the Emmy Awards} for best travel show host after the first season.
Rifat has also worked for many years as a stand-up comedian telling jokes in Mandarin. As an example of a joke, Rifat said:
"I had a Taiwanese girlfriend who I dated for six months. After six months she said she wanted to break up with me. When I asked her why, she said 'because you are a foreigner.' He replied by saying, 'I know I'm a foreigner, didn't you notice that when we first started dating?'"
He said the joke was based on a real story because he says his jokes are from his real life, with humor added inside. He said that people like it because they "think that it's real and closer to their life."
Meeting his wife
He said that he first spotted his future wife at a dinner party among mutual friends and was attracted to her smile and attitude. They exchanged numbers, started dating and soon became a couple. Two and a half years later, they married in Taiwan and had a smaller ceremony in Turkey.
Rifat (left), wife (right) and daughter (center). (Image from Rifat Karlova)
Long road to dual nationality
Rifat said that the common misconception is that being married to a Taiwanese person and living in the country for a number of years is enough to gain citizenship. But in fact, most foreign nationals need to renounce their original citizenship if they want to become Taiwanese citizens.
Last year, under the new Standards for Defining High-Level Professionals for Naturalization (歸化國籍之高級專業人才認定標準) passed in March, special exemptions of the renunciation of citizenship requirement can be provided to foreign professionals with special skills in certain sectors. His wife found out about the new law and began helping him with the process.
Rifat said that it was the combination of his Golden Bell Award, his Master's Degree from NTNU, the three books he wrote, his stage shows and the many TV shows he hosted which promoted Taiwan's technology, culture and travel destinations that convinced the government to give him the exemption. His wife painstakingly collected all the required documents by hand and worked with him on filling out applications with both the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Culture.
Now that he has received the Taiwan ID, he says that he now feels like he is part of Taiwan and he looks forward to taking an even more active role in the society as a full-fledged citizen.
To learn more about how Rifat mastered Mandarin, got his big break in show business, met the love of his life, and achieved dual Turkish-Taiwanese citizenship, please watch the full interview below: