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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.