Why Living in Taiwan Drastically Improved my Lifestyle

When I graduated from university back in 2012, I remember thinking to myself: What am I going to do with this BA in English? Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to think about it for too long. Luke, my boyfriend of only a few months at the time, told me he was moving to Taiwan to teach English for a year.

Did I want to come? he asked. Well, a job in the UK certainly wasn’t coming my way any time soon, so yeah, I said.

Taiwan flag - moving to taiwan - Charlie on Travel

Taiwan’s flag flying at Meihua Lake.

Strangely enough, I’d been studying Taiwan cinema, so it wasn’t completely new territory. However, at the time, I knew nothing about what it would be like to be an expat in Taiwan, nor did I know that moving to Taiwan would drastically improve my lifestyle.

Want to know the reasons why living Taiwan for a year improved my quality of life? Well, here they are:

1. My Dollars were Stacking Up

Just having a job was one big improvement to my lifestyle, but the fact that my job was well-paid in relation to the cost of living in Taiwan made it an even more drastic improvement. I worked at a branch of the biggest language school in the country as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. It certainly wasn’t a stress-free dream job and I nearly always had more working hours than I wanted, but all in all it was pretty good.

My monthly salary there totalled around 50,000 NT (£1000) after tax – tax which starts at 18% and drops to 5% after 183 days, and is reimbursed at the end of the following tax year. In the UK, that’s not a great annual salary – in fact, you’d struggle to live. In Taiwan, you’re living really comfortably. That’s not to say I was a spend thrift, because I wasn’t, but my salary afforded me a nice apartment, a scooter, and as many bowls of organic noodles as I could fit into my belly. I might add that I saved over half of my salary.

Scooter in Taiwan - moving to taiwan - Charlie on Travel

Check out my ride. I later pimped out my second hand helmet with 7-11 stickers.

2. I Had My Own Home

In the UK, I live with my mum. When Luke and I moved to Taiwan, we had the luxury of being able to afford our own home together. Renting only cost 8% of our income in Taiwan, whereas in London, renting eats up more than 50% of an average person’s salary. Our 2-bed apartment in LuoDong cost 12,000 NT (£236) per month, which was split between us.

Taiwan apartment moving to taiwan - Charlie on Travel

Our apartment was on this road. It wasn’t as shabby as it looks from the outside!

3. I Started Learning a Language

Sure, I could’ve started learning a new language at home in the UK but that takes a whole lot of willpower. Being in a small town forced me to start learning Chinese – the locals didn’t speak much English and miming outlandishly to get basic things was lame.

I made a lot of mistakes; once, I ordered myself 2 dumplings instead of 12. After one year of learning, my Mandarin is at a level I like to call “coffee shop Chinese.” That means I’m great at ordering black americanos, but outside of that my Chinese still leaves a lot to be desired. Needless to say, the benefits of learning a foreign language are, of course, huge.

coffee meihua lake taiwan - moving to taiwan - charlie on travel

I got coffee, I ordered it in Chinese, that’s all that matters.

4. I Developed a Love of Hiking

I hate to admit it, but before moving to Taiwan I didn’t exercise much. I don’t like being inside a gym, I’ve always found my lack of sporting talent embarrassing, and I get tired of seeing the same places when I go walking. Why did Taiwan change that?

Keen to see new places and not spend all my wages on the weekends, I developed a love for hiking. Taiwan’s middle is completely covered by mountains, which have incredible views and accessible hiking routes. I was all for it, and from hiking I learned to appreciate the natural environment much more than I did before.

It’s well known that physical activity increases both physical and mental well-being, boosts immunity and helps manage stress. Going from from zero to hiker totally improved my lifestyle.

Hiking Caoling Trail Taiwan - Charlie on Travel

Hiking the Coaling Historical Trail on Taiwan’s east coast.

5. I was Trying New Things All the Time

I don’t mean weird things like spiders on sticks – I just mean it’s inevitable you’ll be trying new things, new foods, new hobbies, when you’re living in a new place. I’d never drank bubble tea until I arrived in Taiwan, I’d never eaten chilli tofu, never driven a scooter, never been river-tracing, never played Settlers of Catan, and certainly never thought I’d be teaching children their ABCs.

Trying new things is an excellent way to improve your lifestyle. Lovers of routine and eating in the same restaurant more than once may disagree, but trying new things is a proven way to keep your brain stimulated, make you more courageous (even if just a little bit), and give you something new to talk about at the dinner table.

moving to taiwan eating Chilli tofu - Charlie on Travel

Luke braving a fiery cauldron of chilli tofu.

6. I was Living on a Beautiful Island

Well, I guess the UK is a beautiful island too, but the Portuguese didn’t name Taiwan Ilha Formosa for nothing.

Green Island Taiwan - Charlie on Travel new

A short walk around Taiwan’s Green Island.

Should you think about living in Taiwan?

Relocating to Taiwan enabled me to work, travel and save. I also met a lot of new people, made some awesome friends and learned a lot. In England, getting a job wasn’t easy, saving was impossible, and travel was infrequent. So naturally, my quality of life was improved by my year living abroad.

However, moving abroad, especially to a non-English speaking community, is also very difficult. Some people love the adventure, other people miss home too much. I sit somewhere inbetween those two sides, which is why I only stayed in Taiwan for one year, despite my improved lifestyle. Moving abroad depends on the individual and the kind of lifestyle they want to have.

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  1. I’ve never been to Taiwan, but it seems like a nice place. Great pictures! What’s your most favourite food there?
    And bubble tea is LOVE :)

    • It’s really amazing, though go in the wrong season and it can be very grey and overcast.

      Thank you! My favourite food is definitely red bean soup! Do you like it? I miss it a lot.

        • I love red bean desserts of all kinds! Red bean soup is just a hot, sweet soup full of red beans – sometimes it also has some other beans or black rice in it. You can only get it in the winter in Taiwan.

          • Update: I recently visited Taiwan and I LOVE IT! The people were so nice to me even if we could not understand each other. Also, Taipei surprised me too — despite being the capital city, it is not polluted and the traffic is actually bearable. I wish to go back there! A Taiwanese man I met locally told me to try stinky tofu when I visit again. Haha. sounds scary…

            I will need to get a certificate like TEFL or CELTA…I am not a native speaker so it might be more difficult for me to get a teaching job there. Also, I have an Economics degree (not education or English).
            Cat recently posted…Language learning backlog :(My Profile

          • Hey Cat – that’s so awesome!! I’m so glad that you made it to Taiwan and that you got to meet the amazingly lovely Taiwanese people. Yes, I felt like that about Taiwan too. Ahhh, stinky tofu. I thought it was okay but definitely not my favourite food in Taiwan – it tastes better than it smells though ;)

            Coincidentally, I’m going to be posting a blog post about TEFL and CELTA for teaching in Taiwan next week. When I went to Taiwan I didn’t have a TEFL at all, my partner Luke had a CELTA though. But we are both native English speakers, so our experience of not needing a TEFL will likely be a little different to yours. I think that your English is excellent though, so it would definitely be worth asking around before making any final decisions :)

      • Hi, We’re planning to book a ticket to Taiwan and can’t decide which month to choose between December 2016-March of 2017. I hope you can still open this thread and see this query. Thank you.

  2. If I can order, with minimal hand-flailing, something caffeinated and a sweet pastry to go with it, I consider myself fluent.
    I agree, hiking is a brilliant way to combine exercise and leisure. Costs exactly zero money-pennies as well, which is always a thumbs-up.

  3. Why do you advertise something which is good? To destroy it? Is taiwan good because of expats living here? No. It is good because of taiwanese. Why you want people to relocate to taiwan? That is beyond my understanding..

    • I’m not trying to destroy Taiwan, but I do appreciate your sentiments about my blog post, Mike.

      I’m writing about how Taiwan improved my lifestyle because I want to give it recognition for being a country that enabled me to lead a good life, appreciate nature and hiking much more than I did before, learn a new language, and meet some lovely people. I’m not advertising Taiwan as a place for socially irresponsible tourism, I’m saying that it’s a good place where people can have a good, sustainable lifestyle.

      I agree that the Taiwanese are a fantastic people. I also think that some expats offer Taiwan a lot, many of them learn Chinese, many of them have languge exchanges, many of them teach English, many of them volunteer, and many of them actively participate in improving their community. Fortunately, most of the expats I knew weren’t trying to destroy Taiwan, and they also gave back to the community.

      Also, I’m not encouraging everyone to relocate to Taiwan. At the end of my post I write about relocation being an individual decision, and one that isn’t for everyone.

      • I don’t get your logic. Your article is one big advertisement for relocating to taiwan. If you say it is great idea, then ofcourse you are supporting people to decide to come here, even though it is their own decision in the end. Thanks to these pointless blogs taiwan is already overflowing with foreigners. And also, it is best idea to invite people who already have problems intheir homecountry. Those will be the best to improve the taiwan society I assume

        • You are a funny person. I almost thought you were serious, until the bit about Taiwan “overflowing with foreigners”.

      • I lived in Taiwan for 12 years and lived it. The only thing that changed it for me was the massive influx of people arriving from the UK, SA and Canada because there was nothing available in their own countries. most of these people brought drunkeness, loud music to quiet Taiwanese neighborhoods and a total misunderstanding of Asian life. I am glad you enjoyed your time but blogs like this only perpetuate that flood of foreigners who really should stay at home. I still visit Taiwan btw, my wife is Taiwanese and my son half Taiwanese and each time we return we shake our heads a little at some of the behaviour we witness there.

        • I’m sorry that you have had a negative experience with foreigners. Are you also a foreigner in Taiwan?

          There was certainly no drunkeness, loud music or misunderstandings of Asian life in my neighbourhood – but I guess LuoDong is a quiet town! I certainly didn’t live in a big city like Taipei so I don’t know if it’s different in those neighbourhoods.

          I hope my blog hasn’t given you the impression that I’m a drunken hooligan who was raving it up in Taiwan. In fact, I actually enjoy hiking, language learning, and eating chilli tofy in vegan restaurants.

          Also, I’m sad to hear that you think “foreigners should stay at home” – I learned so much from my time abroad and am glad I didn’t stay at home. Everyone needs to learn and travelling is a good way to do it. It also saddens me that you shake your head at other travellers.

      • Why is Taiwan a solution to West’s unemployment problem? Taiwanese certainly do not owe
        white people anything after all the plundering and raping of Asia during the colonization period!
        Like you said, a BA in English is not going to get you anywhere in the UK, so what changes in
        Taiwan? You are just taking advantages of your white skin among the many equally-capable
        ABC’s and CBC’s, not because your qualification or skillset! Maybe you are a decent
        white girl, but the majority of the foreign English teachers are habitual drunks, chain-smoking,
        sometimes drug-abusing, morally loose white men who go to Taiwan to prey on the easy
        women and to get an easy job! Check on any facebook pages of the expat men and it is very

        Taiwan is facing many challenges, look at the recent “occupy-parliament” by the students. They
        are worried about Taiwan’s future and their economic outlook! Last thing they need is more
        white trash going there to destroy a crime-free, peaceful, moral and rich Eastern culture!

        Thoughts of a well-traveled, highly educated American engineer with a conscience.

        • Hi Rick,

          I never said that Taiwan is the solution to the West’s unemployment problem, and I certainly never said that the Taiwanese owe the West anything. Certainly Britain has a terrible colonial history, I don’t disagree with you.

          I’m actually taking advantage of being a native English speaker, and I am very grateful for the opportunties it has given me. A BA English and a TEFL are also very useful abroad because it qualifies you to teach English as second language.

          Fortunately for me, I never met any English teachers who act that way. I guess I just don’t mix in those social circles. I was very lucky to know many amazing expats with amazing Taiwanese partners and personally I think it’s great the cultures are joining together in that way.

          I also think that recent events in Taiwan show that the young people are worried more about the relationship with China than the expats teaching English there.

          Glad to hear that you’re well-travelled and highly educated.

          • All I have to say is that everyone’s moral compass is different. Some have higher
            standards than others. I have many Taiwanese friends through my Asia factory
            visits. I go there about 5 times a year and stay about 2-3 weeks at a time, so I do
            see what is going on there in Taiwan. Many of the expats’ behaviors in Taiwan are
            not be acceptable to the locals and I think you and many expats are not even
            aware of this fact!

        • If you were as well-traveled and highly educated as you claim, I’m sure you’ll understand that criticizing stereotypes is morally wrong. Sure, some native English speakers are in no way qualified to teach English and they are actually taking jobs from the locals who actually studied to teach English. It’s the same in every developing country, sadly.

          But…not ALL native English speakers who teach abroad follow this stereotype. The reverse could also apply. Who do you think an American company is going to hire as an engineer? A German (considered to be the best engineers in the world according to the stereotype) or an American?

          • Raphael, I am talking about the majority of the expats in Taiwan being the
            economic refugees of some sort! Of course, there are exceptions. But the most of
            the people I see are the bottom of the barrel, it is very unfortunate for Taiwan!

            An American company here in the US has to hire American citizens by law! We
            don’t take it kindly when illegals come and take our jobs away. I am sure the laws
            are same in many countries, including Taiwan!

            Sadly, I think our world equates German engineering = luxury = status symbol,
            which I don’t agree at all. I am a gear head and I maintain a fleet of cars for me and
            my family in my spare time. I rate highly of my Chevys and Dodge. If you look at
            any consumer reports, German cars are not even the most trouble-free and I
            personally think GM transmissions are superior to Mercedes ones in terms of
            shift quality and reliability. I am proud that all my cars are American and I support
            my fellow American engineers 100%!

            I only mentioned my career and education to differentiate me from those expats,
            not to gloat.

        • You speak some truth about life in Taiwan, but you miss a lot. I don’t know if that is you don’t care, don’t know or you’ve had bad experiences. Most people come to Taiwan to teach and enjoy new experiences. Some are drunken idiots and you feel embarrassed when you see them. But the vast majority of people care about what they do, they try their best to help kids learn English. They can make a small difference in a child’s life. Everyone benefits. If you want people to find work at home and not explore this amazing planet we live on, that’s OK but the world will be worse off not better.

          • Were you a teacher back in your home country?
            I know most expats end up in Taiwan out of desperation, either this or
            unemployment back home. You can euphemize all you want to justify your
            existence, but any self-respecting westerner can see right through this – the place
            has become a white-trash dumping ground! I feel sorry for the Taiwanese people!

        • This as usual is an oversimplification of a much larger problem. First of all, calling anyone white trash is offensive. You have no idea who these people are. It’s a gross, silly oversimplification. The fact of the matter is that the government of Taiwan has facilitated all this by setting low standards for English speaking schools in Taiwan.The government standard is that if the are a native English speaker, a degree and have a pulse, you can teach English. So perhaps you should direct your immature comments to President Ma. Taiwan has an obsession for English that no North American or European is responsible for. As to those coming here looking for women, I don’t think that it’s unique to Taiwan. Fact of the matter is, without willing women no men would show up. Taiwan and Taiwan alone is responsible for it’s future. Looking for others to blame is a sign of a truly xenophobic. Give your head a shake, a country the size of Taiwan with such a small economy is not the solution to any county’s employment problem except maybe Luxembourg.

        • My son (Scottish) has been working in Taiwan for over 2 years teaching English. You should not generalise everyone with the same brush. He is certainly not a “habitual drunk, chain smoking, drug abusing morally loose white man” He is very respectful to the Taiwan people and culture and provides a service to the community.

      • Is ok to encourage people to relocate to Taiwan..If youre meant to be there, you meant to be there:) I was at Taipei and Hualien for a month in 2011 and already thinking to retire there with the same sentiment of yours, better quality work life and also to pick up whats is good from Taiwanese..we travel to see brighter side of each nation and bring out the best in us..the kinder, wiser and gentle side of self, sometimes could be easily promoted when dealing with such warm accomodative, great nation and beautiful country..Enjoy!

        • Hi Rickie, thanks for your comment.

          Yes, moving abroad, espcially to a country in Asia, is very dependent on the individual. Some people thrive in a new country and find their life improved, whilst others prefer to the way of life in their home countries.

          Did you visit Taroko Gorge when you were in Hualien? It’s a gorgeous park with lots of good walking trails.

          • I just visited Hualien a month back, gotta say it’s really gorgeous. I am happy for you that you managed to stay a year in Taiwan, must be quite a lifetime experience. I wish I could do the same :)

    • relax!! ppl have to live somewhere,,,,r u in taiwan? Ive been here 12 yrs and things change thats the star of life, get over it! She wrote a nice story!

    • Rick, you are a hypocrite as are many of the other ‘foreigners’ (non-Taiwanese) posting here. Perpetuating stereotypes and posting massive generalizations as you have done, is not only factually inaccurate but invariably foolish. Perhaps you should have never left the United States in the first place? What of the people from other nations who have migrated to America? Do you consider their contributions and cultural influences to be a negative influence on American society? Anyone who unequivocally claims that an expatriate/foreigner is a scourge on the society in which they are living is an idiot. The fact of the matter is there are good and bad people (read idiots) everywhere, including Taiwan… Check yourself, as you did precisely the same thing, and I would much prefer having ‘Charlie on Travel’ as a neighbour than the likes of you. The fact that you didn’t teach English in Taiwan, doesn’t make you any better than an expatriate who does. Incidentally, I don’t teach English either and almost certainly possess significantly more academic degrees and credentials than you do. You really need to get off your ‘high horse’ and get over yourself in general. Great blog ‘Charlie on Travel’ and I hope you continue to spread positivity and goodwill, and represent your own nation and culture in such a kind and respectful manner.

      • Hi Steve – Thank you so much for your compliments and for sharing your opinions. I really do appreciate you stopping by and commenting. Glad to hear I wouldn’t be such a bad neighbour after all ;)

        • Just call it like I see it… I wish you the very best with your travels COC, and also appreciate you sharing your adventures! Have a great time and please don’t pay heed to the negative people. If it weren’t you, they would find someone else to blabber on about… ;-) Stay positive and have a great time!

    • Mike, you are not giving enough credit to the local authorities by avoiding the permission of entry to their beautiful country.

      Not the same situation as in Europe that there is actually an overflow of people of different countries and not always they do have the best purpose by moving there.

      Or even United States where they cannot handle the situation of Immigrants, but finally it is the result of their international relationship policies.

      Great article, and lucky those who can live and enjoy Taiwan.


    • Mike–do you realize the Western countries, especially the U.S., is packed full of East Asians who have relocated to our countries? They are given equal rights, equal chances to work in white-collar jobs, voting rights, etc? The city where I live has two large areas filled with Chinese, Taiwanese, and Indian people, all of whom are upwardly mobile here with cars, jobs, and houses. Our universities are having trouble accommodating the tidal wave the international students from China. Simply put, the percentage of immigrants and visiting foreigners in the U.S. far outnumbers the percentage in Taiwan. What a double-standard you exhibit, Mike. Your ethnocentrism, xenophobia, and ignorance are unwelcome and embarrassing for your country.

  4. Your blog is delightful, Charlie, and so is Taiwan. I first came here in 1979 and fell in love with the people in Taipei. I came back in 1984 and found out that the people I loved weren’t from Taipei but down south; Taipei can be so cold and ruthless. Now I am retired here in Taichung since 2012 with my wife of 23 years and loving living and riding a bike every day, teaching a few classes for fun, and writing ten blogs, poems, and stories about this beautiful island. I hope other nice people who aren’t tourists or opportunists come to see Taiwan the way we do.

    • Thank you, David, I really appreciate your compliments.

      It’s so easy to fall in love with Taiwan and it’s people! I think that cities can be like that sometimes. I really loved living in LuoDong – close enough to visit Taipei but far enough not to be caught up in hectic city life.

      The south was great. I only took a brief week’s holiday down there but boy, the weather was so much better!!

      It’s great to hear you’ve made a good life out in Taiwan! Congratulations on your 23 years as well. I’m looking forward to reading your blog :)

      Yes, I hope so too.

  5. Making changes in your life can be a strange and stressful process, but no more than making those changes on the opposite side of the world.

    It really takes a special kind of person to do so and we’re of the opinion that the two of you are made of very special stuff indeed.

  6. I moved abroad too some years ago and it was the best thing I’ve ever done because of what I gained from it. For me it was only from Italy to the UK, but it was quite a big step considering I didn’t speak any English at all. Changes are always good no matter what they might bring you :)

    • Your English seems fantastic to me – I guess you learn fast when you move to the UK though!
      What do you like most about the UK?

      You’re right about changes, they’re a necessary part of life. :)

  7. It’s illegal to teach three year olds. I would take that part out. Also illegal to volunteer. Try living there 8 years you’ll be writing a lot different story then. You forgot pollution, the crowds, the supermarkets are tiny, no vacation days, no sick days, no pension. Then when you get a bit older you’re not as attractive to schools anymore. You’ll soon realize your standard of life has actually decreased after some time. Then when you return, you’re starting from nothing with no experience while your friends are all miles ahead of you. Then your dream all comes crashing down. Have a backup plan is all I am saying. Wait until you see the look on a managers face when you tell them you lived in Taiwan. They can’t get you out of their office fast enough, doesn’t matter who you are. Taiwan is a good place but not to have a life.

    • David, each place has its benefits and disadvantages. Although it’s true that the glossiness tends to lose its sheen over time, its also true that our attitude determines our experience.

      For me, its like peeling back an onion. The longer you stay, the more layers you can peel. You either get to the sweet center and stay or you end up chucking it because of the pungency each layer brings.

      I’m going through the same battle with living in Bali. For me, it is sweet enough to stay but pungent enough to drive me crazy.

      As for the comment about her friends being “ahead” of her if she returns home… this is just a product of factory thinking. Ahead in what regards? Money? Career? Those are things that are easy to “catch up on” if that’s what the author feels like doing.
      However, in my experience, she already dances to the beat of a different drummer and an abroad experience is invaluable…even in the workplace.

      Good luck and cheers!

    • David, you are such a pessimist, actually you can build a great resume as an English teacher and transfer it to other schools worldwide. I do not think Charlie on Travel is teaching 3 year olds on a permanent basis and it is NOT illegal to do so. It is a pre-school where the teacher is more of a care-giver and doing simple ABCs. As well, you need to have a certification to teach, and other certifications depending on the level of school, so as long as you have the certifications, then it is legal.

      The pollution level in most parts of Taiwan are very healthy and seldom ever goes above 50 (maybe in the northern part of Kaohsiung if you live around the factories). I can find MANY cities in the Western world where pollution levels are above 80-100 on a daily basis (I wonder where London hovers?? well it is 70-100 which is yellow to orange — not healthy). Where Charlie on Travel lives, it probably hovers around 10-15 which is almost purely clean — the Yilan plain is a pollution free area. Taipei is not that crowded and the supermarkets are very nice.

      It depends on the school payment plan, if you teach by-hour or on a contract; if you are on contract then you will have sick days and vacation days with pay. Oh BTW, very few companies in the Western world offer pension plans anymore, so David, before you criticize people on their life choices please look around the world, look around where you live, and you will find it is not perfect. Each person has their own goals and aspirations. Coming to Taiwan can lead to greater things in life, as for myself, I came here in 1988 to study Chinese and it was a great building block to my career. As well, I have lived here for the last five years and find it difficult to leave such a wonderful place. People are friendly, helpful, kind, and living here is very safe (crime is very low). As for Charlie on Travel, it maybe Charlie’s building block for life and I highly doubt someone will kick Charlie out of his/her office for living in Taiwan, actually, it would start up an interesting conversation.

      David, your argument scores an F.

      Charlie on Travel, I love your post. The Yilan plain is wonderful place to live.

      • Thanks, Scott. I’m really glad to hear that you have such a wonderful life in Taiwan. I love to hear stories from other expats who have lived there for many years.

        Yilan county is also wonderful, I agree, I loved living in LuoDong very much so and I certainly miss it (we’re moving on to travel in Central America for the time being). We have many amazing friends still living in Taiwan and hopefully in the future we will be able to return there to see everyone and enjoy the mountains again.

  8. I lived abroad for a couple of years as well. I was in Budapest and it was definitely a different lifestyle. I didn’t earn as much (so no saving :(), but I gained a lot more in other areas. Hurray for trying new things and gaining new experiences.

  9. You have made some great points!!! I agree with #4! I developed a love for hiking as well here. It is great to escape the humidity and heat in the summer and head to the mountains. And you are so right! Money goes a long ways here!

  10. I think this paints an overly positive picture of Taiwan. Nothing about the extreme levels of pollution (as someone mentioned above), traffic chaos (scooters everywhere) the ugliness of the cities and towns (you allude to this in the caption to one of the photos you provided, but you could say more) which use sheet metal and bathroom tile as decoration, the toxic food (there have been several major food safety scandals in recent years), the scarcity of wildlife in the mountains (Clouded leopard extinct, Formosan otter extinct, Black bear down to just 200 or so individuals and also on the verge of extinction), plenty of litter and trash on the roadsides in many areas, mountainsides literally covered in betel nut plantations, no good coffee to be found, the mediocrity of Taiwan Beer (what an original name that is!), the fact that there is a nuclear power plant in the center of a national park (Kenting)…and this is only a small sample.

    • I realise that life in Taiwan also has a lot of drawbacks. However my post is not weighing up the pros and cons of life there, I’m discussing personal standard of living and self-improvement that I experienced in my year as an expat there.

      Other countries also suffer pollution, traffic chaos, ugly cities (this is very subjective as I wouldn’t personally call Taiwan’s cities ugly) etc. I might also mention the UK’s recent food scandal regarding horse meat. Unfortunately those things are just part of society and infrastructure all over the world.

      I agree the Taiwan beer is pretty bad though!

    • Jeungesan, please look at the pollution index before posting it is polluted here. It is not polluted, please see my response to David above. Yes, the “scooters” that is probably the only negative aspect of Taiwan. Don’t go down the road of extinct animals, each country has destroyed its wildlife due to human expansion, Taiwan on most accounts is trying to preserve its wildlife and taking steps to build ecological parks and bring wildlife back. Each country has food, over-the-counter drug, and prescription drug related scares. Taiwan does not stack up to any alarming level. You can find many similar scares in Europe and the US. If you want to talk about food scares, then look at China, India, and third world countries — not Taiwan.

      Your argument also scores: F

      Charlie, please post another story of Taiwan.

      • Of course Taiwan has very serious problems with air, water and soil pollution. Just do a google search. In fact air pollution has been getting worse over the last few winters, as pollution from China combines with the large amount of locally produced pollution from 10 millions scooters, millions of trucks and cars, world’s biggest coal plants, large refiniries and steelworks, burning of rice stalks after harvest, smoke from paper burning and fireworks during national holidays.

        Yeah, Taiwan’s West coast is polluted. No doubt about it.

  11. Hi Charlie, thanks for this lovely tribute to life in Taiwan. It made me reflect on the reasons why I have lived here for over three years and am still very happy living this lifestyle. I often think about the points you have raised in this article, but I haven’t channeled them into writing since living in Taiwan. From my perspective, one of the reasons I have stayed here for so long is that this job and this country has taken me closer to one of my goals in life: the time money balance. I have never been a person who only wanted money. I have always valued my time more than money. Many people have the dream of being rich, but for me, my biggest goal in life is to pursue my passions and develop talents. I want to become really good at writing, at cooking, at drawing and gardening and other things that I consider to be important to my spiritual well-being. I was always very disillusioned with life in the UK. I never seemed to want the things other people wanted. I wanted to explore, to have adventure, to see the world and grow as a person; I didn’t want to be tied down to a property a job or a location. I ultimately felt that in the UK, it was hard to find the time to do the things I wanted to do since working life seemed to dominate. My well balanced work schedule in Taiwan means that I do a job that I genuinely find rewarding and stimulating. Most days I only really teach for four hours so this leaves me a lot of time to do the things I love doing. I have made food, read books, written articles, watched films, seen different cultural perspectives learnt to appreciate the importance of nature, become more spiritual, met inspiring people, grown a sense of empathy and probably become a much more well rounded person living in after Asia. Ironically, being so free of the want of materialism means, that in taking a path in which I didn’t want to pursue money, I’ve ended up having more of it, since as you said, the income is really good in relation to the cost of living. You also end up learning something that you are not taught in a modern day society which sustains itself by giving people an insatiable desire to purchase things: that saving money, is a very beneficial thing. It was a pleasure working with you and Luke. You were both excellent teachers, and I felt then and now that you had sussed so much out about life at such a young age. I enjoyed talking to you both on a daily basis and I miss our exchanges. I personally think in the media orientated world people live their lives, there are a lack of role models for young people to aspire to be like, you two are bucking that trend. Good luck with life in Latvia. Like yourselves, I have discovered if you want to be a writer, you have to have a story to tell. There is no better source of inspiration to a writer than the shift in perspective that comes with travelling. Keep inspring – Darren

    • Darren, that was a really amazing, heart felt reply! You made me a little teary! It was a pleasure working with you too and being able to talk everyday about lots of things – teaching, films, nature etc. I really appreciated the advice you once gave me about teaching that upper SA class, it really paid off and I was so glad that I’d actually asked you. We were also fortunate to have you being such a good mediator at work, we really noticed the difference when you were gone.

      And thank you. We’re not moving to Latvia though (I think that actually another travel blogger I chat with is and a few people thought it was me), we’re actually moving to Costa Rica at the end of May. We’re house sitting out there.

      Good luck with all of your lifestyle pursuits, and especially your blogging and film criticism, which I always enjoy reading. You should definitely write a blog about the irony of being free of materialism yet having ended up with a good income, I’d read it :)

    • Darren, you’ve literally read my mind, this is exactly why I’m considering moving to Taiwan to teach! Im in Search Of A Good Work Life Balance! Where exactly Did You Live And Teach?

  12. Wow, that David guy really has some beef with this. It seems he’s telling his personal story to you right there? Loved this post, and I agree with you! I visited while travelling Asia earlier this year and it was by far my favourite country that we visited. Blew my mind! I can’t wait to head back there, and I’m definitely looking into moving there in the future, at least for a year or so, to give international life a go!

    My friend came back from Taiwan yesterday and brought me a huge box of pineapple cakes and matcha!! Can’t wait to snack down on them :)

    • Yes, I thought so too. It’s not a great story it seems…

      Oh wow, I’m pleased to hear you loved Taiwan so much! Sounds great =) I personally think that international life is definitely worth a go! Especially if it’s in Taiwan.

      Omnomnom pineapple cakes and matcha!!

  13. Lovely post, Charlie! Apart from the first point, moving to Barcelona was as beneficial to me as moving to Taiwan was to you. I have also developed a lot of interest in sports, which I wasn’t a big fan of back home. Learning a new language and trying new things are also parts of the expat experience I enjoy. Just the money situation is very different here: we earn peanuts and the rent prices are just too high to save up enough. Time to move, I guess, but it’s such a lovely city…

  14. Great post – I taught English in TW for 2 years. I was fresh out of university in Canada and was looking for a way to postpone entering the “real world” and starting a career, and it was life changing for me. I met great friends, fell in love, and saw a lot of a great country that I was absolutely ignorant about before getting there. I taught in a preschool (had 3 hours of contact a week) and actually lived a very good life, never worrying about money, and eating out and going our for nights on the town, while still trying to save about half my salary.

    Though I dont think it would have been a long term solution for myself, as a 2 year stint, it was the time of my life – and taught me so much about myself and travel.

    Again, great post. Thanks

    • Hi Ryan, thanks for commenting. I’m glad it was a life changing experience for you, I think that moving abroad is for a lot of people (me included). Sounds good.

      Yes, I’m also not living in Taiwan long-term, though I had an amazing year, and I will definitely consider returning in the future. It’s really made me want to travel much more. What do you do now, Ryan? =)

  15. As a Taiwanese, it always makes me happy to hear that people enjoyed their stay in Taiwan!
    Being a local, I often forget or oversee the beauty of my country and focus on the negative stuff, such as the points mentioned in some comments above.
    I’m not much of a hiking person, but after seeing so many expats loving biking and hiking in Taiwan, I think I’ll have to try it sometimes! Thanks for the great post :)

    • Hi Lenny! Lovely to hear that you are glad that foreigners also share a love of Taiwan :)

      Every country has it’s negatives, but Taiwan really does have so many positives!

      Definitely try hiking and biking! Taiwan really is an excellent country for it.

  16. This is a great post I really like it. Taiwan is still one of my favourite countries and I havent been back in almost 5 years but I loved it. I’ve been to mainland China a stack of times too but Taiwan seems that extra bit special. As for pollution, this is people stating the obvious. It’s like saying there are pubs in England with fights in them or there are nightly shootings in the US. Taiwan is a wonderful country and every traveler deserves to see it. Safe travels. Jonny

    • Thanks, Jonny! I hope you get back there sometime. I think that mainland China and Taiwan are quite different as well. I agree, thanks for your support. Safe travels to you too, Jonny.

  17. I really wish I would have taken the chance of moving abroad after I was done with college. You certainly have much more courage than I had at 22! I’m glad you had a positive experience in Taiwan!

  18. I think it’s excellent to always put yourself out there and try anything new and look at the things you’ve learned, appreciated and enjoyed that you would have never been exposed to…Taiwan is a lot greener than I realized – will have to def visit some day.

  19. We just recently visited a friend of ours in Kazakhstan, who is originally from the US, and he is so happy working as a teacher the local university earning A LOT, compared to the locals, living in a great soviet-style apartment in the city centre, feeling like a king! So yeah, totally understand what you’re saying!

    • Wow, Kazakhstan is a pretty cool and out there place to be teaching! What was it like there?

      Yes :) Of course, all this sort of thing is dependent on the kind of lifestyle you want to have as well.

    • How is teaching in Italy? I would definitely recommend Taiwan if you enjoy the outdoors and like noodles =) Though there are also a lot of big cities that are very urbanised and offer a whole lot more than rice and noodles!

  20. I am at “coffee shop Greek” right now, so I feel your pain. Taiwan sounds absolutely intriguing though – great pics, it’s good to get a little peak into life somewhere else. :)

    • Yes, I am lucky. Not so lucky to be monolingual, but working on that! That said, I know a lot of 2nd language English speakers who teach it, but it’s much harder to find a good job I think.

  21. Interesting… didn’t really see this as a controversial blog but there are some strong opinions out there. Sounds to me you were respectful and enjoyed the experience.

    • I also didn’t think it would be a controversial post, however I think that, unfortunately, some people have had some very bad personal experiences in Taiwan by the sounds of some of the comments.

      Thank you, Jen.

  22. YES. I’m LOVING my lifestyle here in Taiwan. Honestly I’m not saving much money though – I live on my own, and rent in a place that isn’t a shoebox and isn’t out in the boonies ain’t too cheap (I pay 13,500NTD for my place in Wanlong). Then again, if I were to move in with someone, then I’d be likely paying about half of what I’m paying to live on my own.

    Now, as for the comment somewhere in this thread about “no holiday and no sick days” (or something of that ilk), well, that’s that person’s fault for accepting a job that has that as a proviso. I get 14 days holiday plus public holidays, and sick days, too. Try moving to South Korea where it’s 10 days (of which you choose 50% of the days) and no sick days – and that’s if you’re lucky. And tiny supermarkets? Erm again – what country was he living in? Doesn’t sound like the Taiwan I know, and any pollution is easily avoidable.

    Anyway, I’m loving my life here, and have an inkling that I may be kicking around in Taiwan for a fair while. I just need to find somewhere with cheaper rent once my lease is up in January – probably move to New Taipei now that I’m more familiar with the city.

    • Ahh I’m so excited to hear that you’re loving Taiwan!! It’s definitely more expensive living in Taipei and some of the other larger cities. I also think that 13,500 is a pretty good price for a Taipei apartment. We had quite a big place but of course were in LuoDong, and two people makes a whole lot of difference.

      It’s different for different schools for sure, and you have to pay attention to that sort of thing when you sign a contract.

      Do you feel homesick at all? When I was living in Taiwan, it was my first year living outside of the UK, so I often felt homesick, depsite loving so many things about Taiwan. And are you learning Mandarin?

  23. Excellent post! I’m excited to go visit my home country in a few months, I haven’t been back in so long and I can’t wait. It’s funny you never played Settlers of Catan before (maybe not popular in the UK?) I have friends in the States who have Settlers weekly nights and are crazy about it! haha. As for learning Mandarin, keep it up. It’s a tough tough language and I’m saying this as someone who grew up speaking it.

    • Thanks, Samantha! And I’m excited to be heading to Costa Rica, haha – what a funny world =)

      Yes, I guess I was just never in the right Catan playing cicles at home. I absolutely love it, I’m so glad I met a group of expats who were playing it every week! It’s the perfect board game for those rainy and overcast Taiwan days. Couldn’t live without now.

      I’m actually switching to Spanish now that I’m heading over to Costa Rica – finding it much easier than Chinese! I gave Chinese a good go though, but those tones are a nightmare for Westerners!!

  24. Great post Charlie, it sounds like Taiwan agrees with you :) I had a friend teach English in Taiwan for about 14 months and she absolutely loved it. Although I’ve never had the chance to visit yet you make some very convincing arguments

    • Thanks, Calli! I loved Taiwan, but I did also find being away from home for such a long time very difficult and I was so glad to see my mum at the end of that year! It’s a great country though. Glad to hear about your friend too :) I hope you’ll get to see Taiwan in the future.

  25. Very interesting reflections on the expat lifestyle. Not everyone embraces it fully or seeks to improve themselves during that time. And now you love hiking to boot! I’d really enjoy seeing the colors and landscapes of Taiwan.

    • Hi Dave. I definitely struggled with expat life while I was out there as well, but I tried my best to embrace it and did for the most part. I think that everyone struggles with being away from home, different cultures and language barriers, but you definitely have to focus on the positives – like hiking!

  26. It’s so lovely and refreshing to hear that you enjoyed a mutually beneficial temporary relocation to Taiwan and focused on the positives of being in a foreign country and all the pleasures that it can bring. I only wish that there were more young travellers like you willing to openly share and develop an understanding for a multicultural society.

  27. What a fantastic opportunity you had. Much credit to your open mindedness to try knew things. I really loved hearing that you developed a love for hiking. It’s one of the best ways to see a new are when traveling and/or when moving to a new location!

  28. I really like TW too. Been to a few parts – Taipei, Taichung, Hualien. I would love to work there. I am not a native speaker although I speak and write English as my first language. Did you get your scooter license while in Taiwan or did you already have a license to convert?

    • You could still definitely get a job if you were in the country though – not being a native speaker just makes it harder to pick up a job over the internet beforehand I think.

      I already had a license :)

  29. I’ve been living in Taiwan for 9 years now, and I love it. I never want to move back to the US, never. I got my undergrad in Chinese Literature here, and I’m currently finishing up my Master’s in TESOL so I can teach English at university level. I live in a gorgeous, brand-new apartment that costs me less than US$500 per month, living expenses are quite low, and I can either walk or take the convenient and cheap public transit anywhere I want to go.

    Taiwan is my home!

    • Hi Marla, Fantastic to hear all of your academic achievements and love for life in Taiwan! Congratulations! :)

      Where in Taiwan are you living? And what was it that originally made you move out there? I would love to hear your story!

      • Actually, my first trip here was in 2002 to attend a Wu Bai & China Blue concert. At that time I’d been planning to move to Hong Kong, because I’d already fallen in love with Chinese culture, but Taiwan was so beautiful, and the people were so great, that I changed my mind.

        I’m in Danshui, attending TKU, and love this area.

  30. Really like this post. I’ve done a TEFL course before, and my boyfriend and I are seriously considering moving abroad to teach or work after our current trip is over – the big question is where to go!!

    • Congrats! It’ll big a good but challenging experience. I only wrote about how my quality of life was improved in this post – not about the challenges faced by expats or the negatives of Taiwan. Depending on the place you live in a country, an experience can be completetly different. Are you thinking about teaching in Asia?

  31. I loved reading this, Twaian sounds absolutely beautiful; that hiking photo blew me away! I moved to Thailand for a while last year, I definitely think taking that step changes a persons life for the better. :)

  32. It is a nice description of a personal experience of someone who was – apparently – just “passing by”.
    But with a title “Why moving to Taiwan…” one may assume that you live in Taiwan. Some people may be booking their flight ticket right away from the excitement about it :D
    Then your final remarks “I only stayed in Taiwan for one year despite my improved lifestyle” feels a bit confusing…. Changing the title may help…
    I am glad that you had a nice experience in Taiwan and wish you all the best on your future trips. :)

    • Hmm, that is a good point! I meant it to mean why the move improved my lifestyle for the time I was there – but I didn’t want to have a really wordy title to my post. What do you think would be a better title? :)

      Also, I know a lot of people who have continued living in Taiwan because of these reasons and I think that you can continue to have an improved quality of life by living in Tawain long-term. However, these factors are not the priority in my life at the moment – I want to travel the world, not settle down in one place.

      Thank you for your advice! I always appreciate constructive criticism :)

  33. Beautiful photos. Your points could make anyone decide to move there right away, I just don’t see where the negative aspects are–except maybe for being far away from friends and family. But new friends can made, and old ones can always come visit… especially at your new house. Very inspirational.

    • Haha, thanks Rashad! Being far away from friends and family are definitely the negative aspects, and also a non-English speaking community can be isolating. Other than that, I loved Taiwan, even though some weeks I had a lot of working hours.

      You’re right though, there are a lot of new friends to be made etc.

  34. It sounds like a really great time you’ve had there. I would like to teach English but I think my level is not good enough and I don’t have any degree. But maybe one day I will try to do it as well. I’ve been living abroad since I was 18 and it’s especially difficult if you go on your own. For example here, in Norway, it’s so difficult to meet any people as I live in the real countryside with only 5 houses around. But it’s beautiful and really worth it! I love the idea of learning new things and here I made my first knitted socks ever! :)

    • Thanks, Eva :) There are still many second language speakers who teach English, especially in China – although I think not so much in Taiwan.

      Moving abroad is really difficult, and I’m not sure I would want to do it on my own. Norway sounds amazing though, I can imagine it is so beautiful! Making knitted socks ~ cool! :)

  35. Wow…you make a lot of good points. What a great job to have straight out of school and a way to really gain some independence!

  36. Just saying… I find it interesting when I was reading your article. I’m a Taiwanese, and I also stayed one year in England a few years ago. In my opinions, once you are “the foreigner”, you couldn’t help to find those ordinary things (well… for locals) interesting(or not so interesting) and might compare them in mind with our home countries. So I don’t feel any offenses from your post like some might do. To be honestly, I am quite enjoying.

    P.S. when I ordered my food successfully with my poor indonesian in an Indonesian restaurant, that totally made my day! so I understand your coffee thing!

    • Yup that’s so true, oh ya~ the coffee things, it brings back memories when i got to 50 嵐 and order my drink in mandarin! (back then my mandarin are so poor) it is a big achievement for me just to be able to order it correctly! Indonesian restaurant i’m geussing it should be in the Taipei Main Station

    • Hi Yenni! How did you like England? You’re right, I think you definitely ‘get used to’ a foreign country and start to compare things with your home country.

      I am glad that you didn’t feel my post was offensive! I didn’t want to upset anyone, of course, just give my opinion.

      Congratulations on the food ordering! Yes, little language achievements!

      • I lived in Lancaster at that time, and I like the fresh air, blue sky and green grass. But my favorite part about England is definitely the constructions there. I really love those houses even the pavements built with stones, including those little stairs to the ground floor….. I believe it sounds weird to some people :) I even miss the smell of the sheep dung there XD

  37. Are you glad you decided to go to Taiwan! Beautiful pictures. I am glad you are enjoying the experience with a better life style than you would have in the UK considering I shudder each time I have to pay my rent which is a good(HUGE) chunk of my pay every month. Hmmm any more room in Taiwan?

    • I’m really glad I went to Taiwan too! Thank you. Yes, UK rent is crazy!! There is a big demand for English teachers in Taiwan. Soon I will move to Costa Rica to see what life is like there :)

  38. WOW great article you have there! it makes me miss Taiwan a lot!
    I love Taiwan for its convenience, culture, food, people and it is a very safe place to stay!

    I was living in Taiwan-Taipei for 9 years ( study and work ) , it’s really hard to say good bye to the island, got so much good memories of it.

    And yes native American and UK foreigner are getting a lot advantages to be a English teacher, but i do believe it’s normal, due to their native accent.
    Some foreigner do have some behavior catastrophe, but most foreigner fellow that i met there are nice, well educated and do have a great teaching skills.

    And to those who want to go to Taiwan, here are my suggestion GO FOR IT! Do learn the language and enjoy your time there.

    • Thank you, Djimantoro :)

      Yes, I love Taiwan for those reasons too. Did you study Chinese when you lived there?

      I also think it’s normal, and it is just natural that there is a demand for native speaking teachers now. I’m pleased you mostly met nice foreigners – me too! :)

  39. I worked as a teacher for 10 years but I never thought about moving to a foreign coutry to teach (except for a year on a vessel being a private teacher). Taiwan looks like a great place to do so.

  40. Great read! The only thing I’d add, and you being there only a year cancels it out, but being an eel teacher overseas usually means you don’t have any job experience to further your career when you get back to your home country ^^. That’s the one reason I haven’t gotten an ESL certificate and moved over there already haha

    • Me being there only a year cancels it out? I don’t think so… I experienced those improvements to my lifestyle while I was living in Taiwan and afterwards.

      I benefited from a good income then, and I benefit from my savings now. I benefited from learning Chinese so I could speak to locals then, and I benefit from that language learning experience when I learn a language now. etc.

      Also, all working experince is good experience. I don’t actually want to teach in my home country (ever!) but that teaching experience enables me to get a teaching job overseas in many other places now.

  41. There’s always so much of excitement and space to try new things when we choose to live in a different country! I am sure you have had/having amazing life in Taiwan! And what more need be said than these pictures that shows lovely hiking trails and gorgeous beaches! I envy your lifestyle :)

  42. Dead on, mate. I lived in Taiwan for 6 years, but was forced to leave due to a visa issue. I was exiled for two years during which my savings were depleted, debt sky rocketed and have struggled to get by. My wife and I are planning to move back this fall or spring of 2015.

    • Oops. Hit the submit button.

      The US certainly does not make it easy to be a teacher. I have always loved being a teacher, but the cost of living combined with the deplorable pay in the US makes it just too hard to sustain even with your Master’s Degree.

      The best part of teaching in Taiwan is that you can either enjoy the extra time you have to pursue your own passions or double down and get a second job. This is extremely hard to do in the US due to the sheer amount of stuff dumped on teachers in the States.

      • Hi Chris! Sorry to hear about your VISA issue, such a shame that you had to leave Taiwan. The UK is similar to the US on this, I think. Being a teacher here is really tough and doesn’t leave much free time, despite good holidays (too much marking and planning!)

        We had to work quite long hours in Taiwan actually, but had friends who had really good working hours – especially after a year of working or because they were working at a different school to us.

  43. Great post, Charlie! You’ve certainly gotten some *interesting* responses! While I haven’t been to Taiwan, I agree that moving to Shanghai changed my life for the better. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me, giving me the gifts of patience and perspective. I walked much more, trying to take in everything around me and ate foods I’d never even heard of before! Now we’re getting ready to go to Latvia and I’m sure it will change me even more.

    • Thanks, Heather. Yes, I rather did it seems… Shanghai is a big move! I visited and studied there for 3 weeks and felt that was enough… It was so busy and manic for me!

      Good luck in Latvia, I can’t wait to read about it!

  44. Hey charlie, its so cool to read ur articles n those comments. God job! Im so glad to hear that a lot of foreigners love taiwan n consider it their second home

  45. Great post Charlie, I completely agree. I lived in Taiwan for a year and it was an amazing experience. Life on a teachers salary in Taiwan is very comfortable, it was the first time in my life I felt I could eat/drink/buy pretty much anything I wanted and I still saved money.

  46. I lived in Taiwan as an expat from canada for 10 years. Just to clarify for people. 50000 twd. is a horrible salary. Only people that work for large chains or (forgive me) dont know any better work for that little. The average teaching salary for most is at least 60000 and up for about 25 hours of work per week. Most people I knew that worked as a teacher were in the 70000-90000 range. I my self was earning over a hundred working less than 35 hours a week.

  47. I try to live life without regrets, but if I would allow myself one or perhaps two, one would be that I didn’t do something similar to what you just described. Glad you went for it, and very good to hear that it came with a new love of hiking. :)

    • Aw, thanks! We’ve also been considering South Korea but have decided to spend our foreseeable future trying to work online from Central America in the end… Working in Taiwan is definitely worth looking around – there are a lot of good jobs on Facebook groups for expats looking for teaching jobs. I worked for HESS, Taiwan’s biggest language school. People have a lot of different experiences with HESS (as often it depends on the branch/school you work for specifically). There are + and – but overall my experience with them was good.

  48. haha, u did not share abt the many typhoons and countless earthquakes though which makes living in taiwan even more exciting

    • Typhoons days!!! I enjoyed the typhoon days, some free time and totally different from anything I’ve ever experienced. The little earthquakes just used to make me feel dizzy haha.

  49. Blimey, this has a lot of comments! Really interesting article though thankyou. I’m thinking about TEFL teaching somewhere in Asia once I’m back from this trip too, so it’s always interesting to hear of people’s experiences.

    • Yeah, the comments on this went wild! I had a few people disagreeing with me who got a little angry, and some lovely commenters defended Taiwan.

      I would definitely recommend Taiwan for sure (which is not to say I would recommend the whole of Asia). Definitely choose your country wisely based on what you want :)

  50. I was googling for some Taiwanese travel guides and came upon your blog post. I just want to say it was a great read and it is always interesting to read about other people’s experiences in a foreign country.

    I was born in Taiwan but moved to the United States when I was 10 years old and I totally understand how living in a foreign country not knowing the language feels like. I remembered the only 3 words I knew in English were “I don’t know” (technically 4 words, but who’s counting?) I learned that by watching the show land of the lost on TV with subtitles. Holly said it a lot during the show.

    Anyway, the Taiwan I remember from my childhood was beautiful and serene, but I don’t miss the crowds in Taipei nor the constant earthquakes. I remember the beautiful environment was just starting to get polluted one year by oil spills off one of the white sand beaches. I can’t imagine how polluted it is now.

    Btw I had a friend who was from London who I used to chat with online, and she told me the conditions in London were dreadful. For a woman, it was either marry a rich guy or somehow land a job where you can barely pay your rent. She lived on welfare cause it actually allowed her to pay her rent than actually working. That is kind of sad.

    In the US there are opportunities if you are well educated but for people that work in places like Walmart, it can be just as bad. My friend who works there can’t pay her rent and will probably be evicted soon.

    Taiwan would sound like a paradise for some of these people and I couldn’t blame them.

    Anyway, I hope to return and visit Taiwan soon after such a long time away. Enjoyed your blog!

    • Hi Steven – I’m glad you found my blog post, and also really glad that you left such an interesting and personal comment, thank you!

      That must’ve been quite difficult moving from Taiwan to the USA as a 10 year old. You must have really felt you had been thrown in at the deep end only knowing those few English words! Gosh, I can’t imagine experiencing that so young.

      I lived on the east coast of Taiwan, in LuoDong, which was beautiful and serene. When we went to Taipei we always thought it was quite busy, though never seemed as polluted as people though – the only place we found to be polluted was Hsinchu. Certainly with Taipei too, it’s easy to escape the city centre and go to beautiful places, like Pingxi, Pinglin and MaoKong.

      Mhmm, London can be quite bad, yes. It’s almost impossible to work in London and actually live there as well for anyone who is in a graduate job or a less skilled job. A lot of people commute into London, and the commute is usually around 1-3 hours. That’s the situation I was in when thinking about getting a job in London (my nearest city and the place where all the few jobs that there are actually are), after deciding that wasn’t a cool lifestyle, I moved to Taiwan and it was a good decision. As you say, for some people Taiwan would be paradise – which is why I really dislike expats you complain about living in Taiwan (also because they’re not forced to live there).

      When did you last visit Taiwan? And where in the States are you living? Do you travel much?

    • Thailand or Taiwan? This blog post was about living in Taiwan. I’ve not been to Thailand, though I’ve read and heard that it is a good destination for budget travellers and for expats too.

    • Cristy,

      Taiwan! Not Thailand…
      I lived in Thailand for a year and now live in Taiwan. Thailand is hardly a very functioning society. The North (Chiang Mai) and the South (Islands) are gorgeous. In these areas, the people can be very nice. Generally, Thailand is an incredibly dysfunctional society. I would not call it dangerous by any means, but it is not at all the gem that Taiwan is.

      Taiwan is clean, organized, efficient, cultured, and natural. Nearly everything I wish Thailand could be. Taiwan is really not comparable to Thailand. The craziest part is that Taiwan and it’s capital (Taipei) are as cheap, and cheaper in a lot of ways than Thailand. Imagine the difference between a BMW and a Honda. Same year of production. If you had to buy a car and they both were the same price, which would you buy?? The BMW! Taiwan is a BMW at the price of a Honda. Maybe that’s a weird analogy, but I couldn’t think of anything else right now. Both countries are worth a visit, but Taiwan is a place you could live for a long time happily ;-)

      My humble opinion of course…..

  51. You have mentioned some of my favourite things, hiking and learning a language. Of course as you say learning a language is much easier when you are forced to speak it. When learning Arabic a lot of the same mistakes happened to me.
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  52. Hi Charlie

    Thanks for the informative piece and the great photos. Taiwan sounds amazing and I am currently thinking of moving there to teach English for a year (I’m very qualified as it happens and have taught in my own country too, before anyone comes along and vilifies me for being an ESL teacher).

    I was just wondering if I could ask you a boring question about tax in Taiwan? I’ve heard you pay 20% tax for the first 180 days. If you arrive before January 1st can you still claim some of that tax back?


    • Hi Martin,

      Great to hear that you are considering teaching in Taiwan, I think it’s a really good opportunity if you are able to find a good school (as I’m sure you have gleaned from the comments here).

      What an coincidentally well timed question! I actually just received my tax return payment from my year working in Taiwan yesterday.

      You’re correct about the tax rate and the 180 days, after that it drops down to somewhere around 5% I believe. However, for that to happen you must be in the country all 180 days (no trips abroad in that time) otherwise that changes things.

      With our school, we were only able to claim our tax return for the whole year, so we had to wait until August for the tax payment. We worked November 2012 – November 2013 and claimed all of our tax back for that period (except our last working week because we filed for our taxes with all of our pay slips up until then).

      We were really lucky to have a great co-worker at our branch who helped us out. Filing taxes isn’t too difficult as long as you either speak Chinese well or a work colleague/friend with you who does.

      We also had friends who were able to get their tax money before they left the country after their year abroad there, which you can do as long as you file far enough in advance and don’t immediately leave the country once you finish you last week’s work (which is what we did and is why we had to wait until August for our school to transfer the money to us – a little risky and involves a lot of trust to an old colleague!)

      I hope that helps!

  53. Charlie,

    I have become very interested in getting my certification in TESOL and teaching in Taiwan. You seem to have a lot of experience in this exact field. Can you tell me a little more about it? Sorry, I cannot read the other posts by other users, so I may be repeating some…
    Where did you go to get your certification? Or did you get your Master’s? Would it be better to obtain a Master’s?
    Where did you work in Taiwan?
    Did you do anything else to obtain an income?
    Should I work on learning Chinese now? Or can I learn the language when I am there?

    That is all I know to ask now…
    Thank you so much in advance!

    • Hi Stephanie,

      Yes, of course I can tell you a little more :)

      If you are a native English speaker, you don’t need a Masters or a TEFL to teach with SOME companies. However, the better you qualifications to more variety of job offers you can get. I went to Taiwan with just my BA degree, however my boyfriend had a CELTA (the best kind of TEFL you can get). We both had the same job because we wanted to work together but I was able to earn my TEFL while working – but my TEFL is not as widely recognised as his and I’ve not tried to get a job with it since.

      In Taiwan, I worked for HESS, the biggest language school in the country. They recruit a lot of new teachers about 6 times per year. It was the first place to offer both me and my boyfriend a job. We worked in LuoDong branch, which is in a very small town on the East coast.

      We didn’t do anything else to obtain an income in Taiwan, and I don’t know that it would have been that straightforward to either. Also, we had long working hours as it was.

      It’s always better to learn as much of the local language as possible wherever you go, but you can definitely learn it for cheaper when you are there. I already knew some very, very basic Chinese when we went, but my boyfriend didn’t know any. We had two language exchanges in Taiwan, but we weren’t able to find any classes close enough to our small town to fit in with our working schedule unfortunately.

      No problem! Let me know if you have any other questions :)

  54. Thank you for your posting. I am a Taiwanese. I have to say that every country has advantages and disadvantages (Sometimes, they are just special cases). Now, I live in Germany for doing research. I asked many of my friends who has been to Taiwan. All of them said, Taiwan is the most interesting country around the world. Yes, Taiwan may be not beautiful. ( because the buildings are really ugly. XD). A little be crowded. (especially big cities). A little be hot and wet. Many Taiwanese are not familiar with English. But, when you live there for a while. You will never forget a lot of things, such as, the night market, the 24hr convenient stores( You can do everything there. Buy drink, coffee, movie ticket, book, food; pay bills; use wifi; pick up package; copy document. If there are beds, you can directly live there), hiking, riding motocycle, delicious food, drink, snack; easy to make friends with Taiwanese (because many young Taiwanese want to learn English. XD) and the daily expediture is cheap. Recently, there is a film which introduces Taiwan – “Beyond Beauty – TAIWAN FROM ABOVE”. If you are interested, you can watch it. I will back to Taiwan next year for Chinese New Year. I really look forward of it. Thank you for your posting and love Taiwan.

    • Hi there, thanks for reading and commenting, it’s always so great to hear what Taiwanese natives think of my article and on expats and their country in general. There are many places in the world with much uglier buildings than Taiwan haha, and I think the beautiful mountains and coastline and people make up for that too! I love the night markets and 7/11s, very different from the UK where I’m from, and the hiking is incredible (and the hot springs!)

      Yes, I have seen some of Beyond Beauty – lots of gorgeous shots of Taiwan. Beautiful.

      Thank you so much for commenting and reading! Where in Taiwan are you from? And what do you research? You sound like you have a very interesting life!

      • I original from in Maoli. It is a countryside with a lot of mountains. Therefore, it also calls mountain county. There are a lot of traditional stuffs. When I was high school student, I went to HsinChu city for studying. HsinChu is a scientific city (because of Science park). The wind is always strong in HsinChu, so, it also calls Wind city. One of the reason that I come to Germany for doing PhD research (Bioinformatics) is also for experience of different cultures. Actually, Germany is a nice place. But now, I really miss sweet home…….

        • Yes, we drove a scooter through Maoli actually, very beautiful :) And we have two really good friends who are still living in HsinChu now, we visited them a couple of times when we were living in Taiwan. It’s natural to miss home!

  55. Ah, if you know Acer, Asus, HTC, TSMC, These companies are from Taiwan. Many of them set their headquarters in HsinChu city.

  56. I should be shocked by some of the absurd ignorance displayed in some of these posts, but being American, I am not. Ignorance is the world’s most devastating virus and no country is immune to it. Charlie: I think your blog post is simple and to the point. I did not see it as inviting degenerates to desecrate a jewel of a country. I saw it more as someone wanting to share something that benefited their life. I moved to Taiwan (3) months ago and love it. I visited seven times before I finally decided to move. I don’t teach English and currently in the process of starting my own business. In the meantime, I help young Taiwanese who are looking to create their own start-ups, or need help with understanding cultural communication issues. Taiwanese people in general, have proved to be incredible. On the whole, they have been so helpful, friendly, and more importantly: the youth has a progressive and vibrant creativity that will push forward the economy. I lived in Bangkok for a year and experienced basically the worst aspect of a society. And like you, I didn’t exercise, not because I didn’t want to, but because there was no real environment for it. Taipei has, to me, an unparalleled balance between nature and city-life that makes it so appealing. I’d be lying if I said that there were no secret fears that one day it would be overrun by tourists and expats. The truth of the matter is that people who relocate there appreciate the beauty and ease of the country, sadly, more than do locals. Every week when I have discussions with locals, they are so happy and encouraged to hear that I love their country, and ironically, the conversation began with them verbally bad-mouthing their own country. The conversations always end in smiling faces and the affirmation that they do live in a great country. I could drone on for hours, but just wanted to lend my support that your blog post was clear as day and need not be justified. Taiwan is an awesome and incredible place and it is the balance of everything! So if your Taiwanese and take offense at this Blog post: You probably are a miserable human being trying to share your misery with the world! My advice: Go to America. You will have many companions who feel like you do. Charlie: Good post!

  57. Hey, I am interested in moving to Taiwan next year to attend University. While this is my main purpose, I would like to visit the bars and experience the night life there. I’m from the Caribbean and would like to reside in a cooler area when I get there, so I was looking at Tamsui which is more north. Any suggestions or advice?

    • Most foreigners choose “National Taiwan Normal University”(師範大學 or 師大) for study in Taiwan. The best Chinese teachers you can ever find is there. And that is located in Taipei City(台北市).

  58. Green island is pretty awesome huh? Did you go to the hot spring there on the coast. That was cool you could bathe in hot water as the waves rolled in.

    Teaching and living abroad can be a good way to learn a language, but you have to want to learn it. I also lived in Korea and learned hardly any compared to the Chinese I learned in Taiwan and China. I didn’t because I wasn’t really interested. Just being there is not enough. You have to want it.

    Other thing I’d say is “teaching abroad” is not for everyone. I don’t think everyone is cut out for living or teaching abroad.

    • Hi Ian, thanks for commenting. Yes, absolutely loved the salt water hot springs on Green Island, they were quite an experience :)

      You’re so right. Learning a language requires drive, passion and dedication. You have to really want to learn it for sure.

      Yes, I definitely agree and have certainly discussed that in some of my other blog posts. I would go as far as to say that teaching abroad isn’t really for me either, though I did enjoy my one year doing so overall.

  59. Hey Charlie,

    I have 1 question! Let’s just say, my salary roughly around 20000NT (before tax), do you think is possible to live happily after all the taxes? How ‘s the life security over there? Is it safe ?

    I have been working in Dubai for almost 1 and half year but I’m planning to move on due to achieve my goals and dream. So, in the moment I might have a better offer opportunity in Taipei, Taiwan. I’m just wonder if anythings that i have re considerate about this opportunity before I accept it ?

    Thank you so much. I hope to hear you soon !

    Best regard

    • Hey Kai,

      I think that if you weren’t living in Taipei or a major city, and instead lived in a small town like we did, then you could live comfortably on 20,000NT per month. You wouldn’t be able to save much if anything though.

      Taiwan is the safest country I’ve ever travelled in. Very safe. Do you mean live security? As in security cameras? I really don’t think that security cameras are necessary in Taiwan…

      If your opportunity in Taipei is only paying 20,000NT per month, I think you could probably get a better deal than that, as money would be a little tight unless you’re way out in the suburbs.

  60. Really love this, me and my girlfriend have only been in Taiwan for a month, and she is about to start teaching English next month. But it is such a awesome place to be.Right now we are scooting around the island for about two weeks, and it is beautiful and really cheap. mmmm noodles

    • Hey Joey – awesome to hear that you’re in Taiwan! I love it too and am so glad to hear you’re having a good time. Are you going to be teaching as well? What’s your plan? Good luck and enjoy!

  61. Great post, really helpful as my girlfriend and I are planning to move to Taiwan from London at the end of April, but I had only 2 concerns that you may be the best one to ask about:

    1) You mention that you had a scooter licence already that you were able to transfer. How easy was this process? I’m guessing it involved another test in Taiwan? Is this process similar for a drivers licence too? I’m wondering if I should continue my driving lessons here and get my UK licence and transfer it or just do it all out there.

    2) My girlfriend and I both don’t have degrees, but way more than adequate savings. I am thinking about getting a TEFL certificate to teach English there until my chinese gets better, my girlfriend however can speak fluent English and Mandarin as she is British born chinese. Almost all posts I read about people that have moved to HK or Taiwan have had a BA in something before moving, so is this a requirement as such? Will we have any trouble finding work there without a degree?

    • Hi James – Great to hear from you, and good luck with your move to Taiwan! It’s such a great country :)
      In reply to your concerns:

      1) Actually, we never transferred the licence. If you want to do so then yes, you need to take a scooter driving test at your local test centre in Taiwan. If you want to drive a car, get your UK licence. If you want to just drive a scooter, just get a Taiwan one. That’d be my advice. I don’t know any details about driving a car in Taiwan as they’re very expensive to buy and it’s not something I looked into, but if you have your UK licence you should be able to get an international driver’s licence by paying some money at the post office in the UK and use that in Taiwan.

      2) As far as I know, all English schools require you to have a degree (no matter what the subject) to work as an ESL teacher. I should think that finding work without a degree will be difficult, though probably not impossible. There is also a preference for English teachers to be ‘white faced’ and the fact that your girlfriend also speaks Mandarin probably won’t be a plus point when looking for a job as an ESL teacher unfortunately – though it will be incredibly helpful in general!

  62. Hi Charlie,

    Really enjoyed your post. My husband and I are hoping to move to Taiwan this yr and wanted to get your advice on how long it took you and your bf to get a job teaching english? Is it possible to get a job after you move there and if so, how long does that generally take? My husband is a native speaker and has a B.S. and J.D. (lawyer degree) though he doesn’t speak a lick of chinese. Sadly, most people don’t know that the attorney field in US pays little now and is too saturated with high unemployment and burnout rate. Any opinion/advice would be much appreciated!

    And before anyone decides to comment, please don’t judge. Everyone’s situation is different.

    • Hi Amber,

      Lovely to hear from you and good luck with your move to Taiwan! I hope that you love it as much as I did.

      We actually secured our jobs (with HESS, Taiwan’s biggest language school) BEFORE we went out there. It took about a month from the date we applied to be on a flight out there starting right away after the week long ‘training’ course they give you.

      It is possible to get a job after you move there, and we knew many people that did this and changed jobs while there. It depends a lot on the area and the job you want to have. It’s much easier to find jobs teaching ESL to children compared to adults, for example. And of course there are more jobs in Taipei than other areas. Actually though, they are desperate for ‘white-faced’ native speaking teachers, so it won’t take you long to find work.

      Most schools prefer their ESL teachers not to speak Chinese… so it’s not totally a bad thing. Any degree means you can find a job as an ESL teacher.

      Good luck, you guys will definitely make it :)

      • Hi Charlie!
        I am now studying for my TESL certification, but I am kind of worried about the whole white skin thing :P This is a career change for me — not so big because I already teach Japanese part-time. I am really excited about it. Even if I don’t get a job in Taiwan, I would still visit it because I love the people — and I know stinky tofu is waiting for me :D
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        • Hey Cat! So good to hear from you again :)
          You’re a native speaker, right? I think you will definitely find a job in Taiwan if that’s the case! No matter how your look, they really value the native accent and understanding of language over there.
          Ohhh stinky tofu! It actually tastes pretty good, yum yum.
          When will you be going to Taiwan?

  63. Hello Charlie! I’m a Brazilian 16 year-old girls who’s going to to Taiwan as an Exchange student in Ausgust/2015. I found your blog while looking for “life in Taiwan for foreigners” and it was a great find! I’m really happy to see that your life was better in Taiwan and that gives me hope to what my life will be. Of course we are kind of speaking two different languages, as I’m only an student and you were there earning money teaching people like me, but as foreigners, we sort of speak in the same pace. Thank you for your blog and be sure I’ll see the others post too! Have a great life, all the love. Maria.

  64. Very interesting and detailed posts here. What’s the current job market like for foreigners in Taiwan? I am thinking of working at a pharmaceutical company in a Taiwanese city. I already have a Bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Australia, however, was unable to be registered as a pharmacist there as the saturation of pharmacy graduates began to exacerbate. I am currently working my way up to a Ph.D(chemistry) in South Korea, which I will be finishing in early 2018. Can anyone tell me what my chances might be like after I graduate? In Taiwan, how important is the prestige/reputation of the university you’ve graduated from?

  65. my bf just give me this link . because soon we will move to taiwan .. cannot imagine 😓 cause he from german and im from indonesia . we always stay if not in german for sure in indonesia. but after read this .. make me more interesting about taiwan . good job .. 😊

  66. It is so good to hear about individual experiences especially when you are destined to travel there shortly..
    Great information Charlie.

    Moving there soon. Looking forward to experience the beauty of Taiwan.

  67. Quite an illuminating and well balanced portrait of the pleasures of expat life in Taiwan. Also,
    you have demonstrated an almost Buddhist equanimity in the face of a few strident naysayers.
    My compliments to you for that.

    One question I have is regarding the possibility of being bypassed as an ESL teaching candidate
    due to age. I recently turned sixty and have to wonder how much of an impediment that may be
    in pursuit of a job on the island. I have four years of classroom experience in japan, Korea and
    Thailand. Throughout each stint I was regaled with tales of teaching bliss in Taiwan and that, along
    with your article have whetted my appetite for both noodles and a new teaching adventure. Any feedback
    you can see fit to provide would be much appreciated!

    Mark E.

  68. This really comes as a shock. Because literally these days, every asian cities are extremely unaffordable. More unaffordable then the west. By the way, how is the working hours and cultures over there? Is it like Japan or Singapore suicide working hours or comparable to UK. Hope to hear from you.

  69. Great article and I empathise totally. I think working and living in Asia is a great thing. I went out to work in Japan and, like you in Taiwan, found it inspiring by surviving in a very different culture and learning the language. A while later I did the same in Hong Kong to where we last year returned to live on a more permanent basis – I guess Asia just gets in your blood – happy travels !

  70. Wow, I’m surprised by the vitriol inspired by a seemingly informative and positive blog. Good on you, Charlie, for making the brave decision to move abroad and try out a new life. Perhaps if more of the world did this they would understand (and sympathise) with other cultures, races, peoples. And let’s not forget that one man’s neighbour is another man’s foreigner, so we’re all foreigners AND neighbours, it just depends on perspective.

  71. My son and his family live in Yuchi Taiwan, which is near Puli. It is in the foothills of the mountains. He teaches school at Taiwan International Seventh-day Adventist High School. He is married to a Taiwanese girl and they have a set of twins. We have visited there two summers in a row. Last summer (2016) we spent one month in Taiwan. It is such a beautiful country and the people are so friendly. My wife and I would love to retire there in a few years but time will tell on that score. My son owns several motorcycles and 3 scooters. I rode all over those mountains and had such a great time. It is such a clean and safe country. I fell in love with the people, they go out of their way to help you with anything. Being a vegetarian we enjoyed the diversity of the food. I would suggest to anyone that is interested in becoming an Expat to consider seriously Taiwan as a home. You will not regret it one bit.

  72. What a fantastic post, Charlie! Absolutely loved it! I don’t understand why somebody has to be a “wet blanket” for something as pleasing as this blog. Anyways, thanks for posting this, Charlie. It was awesome! All the best!

  73. Hi everyone,
    I lived in Taiwan in 1994/95 and went back in 2014. The change was amazing, positive, energetic.
    Full democracy, food still as wonderful, people still super nice. Parts of Europe are going down but Taiwan is heading the right way. I am going back there next month to check it out!

  74. Hey Charlie!
    I loved your list! It reminds me of so many places I’ve lived in and all the little things I’ve learned in each of them. :)

  75. hi,

    We are British and thinking to retire in Taiwan as Taiwan is known as safe county in Asia. we also have the house in Cyprus but consider about the living cost and medical service. We are compare between Cyprus and Taiwan.

    We must have location is the pleasant calm beach area to retire. We prefer to buy the house since we are not the apartment type of person.
    We dont know if the property would be cheaper in Taiwan then Cyprus.

    Hopefully, there are some expat could help us below questions.

    1. Any real estate agent to recommend?

    2. Besides, Kenting. Any walking distance clean beach area has better price of property and more expat?

    3. Any retirement suggestion from Expat living in Taiwan?