A few days ago, I received an email from an American woman named Jennifer. She is considering moving to Taiwan in the next few years and had plenty of interesting questions. As we discussed the pros and cons of becoming a Taiwan expat, her questions made me realize that there may be others who have the same “Why Taiwan?” questions.
When I left the US to start over somewhere in Asia, Taiwan was not even a consideration. I had never been to Taiwan and knew nothing about it. My first choice, Vietnam, was great for a few months. It allowed me to volunteer to teach English while I did my online TEFL course, but I didn’t want to stay longer. Korea was also an option until I found out I was too old. Then I spent 6 weeks floating around Thailand, wondering “Maybe Thailand?”
I briefly considered China, until my good friend Jossda (born in Hong Kong) told me to forget that stupid idea and suggested Taiwan or Hong Kong instead. So I began asking the question “Why Taiwan?“
The first good reason I found – jobs teaching English to adults. After my experience teaching kids in Vietnam, the idea of teaching adults sounded appealing. I applied for an “adults” job, had a Skype interview and was hired immediately. In the interview, my new boss explained: “we like to hire mature people with life experience.” Mature? Ummm…not really, but I’ve definitely got the life experience! And after the age discrimination I faced in Korea, her perspective was a welcome change!
So, for “Jennifer” and others who may be asking “Why Taiwan?”, here are Nine Reasons Why:
1.) Great Medical Care
A few months after I arrived in Taiwan, I got an ugly sinus infection. I have a health insurance card so I stopped by a local clinic to get some medication. I waited just a few minutes, got in to see the doctor, explained my diagnosis and requested some drugs. He listened patiently and then said (in perfect English), “Well, this is an orthopedic clinic, like broken bones and stuff. You need a different clinic for your problem.” When I looked disappointed, he continued,”But that’s OK. I’ve got some antibiotics. Here you go.” So simple! Even though I was too ignorant to go to the right clinic!
(A friend of mine once accidentally went to an Ear, Nose, and Throat clinic for hemorrhoids. I felt better after hearing his humiliating story…)
Taiwan’s health care system is among the highest-rated in the world and National Health Insurance (NHI) is a requirement. My employer provides coverage and I pay only $29/month for my share of full medical/dental coverage.
A few months later I went back to that orthopedic guy – this time with a possible broken finger. I waited for about 3 minutes to see the doctor, had a consultation, got an x-ray and the results, and was out the door in about 10 minutes.
Total cost: $150NTD ($5USD). American medicine could learn a few things from the Taiwanese!
2.) Low Cost of Living
Salaries for English Teachers in Taiwan are a bit lower than Japan or Korea, but the cost of living in Taiwan is also much lower. I rent a beautiful, fully-furnished apartment for just $10,000NTD per month (a little over $300USD), on the edge of town and just minutes from work. My monthly cell phone bill is about $24USD, a huge saving over the ridiculous $103USD I was paying in the US. I drive a scooter and can fill up my gas tank for $100NTD (about $3USD), which gets me through a week.
For a more detailed breakdown of my monthly living expenses, see “Moving to Taiwan – The Price of Starting a New Life.”
3.) Friendly People
Taiwanese people are just so nice! Although Taiwan and China have a shared history and a common language, the people are drastically different. Taiwanese people often refer to the Chinese tourists as “China people”, emphasizing the big difference between people of Chinese descent and those from mainland China, who often lack basic manners. The Taiwanese truly are very kind and welcoming to foreigners – although they’re really not big on hugging.
4.) Amazing Food
Many articles have been written recently, touting the wonderful Taiwanese food. Although I was a little slow to embrace the food in Taiwan, it’s grown on me and I’ve finally learned to understand the Taiwanese food obsession. The food is a mixture of Chinese, Japanese, Singaporean, and also includes indigenous Hakka flavors.
Last year, CNN did a survey among their frequent travelers regarding the best food in the world. Taiwan won! Find out here if my students agreed with CNN’s breakdown of the Top 40 Taiwanese foods. The historic city of Tainan is worth a visit just for the food! And Taipei’s night markets off a wide variety of food choices, including snake!
5.) Easy Travel – Explore Asia!
In recent years, the number of low-cost airlines flying out of Taipei has increased dramatically. Taiwan is centrally located within Asia, a 4-5 hour flight from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, and other interesting places. Low cost airlines like Air Asia, Scoot, NOK Air, V Air, and Tiger Air provide cheap and convenient flights all over Asia making it very easy to wander around. But one word of caution – avoid flying NOK if possible!
6.) Nature Therapy
After three months living in the urban chaos of Hanoi, I craved some quiet. When I started asking “Why Taiwan?”, I briefly considered Taipei but thought it might be a little too busy. I’ve settled in Hsinchu, a smaller city located just minutes from the mountains, an area great for scooter rides along quiet mountain roads. This island is stunningly beautiful with great hiking, hot springs, and beautiful beaches on the southern coast.
Check out this amazing drone video showing the incredible beauty of the island!
7.) Ancient yet Modern
Taiwan offers a good balance of modern convenience sprinkled with traditional Chinese flavoring. Taipei is a very modern city with impressive museums and urban nightlife. Hsinchu is less urban yet has many of the conveniences, except the metro and some of the wild nightlife. In contrast, smaller villages like Jiu Fen or Beipu feel like ancient Chinese villages with old temples and traditional markets. It’s a nice mix of old and new and always interesting.
With the possible exception of driving a scooter during rush hour, Taiwan is a very safe country. Guns are illegal, there is very little crime, and Taiwan is often ranked among the safest countries in the world. My next door neighbor is from South Africa and left there to escape the escalating crime in his home country. I often go for long walks at night, never looking over my shoulder, feeling very safe.
9.) Job Market
Before moving to Taiwan I had very little teaching experience – only 3 months volunteering in Hanoi. While doing my volunteer gig, I spent time completing an online TEFL certification class. It was a good mix of “book learning” and real life, trying stuff out on the Hanoi High School students, so I had much more confidence going into a real classroom. It also allowed me to get over my serious fear of public speaking.
When I started in Taiwan, I taught both kids classes and adult Business English classes. It quickly became clear that I’m not a “kid person” and luckily (for the kids!) I now teach only adults – a mixture of general conversation classes and more specific business English classes. And since Hsinchu is considered the “Silicon Valley” of Taiwan, English teachers are in high demand, especially “mature” teachers with life experience!
So, for Jennifer or anyone else considering making a drastic move in life, take a chance on Taiwan. You’ll be warmly welcomed, well-fed and well-paid, and safe from creepy stalkers. One final tip: if you do come down with any “personal” medical issues, don’t be shy; ask a Taiwanese person for directions to the right clinic!
Any other questions regarding relocation to Taiwan? Feel free to ask!