How long have you lived in Taiwan and what keeps you there?

As I am returning to Taiwan after a LONG absence I am curious about how long people tend to stay in Taiwan and why they do. Personally, I am both excited by the prospect and at the same time, anxious. I no longer know what to expect and although I do try to keep up on current issues and trends I’d love to hear from others as to what it is that keeps them there. I left Taiwan as a teen-ager after having been raised from shortly after birth in Taiwan. So much has changed politically, socially and economically - I’m struggling just to figure out the basics! Any input?
Thank you - I really appreciate this!

I think people stay here because they establish work-related and other sorts of networks. As such, it is difficult to pull up these roots and relocate to other parts of the world.

I have just moved back to Australia after 3 years in Taipei.

What kept me there? Family, work… and I miss the place like crazy.

If your long absence is over 5 years, then you are in for welcome changes if you are returning to Taipei. The MRT has improved transportation and traffic dramatically. Helmet laws have reduced traffic accident deaths a great deal. The pollution levels are lower now. There have been several new pleasant parks built, including the largest Da An, which covers an entire city block. Taipei has a vibrant restaurant and club scene and several new museums have opened in that time. Politically things have improved and at least the chair-throwing fist fights in the legislature have almost disappeared. Several large shopping malls have opened in that time as well as the fancy Warner Brothers movie complex. Taipei 101 is currently under construction to become the world

Thank you for your responses. It has, in fact, been 27 years since I was in Taiwan! At that time there were no subways, no 7-11’s, no seat belt laws and CKS was still in control! The U.S. Military was still very present.
I wonder what ever happened to the Military compounds? Taipei American School was still located in Shih Lin and used to flood regularly.
At that time, “nightlife” consisted of sneaking in to the (I kid you not!) Happy Intercourse Club or the Bottoms Up Club - which came complete with a very big neon sign in the shape of a bent over female derriere.
The bars were packed most times with U.S. Servicemen, musically accompanied by Taiwanese women singing American or European music over the original soundtracks which were , of course, pirated. Not to mention that the women couldn’t understand a word that they were singing!

Going to the beach was always great… we really didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the Taiwanese soldiers patrolling the beaches. Then there were the signs, or rather, big billboards which were always along the tracks when travelling by train. VERY descriptive - the awful things that could happen if you were unfortunate enough to get hit by one. In full color yet!

Epi, you mentioned that the brawls in legislature have just about stopped. For me, it was totally amazing to see that happen on the news here! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. When I was growing up there was no place in politics in which to have a different viewpoint.
Too funny! Too sad! Mind you, in politics here in Canada is not exempt, albeit more often than not it is verbal - no chair throwing allowed!

I look forward to seeing for myself the growth and change this country has experienced. My friend who returned to Taiwan after almost thirty years has said to me that " Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed." True to Taiwan, this enigma makes sense from over here.

In the meantime, I look forward to the night markets, the noisy venders on the sidewalk, the odd combination of “hurry up and wait”. Maybe when I hear the kids shouting “Mei Guo Ren” or “Adokah” at me I’ll feel that no matter the changes, I’ll feel that I’ve come home. Then again, maybe I won’t!

Tell me more folks…

I for one would be very interested to hear your impressions after you do return. Please keep posting.

Well I watched the news a few weeks ago, even though fist fights in legislature have almost dissapeared, other forms of sick acts followed. One female city council brought in 2 buckets of excrements (you can call it $%#t) and threantened to pour them on her opponent’s face if he failed to agree on certain principals, I’d say fist fights are less graphic than excrement throwing.

Totallytika, I’d love to hear your feedback when you come back even for a visit, I come here every year now during my vacation and just enjoy many aspects of Taipei.

Eeeewwww! That’s gotta be a major case of “losing face”! I shudder to think of what could come next!

totallytika: interesting post and nice moniker. what does it mean? TIKA? and can you tell us, just for background info, what nationality are you, and why did you grow up here? missionary family, military family, business family? both parents from West or half half? And what and where have you been doing since 25 years ago? very very interesting. and hope you have a good trip back here… yes please post more.

Hi formosa - the truth is that TIKA is my dog! I can never remember passwords, codes, etc. and whenever I am on the computer the dog wants all my attention - therefore everything becomes totally Tika.

As for me… well, I have no secrets… here goes…

I was born to Canadian parents in Canada but moved to Taiwan when I was about 6 months old, where they were Missionaries. My father worked with the Tayal and Amis tribes. All my brothers and sister were born there, making them all Chinese citizens. My two youngest brothers are twins and were adopted shortly after birth in Taichung. We are a racially mixed family as a result. I am the only one who did not have Chinese citizenship which will most likely be a bit of a problem when I try to settle down there for a while.

The truth is, I really was a born rebel and never did fit in well within the missionary community. Ergo the Bottoms Up Club, et al! I was home schooled for a short period of time then attended a Chinese elemtary school in Hsinchu for a year before going to Bethany Christian School (Taipei), Morrison Academy (Taichung boarding…) where I was “sort of” kicked out and then on to TAS (Taipei) for a short while.

I grew up all over the Island… Taipei, Taichung, Hualien, Hsinchu, Lo Tung, Tainan, Kaoshung, and who knows where else! I came to Canada when I was 15 and never really got over the culture shock.
Strongest memory about that… getting drunk on Plum liquor and slightly wasted on something else with a friend who also scheduled to return to Canada shortly aftr me. We spent the whole night talking about how great it wa going to be to “come home to Canada”. Six months later we were sitting in his room in Toronto getting drunk on Molsons Export crying about how badly we wanted to go home to Taiwan!
I still speak Mandarin somewhat although my Taiwanese is better. My amah, Asiah did my early raising and I spoke Taiwanese first, then Mandarin and then English at about 5 years old. I guess the first language learned stays with one better! Unfortunately I neither read nor write anything but English. Never used, forgotten quickly…

For the past 27 years I have been getting myself into one form of trouble or another - thankfully no criminal record ( a minor miracle).
I had children very early, got married (sort of) later… dropped out of school, went back to school and became a palliative care practitioner.
In other words, I did it all assbackwards!

I have worked for a number of years off and on in the business or retail sector as well and currently own a small retail business which focuses on fairly traded product from around the world. At this point in time I have put it on the market to sell in order to return to Taiwan. As soon as it sells, I am on my way back. Don’t know for how long or really even why except that Taiwan still calls and I must answer. Who knows, I may love it, I may hate it… I do have to find out though!

Tika, I’ve been here 13 years. Except for the window dressing’s not much has changed, they tore down paradise and put up a parking lot. In 6 months you will be right back in the swing of things and feeling like you’ve never left. Might be wise to hang on to that business though. Could come in handy.

The fighting in the legislature… Andrew Jackson or one of those early “patriots” (but certainly not only one)…used to walk into the Senate totally rocked on gin and juice, with his dogs, and walking stick (cudgel)… fighting in the legislature is nothing new. Hell, A Hamilton got shot in a duel. You should laugh and be glad for the first one, and only Chinese Democracy.


Damn, i can’t get enough of Taiwanese politics, watch our Taiwanese feed whenever I can! It’s way more interesting than the majority governments we have here both federally and provincially even though i keep an eye on that as well. The best we can do is slag George W, which is too easy in itself.

Colourfull life Tika :wink:

ChoDoFu - I remember calling my father when I saw the famous chair throwing incident. I was really excited to see change - albeit rather bizarre!. As I recall, we both laughed and underneath it all, I think we both felt a sense of excitement about the fact that people were actually starting to stand up and demand change - regardless of how it was handled. Who would have thought it… fist fighting in the House?!!

Gener… Vancouver,eh? I actually live in the Kootenays - can’t compare… I’ll miss this part of the world. Lots of slagging going on these days around GWB these parts but you’re right about our politics here in Canada - boring compared with the antics of Taiwanese politics! Except when they decide to throw shoes in Parliament when the budget comes out. The big problem as I see it is that there is not a soul with good aim!

I got here just as Chiang Ching-kuo was leaving, and although I can theoretically leave in another nine years, I’m not sure anyone really “leaves” the Bamboo Union.

I have past my 10 years of what was supposed to be a 2-3 year stay.

I think the main reason is that our business has been pretty good, and we (me & wife) are not very good at delegating/trusting others, so we do not dare to leave the operation here in someone else’s hands while we try to build another/corresponding business in my home country.
-So, this would translate into financial security, not daring to start over again from scratch.

The second reason is that we want our kids to be fluent in Chinese. They will learn English soon enough. The only problem now is how to make them fluent in my native language; they will need that when/if we move back.

I used to love most aspects about living in Taiwan, but lately I have started to feel a little uneasy, and started to play with the thought of moving back and starting up a new business there (no one will hire an old fox like me :frowning: ). However, it is scary to start all over again when I have passed 40, and don’t have the energy or the same market feeling I had when I was 29, so I am a bit scared about the thought.

Is there anyone in this forum that have taken the big jump, moving back, starting all over again? Please tell me how it went!

Been here for 15 years (+1 year in Beijing). I am still here because (in no particular order):

1.) Lots of money.
2.) Great vacations. Anytime and for as long as I want
3.) I work because I want to, not because I have to.
4.) My kids are going to good schools. They are also experiencing so much more that if they were back home. They are 7 and 8 years old and they have traveled more and seen more than most would in a lifetime. They also speak three languages.
5.) My work is interesting and rewarding.

I guess that sums it up.

[quote=“X3M”]I used to love most aspects about living in Taiwan, but lately I have started to feel a little uneasy, and started to play with the thought of moving back and starting up a new business there (no one will hire an old fox like me :frowning: ). [/quote]Durins Bane is still loving it apparently. What exactly is the cause of this uneasy feeling? Is it due to race? culture? Or the general sense of claustrophobia one gets from living on a densely populated island for months on end? I think this is something that many of us will eventually face and have to come to terms with. Pray tell.

I think it is a combination of factors, and it is difficult to list them according to importance, so I don’t even try, but in short:

More specificly, as they come to mind:

We have always said that we will move back in a year or two, leading us to live with temporarily solutions.
[ul]Renting house and not investing in interior to make it cosy and “home”, just furniture scattered around.
Me not learning Chinese - “I am going to leave soon anyway”
Not spending any effort to establish a group of close, good friends outside of the business, family and fellow countrymen.[/ul]

Lack of leisure time activities
[ul]Traffic-jam to get anywhere during the weekends.
Difficult to find parking near interesting areas.
Places of interest are overcrowded and full of garbage.
Too hot or too wet for outdoor activities.
High price, low quality, poor service and too little trustworthy information available for potential getaways (resorts, cabins, hotels, parks, etc)[/ul]

General living conditions:
[ul]I really start to dislike the food here, either it is Chinese/Taiwanese or the poor attempts to make western food.
The crowd, the pollution (much better now than before, but still…), the traffic jams, the noise, the building standards.
The schoold system, based on memorizing and too many tests, destroying the creativity kids have.[/ul]

The daily routine boils down to:
Get up, prepare the kids for school, go to work, come home late (7-8 in the evening), fight with the kids to do the (too much) homework, have dinner at home or in some neighbourhood place, TV, go to bed.
-Boring life.

When all this is said, I must stress that I have only focused on the negative sides, and I would have left long time ago if there were no positive sides (too many to list).

The negative sides listed above should be read in the context that I am originally from a sparesly populated country, with a lot of convenient outdoor sports and leisure activities, extremely high living and building standards etc. The food is nothing to brag of, and everything is bloody expensive though.

I hope I can fight my way through this uneasy state of mind, and make up my mind if I am going to stay for the long haul (make more permanent arrangements) or prepare moving back soon (set a date, and plan accordingly).

I know a lot of you will despise my outburst of negativ attitude (whining and complaining), and say: “Go Home, we don’t want you here”, but as I described in a previous post, it is not that easy when you are pretty much established with family and business that employs a lot of people.

No, not at all. I actually love most of the people and I am not aware what aspect of culture should really bother me.

X3M, I read your post with sympathy and interest. I don’t think you are whining at all. In fact, your criticisms of expatriate life in Taiwan seem to be much more accurate and honest than normal.

It seems clear that a great deal of the uneasy feeling is itself caused by the prolonged situation of uncertainty, transience, that flows from not having made up your mind one way or the other. Once you do decide, i think a lot of it will dissolve. So, for example, if you decide to stay in Taiwan for good, the issues of friends, language, home will no doubt be easier to work on.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the grass is always greener in your imagination and memory etc.

Cheers and good luck.

Thanks a lot for your encouragment!
I will work on it.