Taiwan Expats – the Downside to Life in Taiwan

My recent article about the nine reasons Expats choose Taiwan included glowing reviews of the friendly people, great medical care, and wonderful food. And life in Taiwan really is good, but it’s not all sunshine, roses, and butterflies every single day. There is a downside to life in Taiwan because, the reality is, sometimes life here is inconvenient and people drive crazy!

A glimpse of the downside to balance out the list of “Pros” – nothing in life is perfect!

Life in Taiwan – The Driving Reality

People drive crazy here! That’s just the way it is and maybe it’s a cultural difference but it’s something that takes a while to get used to. Driving a scooter is sometimes dangerous, but I’ve learned a few things in the past few years…

First Tip

Always expect drivers to do the opposite of what you think they will and they won’t disappoint. If they have a left turn signal on, it’s very likely they intend to make a right-hand turn. Likewise, if they have no turn signal on, they probably still intend to turn…possibly even a left turn from the far right lane (or whatever). Be alert and expect the unexpected.

Second Tip

On a road with 2 lanes in each direction, the safest place to drive is just to the right of the center line. This allows cars to pass on the left and insane scooter drivers to dart out of nowhere on the right. Scooters making a right turn onto a busy road will almost NEVER look to see if traffic is coming, it’s just a thing here. Crazy scooters pop out of nowhere on the right, sort of like you’re driving in a real-life video game.

Third Tip

People driving scooters with their feet down often drive against traffic along the right-hand side of the road. It’s kind of like they’re pedestrians – only they’re not, they’re on a scooter. And usually, those people driving with their feet dragging are really, really old and have no sense of balance – or else they’re carrying chickens or a large dog on the scooter floorboard. Either way, watch out!

And then there’s this:

(Not an actual Taiwanese family but I thought it was funny.)

Life in Taiwan – The Shopping Reality

Target opened its first store 54 years ago today, and it STILL hasn’t made it to Taiwan!

As I was doing my semi-weekly “scavenger hunt” for basic supplies earlier today, I was calculating how much time I’d save if only Target would open a store in Hsinchu.

Today’s scavenger hunt consisted of 7 stops, all of which could’ve been handled at Target in about 12 minutes and 45 seconds.

Stop #1: Home Box – poisonous spray to kill the insects making a meal of my garden.

Stop #2: Fruit stand – slightly green bananas and a perfectly ripe pineapple.

Stop #3: 7-11- Cash machine (sadly, it was out of money) and yogurt. Decent yogurt is hard to find and usually requires searching in at least two 7-11s and one Family Mart.

Stop #4: 7-11 – Cash machine works. Yay!

Stop #5: Wellcome Supermarket (yes, the name is actually misspelled with two “l”s). Eggs, cereal, and Ritz crackers. The yogurt at Wellcome sucks. So does the bread.

Stop #6: Walnut Bakery – decent bread. Not great, but better than supermarket white bread.

Stop #7: Family Mart – sweet potatoes. Tis the season for my favorite Family Mart sweet potatoes, slow roasted and healthy. Sometimes it requires stopping at three Family Marts to find decent ones roasted just right.

Now that I’ve figured out where to find stuff, I’ve got the routine down and it takes a little less time. Also, I do all of this shopping on a scooter and creatively pack stuff into the seat, in a backpack, and on the floorboard. Shopping for gardening supplies is even more of a challenge. Carrying big bags of soil and bougainvillea plants on a scooter requires real talent!

Life in Taiwan – The Dating Reality

A fact of life that I’ve accepted since moving to Asia is this: I am nobody’s “type”. I will not have a date for the rest of my life in Taiwan. That’s just how it is and I can either accept it or move back to the US on the off chance that someday I may actually have a date. I don’t like those odds…so I’ll just stay here.

Here’s why: most Western men living in Asia are here because they are into Asian women. They believe Taiwanese women are less complicated and less independent than Western women. Ironically, some Taiwanese men think the Taiwanese women are too complicated and too independent so they look to Vietnam, the Philippines, or Ukraine for arranged marriages, kind of an Asian Match.com.

I’ve actually looked at a few of those Dating apps since I’ve been here. They tell me that my nearest match is 5,563 miles away. I deleted the app. I don’t need proof of what I already know: tall, old, blondes are nobody’s type here in Asia!

Life is all about balance and as long as the sunny days and mountain road scooter rides continue to outshine the dateless Friday nights, life as an expat in Taiwan is pretty darn good. I’ve got Netflix and Chardonnay to entertain me and I feel very fortunate to have landed in this version of reality!


My fellow expats – can you add any other “cons” to this list?


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10 Replies to “Taiwan Expats – the Downside to Life in Taiwan”

  1. Patty Kalass says: Reply

    You…nobody’s type…find it HARD to believe!!! I would have thought the opposite! Tall, gorgeous, smart, well traveled single blonde woman….sounds like everyman’s dream!! :)) Loving your blog!! I hope it leads to many wonderful opportunities for you!! :))

    1. I’m kind of the opposite of everyone’s type! Thanks for reading! 🙂

  2. Jennifer Hnilo says: Reply

    Great post! The scooter rides and traffic–eek! Sounds similar to China 🙂

    1. Yeah, it takes a while to get used to but scooters are a great way to get around! And I’ve seen surprisingly few traffic accidents. It just somehow works!

  3. Enjoyed this post. Adding it to my list of “things I enjoyed today”. I, too, can’t imagine you not having a date…

    1. I have a weekly date with Netflix and chardonnay! Our relationship is uncomplicated! 🙂

  4. I had trouble reading about your scooter drivers….. I did make it through though. I guess it’s still too soon, it will always be “too soon” I’m afraid. Be safe my friend.
    Love the reads.it feels like I am with you! So that is a good feeling. 🙂

    1. Sorry – I bet you had some flashbacks to a certain scooter situation! See you soon, I hope? No scooters in Z-town so you’ll be safe!

  5. Hi Andi: Enjoyed reading your blog from cold wet England. You are insightful and positive and it’s been a good read 🙂

    I left Taiwan to escape conscription > 30 years ago and have lived in now the fifth country on four different continents. As a wide-eyed teenager seeing the West the first time after the straightjacket of Taiwanese education system, I never turned back, although my cultural roots are entirely Taiwanese even till today.

    I am glad you can see lots of positives of living in Taiwan as an expat. It is a great place in many aspects. I’ve taking my Caucasian wife and kids back a couple of times, and they love the hospitality, the food and the many and varied things to do and places to see there all packed together in close proximity. A complete contrast from driving through inland Australia or Canada – from Sydney to Perth or Toronto to Vancouver, the culture/food/scenery is not all that different and there is a lot of nothing in between, while every little village in Taiwan that’s 5 km apart will boast its specialty food and customs…

    As to the Cons listed by you, I have the following two cents’ worth (or do they say twopence worth here at all?):

    1. Driving in Taiwan: Yes it’s a shock coming from orderly roads in the West. But after a while you get used to it. The basic rules are – go slow, go mostly with the flow, and don’t hit anything/anyone, especially if they are bigger than you (ie. trucks, buses, etc). Driving at 60 km/h in the West is boringly slow because the roads are long and wide, it’s so far between destinations and often there is not a lot interesting to look at. But driving/riding 20 km/h in Taiwan feels frighteningly fast because there is so much traffic around and so many distractions all the time – people, bazaars, animals, scenery, etc. Don’t go too fast and don’t hit anyone, and you’ll be OK.

    2. Shopping: I actually find Taiwan much more convenient because everything seems to be open 24/7 – poor Taiwanese workers! After living the West where everything shuts at 5pm to convenience dole bludgers only, and especially in some jurisdictions where there is a big conservative Christian lobby that bans Sunday trading, shopping in Taiwan is paradise… After getting used to not being able to buy anything during the week and wasting time on weekends madly grocery shopping only to enjoy rotten vegetables towards Friday because they’ve been in the fridge for so many days in the West, it was a shock to land in Taiwan, finding myself wanting some cloth hangers and being able to by them at the corner shop at 2am….

    3. Dating: I think once we get to middle age and the sex hormones die down a bit, the infatuations of earlier years give way to a yearning for more meaningful exchange between two souls. To achieve that, language is crucial as one need to communicate nuances of thoughts and feelings.

    So if you’re looking for a Taiwanese mate and your Mandarin/Taiwanese is not tip top, getting a date is going to be very difficult in the beginning, but will certainly get easier with increasing proficiency. If you’re looking for someone from a Western background, as an expat in a smaller place your chance of meeting someone is obviously curtailed. So you’re stuck with chardonnay for a short while…

    But you are an intelligent and attractive lady, so the only way is up as your language will only improve or some lucky expat will stumble upon you and find an absolute gem. When one actively goes out looking for love, it never comes. But when you’re not looking, it has a habit of springing itself on you and throwing your life into a tailspin. Be yourself, enjoy life, and someone who appreciate your qualities will connect with you – it’s inevitable.

    I can think of many “Cons” of living in Taiwan, but much of it applies to native Taiwanese who are struggling to pass exams in pressure cooker schools, get into university, find a job, feed the family and look after sick parents and extended family while doing horrendously long hours at work, especially as Taiwan is under the hammer economically and politically. I guess as a more mature person outside the “system”, you are not entangled in the intricate web of relations, customs and expectations that people from Eastern cultures have to conform to… Count yourself amongst the lucky ones…

    Anyways, enjoy Formosa. I am very glad to read you are enjoying your life there and wish you many more years of great times, getting to know the people, the place and the culture, forge real friendships and find the whole experience fulfilling.

    1. Wow! Thanks so much for the thoughtful comments! I appreciate hearing your perspective!
      1.) Driving – great tips! Just don’t hit anything or anyone! That seems to be the unwritten rule around here. So far, so good!
      2.) Shopping – you’ve got a point about the fresh produce, which is a good reason to shop in the local markets. I don’t cook much and appreciate the convenience of local Taiwanese restaurants in my neighborhood. It’s much easier to pick up quality food than to rely on my poor cooking skills.
      3.) I mentioned the “Dating Issue” in part to warn other expat women considering Taiwan to arrive with low expectations in that department, not because I want or need anything. I know my age is part of the problem, and the fact that I’m really not looking. Others may arrive with different expectations and be sadly disappointed.

      Your point about Taiwanese family obligations is so accurate. My landlord once mentioned that he’s jealous of my freedom, because even though he’d love to have a lifestyle similar to mine, he’s got family obligations and has to put that first. I understand how fortunate I am and appreciate it every day!

      Thanks again for reading! Glad you enjoy!

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