Back to the U.S. grind contemplating on returning to taipei to build a career

I lived in Taipei city for about 10 months to feel out the market and determine if I wanted to settle. Turns out that I was fund of the city but returned to NY about 2 months ago since I felt the job market in Taiwan was tough for a none fluent mandarin speaker. During my stay there, I just taught English part time but I am clear on it’s not what I want to make a career out of if I settle. I am thinking of returning to Taiwan this time for good and my priority would be brushing up my mandarin speaking and reading skills so I will be qualified for the local employers. Once it’s on par, I would like to get some ideas which type of industry or in particular career fields that are in demand.

I fully support your decision to not teach English. :sunglasses:

TBH, most people are heading out, Shanghai as top destination. Work conditions in Taiwan are horrid, salaries stagnant, no career paths. I’d recommend you to stay in the US.

Yep, longtermer here, I wouldn’t recommend you to go on that career path. It took me 10 years hard graft and low pay to get a decent job and money (and I will not go back to work with local company ever if I can help it). Because of my previous low pay I have to save As much as possible now. Funnily enough, I have recently been offered something in Shanghai and my current employer would also prefer me to base in Shanghai. Doesn’t appeal to me except for the money and networking.
Do you want to do it the hard way or the easy way?
Do you think low pay and grind is better than high pay and grind? :slight_smile:

I’m studying programming and web design now. Difficult to learn, but after 1 year’s experience it’s probably possible to get an entry level job. Salaries are higher than in most industries.

One solution is to work online. Get customers from Shanghai/London/NYC, but stay in a low-rent Asian country. Not easy by any means, but it could be done with 1-2 years part time study. I’ve met people who do it, and hope to be there myself one day.

Even with only a few months experience, there are entry level opportunities- teaching absolute beginner programmers, teaching “English for programmers” courses online, proofreading documentation, giving feedback on tutorials, archiving, research, and doing other remote grunt work for more experienced programmers. The kind of stuff that takes them a lot of time/money to do.

Or pay some Asian designers to set up a site, and make sure they don’t write bad code. You can use it in a portfolio, or even sell clones of the site.

There are 6 billion people set to come online in the next 50 years, so I can only see technology salaries going up. The downside: the first 3-6 months of study feels like scaling a glass wall with your fingernails.


I would suggest that you stay in the USA if you have a job. Think about the following :

  1. You will always be an outsider here, even if you speak Mandarin
  2. The food selection here is not good. If you’re from NYC, you’ll be very disappointed.
  3. A lot of the local food, while cheap, is made from polluted ingredients. So many food scandals.
  4. It’s really too crowded here and the rent is high in Taipei, never mind buying an apartment.
  5. Salaries are low, bosses suck, and being a foreigner in the office makes you an easier target.
  6. Goods here are generally more expensive than in the USA
  7. Driving is horrible and dangerous here. You will need to drive or ride a scooter if you want to travel in Taiwan at some point.
  8. Have you investigated banking, credit cards, US tax laws and FBAR garbage?
  9. Have you investigated a driving license (car and scooter) while you’re here?

If your goal is to “build a career,” Taipei (and Taiwan more generally) is not the place for you.


As someone who works for a local company I agree with the above, except that my boss is a good guy and that I get to travel around Asia for my job which makes my time here more interesting.

The majority of non -Taiwanese professionals Ive meet out here are in business development (various industries),software engineers, English professionals, attorneys, foreign government reps, small business men and business/marketing coaches. Over the years Ive also bumped into people from finance, military, fitness and many more fields but sadly they are in the minority.

The most important thing is to find a career you enjoy and skill up, no point living in a foreign country doing something you don’t enjoy. Work makes up a big part of our day, and the last thing you want to be doing is clocking the time doing a dead end job in a Taiwan office with the smell of deep fried chicken going up your nostrils and people slurping away on cheap junk drinks brought for them by management.

The other thing to think long and hard about, if you’re considering relocating to Taiwan to make a career, is retirement. Who will pay for you when you’re old? Are you assuming children will do so (not a good bet, these days)? Are you thinking you’ll have some sort of pension? The law in Taiwan seems to be rather unevenly applied with regard to what foreigners (non-ROC nationals) are entitled to after paying into government systems for years on end. Will you do what is necessary to get the right to remain in Taiwan after your working days are over? Will it be possible to do that? (That is not something you can answer yourself – it also depends on the goodwill of the government and the larger political situation).

Taiwan is great. I’d move back in a second if I could. But only as an individual, fluent in Chinese, and willing to live out the rest of my life there and find ways to do it – relying on a lot of savings and not assuming I would get anything from anyone, including the government. Sometimes if you’re in your 20s or 30s retirement doesn’t seem so close, but it’s really easy to rip through five years, ten years, twenty years in Taiwan just like that without realizing that you haven’t managed to get anything…solid.

not certain if this will increase my chances for stable opportuities since I am a Taiwanese citizen raised in the States. Once I speak mandarin fluently, I would most likely fit in as a local no?

Kind of important info to leave out.
I think it will obviously be easier for you then in terms of work as long as you improve your mandarin skills to fluency, you probably have sown fluency and understanding already. Most folks who move to Taiwan these days seem to be overseas Taiwanese of some sort so it’s not uncommon.

[quote=“headhonchoII”]Kind of important info to leave out.
I think it will obviously be easier for you then in terms of work as long as you improve your Mandarin skills to fluency, you probably have sown fluency and understanding already. Most folks who move to Taiwan these days seem to be overseas Taiwanese of some sort so it’s not uncommon.[/quote]

Yep. It is the “I do not fit there, they are racist towards me, I must show filial piety and go back to reclaim my position on top of the food chain and reinforce the idea that Taiwan is superior” ingrained mentality. So sad. Example: cue to my conversation with a kind neighbor.:

Icon: Heard you were selling the old place?
Neighbor: Nope. My son has decided to work in Taipei. He is going to live there.
I: Really? What is his field?
I: Gulp. ( :loco: )
N: He graduated in the States and now he says he likes to work in Taipei
I: Really? :astonished: Has he worked here before? For how long? Was he working for a relative or something? It is rare to hear someone say he likes to work here
N: No, he has never worked in Taiwan.
I: :noway: Let me talk some sense to him. We’ll have him back in the US in no time.

I am summarizing the conversation, but basially the guy has never worked before and is coming her with a lot of what we call in Spanish “pregnant birdies” in his mind. It is going to be a rough landing, and totally unnncessary one. Why leave your network, the opportunities, etc, just because of a mirage? Sigh.

OP, have you done any research into the salary levels here? They are not that great.

And just how long do you really think it’s going to take you to become “fluent” like a native? Were you planning on being able to read and write like a native, too?

You’re missing sixteen years of schooling in Chinese. That’s a tough thing to make up. Not that you can’t work at a lower level of fluency – just don’t think you’ll be “indistinguishable” from those who never left Taiwan.

Bingo. And agree with others on “building” a career in Taiwan. As much as I like Taiwan, I’m not sure it’s the place to go as a launchpad, especially if the OP’s Mandarin skills aren’t up to scratch.