What’s up, Robby? I’d be happy to help you out. This is a very simple guide to living happily in Taiwan, and I’m sure others will have more to add:
1)Don’t even think about trying to live the way you’re used to. It’s expensive, and you’ll never get to understand and appreciate the beauty of Taiwan’s Chinese culture.
2)Eat everything. Just try it. You may not like it, but over time you’ll figure out what you do like, and even acquire a taste for things you didn’t like to begin with.
3)Make Chinese friends. This is absolutely imperative. You’re not gonna be able to figure everything out for yourself, and good Chinese friends will give you important and meaningful insight in to the Chinese way of life.
4)Don’t forget who you are and where you came from. It’s important to live as the locals do when you’re here, but beware of “going native”. Integrate the good things about Chinese culture in to your philosophy, while being content with who you are. At the same time, beware of a “superiority complex”. Arrogance is the quickest path to oblivion.
5)Be open minded. The gifts that Chinese culture has to offer won’t be immediately apparent. It takes time, and the best thing you can do is have an open mind. Avoid being critical, at all costs, especially when in the company of your Chinese friends.
6)It’s not imperative to be fluent in Chinese to live in Taiwan. But it’s indeed helpful, as not knowing Chinese will certainly and severely limit your ability to absorb the culture and gain understanding of the people.
7)Don’t judge others on their English speaking ability. I’ve seen foreigner after foreigner do this, and it really pisses me off. Especially considering that most Taiwanese-Chinese people speak 3 or more languages, while most native English speakers only speak one.
8)Learn to use the public transportation system, which includes buses and underground subways. It’s cheap, reliable, and a better alternative than risking your life on a scooter. Some people absoultely thrive on this risky business, but be aware that you’re putting yourself in danger’s way if you choose to ride one. Even taxi’s are considerably cheaper than the west, but should still be used sparingly.
9)Living in one of Taipei’s southern “metro” areas is considerably cheaper than living in Taipei itself. These include: Hsintien, Jung-He, Yung-He, Banchaio and others. I can’t name them all right now, but if any other forum users have some to add, go for it. The housing can be as cheap as $10,000NT a month.
10)Get a mobile phone! It can be even cheaper than a land line, and Chinese people generally don’t like to leave messages. It will be your connection to the community.