Taiwan really is overlooked both as a tourist destination and as a place to call home. This little known island in the Pacific Ocean is rarely recognised as independent from China but it is an entirely different place and environment. So here’s our run-down of 10 excellent reasons why moving to Taiwan could improve your lifestyle.
1. It is beautiful!
The Portuguese didn’t name it Ilha Formosa (“beautiful island”) for nothing. Along the island’s edges sits the Pacific Ocean, it’s belly is full of lush forest and mountains, and dotted everywhere are rice paddies that are a rich green in the summer and a mystical watery blue in the winter.
2. Healthy food is widely available
For us, this is really important. Sure, the night markets have a lot of deep fried foods and the Taiwanese love sweet milk teas and sugared fruits, but once you’ve been around the block a few times getting fresh, healthy food is easy. Vegetarian eateries are in every neighbourhood, old women sell fresh fruit and veg in the markets for a reasonable price, and desserts are mainly shaved ice with silken tofu and beans.
3.The cost of living is low
Maintaining a good lifestyle in Taiwan costs very little. Rent outside of the big cities is cheap. Inside Taipei, Kaohsiung, Tainan and other major cities rent can be a little more costly but this is still pennies compared to Western countries. In LuoDong we pay NT$10,400 (£220) per month for our 2-bed apartment. Healthcare is excellent. The cost of eating out is phenomenally low. Clothes are priced at about half the amount as back home. Public transport and owning a scooter are both inexpensive travel options.
4. Laws are lax
It sounds a bit strange, but lax laws and regulations compared to home really make starting life out here a lot easier. For instance, you can buy a scooter without trading registration certificates and changing them into your name. Many foreigners (and I’m sure locals) also drive scooters without a Taiwanese driving license knowing that they will rarely be stopped by the police.
5. Moving into an apartment can happen overnight
Unlike the UK where months are spent going through estate agents waiting for a chain of people to find a convenient moving date and exchange the correct papers, in Taiwan you can just sign the contract and move in the next day. We signed for our apartment on a Monday and moved in on the Friday when the previous tenants left.
6. The Taiwanese are friendly
People say this all the time, and it’s very true. If you’re lost, there’s a Taiwanese person waiting to help you. The other day we got caught out on our lunch-break with no umbrella when rain started pouring; a guy running a local café ran out back and lent us one! Bartering is also uncommon here. The Taiwanese really aren’t fond of negotiating over money (not like China who are crazy for it!) but prefer to sell things at a reasonable price with no arguing. I don’t think I’ve ever met such a polite nation.
7. Getting a job is fairly easy
If you’re a native English speaker with a degree, then getting a job teaching in Taiwan is pretty straightforward. Most schools will be keen to hire Westerners who knock on their door because English teachers are highly sought after. There are a lot of English schools and because of the nature of the job, turnover is high. You don’t even have to be in Taiwan though; we were hired whilst still at home after an interview on Skype.
8. Good holiday locations
Both inside and outside of Taiwan, there are a huge number of places accessible for holiday time. Inside Taiwan, we holidayed in Green Island, Jiufen, Kenting and Taroko Gorge National Park. Outside of Taiwan, we went over to El Nido, the Philippines and are soon to be travelling in Vietnam and stopping over in Hong Kong. China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Borneo are other popular destinations to hop to from here.
9. Opportunity to learn Chinese
Ask any Westerner how their Chinese is, and they’ll tell you they haven’t learnt as much as they should. But they have still learnt some – it’s pretty hard to avoid it! We never took classes but we went to 2 language exchanges per week for the last six months and can certainly get by. We can ask for the fruit we want at the market, the food we want in restaurants, and which bus to take.
10. There’s always something to celebrate!
Taiwan has around 7 national holidays spread across the year, meaning you always feel like there’s something to celebrate! These include Dragon Boat Festival, Double 10 Day, and the week-long holiday of Chinese New Year.
11. Never run out of things to do
After living in Taiwan for 11 months, we never once had a weekend where we didn’t know what to do! There is something everywhere. Whether you want to hike in the national parks, soak in hot springs, cool off in cold springs, light incense in a temple, see urban art, visit museums, amble organic farms, drink green tea in a teahouse, go whale-watching, sit on the beach or shop in the markets, Taiwan has it all!
12. Explore the whole island!
Taiwan is a real gem because, unlike many other countries, if you live here even for just a short time, you can explore the whole island! We’ve known people to go round the whole of Taiwan on a scooter in just five days, so if you’re here for a year then you have ample time to soak up all the different places.