The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #24 November / December 2016
Introducing Southeast Asia in Taiwan
by Teddy Nee
November / December 2016 | 

If you have been to Taiwan, you may notice that there are many non-oriental people and foreign restaurants. More than half a million immigrants from more than 160 countries call Taiwan their second home, and nearly 200,000 of them are originally from Southeast Asia. Some are married to Taiwanese people, thus making them an integral part of Taiwan's society.

SEAMi logo

Four major Southeast Asian countries that contribute the most to Taiwan's development are Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines. Their existence is so significant that the Taiwanese government has taken the initiative to facilitate their integration in order to make them feel like home in Taiwan. You can easily see announcements written in Southeast Asian languages, and there are also many Southeast Asian shops and restaurants.

There are Vietnamese and Thai restaurants nearby where I live in Taiwan, so it is easy for me to talk in these languages with the native speakers anytime I want. Although there are many Southeast Asians, a lot of Taiwanese seems not to understand much about the culture, people, language, or even showing interest towards Southeast Asia. As a result, stereotypes occurred and it has caused a gap within the society.

South East Asian Migrant inspired (SEAMi)

Filipino Migrants' Day

On March 2015, the first Southeast Asian-themed bookstore in Taiwan was opened in Taoyuan city. It is located behind Taoyuan train station, which is a strategic place to attract Southeast Asian people because that is where “Little Southeast Asia” is located. It has become a gathering place for many Indonesian, Vietnamese, Thai, and Filipino, especially on weekends.

This bookstore, called South East Asian Migrant inspired (SEAMi), is owned by an non-profit organization (NPO) that goes by the same name, and is supported by the government. There are books not only in all Southeast Asian languages, but also in English, Chinese, and even Esperanto (donated by the Taiwan Esperanto Association).

Making Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns

Although it is a bookstore, SEAMi actually has other programs and services, such as a library, language courses, and cultural activities. I have participated in some of their cultural events, like Filipino Migrants' Day, tasting Malaysian cuisine, introducing Indonesia's Batak ethnic culture, and celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnamese style, just to name a few. I have also taken Filipino, Thai, and Vietnamese language courses, and I have even presented various topics there, mostly about Medan city (my home town), Indonesia and its language, and even language learning.

SEAMi has contributed so much to the society by providing a platform for Taiwanese people to learn about Southeast Asia and at the same time, for Southeast Asians in Taiwan to know more Taiwanese friends and to take the opportunity to introduce their homelands and cultures. Some overseas and local news media services have covered the story of SEAMi, including TEDx Taoyuan, National Taiwan University (the best university in Taiwan), and the Department of Cultural Affairs Taoyuan city.

Facebook: 東南亞藝文圖書 - SEAMi 望見書間

Teddy is an avid language learner, blogger, engineer, and a collector. He has a dream to make this world a better place through language learning. Apart from learning languages, he also likes reading and playing ukulele. You can speak with him in Medan Hokkien, Indonesian, English, Chinese Mandarin, Spanish, and Esperanto. Visit his blog at

Introducing the culture of Batak ethnic from Indonesia

Me posing with a city guidebook from my hometown, Medan city

The founder of SEAMi, Zhou Xi, in the magazine of Department of Cultural Affairs Taoyuan city

A video shoot in progress

Discussing inside SEAMi

Vietnamese books

SEAMi magazine

Introducing Southeast Asia in Taiwan
Writer: Teddy Nee
0: All images are propery of Teddy Nee, except for the road (splash page), which is Public Domain

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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