The Departure of 'Mr. Taiwan'
Former Dutch diplomat Menno Goedhart left Taiwan recently because of what his friends said was an inability to adapt to a culture in which "policies change when leaders change."
Goedhart, who served as the head of the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office in Taiwan for eight years, was dubbed "Mr. Taiwan " for his love of Taiwan and familiarity with the country.
He was also keen on tracing the footprints of his ancestors, who reigned over the Tainan area and other parts of Taiwan from 1624 and 1662. During that period, some Dutch citizens married local aborigines, mostly from the Rukai tribe.
In 2009, Goedhart visited Pingtung County's Wutai Township along with nearly 40 Dutch people residing in Taiwan, leading them to meet the descendants of the mixed marriages.
Because of his close friendship with the tribe, Goedhart was even made an honorary chieftain under the name Ama Daganau.
He decided to stay on after his retirement from his post in August 2010 and settled in Xinhua District in Tainan, but he left for France recently.
It is said that he paid three years of rent for his home in Tainan but lived there for just over a year. The landlord did not give Goedhart back the unused portion of the rental because of financial troubles.
The following is an excerpt from the United Daily News on the former Dutch envoy's departure from Taiwan:
Goedhart would not reveal too much about his reasons for leaving Taiwan, saying only that Taiwan would always be on his mind and that he would return should the chance arise.
Diplomatic circles in Taipei were surprised to learn the news, but friends close to him said he left mainly because his research had not been going smoothly and because he did not feel respected by the Tainan City government and National Cheng Kung University (NCKU).
Goedhart had wanted to cooperate with the Tainan-based university to set up a Taiwan Center for Dutch Heritage, but the plan never took off.
The university asked him to serve as a paid scholar in residence last year, but the arrangement apparently left neither side happy because of different perceptions of budget issues.
The school also asked him earlier this year to serve as a researcher with the school's Creativity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center, but he declined, and his cooperation with NCKU was disrupted.
Goedhart's friends said he had difficulty with Taiwan's culture of "policies changing as leaders change."
They said former Tainan Mayor Hsu Tain-tsair awarded Goedhart with an honorary Tainan citizen certificate, but incumbent Mayor Lai Ching-te never met with him after taking office in late December 2010.
At the same time, NCKU's previous president promised to sponsor related research, but the school's incumbent president decided not to honor the pledge, they said.
Goedhart also had difficulty with the haphazard way of doing things. He once was invited to speak at a prestigious university in northern Taiwan, but learned later he could only claim the fare for a regular Taiwan railways ticket even though he bought a ticket on the more expensive high-speed rail.
To bridge the gap, the school suggested that he say he was traveling with his wife to claim two fares, roughly equal to the cost of the high-speed rail ticket.
Goedhart also found that a lot of advisers to the Tainan City government were hired because of election considerations, and he regretted that he was not able to contribute his diplomatic expertise to the government, sources say.
He compiled his travel notes during his eight years in office into a book titled "The Real Taiwan and the Dutch: Traveling Notes from the Netherlands Representative," in which he surprised many local residents by "knowing many things that the locals didn't know."
When southern Taiwan was hit hard by Typhoon Morakot in 2009, Goedhart not only donated the royalties of his book but also mobilized his relatives and friends in the Netherlands to chip in.
The retired diplomat once said that, "Taiwanese people are flexible, and they don't always follow the rules," traits that now may have led him to leave Taiwan.
The Tainan City government and NCKU said they felt sorry about his departure.
Tainan City government spokesman Chen Tsung-yen said Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te had wanted to meet Goedhart, but the timing had been difficult to arrange.
Chen admitted that the city government did not have a comprehensive program for a foreigner of Goedhart's stature, but he said he did not think that government's attitude was the main reason for Goedhart's departure.
He added that he was unaware that the former Dutch envoy was keen to serve as an adviser to the city.
NCKU stressed that its attitude toward professors is consistent and does not change simply because of a change in university presidents.
The misunderstanding over the budget may have arisen because Goedhart was not familiar with the accounting system in Taiwan, the university said.
Goedhart is not the only diplomatic who opted to settle down in Taiwan after retiring.
William A. Stanton, former director of the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan, started teaching English and American literature at the Taipei American School after retiring in August this year, and he also occasionally gives speeches and attends seminars.
Henrik Bystrom, the former Swedish representative to Taiwan, ended his three-decade-long diplomatic career in Taiwan in December 2009.
He and his wife currently live in Taipei, and he continues to promote business exchanges between Sweden and Taiwan. He also travels between Taiwan and China
Menno Geoedhart worked an ambassador in Taiwan for The Netherlands for
eight years, until retiring in the summer of 2010. After short trip
back to Holland, the ambassador and his wife returned to Taiwan
and settled in 2011 in southern Taiwan.
The retired ambassador, now 64, plans, post-retirement, to stay in
Taiwan and savor island life for many more years. We asked him a few questions about his new life in southern Taiwan in a recent email exchange, and he was kind enough to share with plans and feelings with us.
QUESTION: As a retired diplomat in south Taiwan now, what do you and your wife do on a typical day here and how do you spend your time? Are you still busy with office work and meetings, or do you have and enjoy a much more relaxed life now?
MENNO GOEDHART: My wife and I arrived back in Taiwan in January after a few months stay in Holland, and now we plan to stay here in Southern Taiwan, where we have a house. After Chinese New Year, our normal life can begin. I plan to work 5 days a week at National Cheng Kung University in Tainan. On weekends, we will further explore Taiwan, and to begin with, the surroundings of Xinhua. My work will also bring me to the Taiwanese countryside where elements of Dutch heritage can be found, and during those trips my wife will accompany me.
QUESTION: There is still some prejudice, both social and psychological, against Aboriginal people in Taiwan, from the Han Chinese majority? Why do you think they treat the Aboriginal peoples this way and do you think this prejudice will disappear in the future?
Menno Goedhart: In fact, this kind of ethnic prejudice occurs worldwide, but the situation is improving in many places, and also in Taiwan, I think. Now, people more and more recognize that the indigenous culture is not only part of Taiwan, it is also a real treasure.
QUESTION: Some Taiwanese people in south Taiwan, especially in the Tainan area,
have freckles on their faces. Could this be a DNA clue that their
other earlier relatives were perhaps Dutch men who intermarried with local women
or just had babies with the local girls without getting married? Did
you ever see
people with freckles on their faces here in Taiwan?
Menno Goedhart: No, I have never met or seen Taiwanese people with freckles,
but I have met Taiwanese with light hair and blue eyes. I think that
there are many
Taiwanese with some Dutch background.
QUESTION: During WWII, some Dutch women in Indonesia were forced to become
sex slaves, ''comfort women'', ''wei-an-fu'' in Chinese, for the
Japanese soldiers in
East Asia. Are young people in Holland today aware of this chapter in
and also aware of the fact that many Taiwanese Aboriginal women were also forced
to be sex slaves for the Japanese too? What is the word for ''comfort
women'' in the
Menno Goedhart: In Holland, those women are called “troostmeisjes”.
There was quite a lot of publicity about this subject, certainly when
emperor visited Holland. Young people reading newspapers will probably know,
but as anywhere time goes on and young people prefer looking forward and not
backward. As to Taiwan, I myself learned about this part of history
here only when I
visited some Aboriginal tribes and notably those along the East Coast.
QUESTION: You have decided to remain in Taiwan after your retirement as a
diplomat for Holland. What draws you to Taiwan now?
Menno Goedhart: I decided to live in Taiwan after my retirement because it is a
pleasant place to stay with nice people. Nature is beautiful, food is
is a dynamic and developed country with a good record on democracy,
freedom of speech and freedom of press. Those are important to me.
QUESTION: What is your favorite Taiwanese movie?
Menno Goedhart: You know, quite frankly, when I worked as a diplomat in Taipei
for eight years, I was working 24/7, every day, and to be honest, I
never had time
to go to the movies. But, of course, I know the good international reputation of
the Taiwanese film industry, so now that my wife and I are starting
our new life in
retirement here in Taiwan, I am sure we will have time to enjoy the movies.
QUESTION: Do you believe that climate change and global warming are real and
what do you think the future will be like for Holland and Taiwan in the future
regarding climate conditions?
Menno Goedhart: I was in The Netherlands in November and December last year,
and to be honest, I have never seen so much snow before in my home city -- The
Hague -- and it was freezing cold earlier in season more than ever before and it
lasted a long time. Some experts even expect a short Ice Age to visit
Earth, just as we
had from 1600-1800, due to the activity of the sun. It is therefore
difficult to predict
how climate worldwide will develop. But, one thing seems to be
sure: CO2 emissions should be reduced as much as possible as any other
With so many people on our globe, we are obliged to fight all kinds of
BACKGROUND INFORMATION from the TAIPEI TIMES, August 15, 2010
In a news story in the Taipei Times by reporter Loa Iok-sin on August
15, 2010, readers learned that Ambassador Goedhart ''has been a
chemist and a diplomat, [and] is also the Rukai chieftain Daganau and
a friend of the Tsous, who have named him Menno Voyu. After completing
his service as the Netherlands' representative in Taiwan, he will be
staying in Taiwan to discover more about Taiwan's connection to his
home country, a relationship which began four centuries ago.
In 2004, a Dutchman who helped organize an exhibition at the National
Palace Museum about the Dutch period in Taiwan went to the Netherlands
Trade and Investment Office to ask for some help and Goedhart was
rather amazed by the materials that were to be exhibited, according to
the Taipei Times article. "It was these exhibitions that opened the
door for Goedhart to Taiwan's Aboriginal cultures," the article noted.
The more Goedhart talked to Aborigines -- especially those living in
the south since Tainan was the Dutch colonial capital -- the more he
became interested in Taiwan's Aboriginal cultures and the history that
the Dutch left in Taiwan from that period.
From then on, Goedhart spent most of his weekends and holidays hiking
in the mountains and visiting Aboriginal villages.
It was for the friendship he has shown that he was bequeathed the name
Menno Voyu by the Tsous in Alishan Township (阿里山), Chiayi County.
In 2009, he was recognized by the Rukais in Wutai Township (霧台),
Pingtung County, as a chieftain and given the name Daganau since the
chieftain's family has Dutch blood.
According to tribal elders, one of the daughters of a Rukai chieftain
was married to a Dutchman and the husband later inherited the
chieftainship. "Daganau" was the Rukai name of the Dutch chieftain.
In May, Goedhart visited the -Rukai village of Taromak in Taitung
County to perform a ritual to officially terminate a 350-year-long
hostile relationship between the village and the Netherlands.
"According to the elders in the village, their ancestors once spotted
'men with red hair' in the tribe's domain 'with smoke coming out of
their mouths,'" Goedhart recounted.
Rukai warriors from the village then killed all but one of the "men
with red hair" they had encountered. The remaining one was set free as
a warning, but his tongue had been cut off so that he couldn't reveal
what he had seen in the village, Goedhart said.
After hearing the story, Goedhart checked Dutch archives and found the
village was actually marked as a "rival tribe."
He believed the "men with red hair" and "with smoke coming out from
their mouths" were a group of Dutch soldiers on an expedition and were
smoking while taking a rest.
Goedhart and his wife now own a house in Tainan County's Sinhua
Township (新化) where they reside.
He plans to create a center for Dutch heritage at National Cheng Kung
University in Tainan City as a project in collaboration with Leiden
University to discover more about Dutch heritage in Taiwan.
Looking at the work ahead and numerous invitations for speeches,
Goedhart said he may be busier after retiring.
"Right now, I'd be happy with some shanzhurou [mountain pigs] on an
open fire, some xiaomijiu [millet wine] and some singing," Goedhart
told the Taipei Times last August. "What else do you need?"
Goedhart has also written a book titled "The Real Taiwan and the
Dutch" which was published in 2010. Goedhart says the book is more of
a travel guide than a history book. The book, published in both
Chinese and English versions, features many of Taiwan's attractive but
largely unknown destinations, including many in Hualien and Taitung
counties in eastern Taiwan, Tainan and Chiayi in the southern and the
offshore Penghu County. It also focuses on indigenous tribes in
Taiwan. The book detaqils Mr.Goedhart's experiences trying to trace
the footsteps of Dutch ancestors who ruled Taiwan during the 16th to