Taiwan Expat – Nine Reasons for Choosing Taiwan

Recently I received an email from an American woman named Jennifer who is considering moving to Taiwan in the next few years. She’s also considering teaching English in Columbia and she had plenty of interesting questions regarding which path to choose. 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. Vietnam was my first choice and it was great for a few months. I got some experience teaching English through a volunteer opportunity while I did my online TEFL course, but I didn’t want to stay longer.

Vietnam Internship

Korea was also an option until I found out I was too old. Then I spent 6 weeks floating around Thailand, wondering “Maybe Thailand or Cambodia“?

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 – there are plenty of 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!

Considering becoming a Taiwan expat? Here are nine reasons why you should!

1.) Great Medical Care

A few months after I arrived in Taiwan, I got a nasty sinus infection so I stopped by a local clinic to get some medication. After waiting just a few minutes, I was ushered in to see the doctor. I 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.”

My beautiful little bungalow apartment.

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 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!

Roasted sausage from the night market.

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

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.

Scooter views just outside of my hometown of Hsinchu.

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.

8.) Safety

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. 

Any other questions regarding relocation to or teaching in Taiwan? Feel free to ask!

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16 Replies to “Taiwan Expat – Nine Reasons for Choosing Taiwan”

  1. Jennifer Hnilo says: Reply

    I love it!! 🙂

    1. Haha! Happy you enjoyed! Your questions were my inspiration! 🙂

  2. Wow, we could certainly learn a lot from Tawain here in the US. Sounds like a wonderful county to live in. I’ll never know why the US is the only country that doesn’t provide medical care for its people. Having it tied to your work and losing it if you change jobs or end up unemployed from downsizing is ridiculous!

    1. Yeah, the medical care here really is amazing. An expat friend of mine had a heart attack – had a stent put in and was in ICU for 4 days. The total cost to him was around $400 USD. Wow!

  3. Hi Andi! I am leaving Upstate NY in the fall to teach and similar to you, am caught between Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand. I have a few friends in Taiwan who love it, so I am considering relocating there! I am torn between big city life (interested in southern Kaohsiung)and and outside rural area however. I want the “authentic” experience but don’t want to be the only foreigner in the area quite yet. How has your experience in Hsinchu been? Was it a smooth transition to life there vs. how it would’ve been moving to a bigger area like Taipei?

    1. Hi Leah! Congratulations on your decision to make the move…deciding where is the tough part. Big decision too.:) Part of the appeal of settling in Hsinchu is its easy access to Taipei, just in case I need a dose of Big City life. It’s only 30 minutes by high speed rail so it’s an easy day trip. It’s also a nice balance of the “authentic” that you crave (especially in the mountains) along with enough expats if you need a connection with other foreigners. I haven’t made it down to Kaohsiung yet (it’s on my list), but I’ve heard good things about it.

      It’s so hard to make the decision between Taiwan, Vietnam, and Thailand without actually getting a taste of each. That’s why I decided to volunteer for a while before making a decision. I didn’t want to keep wondering if I made the right choice or have any regrets.

      Best of luck in your decision! If you have any other questions – feel free to ask!

      1. Hi Andi! Thanks so much for this post, and your advice 3 months ago. I’m happy to relay that I will be moving to Zhubei City to teach English next month! Keep up the blog posts about Taiwan and your adventures around the world. Your lifetime of interesting stories inspire me to believe that this is only the beginning!

        1. Wow! Congratulations on your new job! You have no idea how much it means to me that you were inspired by that post. Once I publish a story, I never really know if anyone reads or is affected by it. Let know how it goes for you – maybe we can connect sometime…

  4. I especially like number nine!????

    1. Haha! Those of us unqualified to make a contribution to the “real world” have found a place here! (Hope you’re doing well!)

  5. I’ve been planning a trip to Taiwan for ages. Must make it there.

    1. Yes, you need make it happen! Oddly enough, I had never planned a trip to Taiwan before moving here. My first time in the country was when I landed in Taipei to begin my new life! I hope you’re able to do it!

  6. Interesting to learn the differences in the countries, I had no idea. The hiking looks great there!!

    1. There are some really big mountains here and a lot of great hiking. I’ve barely begun to explore all of the trails! Hoping to climb Jade Mountain sometime…that could be a tough one!

  7. Hi Andi,

    Thanks for your post! What do you prefer about teaching in Taiwan over Hanoi? I’m currently working my way to Hanoi to start teaching so would be good to hear some of the negatives!

    Jack (www.teachingtraveller.com)

    1. Thanks for reading, Jack! My volunteer teaching in Hanoi was a valuable learning experience, but I think Hanoi was just too big for me. It’s a beautiful city to visit and I really love the country, but I just didn’t feel it was a good fit for long-term. I’m teaching adults in Taiwan, mostly Business English, and I really enjoy it. I’m not really a “kid person” and there are tons of job opportunities here for teaching adults. The thing I really missed while living in Hanoi was the proximity to nature – an escape from the city. I currently live about 10 minutes from the mountains and it’s easy to escape on my scooter for a long ride in the mountains. Let me know if you have any other questions. Best on luck in Hanoi!

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