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Moving to Taiwan in 2008, I only planned to stay and teach English for a year. But 10 years later, I found myself married to a Taiwanese, father of two, published author and editor for some of the country’s largest educational publishers, and, yep, still living in Taipei, Taiwan (when I’m not in my other home, Edmonton in Canada!)
If you aren’t familiar with this website, I’ve got dozens of articles covering all aspects of traveling and living in Taiwan–my Taiwan travel guide links out to most of them.
For this article, I’ve compiled a huge amount of information for anyone thinking of relocating to Taiwan for work, family reasons, to retire, or simply because Taiwan is a great place to live.
I’m going to cover everything from current visa rules, general country information, where to live, getting an apartment, finding a job, getting around, weather, daily life, costs, making friends, how to live in Taiwan permanently, and much more.
Essentially, I’ve tried to make this guide everything that I wish I had known before moving to Taipei more than a decade ago. Whether you’re moving to Taiwan from the US or any other part of the world, I hope this makes your transition as smooth as possible!
For even more information about the country, read my list of fun Taiwan facts (I promise there will be some things you didn’t already know!)
Moving to Taiwan in 2023
Even during the COVID pandemic, when Taiwan was still totally closed to tourists, you were allowed in if you had a job lined up. You still had to undergo quarantine upon arrival, among other restrictions. Almost all restrictions came to an end on October 13, 2022. To find out what’s left of them, see my guide to Taiwan’s current entry restrictions.
It’s important to note that mask wearing is still common in Taiwan. The rule for wearing masks outdoors ended in December 2022, and the indoor one was also dropped in February 2023 (except for on public transit and in medical facilities, where they must still be worn). But most locals still wear them all the time.
Reasons to Consider Living in Taiwan
Taipei has more than once been chosen as the best city in the world for expats. What exactly makes Taiwan such a great place to live? Here are some commonly cited reasons:
- Friendly, welcoming people
- Excellent national health care system
- Extremely safe
- Lower cost of living than most Western countries
- First country in Asia to legalize equal (gay) marriage rights
- Chance to learn Mandarin (yet most people can speak at least a little English)
- Amazing food (especially street foods like these)
- Subtropical weather
- English teaching opportunities
- Comprehensive transportation, including the world class Taipei MRT and High Speed Rail, so you don’t need to drive
- Thriving expat scene with loads of clubs, social gatherings, and events
- Convenience stores everywhere, selling more things than you can imagine
- Exceptional handling of pandemic
- No open liquor laws (you can drink just about anywhere)
- Beaches, hot springs, and amusement parks within short drive of major cities
- Abundance of outdoor activities, including river tracing, high mountain climbing, scuba diving, and more.
- Democratic elections and freedom of press
- Extremely fast Internet speeds and lots of free WiFi hotspots
- No sex tourism or trashy backpacker’s scene like in some Asian countries
No country is perfect. Here are some challenges or complaints that some visitors face or make:
- Air pollution is an issue.
- Traffic can be a little wild.
- It is extremely difficult to become a Taiwanese citizen, so you’ll never get the right to vote.
- You’ll always be regarded as a foreigner, no matter how long you stay.
- Outsiders are sometimes given special attention, which can be nice but can also be annoying.
- Summers are extremely hot and humid, not to mention the handful of typhoons that strike every year.
- Getting a job besides teaching English can be difficult, especially if you don’t speak Mandarin.
- The country is one of the world’s most crowded, and it can sometimes feel that way. Apartments are small, too.
- Noise pollution is very real.
- White males from native English speaking countries are treated like rock stars and can easily find employment (and dating partners), while foreign women don’t receive the same treatment, and Asian or Black native English speakers may face discrimination in hiring practices.
- If you’re not from a native English-speaking country, you probably won’t be able to find work teaching English.
General Taiwan Information
In this section I’m going to cover all the basic information that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with if you’re considering moving to Taiwan. I’ll cover Taiwanese history, culture, people, languages, food, weather, attractions and more.
Hopefully this will give you a broad understanding of what this country is all about before we get into the more specific details about everyday life in Taiwan in the next section
A Quick History of Taiwan
The aboriginal Taiwanese have inhabited Taiwan for thousands of years. In the 1600s, an influx of people, mostly fishermen, began migrating from Fujian province in southeastern China to Taiwan. The Spanish and Dutch had brief settlements in Taiwan, until the Ming Dynasty loyalist Koxinga kicked the latter out in 1662. For centuries, Taiwan lay at the fringe of the Chinese empire.
In 1895, the Japanese began a 50-year occupation of Taiwan, during which they developed a railway system, universities, hot spring spas, hospitals, and other infrastructure. After WWII, the Republic of China lost the Chinese Civil War to the communists and occupied Taiwan with plans of retaking China someday (it never happened). This is why Taiwan is still, confusingly, officially called Republic of China.
The KMT ruled Taiwan as a single-party state for 40 years, a period referred to as White Terror. Taiwan also rapidly industrialize during this time, becoming one of the four “Asian Tigers.” Democratic reforms came in the late 80s and 90s, and the first non-KMT presidency, under the main opposition party, the DPP, came in 2000. Currently, Tsai Ing-Wen, belonging to the DPP party, is in her second term.
The two main political parties of Taiwan differ most notably in their stance toward China; the KMT supports a closer relationship with China, while the DPP is vocally pro-independence.
Is Taiwan a Country?
Taiwan is not officially recognized by most countries in the world. Only 14 countries in the world currently have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and they are mostly small countries. This is why, for example, foreign embassies in Taiwan, and Taiwanese embassies abroad, are usually called “Trade Office”, “Economic and Cultural Office”, or something like that. But for the sake of those thinking about living in Taiwan, these offices are embassies, and they are where you will apply for visas.
Despite the fact that Taiwan acts as an independent country in virtually every way, China maintains its stance that Taiwan is a province of China and bullies Taiwan from joining organizations like United Nations, or from using the name “Taiwan” in events like the Olympics (it has to call itself “Chinese Taipei”). Many airlines, companies, schools, and so on around the world are also pressured by China to list Taiwan as “Taiwan, Province of China.” This drives Taiwanese crazy (understandably), but calling Taiwan “Taiwan” drives Chinese crazy.
Simply put, a majority of Taiwanese feel that Taiwan is an independent country and they abhor the Chinese government, especially after seeing what it has done to Hong Kong. Moreover, any outsider who visits both Taiwan and China will note that the two countries are extremely different in many ways, including Taiwanese and Chinese travelers themselves (I have spoken with many from both sides).
What is Taiwan Known For?
Here are some of the things that Taiwan is famous for or known for internationally:
- Made in Taiwan: in the 1980s, it seemed like every little trinket in the world was stamped “Made in Taiwan”
- One of the “Asian Tigers”
- Taipei 101: tallest building in the world from 2004-2009
- Bubble Tea (also known as Boba or Pearl Milk Tea): Yep, it was invented there
- High mountain oolong tea
- Night markets
- Convenience: highest concentration of 7-Elevens in the world
- Computers (Asus and Acer) and computer chip manufacturing
- Bicycles (Giant and Merida)
- Hot springs and high mountains
- First country in Asia to legalize gay marriage rights
- Success in handling the pandemic
Taiwanese aboriginals form the base of Taiwanese culture. They belong to the Austronesian cultural group, and it was from Taiwan that the Austronesians went on to populate numerous islands across an enormous area stretch all the way from Madagascar to the Pacific Islands. While only 2% of Taiwanese today are aboriginal, as much of 70% of Taiwanese have some aboriginal blood.
When millions of people migrated from Mainland China to Taiwan beginning in the 1600s, they brought with them the customs, foods, language and culture of China, especially that of the Hoklo people in the Minnan region of Fujian Province.
When the Japanese colonized Taiwan for 50 years (1895-1945), they left significant marks of Japanese culture. These included food preferences (for example train bento boxes and sushi/sashimi), architecture (numerous Japanese-built shrines, martial arts halls, the Presidential Palace remain), and language (most Taiwanese learned Japanese, and many Japanese words entered the Taiwanese language).
After World War II, another wave of Chinese came, but this time from all over China, bringing the Mandarin dialect and a wide variety of foods and customs from different corners of China.
In other words, Taiwanese culture is a combination of influences from aboriginal, Chinese, and Japanese cultures. However, with the passing of time, it has become its own thing, which is being increasingly recognized as a distinctive Taiwanese identity, including by Taiwanese themselves.
Because Taiwan never underwent the Cultural Revolution of communist China, many religious and cultural traditions that were practically destroyed in China lived on in Taiwan. Numerous art forms, religious practices, and traditional folk customs originating in China are today preserved and thriving in Taiwan, not to mention the millions of artifacts that were taken from the Forbidden City in Beijing and are now stored at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.
Many Taiwanese are religious, practicing a combination of Buddhism, Taosim, and Chinese folk religion, while some adhere specifically to Buddhism or Taoism. There are four major Buddhist organizations in Taiwan with huge headquarters, universities, hospitals, and so on. They are Dharma Drum Mountain, Tzu Chi, Chung Tai Shan, and Foguangshan. Nearly 20% of Taiwanese are Christian.
What Are the People Like?
Taiwanese have a reputation for being friendly and welcoming to outsiders. Visitors are likely to receive random hellos on the street. People may want to practice their English with you (most people can speak at least some basic English). And it is not uncommon for Taiwanese to ask if they can take a picture with you (or sometimes sneak one without asking).
If you learn to speak a few words and phrases in Mandarin or Taiwanese, it will go a long way. This will warm the hearts of locals and they will shower you with praise.
Taiwanese are very concerned about what visitors think of their country, and they love hearing any positive comments about it. Taiwanese are very proud of their country (and especially their food, which they are all obsessed with), and they want the world to know they exist.
This is why whenever there are international votes for top places in the world, for example when the New7Wonders were chosen, Taiwanese always flood the ballots with votes for Taiwan or places in Taiwan. This in part has to do with counteracting China’s undying attempts to convince the world that Taiwan belongs to them, and also has to do with the fact that many people in the world think Taiwan and Thailand are the same country.
Younger Taiwanese sometimes have a tendency to be shy and afraid to talk to “foreigners” because they are worried they will make English mistakes. Take a peek at what high school students are studying on the MRT, though, and you will see that their English ability is actually quite high. Unfortunately, though, their education system focused on memorizing words, not actually using them.
While Taiwanese are generally reserved and very polite, if you get invited to a meal in family home, a wedding, or dinner and drinks out with some business associates, you will see just how funny and loud they can also be.
The four official languages of Taiwan are Taiwanese (also called Hokkien or Taiyu), Mandarin, Hakka, and the Formosan languages collectively. English is widely spoken but not an official language.
Generally speaking, Mandarin is more common in Taipei and big cities (vs. the countryside), among younger generations (vs. older ones), and in the North (vs. the South) of Taiwan. It is also the primarily language of business, government, education, and so on. Therefore, Mandarin in the most useful language for learning when you are living in Taiwan.
Taiwanese, which is a regional dialect (or topolect) of Chinese, is considered the “local” language of Taiwan and is the same as the language spoken in the Minnan region of Fujian in China and by Hokkienese communities in Southeast Asia. It is more common among elderly, in the countryside, and in the South of Taiwan. Very few foreigners that I know living in Taipei ever bother to pick up any Taiwanese.
However, foreigners living in Kaohsiung or other parts of southern Taiwan may find that learning Taiwanese is more useful, and most will learn at least some Taiwanese as well as Mandarin. Some Taiwanese words have made their way into daily Mandarin Taiwan, and you may learn some without even realizing it. Many locals also switch between the two languages. For example, my father-in-law always does this to purposely mess with me!
If you want to want to score brownie points with Taiwanese, then they will definitely be more impressed if you say something in Taiwanese. Some of my expat friends in Taiwan pride themselves and knowing all the best swears in Taiwanese. However, just keep in mind that many young Taiwanese themselves can’t speak much Taiwanese.
Just like the people of Taiwan are influenced by aboriginal, Chinese, and Japanese cultures, the same can be said about the food.
Some of the most classic Taiwanese foods, such as oyster omelets and mee sua, originate in Fujian province, where most Taiwanese trace their ancestry to. Others, like beef noodles and green onion cakes, came more recently from other parts of China. Many of these Chinese foods have since been adapted in Taiwan due to different ingredients and taste preferences.
Aboriginal influences can be seen in the widespread use of ingredients like taro, wild greens, and roasted mountain boar, while Japanese-style sushi and sashimi are universally loved – see my guide to Addiction Aquatic, a seafood paradise in Taipei.
Taiwanese is especially known for its street foods (here’s a list of the 100 most common street foods in Taiwan). Walking and sampling various “snacks” is a national pastime, and Taipei’s night markets are some of the best in Asia. Also see my guides to the best night markets in Tainan, Kaoshiung, and Keelung.
Even breakfast is typically enjoyed on the go, with breakfast shops and breakfast trucks on practically every street. There’s also no shame in having a meal at a convenience store, and many Taiwanese miss Taiwanese 7-Elevens when going abroad. (The ding-dong of the 7-11 door is one of the most familiar sounds in Taiwan, along with the garbage trucks that play Beethoven’s Fur Elise!)
Food is a very serious topic in Taiwan and literally everyone is obsessed with it. Eating out is the most popular thing to do with friends or a date, whether its all-you-can-eat hot put, DIY barbecue, or all manner of international cuisine.
Michelin introduced its first Taipei guide in 2018 and Taichung guide in 2020, and they include many street vendors. Le Palais is the country’s highest rated restaurant, while Din Tai Fung, which does Shanghai-style soup dumplings, is the most well-known Taiwanese restaurant.
Seasons & Weather
Although Taiwan is a small country, the weather varies quite a bit from north to south. The North (including Taipei) lies north of the Tropic of Cancer and has a subtropical climate with distinct seasons, while the south is more tropical and warm to hot year-round.
In Taipei, winters can be cool and damp, but snow is very rare except on mountaintops. Summers are extremely hot and muggy. Rain is common throughout the year, but there’s a mini rain season in spring, and around half a dozen typhoons strike the island from July to October. Taipei and Keelung tend to be rainier than cities in the center and south.
In terms of activities, you’ll find yourself visiting hot springs in winter, doing lots of hiking in spring and fall, and heading to the beach in summer in Taiwan.
See more detailed information about each season and month of the year in my guide to the best times to visit Taiwan and the best times to visit Taipei.
Taipei City is where many expats end up living in Taiwan, and it is also home to some of the country’s most famous attractions. The big ones include Taipei 101, National Palace Museum, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and Beitou Hot Spring. Other notable ones include Ximending shopping district, Maokong Gondola, and numerous temples.
For a more comprehensive list of things to do in Taipei, here are 50+ popular attractions in Taipei.
Outside of Taipei, the hottest tourist draws include Keelung Night Market, Lukang Old Street, Taroko Gorge, Sun Moon Lake, Foguangshan Monastery, and Alishan National Scenic Area, which is famous for its high mountain teas, small train line, ancient cypress trees, and sunrises above seas of clouds.
Many visitors also like to visit Taichung, the largest city in central Taiwan. It is the homeland of bubble tea, and also known for its artistic attractions like Rainbow Village. Here is my full guide to Taichung.
Tainan is especially known for its historic attractions, temples, and food, Kaohsiung is famous for its arts and port-side attractions like Pier 2 Art Center, while Kenting at the far southern tip of Taiwan is the country’s most famous beach resort. The offshore islands, such as Green Island, Penghu, and Orchid Island, are also major draws than few foreign tourists ever make it to.
Here is my post introducing 55+ famous attractions across Taiwan.
Choosing Where to Live
OK, so you’ve decided you are definitely moving to Taiwan. But now comes the more difficult choice of deciding where exactly to live in Taiwan, and how to get your life started there.
In this section I’ll focus on which city to live in Taiwan and how to find a place to live there.
Is Living in Taipei the Best Choice?
To no major surprise, a significant number of expats in Taiwan live in the capital city, Taipei. Here are some of the advantages of living in Taipei City:
- Access to Taoyuan International Airport
- Best public transportation in Taiwan, notably the world-class Taipei MRT
- Best and most varied restaurants, bars, shops, concerts, sporting events, expat scene, and so on.
- Best hospitals, schools, recreation centers, and other facilities
- More work opportunities
- Home to many of the country’s most famous attractions
- Plethora of day trips possibilities and easy access to hot springs, hiking trails, and beaches
- Mandarin widely spoken (which is a more useful language internationally)
Meanwhile, here are some of the disadvantages of living in Taipei:
- Most expensive city in Taiwan
- Traffic, noise pollution, and hectic big city life
- Rains more often than anywhere else in Taiwan
- Sits in a basin that seems to trap heat and humidity in summer
- Winters can be unpleasantly cool and damp
Which Neighborhood to Choose in Taipei
If you’ve decided on living in Taipei, your next step will be to decide which neighborhood to live in. While it’s hard to really go wrong and they are all connected by MRT (just make sure your place is close to any MRT station), here are some of the most popular ones:
- Da’an: Home to lots of universities and the city’s largest park, it has a younger, more international vibe.
- Xinyi: The most upscale and home to Taipei 101 and popular hiking trails
- Songshan: Nights markets and some leafy, riverside communities make this a nice place to live.
- Shilin: Lots of malls, shops, museums and other attractions make this the most family-friendly district.
For more information, see my guide to the best neighborhoods in Taipei.
Other Cities to Consider in Taiwan
Here are some other major cities in Taiwan, most of which are on the developed west coast of the country, while the last two are on the more remote, wilder east coast. These are in counter-clockwise order from Taipei.
- Taoyuan: Large city that is often ignored by visitors and is much cheaper than Taipei. The airport is located there.
- Hsinchu: Lots of teaching opportunities and closer to nature, for those who like to pass weekends by hopping on a scooter and exploring mountain roads.
- Taichung: Central Taiwan’s largest city, known for its restaurants and artistic attractions, and for being much cheaper than Taipei. Its brand new MRT began operating on April 25, 2021.
- Tainan: The original capital of Taiwan will appeal to history lovers, and Taiwanese consider it the food capital of Taiwan (read my Tainan night market guide).
- Kaohsiung: Southern Taiwan’s largest city is probably the second most popular choice after Taipei. Compared to Taipei it can be a little grittier but more laid-back.
- Taitung: Hippies, surfers, and backpackers will be drawn to this remote and highly scenic corner of Taiwan, but there aren’t many jobs.
- Hualien & Yilan: Many tourists visit these counties for their attractions, but few expats actually live there. If you love exploring nature and don’t care much about meeting fellow foreigners, these areas may appeal.
New Taipei City: The Perfect Compromise?
For the 10+ years that I’ve lived in Taiwan, I lived in Taiwan’s largest city, New Taipei City. While it has technically been a city since it was upgraded from “Taipei County” in 2010, you can think of New Taipei City more like the suburbs of Taipei.
New Taipei City is huge, taking up most of Northern Taiwan, and is composed of 29 districts. These range from some of the most crowded neighborhoods on Earth to wild, sparsely populated areas and even beaches.
Depending on where in New Taipei City you live, you might feel like you are practically in Taipei City. Several districts of New Taipei City are on the Taipei City MRT line. The main advantage is that New Taipei City can be quite a bit cheaper than Taipei, and only a stone’s throw from the city center.
Some districts of New Taipei City that quite a few expats live in include Banqiao, Yonghe, Zhonghe, Xindian, and Sanxia. All of these except Sanxia are on the Taipei MRT.
Personally, I lived in Banqiao in my first five years in Taiwan, before I moved in with my wife’s family in Xinzhuang, and then we later bought our own apartment there. Xinzhuang used to feel a lot more removed from Taipei, but ever since a line MRT line was built to it, I’ve felt much more connected to the city center.
Finding an apartment
One of your obvious first steps to moving to Taipei or elsewhere in Taiwan is finding somewhere to live. Hotels aren’t particularly cheap in Taiwan, so this should be a priority. And note that I say “apartment” because very few people in Taiwan live in proper houses except in the countryside. Space is a commodity in this country, and thus even the wealthiest of Taipei families live in apartments, not houses.
The most useful websites for finding an apartment in Taiwan are PopRooms, TEALIT, and 591.com (Mandarin only). You can also find numerous Facebook groups devoted to apartment sharing and rentals.
Most landlords ask for a two-month deposit when you sign a contract. It is important to note than this deposit is not always returned to renters when they leave; this should be clarified upfront.
Costs & Expenses
Compared to other Asian countries, Taiwan is sits somewhere in the middle in terms of costs. It is more expensive than most Southeast Asian countries, but not as expensive as Japan or Hong Kong.
Certain things in Taiwan are notably cheaper than in Western countries, such as food, transportation, and daily needs. However, things like electronics and cars can be more expensive than in the United States.
It’s also important to note that Taipei City can be quite a bit more expensive than other parts of the country.
Here are some examples of typical costs in Taiwan in NTD (New Taiwan Dollars) and USD.
- Apartment in Taipei City: 20,000 ($700)
- Simple meal on the street: 100 ($3.50)
- All-you-can-eat buffet with drinks: 600 ($20)
- Taiwan beer at 7-Eleven: 35 ($1)
- Visit to a doctor: 150 ($5)
- One month of riding the MRT every day: 2000 ($70)
- High-Speed Rail ticket across the country: $1490 ($50)
When all is said and done, you can live in Taipei for roughly 40,000 ($1400) per month, but of course this is going to vary quite a bit depending on your lifestyle, where exactly you live, and so on.
It is possible but not easy or straightforward for foreign residents to buy property in Taiwan. Here are some things you must note:
- Down payments are very high, typically 30%.
- Doing any kind of banking in Taiwan can be annoying if you don’t speak Mandarin.
- Your country of origin has to have a reciprocal arrangement with Taiwan, that is, Taiwanese are allowed to buy property there.
- You will need proven salary to get a loan.
- You will need to register with the Land Registration Office.
- Property in Taipei City is particularly expensive.
Due to the hassle and expenses, and comparatively cheap rental fees, most of the expats I know in Taiwan rent rather than buy. Having said that, my wife and I bought our own apartment in New Taipei City, but it was entirely under her name.
See more information here about buying property in Taiwan.
Safety & Health Care
Taiwan is considered one of the safest countries in the world. Even as a solo female, you can safely walk in virtually any neighborhood in Taipei at night without concern. Tourists scams are very rare in Taiwan.
Some safety concerns to be aware of are traffic (the pedestrian does NOT have the right of way in Taiwan) and typhoons. You should never visit mountainous or coastal areas during or after heavy rain, and when the government calls a typhoon day, you shouldn’t leave your home.
Taiwan has an excellent national health care system. All workers pay into it and receive free health care, except for a nominal fee of TWD150 ($5) per visit to the doctor or dentist.
Even if you don’t have national health insurance, the rates for visiting a doctor or dentist are significantly cheaper than in most Western countries. Waiting times also tend to be much shorter.
Parents of young children may notice some differences in terms of health priorities in Taiwan. For example, locals believe their babies and young children should always be wrapped up in many layers of clothing (even when it’s 25+ degrees Celsius), but many of them have no qualms about smoking around children or putting their infant on a scooter with no helmet.
Moving to Taipei with Kids
My two kids were born and raised in Taiwan. We feel that Taiwan is a very family friendly country for traveling and living in, although it’s not perfect. If you already have kids and are thinking of moving to Taiwan, I would recommend living in Taipei, for the sheer number of things to do there with kids, infrastructure, schools, public transportation, parks, and so on.
I’ve also traveled extensively around Taiwan with kids. It’s really easy to do and I would highly recommend it! Here is my detailed guide to traveling around Taiwan with kids. You can also connect with other parents and ask any questions you might have about living in Taiwan with kids in the Taipei Parents group on Facebook.
Here are some of the ups and downs of living in Taiwan with kids.
Pros to Living in Taiwan with Kids
- Super safe
- Locals are very friendly and helpful, especially when you’ve got kids (for example, they always give up their seats for you on public transportation or give your kids little gifts)
- Tons of parks, museums, playcenters, and kid-friendly things to in Taipei and around the country
- You can get by without having to drive
- All MRT stations are air conditioned and stroller friendly. Children under 6 ride free.
- Great hospitals (including maternity centers) and national health care
- Convenience stores everywhere where you can gets snacks, water, or even heat up a milk bottle.
- Your kids can learn to speak Mandarin.
Challenges when living in Taiwan with Kids
- Apartments are small and you won’t have a yard.
- Air pollution isn’t good for those little lungs.
- Traffic doesn’t yield to pedestrians, even when you’ve got a kid or baby. This drove me nuts.
- Not all streets have sidewalks, or they can be uneven or filled with parked scooters. Not ideal for pushing a baby stroller around!
- Summers are extremely hot and humid.
- Most local schools are in Mandarin. If you want your kid to attend an English school, you are limited to expensive private ones or the Taipei American School (also very expensive).
- Schools are very competitive and there’s lots of homework (this applies mainly to junior high and high school).
- If your kids looks “foreign”, they will get tons of attention, including people photographing them. The attention is positive, but it can be annoying.
- Your kids will be called “foreigners” all the time, for example at the playground. Even if they were born in Taiwan, speak Mandarin, and so on (like mine).
Daily Life in Taiwan
So what’s a normal day in Taiwan like? Here I’ll cover various aspects of day-to-day life in Taipei and Taiwan.
Eating in Taiwan
Eating out is one of the great pleasures associated with living in Taipei and elsewhere in Taiwan. Food seems to be available EVERYWHERE you go. It is not only cheap but also delicious, even at the rock bottom price range. Because it is so convenient and cheap to eat foods like these on the street, many people almost never cook at home in Taiwan.
Beginning with breakfast, there are breakfast shops in virtually every residential neighborhood in the country. There serve a huge range of freshly made items, from breakfast burgers and sandwiches to traditional pastries and green onion cakes. Some of these shops are open 24 hours, catering to the after-bar crowd.
For lunch, most people in Taiwan enjoy a take-away lunch box with meats & veggies on a bed of rice, or they pop into a local noodle soup shop. There are also tons of vegetarian and vegan options and restaurants in Taiwan.
In the evening, there are millions of restaurants to choose from, covering all types of food and budgets. Chinese and Japanese-style foods are the norm, but you can find just about anything.
Meanwhile, youths and tourists flock to the country’s many night markets, where countless vendors serve up an unimaginable variety of take-away treats.
Last but not least, Taiwan is known for its high concentration of convenience stores, where you can get a hot bowl of instant noodles, Japanese-style onigiri, soft serve ice cream, lattes, cold beer, and more.
The MRT is the lifeline of Taipei. Because it is so efficient and goes almost everywhere, there is little need to drive in Taipei. Driving is often slower, while traffic and parking can be a nightmare.
Using an EasyCard is the way to go in Taipei. This is a reloadable transportation card that works on the MRT, buses, taxis, and convenience stores, not only in Taipei but across Taiwan. There’s a TWD100 deposit, and rides are cheaper when you use it.
Taxis are also cheap and plentiful in Taipei. Drivers don’t always speak English, though, so if you can’t speak Mandarin, it’s a good idea to show the name of where you are going. Drivers are very kind and honest, and you are very unlikely to be ripped off.
Once in a while you may have to take a local bus in time. You may have to swipe when you get on (watch for 上 displayed above the driver) or when you get off (watch for 下), or both (both characters will be lit up).
Traveling between cities in Taiwan, there are long distance buses, regular trains (TRA) and the High Speed Rail (HSR). TRA trains do a full circle around Taiwan, while the HSR only runs down the developed west coast.
Buses and regular trains take a similar amount of time. On a bus, you are guaranteed a seat, but for trains, it depends on which type of train.
Here are the four types of TRA intercity trains, and they can be booked two weeks in advance online or at any station:
- Local Train (區間車) the slowest, stops at every station, no reservation needed, can get really full.
- Chu Kuang Express (莒光號): regular train that circles around Taiwan. You can reserve seats or just try your luck with a standing ticket.
- Tze-Chiang (Express / 自強號): Similar to the last one but faster, and standing tickets also possible.
- Taroko / Puyuma Express (太魯閣號): Super express and reservation only. They always sell out quickly.
The High Speed Rail runs down the west coast of Taiwan from Taipei to Zuoying station (Kaohsiung). It is twice as fast but generally costs twice as much. It’s important to note that most HSR stations are located outside of the city center, except for Taipei. You can book HSR seats 28 days in advance and there are early-bird prices, but you can always buy a full-price non-reserved ticket, even at the last minute, for cars 10-12. Visitors can get HSR discounts here on Klook, but these are not meant for locals or residents.
How to Dress in Taiwan
Taiwanese are quite casual when it comes to clothing. Walking on the street, it’s normal and common for women to wear T-shirts, short shorts/skirts, or tops revealing their midsection. For men, shorts, sandals, and a T-shirt are fine.
However, it is not considered normal or polite to go topless (for men) or shoeless in Taiwan unless you’re at the beach, and you may want to dress a little more reserved if visiting a place of worship (there still aren’t usually any rules, though).
This relaxed dress code in Taiwan is a blessing, as summers there can be extremely hot and humid.
Winters in Taipei and the north can be quite chilly. It can feel quite a bit colder than the temperature indicates due to the humidity. A jacket, thermal underwear, and winter hat may be necessary.
If you plan to visit high altitude areas in Taiwan, such as Qingjing Farm or the popular mountain resort of Alishan, it can be cold anytime of year, and snow is possible in winter.
Customs & Etiquette
When meeting people, including friends, Taiwanese usually give a wave or nod. Hugging is less common, and a kiss is a good way to freak people out. In business situations, you can expect locals to shake hands with you. If they give you a business card, it’s best to receive it with two hands and place it on the table (if sitting) and not write on it. Writing names in red is also not OK.
The topic of death is taboo in Taiwan and may make people uncomfortable. Most Taiwanese believe in ghosts, or ancestral spirits This is also why some hospitals and buildings don’t have a 4th floor (“four” sounds like “death” in Mandarin). Certain gifts are also taboo for similar reasons, including clocks/watches, scissors/knives, and white flowers. It’s impolite to open a gift as soon as receiving it. Finally, don’t place your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice; it looks like incense left for the dead.
While Taiwan can seem like a noisy place, locals are extremely quiet on public transportation, especially buses and trains between cities. Even chatting with your friend at what seems like a reasonably volume can bother locals, who often use the ride as a chance to catch up on sleep.
On the MRT, the dark blue seats are reserved for the needy, and it’s bad form not to offer up any seat to someone who needs it more than you. Chewing gum and eating are strictly forbidden. On the escalators, stand on the right side only; the left is for people who want to walk up or down.
If visiting one of Taiwan’s many hot spring resorts, be aware that some are mixed sex (bathing suit and usually bathing hat required), while some are Japanese style (nude and sex segregated). For more information, see my guide to Taiwanese hot springs.
Holidays & Festivals
The Taiwanese calendar is dotted with traditional and modern holidays and festivals, while many Western holidays are semi-celebrated but not as national holidays. In this article, I list over 60 holidays and festivals in Taiwan.
The main holiday of the year is Lunar New Year, which usually falls in late-January to late-February. Most people get around a week off at this time, while students also have a winter break for a few weeks before it. Most Taiwanese travel south to visit their relatives at this time, so it can be a tough time to travel around, Taipei City feels empty, and flights in and out of the country can be expensive. See more information in my guide to Lunar New Year in Taiwan.
Here are some of the most important holidays in the Taiwanese calendar:
- Lunar New Year: January or February
- Lantern Festival: 15th day of the Lunar New Year
- Children’s Day and Tomb Sweeping Day: 4-day long weekend at the beginning of April
- Dragon Boat Festival: usually in June
- Ghost Month: usually around August
- Mid-Autumn (Moon) Festival: usually in September
- Halloween: not an official holiday or celebrated much, but great night to party
- Christmas: also not official, but celebrated with lots of decorations, especially at “Christmasland” in New Taipei City
- New Year’s Eve: Celebrated with a huge fireworks display from Taipei 101 and other places across Taiwan
There are also numerous local and religious festivals on the Taiwanese calendar, with dates usually tied to the lunar calendar. These can be noisy boisterous affairs, and it’s not uncommon for such parades to pass by right in front of your home (and at unusual hours of the day or night). Some of the biggest ones include the huge Matsu Pilgrimage and the very dangerous Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival.
If you’re working in Taiwan, you will have to go by the local schedule, which means half the country will seem to be on the road whenever you have a day off. As an English teacher, you may or may not get summers off, but if you need the hours, there are usually summer camps you can teach.
Making Friends & Finding Support
It is surprisingly easy to make friends in Taiwan because there are so many other expats and students from all over the world living there, not to mention many locals who are interested in making foreign friends.
When my close friend and I first moved to Taiwan, we didn’t know anyone there. Within days, we met a group of people in a pub that would become some of our closest friends in Taiwan, and as time passed our circle of friends seemed to grow exponentially.
Whether you are into sports, underground electronic music, hardcore metal, traveling around, the LGBT scene, or the arts, there are loads of events in Taipei, and it doesn’t take long before you’ll start recognizing and getting to know people in Taiwan’s expat community. There are hiking clubs, language exchange gatherings, comedy nights, poetry readings pub quizzes, pool parties and so much more. There’s even an annual Canada Day celebration!
These events always have a good mix of foreigners and locals, too, but to generalize, there is probably a higher percentage of Taiwanese women compared to men who speak English, have been aboard, and want to hang out with foreigners.
One great way to make a local friend is to do language exchange. The supposed purpose of LE is to teach each other your language–you practice English with them for an hour, and they practice Chinese with you for an hour.
While this can truly be beneficial for both parties if you can manage to find someone you work well with and you both take it seriously, more often than not it is a pretext for friendship or dating.
There are numerous language exchange and expat groups on Facebook.
Another great resource for finding support in Taiwan is the Community Service Center (or simply “the Center”). They publish a bi-monthly magazine and offer a variety of services for connecting expats as well as volunteer opportunities.
Sports and Exercise in Taiwan
One complaint that I’ve repeatedly heard from other expats in Taiwan is that they put on a lot of weight in their first year or being there. The reasons for this are many: heat and rain preventing them from going outside or wanting to do exercise, not knowing how to access pools or gyms, drinking too much, not having the language skills to order healthy meals, eating out more than cooking at home, and more.
For these reasons, I can’t emphasize how important it is to pick up some Mandarin. Also, as tempting and delicious as the street food is, a lot of it is not healthy (I’m looking at you, fried food stalls…) Try to cook at home more, even though your apartment kitchen may be tiny and certain ingredients you require may be hard to find. Another tip is to get out on weekends and network with other expats; there are numerous hiking groups, water trekking groups, and even soccer and hockey teams in Taiwan; just do a quick search on Facebook and you’ll find some.
In terms of watching sports, baseball is the most popular spectator sport in Taiwan. Currently there are five teams, and you can watch games at the Tianmu Baseball stadium in Taipei, Xinzhuang Stadium in New Taipei City, Taoyuan International Stadium in Taiyuan, Taichung Intercontinental Stadium in Taichung, and Tainan International Stadium in Tainan.
Other sporting activities that my friends participate in in Taiwan include Frisbee golf in parks, various marathons in Taipei and across the country, cycling around the island, swimming, and Hash House Harriers. There are also numerous running tracks that can be used by the public for free in Taipei and other major cities. Do as the locals do and go on the evening, when it’s not so hot. Last but not least, my friends and I love to go bowling.
Visas & Jobs
The visa situation changed substantially during COVID, and it is still changing as Taiwan gradually loosens restrictions and enters a new normal. The visa information I provide below is what it was like BEFORE COVID. For the most current visa rules, I recommend that you consult an official Taiwan immigration source.
Getting a Visa for Taiwan
Under normal times, tourists can stay in Taiwan for up to six months (depending on your nationality) and some don’t need a visa. Some expats who don’t want to work the minimum 15 hours per week to apply for an ARC just exit and come back to the country every six months, and there’s no limit for how many times you can do this. Here’s a handy list of the cheapest flights from Taiwan to neighboring countries.
If you plan to look for a job after you arrive in Taiwan, you should just show up in Taiwan without telling them of your intention to work. Once you get a job, your school will apply for a work permit on your behalf, then you will apply for a working visa and ARC from within the country.
If you sign a contract for a job before arriving in Taiwan, you can apply for a working visa before arriving, and the school should guide you through the process of doing this.
The ARC and APRC
An ARC (Alien Resident Card) is a Taiwanese resident card. It serves as your local ID in Taiwan. You can get an ARC through work, marrying a Taiwanese citizen, or being a student.
Note that if you get divorced or stop being a student, your ARC will expire. For workers, if you change jobs, you will have to convince your company to transfer it to the new one. If they aren’t willing to do this, you will have to start again from scratch or leave the country.
If you maintain the same ARC for five consecutive years (this means you didn’t change ARC types/numbers, and you didn’t leave Taiwan for more than 183 days in any calendar year), then you can apply for an APRC (a permanent resident card).
Having an APRC means you can do any work you’d like in Taiwan, and you can keep the card forever. If you leave Taiwan for more than 183 days in a year, you have to notify them online in order to maintain it.
With an ARC, you don’t have to fill in arrival forms when you fly in to the country, and ARC holders have been allowed to enter or exit Taiwan throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Gold Card
In 2018, Taiwan launched a new way to enter the country: the Gold Card. This elite, 4-in-1 card serves as visa, work permit, ARC, and re-entry permit. Its purpose seems to be to attract skilled individuals to the country.
To qualify, you have to belong to one of five professional categories (science/tech, economy, art/culture, sport, finance, law, architecture, or national defence, or exceptional circumstances). For most (but not all), you have to be making more than TWD 160,000 or its equivalent in your last month of work. Each category comes with some further qualifications. See all the qualifications and how to apply here.
Note that as an APRC holder, you still don’t have the same rights as a citizen in Taiwan. For example, you can’t vote, and locals will still always consider you a waiguoren (foreigner).
It is extremely rare for foreigners to obtain Taiwanese citizenship or a passport. First of all, they have to give up their own country’s passport first. In recent years, the government has started giving citizenship to a very small number of foreigners with decades of experience doing good things for Taiwan, such as priests who live in aboriginal communities.
Teaching and Other Job Opportunities in Taiwan
English teaching is by far the most common job that foreigners from English-speaking countries receive in Taiwan. People from non-English speaking countries will have a significantly harder time finding a job teaching English in Taiwan.
A comparatively small number of foreigners find work in other fields, with the main obstacles being an excess of qualified locals in many fields, low wages compared to many other countries, and the fact that most business in Taiwan is conducted in Mandarin.
Editing and writing work is something I got into after I got my APRC in Taiwan. For my last five years in Taiwan, I was mostly working from home for various textbook publishers across the country. I strongly preferred it to teaching, and the pay was better. However, please note that these companies usually prefer to hire people with APRCs and/or lots of formal writing experience.
Taiwan also has an entrepreneur visa, but it’s not easy to get.
Many Southeast Asians also migrate to Taiwan for manual labor, fishing, and caretaking jobs. Their wages are low, and they are often treated as second-class residents.
Best Time to Arrive for Work
If you are moving to Taiwan for work, there is a very important tax issue to be aware of.
If you are in Taiwan for more than 183 days in a calendar year, you will be taxed at the regular rate for any work that you do. However, if you are in Taiwan for less than 183 days, your tax rate will jump to 20% with no deductions. This can end up costing you thousands of dollars in lost income.
Therefore, if you are moving to Taiwan, I would recommend coming anytime before July, even if you don’t plan to start working until September (for example, for teachers).
The same goes when leaving: try to stay until July or later, otherwise you’ll have to pay more for your final year, and yes, you will have to pay those taxes even after you leave; you’ll need to ask for someone still in Taiwan to file on your behalf.
Also, don’t forget to subtract any days you spend out of the country on holiday when figuring out if you’ve passed the 183-day mark!
Many schools in Taiwan will automatically deduct 20% from your checks and withhold it until you file your taxes, especially if your first year there. They do this to protect themselves, in case you end up leaving early. They don’t want to have to front your tax bill if you just take off one day.
Once you pay your taxes, if you stayed long enough and are only charged the normal amount, you’ll get the rest back.
Some schools don’t do this, but you’ll be expected to pay the 20% bill on your own if that does happen to you.
If you plan to be a teacher in Taiwan, you can find jobs throughout the year, but of course the months leading up to September (and to a lesser degree Lunar New Year), are the best for finding jobs.
How to Find a Job in Taiwan
The main ways to find a job in Taiwan are using an agent or finding a job on your own.
Some people decide to use an agent and find a job before they arrive because this offers more security and the agent will guide you through the application process. However, on the downside, schools that rely on agents to find teachers often do so because they are located in crappier areas that nobody wants to work in or they have lower pay than what is normal.
For these reasons, I usually recommend that teachers just show up in Taiwan and find a job on their own. That way, you can see where the school is first, shop around, and get more familiar with how things are done in Taiwan before signing on for a full year.
The best websites for finding jobs in Taiwan are Teast, TEALIT, 104.com (Mandarin only), Forumosa, and numerous groups on Facebook.
If you go this route, though, you’ll need to come with enough money to survive for a few months before finding a job and getting your first paycheck. There’s a little risk, but I’ve never heard of anyone coming (from a native English speaking country) to Taiwan for work and not found something within a month or two.
For non-teaching jobs, try 104, Forumosa, or this non-English jobs in Taiwan group on Facebook.
The majority of English teachers in Taiwan work in kindergartens and after-hours private cram schools. A much more limited number of them work in public schools, colleges, or other institutes, and these usually require more qualifications and/or experience. Many families and companies also hire private tutors; this can help to add to your income, but it is less reliable, so few teachers rely only on tutoring.
A degree of any type is legally needed to teach English in Taiwan. A teaching qualification such as TELF is not required but some schools prefer that you have it.
The minimum number of teaching hours to maintain an ARC in 15 per week. Most English teachers work 20-30 teaching hours per week. More than 30 is quite a lot, as you need to also factor in prep time and time between classes.
Some schools offer full time positions, but in my experience, they often expect you to do a lot of extra work or spend quite long hours there. The hourly pay ends up being quite low, if you calculate it.
Personally, I always worked hourly for several different schools when I was a teacher. This way I could pick and choose classes/schools to try and create the perfect schedule, and the schools often expected me to do little more than show up and teach at the designated time.
For example, many teachers will work at a kindergarten in the morning, take an extended lunch bread, then teach in a cram school in the evenings.
The average monthly wage for a full time teacher is 50-70k/month ($1750-2450), while the average hourly wage is 600-750 ($21-26). For me, after a few years in Taiwan and working my way up to some better jobs and private tutoring gigs in Taiwan, I was pulling in 80k ($2800) per month and higher.
In terms of dress code, Taiwan is quite casual. Many cram schools have no dress code, while some require business casual.
If you’re coming from a Western country, you will surely notice some differences in the working culture in Taiwan.
Taiwanese are some of the hardest workers in the world (in terms of number of hours spent at school and at work). They are expected the be loyal to their companies and never question orders from above. It is very normal for them to work large amounts of overtime, often unpaid.
Foreigners, however, are often not subject to the same treatment, especially in the case of English teachers.
Schools have a major preference for teachers from native English-speaking countries (UK, Canada, US, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa).
However, it should be noted that Taiwanese parents (and by extension most cram schools) seem to think white people are the only true native English speakers. There is definitely some discrimination in hiring practices, and non-white native English speakers may have more difficulty finding jobs or receiving the same pay.
As an English teacher, you may sometimes feel like you were hired as an entertainer/clown/face to put on the school’s ads. You must remember that most English schools in Taiwan are run as private businesses, and their primary concern is getting more students to sign up. It can sometimes feel like the education itself is not at the forefront, and keeping the parents happy is. For example, a ridiculous amount of time and effort may be put into preparing for elaborate year-end performances that have little to do with learning English.
Clashes between foreign teachers and bosses over such issues can sometimes happen in Taiwan, but this can have consequences for your work situation in Taiwan. Remember that if you decide to quit, you may lose your ARC and have to reapply for a new one.
It’s not uncommon to have to work as late as 9 PM at cram schools in Taiwan. Saturday classes are also very common, but you can make a lot of extra money by choosing to work them and taking a weekday off instead.
Most of the business people I tutored in Taiwan wore casual business attire for their jobs, but more formal clothing such as suit and tie for men or skirt, blouse and high heels for women for certain days or meetings. Entertaining clients at quick fry restaurants or KTV parlors, usually with lots of drinking and sometimes paid accompaniment by women, is common in business culture in Taiwan, like in other East Asian countries.
Becoming a Student
Taiwan has some excellent universities with numerous opportunities for international students. Besides being a comfortable and welcoming place to live, Taiwan also has relatively low tuition fees and offers many scholarships for international students.
Whether you want to do a Master’s degree in your field, or advance your Mandarin, opportunities abound in Taiwan. Becoming a student is one way to stay in Taiwan longer if you’ve left a job or don’t intend to work there.
For more information, here’s a detailed guide to becoming a student in Taiwan.
I hope you have found more information than you expected about moving to and living in Taiwan. I also hope I’ve painted a fair picture of life in this country which I dearly love.
If you’ve still got questions after reading this or feel I’ve missed anything, please feel free to comment below or join my free Taiwan Travel Planning group on Facebook.
51 thoughts on “Living in Taiwan 101: Read This Before Moving to Taiwan in 2023!”
This was an awesome writeup, thanks for taking the time!
Glad you liked it!
I have been to this beautiful country multiple times. I will be moving to teach in an International Montessori program in late July. I would lo like to be able to connect with other Montessori teachers or Expats. I love to hear Mandarin and know some but I will need English speakers to help me acclimate. I truly appreciate your blog. I know Taiwan is a great secret to the rest of the world. Let me know if you have any resources you would recommend. Thank you in advance.
Hi Melissa. Thanks for reading and for your comment. You will find that in Taiwan, most locals speak at least a little bit of English, and the expat community is strong and connected. Try the Taipei Community Services Center, which offers a variety of services for connecting expats. There are also numerous groups on Facebook for connecting teachers and expats. Best of luck with your move!
Thank you so much, I hope to visit Taiwan soon. Great piece of writing.
Gosh I love your articles and this whole site! I am so gonna follow you. Thanks for your time and effort doing all these amazing insights.
Thank you so much!
Great website on Taiwan – I’ll definitely be browsing it more!! Being someone that has lived in China for (quite) a while – and is interested in moving to TW (probably Taipei City) – my main question is – where should I be living?
I basically want a modern furnished apartment – nothing fancy but airconditioned, clean, pretty much what you’d expect anywhere – and within walking distance of convenience stores, basic supermarkets etc (not sure if Taobao is a thing in TW – probably not?) … And if possible, somewhere within walking distance of hiking trails (thats actually VERY important for me, haha).
Would someplace like Songshan in Taipei, or perhaps someplace in New Taipei City work best in this regard?
Workwise, I’ll be doing my own thing, so “close to the city center” or not isn’t an issue, so long as it’s near the MTR, I should be just fine!
Would appreciate it if you could provide some input on this. I know it’s a lot like china in SOME regards, but probably not in many others … so, wondering!
Hi Rahul, glad you are enjoying my site. The apartment you described could be anywhere in Taipei or New Taipei City. They are almost all relatively clean, air conditioned, and close to convenience stores & supermarkets (Taiwan has the highest concentration of convenience stores in the world, so no matter where you live, there’s almost always one within a few blocks). Taobao is not common in Taiwan. The main grocery stores are Carrefour, Wellcome, Costco, and a few smaller ones, and people order products online from yahoo and main other retailers. The Taipei MRT system is very comprehensive, even into many parts of New Taipei City, so it definitely isn’t hard to find something close to a station. The only thing you mentioned that’s different is being walking distance to hiking trails. In Taipei City, you could try the areas around Elephant Mountain (near Taipei 101), but it will be quite expensive even for a small suite, and Elephant Mountain trail is extremely popular). You could also try the north side of the Four Beasts mountains (Elephant is one of the 4), which provides access to the same network of trails but is less crowded for hiking. If you lived around Jiantan MRT/Shilin Night Market (the most famous night market in Taipei), you’d have access to Jiantanshan Trail. Another is Xihu MRT, which is close to Jinmianshan Trail. In New Taipei City, you can expect to pay significantly less for a good apartment, and have perhaps a 10-25 minutes MRT ride to the Taipei city center. In fact I have always lived in New Taipei City. There are hikes within walking distance of Jingmei MRT, Xindian MRT, and Nanshijiao MRT. Even if you aren’t walking distance from a hiking trail, there are dozens of hikes you can access in Taipei and New Taipei, seldom taking more than 1-2 hours by bus or train. Hope this helps!
Hi Nick, thanks for write up, it helps me.
I am looking for some international school options in Taiwan but I only found few of them and the fees are just too expensive, approx. 600k TWD per annum. Just wondering if you have any information on the int’l school which have lower cost?
Hi Vladimir, sorry about my slow reply! I’m afraid I only know about the big, expensive ones, and we didn’t send our kids there because of the cost. My kids were born in Taiwan so they just went to a regular school. You could try asking in the Taipei Parents Facebook group, where other people might be aware of some other options. Best of luck!
I’m being offered three jobs; one at American Eagle 23.5 hrs/wk, Academics Achiever, and Alphaville 20hrs/week at $750-$800/hr. Can I support my wife and 2 kids on this?
Hey Greg, sorry about the slow reply. I would say that yes, you can support a wife and kids on this salary. But it’s going to depend largely on a few factors: how frugal are you guys? Do you play to eat in lots of Western and fancier restaurants, or are you OK with cooking at home or street food/local restaurants for most meals? Will you be living in Taipei City (more expensive, more opportunities to spend your money) or anywhere else (cheaper)? How much will your rent be? Definitely it can be done, but if you plan to live in Taipei and tend to spend more, it could be tight. You can always try to pick up a few tutoring hours to add a little extra income on top of the 23.5 hours. At one point I was teaching 30+ hours a week (schools + tutoring). It was busy/tiring, but doable. And I’d recommend that if you are moving to Taiwan, you should come try to come with a few thousand dollars for initial setup (visas, down payment on apartment, daily costs until you get your first paycheck, etc). Hope this helps!
Forgot to mention my wife is Indonesian.
This article is soo amazing.
I just want to ask, is it possible for someone to just move to Taiwan, to find a job and simply live there? What about kids education? Are there public schools?
Hi Carol, under normal times, yes! A lot of English teachers just show up in Taiwan on a tourist visa, find a job, and then switch over to a working visa and work permit, which the school helps them do. And yes, kids are fine to go to regular schools, but they are almost entirely in Mandarin. There are private English bilingual schools and international schools like the Taipei American School, but they are super expensive. Having said all that, due to COVID restrictions, you can’t just show up in Taiwan like that anymore. Only people who have proof that they are coming for employment, that is, you have to get hired before you get there, can come in, and you’ll still have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. If you’re planning to teach (and that’s pretty much the only job easily available for foreigners), it may be harder than usual to find a job right now. Many schools are on reduced hours, going online, or parents are keeping their kids at home more due to COVID. Several of my English teacher friends in Taiwan are getting less hours than usual right now, so the market may be more competitive than usual for a while. I hope this helps!
How easily can non-Taiwanese children enter into the public school system. My kids are a young age and speak Mandarin (in my opinion) very well. Is it easy to enroll and get in as a foreigner and how rigorous are Taiwanese schools (amount of work, extra lessons, homework, etc.)? Thank you.
Hey Kyle, as far as I know, non-Taiwanese kids are allowed to enter regular public schools. Our kids only went to kindergarten in Taiwan (a regular one, but my wife is Taiwanese). From what I’ve seen (mostly as a teacher), elementary schools in Taiwan aren’t too bad. However, it’s when they get to junior high and senior high school that things get really crazy; huge amounts of homework, lots of pressure, many extra hours spent at school, and so on.
First, thank you for this comprehensive blog post; I’ve read a lot of expat websites preparing for our move this next year, and this has been my favorite so far.
Second, I have a wonderful *very* active 4 year old boy who goes to an outdoor school here in the US (outside most of the day except blizzards or very hot days plus inside for nap time usually). I have read a lot of reviews on Taiwanese schooling, but most (as you note) are about middle and high school.
A few questions:
-Do local Taiwanese schools (our preference) allow play and creative activities for this age group?
-If our son arrives speaking Sunday Chinese school level Mandarin, will he be accepted? (I imagine he will be quick to pick it up, but I want to know if the teachers are willing to teach)
-Finally, is there anything like an outdoor school or something focused on free play in/around Taipei?
A thousand times thank you.
Thanks so much, Kate! In our experience, at the kindergarten level, yes, there was lots of playtime, and I don’t think our kids’ school experience there was much different than it would be in a western country. There was lots of playtime, arts/crafts, and some dancing/singing performances (some Western parents and teachers think they focus too much on these performances, because the point of the performance is to impress the parents at the end and convince them to keep coming back). A few things that were different, though:
Kindergarten has three levels there, which they call small, medium, and big (小班，中班，大班). The third one would be equivalent age to Western country kindergarten, but in Taiwan, kids start going years earlier because all their parents are busy working. And kids go there all day for all three, not just half day. One challenge we had is that every day includes a very long nap, like 2 hours, because most Taiwanese kids stay up super late every night, because their parents work so late. For us, we didn’t really want our kids to take such a long nap, because we wanted them to go to bed at a more Western (i.e. early) bedtime every night. But because they had such a long nap there, we had to put them to bed later every night. In taiwan, even older kids (including high school) and even many office workers have a nap time in the middle of the day, because their working days are so long. As for language, my son went into middle level kindergarten with a very low level of Chinese. His listening was good because his mom often speaks to him in Chinese at home, but his speaking was bad because he only usually speak English. He was very shy and intimidated at first, but he picked up quite fast. Kids learn so quickly. I’m honestly not sure what the rules are for foreign kids signing up for local schools (my wife did all this, and she is Taiwanese). You could ask about this in the “Taipei Parents” Facebook group, which is super helpful. I don’t know about outdoor school, because in Taiwan, the weather is extremely hot for half the year, and it rains really a lot in Taipei. But there are definitely some alternative schools (sometimes they can be quite expensive and hard to get into due to super high demand). Montessori schools are also popular there. You could also ask for specific recommendations in the Taipei parents group.
Do you know of or recommend a good pet import agency in Taiwan?
I’m afraid not. We did pay an agent to help us take our pet OUT of Taiwan, but they were mainly familiar with the Taiwan side of things. I think that you would need to find someone on your end to help you prepare and send the animal to Taiwan. If it’s all done properly, there shouldn’t be much to do on the Taiwan end besides picking up the pet when you arrive. One thing to know is that we weren’t allowed to put our pet on the plane in Taiwan when the temperature was above (I believe it was) 27 degrees, because they go into a non-air conditioned part of the plane. We sent our pet in late September, when it is often still around that temp, but it was fine.
Fantastic article so thank you very much.
Maybe I missed it but you didn’t say much about sport in Taiwan – both recreational and professional. Any views on this?
Thanks for the feedback, Steve! I’ve added a section on exercise and sports in Taiwan!
Thank you for the comprehensive write-up. Your user of bullet-point lists works well for providing lots of information efficiently. I am currently in a quarantine hotel (here to visit in-laws) researching how to get my COVID test for my return to Chicago in 10 days (frustrating and expensive process). Love Taiwan. Your article helped confirm suspicions for what it would be like to live here as opposed to just visiting. You have done an amazing job of explaining Taiwan’s complicated history and political present. From now on, when people ask me about Taiwan I’ll just send them to this article.
Thanks a lot for your feedback, and I’m really glad you found the article useful! Sorry that I’ve been slow to reply here. I assume you’re out of quarantine now. Have you managed to find somewhere for the COVID test? Please do share here, as others may have the same concern.
Yes. We are spending time between Changhua and Taipei. We decided to go to Show Chwan Memorial Hospital in Changhua as it is close to our place, as well as less expensive. We did the rapid PCR test. Whole process took about 80 minutes in the morning… and then came back in the evening to pick up the results. Cost was 4500NT ($150US). In hindsight, the better (cheaper and more convenient) option would have been to preorder the at-home antigen test kit with virtual doctor appointment (so they can vouch you did it correctly). The US airlines provide links to purchase these… but you need to order in advance as they can only be sent to your US address (cost about $60US per kit).
Another piece of advice I have is to buy separate burner phone for quarantine, as opposed to buying just the sim card. I bought just the sim, but had trouble receiving the SMS messages from the Taiwan CDC. I also needed my US sim available so that I could complete 2-step verification when placing Food Panda orders and for logging in to work VPN.
Thanks for very useful tips Paul! I had no idea you could pre-order the at-home testing kits. Any idea why the SIM card was not able to receive messages? Did you just buy the SIM card at the airport upon arrival?
No idea why the SIM I bought at the airport didn’t receive the CDC text. Perhaps a number got transcribed wrong. Or perhaps my interaction with my local officer resulted in a miscommunication.
This was a great read! Thank you for the thorough review, it is really helpful.
My wife, who is Taiwanese, and holds dual US-Taiwan citizenship, and I live in Seattle. (I am a white guy) We are within five years of an early retirement, and weighing our options for living outside of the US. We are considering Mexico, Spain, Portugal, and of course Taiwan because of the advantages of her being from there and me being her spouse. I have only been to Taiwan once for 10 days and that was 20 years ago, but I was surprised by how much I liked it. I did feel like some kind of celebrity getting my picture made with locals all over the place. She goes back to see her family every few years, or they come here (pre-covid), but I have always had to work so have not gone back.
My two big worries moving there are learning Mandarin and dealing with humidity. Those are legit concerns, but it seems that there are so many other great things about Taiwan, that I wonder if I am dwelling on those things a bit too much? There is so much to do, food to eat, cafes to hang out in, museums, galleries, 24-hour bookstores, outdoor activities, the various expat groups you mention, …it’s really attractive.
Who ends up being miserable in Taipei? What are the things people should really consider, but often don’t, before they move there?
Hey Matt, sorry that I missed this comment until now! First of all, I would say that Taiwan has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years (I first arrived in 2008). Especially in Taipei City you won’t get so much attention or people wanting to take photos of you like you mentioned, but it can still happen, especially away from the city. Learning some basics of Mandarin can be surprisingly easy and can go a long way. With a year or so of moderate effort and practice, you can basically get by fine and communicate the daily things you need. And so many people speak English these days that you can even get by without learning much (I don’t recommend this, but I do have friends who have been there multiple years and barely know any Mandarin). Humidity is a tougher one…I found that it got harder rather than easier for me over the years. But I was working a lot and raising toddlers, so that didn’t help. If you’re retired, well, you can easily avoid the hottest times of day, use air conditioning, take taxis, etc, and it’s really not to bad. Who ends up being miserable in Taipei? Honestly I’ve met very few people who were miserable there. Some English teachers come out without knowing anything about it, expecting it to be super clear and challenge-free; they are the ones who tend to not love it and usually leave at the end of their year. Speaking as a parent, having kids changed my experience of Taiwan a lot. I still loved it, but found myself getting annoyed with menial things more than before (for example people not stopping to let us cross when I was pushing a stroller, or constantly calling my kids foreigners even though they were born there). All in all, I still loved living in Taiwan and would highly recommend it. Hope this helps!
Hey Nick! This was such a great article to read! I’m also a Canadian looking to move to Taiwan this year to teach English.
Seeing as how quickly things have been changing around the world in regards to covid regulations, I’m wondering if you have insight in regards to the boarders being closed? From your article, I know I can enter the country if I have employment, but would I be freely able to visit other countries on holidays and return to Taiwan? Or are the regulations similar to China where foreigners cannot re-enter the country?
Hi Tash, Taiwan is just starting to slightly relax their quarantine policy for citizens, residents, or people entering for school or work. It’s down to 10 days (from 14), and can be done in a quarantine hotel or home, if you have a home there. We could expect this to be further reduced (to maybe 7 or 5 days) in the coming months, and they expect that travelers may be allowed again by the second half of this year. Once you’re there, you can leave again as you wish (for example for holiday), but the main annoyance is that you’ll have to do that quarantine again when you come back. I would suggest you join my “Taiwan Travel Planning” group on Facebook, where I share regular updates about the situation!
I am planning to move to Taipei for a business assignment for few years. I am an Indian citizen and presently living in UAE. I am having question about the international schools in TAIPEI. Recruiter asked me to opt for Taipei American school, Taipei European School and Dominican International School. However, I learnt from internet that waiting time for the admission in these intenational scools is very long. Can you help me by some information about waiting time for above schools ? My kids are in gr-2 and studying in Indian curriculum school in UAE (English Language). What other options are there for the English speaking kids other than above three international schools?
Hi Divyesh, I’m afraid I don’t know what the waiting time for these schools is, as our children only went to regular public school in Taiwan, and I don’t know anyone who has kids in the schools you mentioned. Please be aware that the schools you mentioned are also very expensive. I would recommend that you join the Facebook group “Taipei Parents”. You will probably get more responses from parents there who have kids in these schools. Best of luck!
I have a friend who will take some gifts to Taiwanese friends for me when he returns home. I wanted to send presents for the children age 5 and 6 especially. I live in FL, and was able to visit Taiwan a few years ago and fell in love with it. I can’t wait to go back, but in the meantime, the children’s mother was incredibly kind to us, and we had a wonderful time because of her. I spent a great deal of time helping students from the PRC gift shop before they returned home, but that’s a different ball of wax. It is amazing how few pointers I can find online, although google is filled with what to bring back! Thank you.
Hey Susan, I’ve already replied in the “Taiwan Travel Planning” group!
I think iam going to move to taiwan when iam 30 years old
This is so very helpful. One note please capitalise Black when speaking of people, culture or creations of Black people. Weren’t the color black. Thanks.
Noted and changed. Thank you!!!
Thanks dude, I’m moving to Taichung in 2023 with wife and two kids. Wife is Taiwanese. This article was very informative.
I’m thinking about going on a student exchange in Taiwan but I’m afraid of dengue. Is it really a thing in Taiwan? Is it common?
There have been a few small outbreaks of Dengue in southern Taiwan in recent years, but it’s not something that the average visitor usually pays much attention to or worries about. You can take precaution by using mosquito spray is you find there are mosquitoes when you visit. You can see more info here on the official Taiwan CDC page: https://www.cdc.gov.tw/En/Category/ListContent/bg0g_VU_Ysrgkes_KRUDgQ?uaid=9_Oq7OYHa-l8B05iUwyVvQ
Hi Nick. It was such a pleasure to read the detailed information you provided about Taiwan in your posts. Thank you. I felt very inspired by what you wrote. I can tell that your heart is in your passion project and I feel grateful to benefit from your practical suggestions and straightforward tone.
I was wondering if you might know any “inside information” about how the job market looks for a 61-year old. In terms of education, I’ve held a California multiple subject teaching credential since 1989, earned my masters in counseling psychology in 2004, and received my doctorate in educational leadership (focusing on the most effective ways to teach English) in 2017. I am also a yoga/meditation teacher and counselor.
At this point in my career, I’m very interested in working with educational companies that specialize in curriculum writing since I have over 30 years of experience as a teacher and as a writer of curriculum. I’d appreciate any leads you could provide.
One other relevant thing: I lived and taught in China (Changchun and Beijing) from 2013-2018. I loved my life there! Right now I have an intutive calling to serve the Taiwanese people. I am just unsure about how I can best do that , given my age and diverse skills, and could use some guidance. I’d appreciate any leads you could provide.
Peace and gratitude,
Hi Bradley, sorry about my slow approval of this comment. I somehow missed it. And thanks for your kind words. If you want to work in schools in Taiwan, private schools and cram schools (where the majority of foreign English teachers work) will mostly tend toward a preference for young teachers. Colleges, universities, and public schools wouldn’t so much, but like anywhere in the world, getting in with those institutions may require some kind of lead or knowing the right person – connections that come with time on the ground, but it never hurts to reach out to them and try. If you want to get into writing, I’ve worked for many publishers in Taiwan. They tend to have a preference for people who are already based in Taiwan and already have an ARC, or even better, APRC. You need to have a regular ARC for 5 years non-stop, usually obtained by teaching in a school, before you can qualify for an APRC. The publishers prefer this because they don’t want to go through the trouble of applying for the ARC for you, or because their work is often on a case by case basis, not contractual or full time. So if you are coming in fresh, this could be an obstacle to finding writing work right off the bat. Publishers also have a high turnover rate because a lot of foreign English teachers in Taiwan think they can write well and/or think writing work would be an easier alternative to teaching, but they can’t. So even though it kind of seems like a dream job for many teachers in Taiwan, most of the publishers I’ve worked for struggle to find reliable writers. It sounds like you are qualified to be higher up in the curriculum writing/planning sphere. However, you may find that publishers in Taiwan hire local Taiwanese staff for these roles. They tend to decide everything in terms of content, planning, topics, etc, and then hand the precise guidelines over to a native speaker for the actual writing, and then change it a lot after you write it. As the foreign writer, you may have a lot of ideas, input, or criticism about their content or approach, and they mostly won’t want to hear it. Teaching methods and they way they learn languages are quite different than Western ones, but I’m sure you experienced that in China too!
HI Nick, thank you for taking the time to give me the pulse on the reality of how things work in Taiwan with repsect to teaching, writing, publishing, etc. I glean that my situation is an “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” situation. Much of what you wrote applies to how it was when I was working in China, so I now have a clearer sense of what actions to take in order to move forward. I appreciate your guidance.
Peace and gratitude,
Glad my article helped. And welcome to Taiwan!
Taiwanese keep their bodies clean but do not keep their living environment clean. No idea of maintenance. To a new house they add ugly plastic extensions because not beauty is what counts but easiness is the top priority. Taiwanese including even Aboriginals do not care much about pollution and protection of wildlife. They adore noisy meetings and temple activities.
Hi, thanks for the great infos; but I couldn’t find what I’m looking for: My wife and I are retired above 60 and would like to live in Taiwan permanently without working ie we have retirement pensions and sufficient funds to survive so is there any visa type just to live with passive income? Thanks. A.K. Sahin
You can find your options in this article’s FAQ section: