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新南向國家畢業生心得分享

什麼因素吸引國際學生在臺灣學校畢業後繼續留在臺灣工作?身為外籍人士在工作中有遇過哪些酸甜苦辣?種種的疑問可以透過我們的訪問來一窺究竟。

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Bravery in the Face

Entrepreneur of Authentic Malaysian café in Taipei

Interview by Liling Lee
Photographs by Shih-Wen Tseng
Organized by FICHET

Nur Adibah has a café named Mooka Café (慕咖) in a small valley nearby MRT Xinyi Anhe Station. Her success is a long story to tell. How is she live in Taiwan, how she learns Mandarin, and why she chooses to stay in Taiwan after studying are what we are curious about. Recommended by her friend, Adibah decided to learn Mandarin in Taiwan for assisting her family business. Adibah knew that to learn and memorize a language better, she had to put herself in the environment. Therefore, she took a part-time job in a café where she understood Taiwanese attitude towards works and eventually conceived the idea to open her own café in Taiwan.

Though it is only the beginning of the journey, from her story, we see the passion and courage of her, this is what she wants to tell us. Hold on, dream on.

A Choice for Life

As a foreigner, Adibah is actually not foreign to Taiwan. She has stayed here for almost 4 years. The reason why she is in Taiwan has been traced back to her background. Adibah’s family ran wood and food industry in Malaysia. For exploiting her family business in Chinese market, Adibah decided to learn Mandarin. At first, she wanted to go to Shanghai for language classes, then one of her Australian friend, whose brother studied Mandarin in Taiwan, suggested her come to Taiwan. Thus, Adibah collected information from the internet and compared the courses of Mainland China’s and Taiwan’s. Considering the distance, budget, and the easiness of applying for Visa, also Taiwanese universities were efficient at answering in her email, as a result, Adibah believed Taiwan was her choice.

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Learning and Exploring

All things are difficult before they are easy. Adibah felt like living in a silent world alone at first because she couldn’t understand anything in the beginning. To assimilate into lives in Taiwan as soon as possible, she watched mandarin cartoons on TV and Youtube for the first three months to learn children’s words and accent. It was easier to learn. When she was at school, she spent most of her time practicing writing and reading in the library.

Learning a language cannot simply by reading textbooks, learning from life experiences is more useful. One day, Adibah found one of her classmates could speak fluent mandarin that surprised her and made her wonder why? It turned out to be that her classmate had a part-time job in Taiwan. Therefore, after searching for a suitable place for foreigner, Adibah finally decided to work in a small café. Actually, before working in a Taiwanese café, Adibah had experiences in catering at her family’s restaurant, selling Malaysian and Thai cuisine, since high school, she also took part-time job when in the University in Malaysia, so she approximately knew how to run a store. However, working in the restaurant in a country of different culture, cooking a different kind of food made her nervous. With the help from the owner of the café, she gradually knew how to cook Taiwanese food, how Taiwanese worked, and, most important of all, improved her language skills.

Having part-time is a key for Adibah’s future business in Taiwan. From the kitchen to the counter, Adibah took her chance to communicate Taiwanese, staffs, and customers, with words using under various conditions, and made friends with them. With more practices, she got confident in speaking Mandarin. This progress took her about one year to achieve. Yet, this was not the only lesson she learned, she got involved in the management of the café, because of this, she knew the differences between operating a store in Taiwan and Malaysia.

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Opportunity Knocks

  Everything is ready except for the East wind. During the time Adibah worked in the café, Taipei city government promoted tourism targeting travelers from Southeast Asia and Muslims with Muslim friendly environment. To attract more Muslim tourists, the government planned to provide more Halal certified restaurants for them. Adibah saw an opportunity to open a Halal café, she wanted and believed that she could do so. That was the point she decided to stay in Taiwan. Then she went back to Malaysia for one year for the preparation.

After one year of arrangement, Adibah came back to Taiwan to find her partners. She said that finding a good landlord and supplier was important, especially because she’s a foreigner here. Thanks for her friends’ help, the process was very smooth. Still, most of things were dealt with herself via her learning background and her language skill as well as part-time experiences. She searched for a suitable and affordable attorney with information on the internet by herself to know better Taiwanese regulations. Besides, for the decoration of her café, though she worked with a designer group, most of the idea, from the interior design to the logo, came from herself, she knew what she want, because of her architecture background when she was in the university in Malaysia.

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Courage in the Face

Adibah has many expectations for her café even though it has only been opened for a short period. The name ‘Mooka’ comes from the word ‘Muka’ in Malay, which means the ‘face’, she wants her small store to become the face of Malaysia that more and more Taiwanese can know the beauty of her country. She changes the alphabet ‘u’ to ‘oo’ because she thinks it is catchy and interesting as Google does. The logo comes from the shape of Shisha. She told us she just made the logo one day when she woke up. Sometimes, she emphasized, the idea came in a moment, we shouldn’t let it go easily, but have to realize it, just liked what she did.

At the grand opening, she invited her Malaysia friends who had stayed in Taiwan for a while, some Taiwanese bloggers to come, they made a Vlog together so that more people could know Mooka. Finally, even the president of Representative Office of Malaysia in Taipei knew there was a young lady opened her own store in Taiwan and visited it. As for Adibah’s family, in the beginning, they didn’t know anything about her plan, only knowing that she wanted to have her own business, only when they saw the pictures posted on Facebook. They were all happy for her achievement.

Now, 80% of the customers are Taiwanese, most of them are office workers. Therefore, Adibah’s has to adjust the spices in the food so that it is acceptable to Taiwanese. When Malaysia guests come to have the meal in the evening or on weekends from distant places, Adibah cooks the food more in Malaysian style. She plans to serve more various foods in the future, making this café international. Likewise, after having more experiences in running a café, she considers having a much bigger shop for more customers to enjoy the exotic atmosphere.

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Long Way to Go

For those people who want to open their own store in Taiwan, Adibah suggests them should make more local friends and make oneself connect to the land, she is willing to share her experiences and know-how to them. If this is what they want to do, just do it. “The most important thing is not whether they succeed or not, but whether they can learn lessons from life that are beneficial for the future.” She said to us. She shared her story from learning Mandarin to living here as a local, indeed we saw her positive attitude and passion in her career. Adibah never gives up until she realizes her dreams.

In the end, we asked her to encourage herself and everyone in one phrase. She told us firmly, “Keep on dreaming, and work towards your dream because that’s what I do.”

 

 


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