Considering moving the family on expat assignment

My wife and I both work full time and considering taking an expat assignment in Taichung. We’ve never been to Asia, and never lived outside the US. We have a 3 year old and a 4 month old. We will both be working full-time. Looking for any advice pro/con. We think it would be a good opportunity, but our kids are our #1 priority. Should we even do it?
Thank you in advance for your reply.

Taichung for your first time in Asia? Go for it, but don’t think the rest of Asia, or Taiwan for that matter, is like T-town. :joy:

Taichung has good weather and reasonable air going for it, plus it is conveniently loocated close to wonderful mountains. Very conservative city, car is a must, cost of living reasonable. Great amenities like its museums, shopping centers, etc.

Now, expat package must be milked for all its worth. Housing will be cheap, so take top of the line. talk to your wife regarding her staying to take care of the kids. Surf the local FB groups for expats in order to arrange playdates, outings, etc. Which schools will the kids attend? Add that to the cost of living.

I am assuming you are being sent by your company and hence not leaving a plum post in the US for this adventure.

Has something changed with Taichung’s air? Last I remember it’s among TW’s worst:

I might be a bit biased regarding Taichung as every time I’ve gone there to visit my trip has been a mess (ridiculously cold and windy once, monsoon-like rain the next time, poor air, Taichung bus station being so sloppy and full of hobos and fights that it made Hong Kong look placid, lots of Thai workers loafing about, having to scooter about everywhere with city traffic, etc.)

Again, I am assuming this guy is coming with an expat package, and hence, will travel only by HSR, live around the Museum area, and shop SOGO.

AFAIK, the old bus station and train depot area is derelict, abandoned, as most businesses have left for more flourishing and modern parts of the city. I mean, it is a total ghost town down there, despite attempts to revive it.

Taichung has some VERY nice neighborhoods to live in as far as Taiwan goes, in fact there are many many choices compared to Taipei.
7th district, art museum area, science museum area, Britain, nantou…and more…lots to choose from in terms of newer modern buildings and districts. Weather is great too.
There is nothing at all to worry about in that regard. Loads of restaurants and cafes and shops and parks.
There’s not many as many expats as Taipei but there are still expat clubs like golf clubs and soccer clubs, business chambers, expat schools…plenty to do ESPECIALLY if you have the money for a good lifestyle.

I look at my housing choices in Taipei and I cry compared to the choices available in Taichung. You can even live in a house in Taichung on a middle manager salary.

Thank you for your replies!
You are correct, we would be coming with Expat package. We have not received the offer yet, but it will be an optional assignment. We won’t take it if it isn’t nice. I know the work assignment will be in/near Houli District.
Our main concerns are childcare, (considering in-home nanny if we can find a good one), nice area to look for housing with relatively easy public transport to Houli Dist, and expected quality of life for a family that doesn’t speak the local language that has 2 young children.

Yeah, housing in most places outside of Taipei is usually better and cheaper. Taipei housing is horrible. You need to be seriously rich just to buy a decent apartment here. Crappy, two-bedroom boxes from the KMT era selling for the same price as a two-story, four bedroom home with a pool and garage back in Texas. And everyone’s in on the scam.


He is going to be renting, and rent is dirt cheap compared to buying. Anyways, it is an expat package, housing is included. A nice apartment in the posh section of Taichuing will be about the same rent as Taipei, very little less, as they are guge and luxirous. The ones I have seen use a lot of space - Taichung is not limited ion that regard. His choices are wide open.

Expat package is 5 years tops here of living life on teh hog, nothing like us.

I think public transportation in Taichung is not as good as Taipei, hece my comment that a car or two is a must. Leases are reasonable.

Nanny is a bit more difficult, so that is why your expat packahge has to be good - or wife stays at home all day. In teh past, foreigners were not allowed to hire foreign nannies, now it depends on your salary -must be top of the line to be allowed to hire one. Locals, I have never seen one, and I have been here 20 years, but I am not in that bracket. Not all foreigenrs are the same. Most of us are salary men and women. We mix with the locals. We do not have the expat life.

BTW, we do not have that many foreign enclaves with white uniformed maids pushing prams. For that, you need to go elsewhere. Here, it is a lot more DIY unless you are really filthy rich.

Haha,… We certainly won’t be in the “filthy rich” category. Sounds like the wife staying home might be the best option then. I saw someone had hired a nanny on another forum and must’ve wrongly assumed it was common practice.

Thank you for the advice on the car. We’ll definitely look into that.

You will need a car for houli or company transportation arranged. It’s the outskirts of Taichung.
There is okay public transport in the city proper in the form of buses and a train line.

Yeah, I was responding to brian about Taipei’s crappy housing vs. everywhere else’s better, bigger options. Sounds like Taichung’s housing is more for the money?

Taichung really isn’t great. Some of the foreigners who live there have some kind of Stockholm syndrome or a need to justify their choice by denigrating the weather in Taipei (it rains more in the north) but Taichung’s famous “great weather” means that the air pollution rarely gets cleaned out of the sky and the city is basically stuck twenty years or more behind Taipei; the city’s run by criminals, sidewalks are absent from many parts of town, and garbage cans are essentially non-existent. There aren’t many bike paths and the parkland is sub-par (one park on Wenxin Road is basically a bunch of concrete paths running up and down between the grassy bits).

I think there isn’t a lot to do in Taichung unless you like museums and coffee shops - and it’d be especially tough if you’ve got kids and no car. The public transport is terrible, and although they keep promising to actually finish one of their MRT lines one of these decades the MRT seems like it’s just one of those endless projects devised to give the friends of the previous city government a constant revenue stream. Once you get out of the house there isn’t anywhere to go anyway - unless it’s leave town. Taichung is indeed conveniently located for the rest of Taiwan’s attractions as being smack in the middle of the west coast it’s more-or-less equally distant from all of them.

Depending where you come from and the package you’re being offered (you would absolutely need a car!), I’d give Taichung a miss. YMMV of course…

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I lived there for a bit and while it’s far from paradise it’s perfectly fine to live there for a few years even with no local roots or relations.
The air pollution sucks for sure but if they go in with eyes open then it’s not a surprise (it’s bad but not China level bad). It’s doable for a few years. If somebody is moving to an Asian city they need to understand pollution often, unfortunately, comes as part of the package.

I like Taipei for some stuff like the coast and the hiking and MRT and bike paths but Taichung has some good stuff too
Such as Fengyuan-Houli bike path, metro park, other nice parks dotted about in the city and suburbs. Certainly not worse than Taipei in terms of parks and greenery in the city (in many ways significantly better actually). Pavement situation is patchy but good in certain areas.
It’s got Nantou nearby which is great and then a quick enough ride to Chiayi and down South and across to qingjing farm etc. It’s also got the HSR and it even has an airport so it’s fairly easy to get to other cities If you have the money. I wouldn’t recommend somebody to emigrate there…but it’s a decent spot to land up in for a couple of years for work I think.

Taipei’s riverside park, Da-an park, and that whole flower expo park area near Yuanshan are better than anything I’ve ever seen in Taichung.

Then there’s Taipei Zoo (which is excellent really, great for the kids and cheap too) and the teahouses in Muzha. All accessible by metro/bus (and gondola when the weather allows). You need a car/motorcycle to reach Taichung’s teahouses and when you get there you can’t see anything through the haze.

All places which are outside of Taichung. :smile:
OP needs a car to get out of there. Otherwise he and his wife will go bonkers on the weekend.

(I spent five years in Taichung and most people I spoke to while living there would first tell me how great the weather is, and when asked what there is to do there would go on to tell me of all the places you could get to that weren’t actually in Taichung at all.)

I agree that it might be worth it for work if the money’s good enough (and a car’s included). Certainly there are are worse places to be. Dongguan is one of those places.

Guy’s gonna be posted in Houli. Car is sine qua non.

The biggest, and I do want to put emphasis on biggest, difference from Taichung to Taipei will be transportation. In my opinion, weather/food/people/weekend extra curricular activities are all side factors to transportation for anyone moving abroad to Taichung.

Granted, you are from the states so you are accustomed to driving everywhere. However, there’s the driving culture in Taiwan and its cities that you may not find anywhere in the states. It’s not that you’re putting your life on the line every time you’re behind the wheel, but there’s a learning curve in which you need to get used to the traffic norms.

I’ve had friends who have lived half their lives in TW and in the states and feel fine behind the wheel here. I also have a lot of Taiwanese born American friends wouldn’t even dare get behind the wheel here. It’s something to consider if you or the wife have to drive the kids to and from school or after school activities. If this is a major issue, expat package sometimes comes with a driver!

Other than that, every city has its charm in Taiwan. One person might find a trip to the zoo surprisingly mundane, but to another, it’s the best thing ever. Don’t let some of our personal opinions get in the way of your decision.

Strongly advise that you look into options for the wife making friends before going down that road. If she’s not working, she’s going to be in for more culture shock than is normal. Seen it here a few times with a stay at home mom. It will be worse if she cannot speak Chinese. She’s going to feel isolated.

Taichung metro park is way bigger and better than Da-an park. The old Taichung city park is also pretty cool and there are plenty of others dotted around for kids. Loads of little playgrounds as well compared to Taipei (I had small kids there too).

It’s really not a bad city at all the quality of life was pretty good as long as you can put up with driving a bit more and yeah the bad air pollution days.

I liked that a lot of the city is pretty new with lots of nice communities and even townhouses galore, not compared to Taipei whose building stock is mostly horrible gongyu and often mouldy.

I love the art museum area and also liked other areas such as nantun, beitun, seventh district…has a lot of decent neighborhoods to be fair. Lots of people get the wrong impression because they get out at the train station which is one of the worst parts of Taichung…but even that area is improving a bit now.

It’s walkabikity with kids strollers is patchy got to choose your neighborhood and roll with it.

The bus system along the main roads is pretty good but off the main roads it’s useless.

Taiwan is seeming to become a "if you have to go, then do it, but only if you have to " kind of place for whiteys? A “well a couple years won’t kill you” kind of place?

Why do Asia at all unless you really want to , or you HAVE to?

YOu have to drag your wife and young un’s to an alien land. Why do it?
There has to be a compelling reason.

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