TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – On a hot summer’s night in Taipei, Priya Lalwani Purswaney meets up with friends at a small restaurant. Her Chinese is so flawless that she blends in with the locals. Purswaney, also known as Li Mei-Chun (李眉君), has built a life for herself in Taiwan after her father moved the whole family here from India when she was a teenager.
“At the time, I didn’t speak Chinese. Although my teacher and others at school always tried their best to communicate with me in English, I made a decision to learn from the basics,” said Purswaney. “It sounds unbelievable now but after taking eight hours of Chinese every day, it improved quickly.”
After graduating from college and working at Tatung Company for two years, Priya joined the India Taipei Association (ITA). She was a special assistant to the Indian ambassador when it started up.
“I miss being at the ITA. Our office started off in the Grand Hyatt briefly, followed by a business center, before we moved into the International Trade Building,” Priya says of her three years with the organization.
With her fluency in three languages – Chinese, Hindi, and English – she was able to become a simultaneous interpreter, and founded PriyaLee Translation & Consulting, which continues to work with ITA as well as the secretariats of Taipei and New Taipei City governments.
(photo/ Lily Lu)
Settling in Taiwan
“When my father completed his tenure, he returned to India. But I decided to stay,” Purswaney said. After getting married and having children, she continued to live in Taiwan and built her career.
“I think Taiwanese are warm and friendly, but it is hard to define such warmth,” Purswaney said, smiling. “For instance, they don’t break up street fights but when a crisis happens, they jump in to help without hesitation.”
“Taiwanese are very caring and polite,” Purswaney added. “If anyone asks me where they should go to learn Chinese, I always recommend Taiwan.”
Globalization has brought language learning out of the classroom into the real world, and Purswaney’s journey is a testament to this phenomenon. Her enthusiasm for learning goes beyond the classroom and textbooks.
“In Taiwan, everyone can be your teacher, giving guidance and assistance on the way to learning the language and culture.”
(photo/ Global News for New Immigrants)
Help for New Immigrants
“Did you know the National Immigration Agency has a program that provides tablets for free?” Purswaney suddenly says, showing off her tablet.
“I’ve never heard of a country with such a program. It is very generous, and you can register twice,” said Purswaney. “I always recommend people signing up for it,” Purswaney said.
“The Immigration Agency hosts many meaningful activities and programs that supply new immigrants with a sense of societal participation, such as this free tablet program,” she continues.
“After all, digitization is everywhere nowadays. Whether it is shopping, reading news, or asking for directions. The program provides tablets to those who may otherwise be unable to afford them.”
“The agency sends the application forms to your house and all you have to do is sign and submit a copy of your alien resident certificate (ARC). It is very convenient and smart. I am very happy with my new tablet.”
In fact, she adds, “I can no longer imagine life without a tablet.”
Keeping an Open Mind
To build a friendlier digital environment for new immigrants, the National Immigration Agency provides a free tablet service at 25 offices. Those who qualify can call the designated number and book a reservation. Once the application is approved, the agency will mail the tablet to your home address for a 30-day rental period and 10 GB internet access.
When asked what advice she would give to newcomers to Taiwan, especially those from India, Purswaney said, “Have an open mind, don’t be afraid of trying new foods and activities. In the end, you will find there’s a lot of similarities between Taiwan and India.”
“Taiwan is very convenient in terms of transportation. The metro and buses are accessible within short ranges, and if you’d like to travel further, the high-speed rail and trains are also available,” said Purswaney. “No matter where you want to go, there’s at least 10 ways to get there. And Taiwanese people are always happy to help.”
“And you don’t have to worry about getting hungry because there are convenience stores open 24-7 everywhere you go.”