Is it that bad...?


I may be moving to Taiwan from the US in the next few months. That is why I registered for this site. However, after reading all your posts I’m a bit worried. You all paint such a bleak picture of living in Taiwan as a foreigner. Are things really that bad in Taiwan?

Thanks in advance for any responses.


For some Taiwan works like a charm; for others, it is a trap from which they cannot escape. Others still find it’s a nice jumping-off point for other Asian adventures.
Why on Earth, however, would you choose to come here in the first place?


Life is relative, so it matters greatly where you are coming from. I’ve lived in several countries in Asia (plus the US). For me, Taiwan is clearly “middle of the pack” in terms of living costs and living standards. It’s a bit thin on the career opportunity front. But if you have aspirations of travel to the Mainland for business or amusement, Taipei may be a good place to chill out. If trends continue and direct flights between here and there happen in the next two (ok, maybe, five?) years, then even better for living in Taiwan. Hope this helps.


I have lived in Taiwan twice:

The first time was from 1995 to 1997, where I studied Mandarin at the MTC.

The second time was from November 2000 till now.

I liked it the first time, and like it even more now.

Some of the bickering originates in the cultural chock, most people moving to another country experience. Things aren’t so bad here. A lot depends on yourself and your attitude.

That said, the place can sometimes drive you crazy. In my case, it usually passes in a day or two…


Thanks for the responses…

Wolf - I’d be moving to Taiwan because my boyfriend is a TW national and has been unable to find work here in the US. So, I guess you can say it is for LOVE.

ALL - I guess it is different for everyone. I was just getting worried based on the things I was reading in the posts.

I am not, however, going into this blind (so to speak). I know there will be culture shock and that it will be hard. I’ve already warned my bf to be patient with me. I’m sure I’ll get irritated and homesick from time to time. To me, though, it’s worth the risk to not have to be half way around the world from him… if it ultimately doesn’t work out, I can move back to the US.

I don’t think marriage is an option (yet). Especially since the US doesn’t allow or recognize same-sex marriages. I don’t think Taiwan does either.

At any rate, we have to get settled… make sure we can live our life the way we want, etc… before making any more commitment. Moving to Taiwan for my boyfriend is enough of a commitment for now.


Taiwan can be a fantastic place to live. Just make sure your learn Chinese as quickly as possible and get a motorbike or a car so you can travel.

I think the people who don’t like it are those that haven’t bothered to learn Chinese so feel isolated, or who don’t have transport so get stuck in the middle of the city reliant on public transport, or those very career-minded people who don’t see that Taiwan offers them anything in this way, or those who are too hung up on the western things that you can’t find in Taiwan or lastly those people who need peace & quiet, clean air, and hate crowds. There’s proabably more, but if you like a new experience, like the idea of living in another culture, like a place that is bustling and busy with stuff happening 24 hours a day, then you’ll probably love Taiwan. Oh by the way, my experience is primarily in Taipei, other locations may be a bit different.


First of all, welcome!
Just like the other people who have responded to this thread, I will stress that it is your attitude that makes the difference.

I have been here since 1993 and liked it. No intention of going back to the US anytime soon. Yes, there are things that will drive you crazy, but don’t let them get to you. Besides, you will have your loved one here to give you emotional support.

Additionally, if you are enrolled in a language program, you will find a lot of support there, too. Good luck.


Thanks for the responses.

I’m starting the process of learning Mandarin now. Even if my boyfriend leaves in April (which is looking more likely), I’ll have a few months before I come over,. By the time I get things settled, find a job there, etc… So, hopefully I’ll have a basic knowledge of the language “Where’s the bathroom,” and that sort of thing. lol

I will, however, enroll in a language program as soon as possible. I don’t intend to be one of those Americans who goes to a foreign country and expects everyone to know or use English just for his sake. I don’t understand that attitude… but, that’s a another discussion.

As for the cultural differences, not finding things like the US, etc… I’m trying to prepare for that as best I can. As long as I can get chocolate, I should be fine. Though, I’m sure I’ll find other things that I can’t get easily. lol. Plus, I’m looking forward to learning more about my boyfriend’s culture. One of the first things I did when we first started to date was get a book on Taiwan.

From what my boyfriend has told me about driving in Taipei… I’m a bit unsure of that. I may skip the car thing for a bit.

The clean air, crowds, lack of peace thing though… hmmmm. Well, I’ll just have to deal with it to be with him, won’t I!!


Taiwan is the middle of the pack. It is far more culturally friendly to Westerners than South Korea in comparison. However, the money and living situation is a bit more attractive there.

Taiwan is a Chinese environment and that includes the filth and chaos that goes along with it. Once you get bitten by the China bug, you’ll never be the same again. Get beyond the first year, and you’ll wonder how you were so unbalanced in the west. It’ll be a while before you find your balance, but the foreign experience is invaluable if you are open to new things. For any newcomer to East Asia, I would recommend Taiwan. For those wanting to travel to the mainland, Taiwan is not really the best “starting point” unless it is a desired jumping off point on the road to nowhere. If you want clean and Chinese, then Singapore is your thing. Don’t forget to bring your own cane if you are naughty.


I wouldn’t worry much about getting US stuff here. Ask your bf to apply for membership at Costco and you can get your share of US supplies.

Personally, I don’t even think you need a car or motorcycle in Taipei, the public transportation is so convenient. I have been here since 1993 and never felt the need for a car or motorcycle. For places I can’t get to by public transport, I just hail down a cab.

I would suggest that you enroll in a language to obtain legal status. You might not be able to get a job, other than teaching, the minute you arrive.

If you are planning to enroll, I suggest you go to the CCLC. They are on the expensive side, but they have great facilities. Their enrollment deadline is three months before the start of a quarter. Their URL is:


Thanks for the advice. Though he’ll probably return in April, I won’t be able to move there until probably the end of May at the earliest. I still have to get a bunch of things settled here. Until then, I’m going to be looking for a job. I didn’t consider, however, getting a student type visa. The only issue, though, would be making money. My boyfriend can’t support me.

So… even for a year, I think that the teaching route is probably the best. I would like to get into something else, eventually. Any suggestions of other types of jobs other than teaching? Or is that a question for another forum?


I have been here for two months and must say the place isn’t that bad. Not the best in the world but ‘manageable’, and if you stay in big cities like Taipei you can get most of the things you need or want. Culture shock may be a problem if you haven’t lived outside of your own country (especially if you come from a Western country) for sometime. I had lived overseas before, perhaps that’s why I have had no problems settling down here for awhile.

As for jobs I think the best bet is an English teacher job, or else a technical job, but in any case you will need a company to ‘sponsor’ you, i.e. assist with work permit, Visa, ARC etc.

Just keep an open mind and don’t expect things to be like at home, but instead try to learn a bit about the culture and people here… learning the local language is a good start!


The only thing I have a hard time with in Taiwan is finding good beer. Living in Seattle has spoiled me in that regard. We have so many really good local brews here (Not to mention the green!) it’s sometimes hard to choose.

I guess that’s why my wife & I keep bouncing back & forth between Taipei and Seattle.

quote[quote] Culture shock maybe a problem if you haven't lived outside of your own country (especially if you come from a Western country) for sometime. [/quote]

Taiwan is one of the much better places for this reason alone. Still developing but the incomes and standard of living are coming close to the west. Quality of life issues are not even like Australia given the similiar population sizes.

The China mainland might be more than one can handle for an initial long-term visit and their coastal urban to interior urban centers have highly varying conditions, more varying than in Taiwan. Check out the book series “Culture Shock” for a jumpstart on what to expect. It’ll make your life much more easier from the start. In comparison to Korea or Japan, I think Taiwan is a better choice for cultural assimulations and higher tolerances.

For the economics, it is okay but the 18 hours per week for work minimums are too problematic and should be addressed. Should be raised to 25 minimum weekly.


I’ve been reading the book “Culture Shock.” Though, my bf (my best source of info on Taiwan) has said some of the things in there are not completely correct. I’ve also got much advice from people on this site. You all are great!


In sociological terms, you are only reading about generalizations. Individual experiences and opinions will be varied and then you’ll encounter something odd and…oh, we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

One piece of controversial advice is “looking” Chinese does not make them become the only known cultural encyclopedia of Taiwan or China. When I hear from Overseas Chinese… “I am Chinese, so blah, blah, blah…” take it with a huge grain of rice. You could know more culturally than they do.

Linguistic barriers are not the only key tools of cross-culture communication… especially if the idiot expert is from a low-context culture of verbal emphasis (eg. American-English) and cannot cue the more situational nuances of the social communications… learn to read Chinese body language in cultural context if words fail you. And then hypothesize about your reading between the lines in guessing the final outcomes. Hit and miss really leads to a perfecting of culturally and socially understanding those most inner workings of the Chinese mind…meanwhile, blah, blah, blah.

quote[quote] One piece of controversial advice is "looking" Chinese does not make them become the only known cultural encyclopedia of Taiwan or China. [/quote]

I’m not sure if this was in reference to my comment about my bf saying things weren’t exactly right. My boyfriend is native Taiwanese, not overseas born Chinese. He’s been in the US for two years for studying. So, I think he has a better sense of what is so in Taiwan than I do. Many of the things that I mentioned, though, were small things. But, one was the usage of a word in Mandarin.

One question for you, though. “Culture Shock” states that many Taiwanese are critical of foreigners. I can understand that, based on the sociological explanation. But, it also says that being tall (which I am at 6’6") and being hairier (which I am, including a beard) will make them think of me as less “evolved.” Even less so then most foreigners… is this true?


Welcome to the Monkey Club. It is not always so rude, but it does become very annoying.