Is Taiwan decent for saving? And also, ovens


#1

I’ve asked a few questions about Taiwan over the last 3 months and you guys have been great so far. I have 1 more question (the title of this thread) to ask and that is about saving. I’m not money mad, and I don’t want to work ‘privates’ on the side. But, I do need to save money each month for my ‘master plan’. :wink:

I’ll be looking to work in Hsinchu or Kaohsiung and before deductions and rent I’m looking at about 70-75k a month. That’s substantially more than I earn in China and about 10k NTD more than I earned in Korea. In Korea I could save about 28k NTD per month.

I would like to save about the same in Taiwan, if possible. I rarely drink, and definitely not to excess. I cook more often than not and I really don’t have any expensive hobbies… cinema and video games, I suppose, but most of the games I play I already own. I checked out www.numbeo.com and compared the prices of Kaohsiung and Hsinchu with Daegu Daegu, and found these cities to be considerably cheaper.

Rent Prices in Kaohsiung are 72.75% lower than in Daegu
Restaurant Prices in Kaohsiung are 44.54% lower than in Daegu
Groceries Prices in Kaohsiung are 36.01% lower than in Daegu

Rent Prices in HsinChu are 65.87% lower than in Daegu
Restaurant Prices in HsinChu are 40.17% lower than in Daegu
Groceries Prices in HsinChu are 25.27% lower than in Daegu

I feel very positive about Taiwan, and the only thing holding me back now is trying to get a good grasp of the finances. So once I get set up, get over the initial set ups costs, how likely is it to be able to save a decent portion on my pay in the 25-30k range.

Also, if you have anything to add, please do so. For example, what you find typically more expensive or cheaper in Taiwan and any hints regarding saving in Taiwan would be brilliant!

Cheers, and I hope to be a contributing member of this forum within Taiwan soon!


#2

With a salary of 70/75k in Taiwan outside of Taipei, you could probably save 40k+ without sacrificing anything.


#3

I’d second the previous post, rent will obviously be your single biggest outgoing and what you spend depends on what you want/where you are. Over and above that if you don’t drink like mad and cook at home you’re probably looking at about NTD20k/month living expenses as an average, bit more if you like to eat out, but less if you’re really trying to save.

Eating out is generally cheap in Taiwan but it can become a bit of a trap if you get into eating out regularly as a routine.


#4

I’ve had quite the opposite experience, and I think the main reason is eating habits. OP, you mentioned you cook most of the time. Keep that habit at all costs. Taiwan will lure you to eat out for practically every meal. Prepared food is everywhere and cheap because of an overwhelming number of street vendors. Furthermore, the structure of the cities is housing above, restaurants and shops below, so it’s always at your fingertips. A decent job will land you a decent enough salary where you’ll feel, “aw, what the heck, I can splurge a little”, and if you’re not careful, you’ll do it all the time.

To compound this, the apartments, particularly the kitchens, you will find here are puny and under equipped. It’s hard to feel compelled to make a home cooked meal with one burner that works only half the time but only if you first step outside to turn on the gas lever and make a mental note to turn it off again when you’re done so you don’t end up as another far too high Taiwan gas explosion statistic. In most kitchens, you’ll barely have room to turn around let alone store any cookware. The water pressure may be so laughable that you won’t feel like spending three times as long doing dishes. A plethora of bugs will invade everything you’re not anal about sealing.

Even more so, Taiwan isn’t like Korea in the sense that you’re not expected to learn the language. The vast majority of foreigners here, even ones who have been here for a long time, can’t speak the language. It’s because, unlike Korea, most people here speak enough English to communicate, so you can get by without Chinese. This will translate into your food acquisition habits. Since your Chinese will likely suck, and you certainly won’t learn how to read (it’s not easy and sensical like Korean, they use traditional mandarin characters here), you’ll be deterred from going to a grocery store to try to figure out what everything is when you can just pop into one of a slew of nearby places with an English menu.

However, this is preventable; you can cook your meals and save money, and you should. When you look at apartments, go right to the kitchen. Check for two burners, roominess, water pressure, comfort, a fridge (most are mini fridges… again, a deterrent to cooking), and a relatively new water heater (usually on the balcony). Buy decent cookware, tupperware, and bag ties to seal your food. Force yourself to go to the grocery store early on and often. Learn what’s what, and what’s available and what’s not. If you’re a vegetarian like me, it’ll be particularly hard. If you’re not in Taipei, it’ll be hard to find many of the traditional staples of a western vegetarian diet, like canned beans and lentils. You can find them, but they’re often not at the grocery stores; they’re at the specialty stores. Walk around and ask around and find where these stores are early on. Same thing with free range eggs - you can find them, but they’re usually not at the grocery stores.

It’s actually a dangerous combination because Taiwanese restaurants use boatloads of MSG (wei4 jing1) in their dishes. In Chinese, MSG is translated to “the essence of flavor”. The food here, partially because of the MSG, will take its toll on your body, and your health will suffer as a result. Since coming to Taiwan, I’ve developed stomach ulcers, acid reflux disease, and am on constant medication for it. Never had a problem like this in the States for the first 30 years of my life. The prepared food will likely fuck you, given enough time. This was the primary reason a foreign friend of mine who had lived here for seven years left to his home country. Several of my foreign friends have come to the same conclusion and feel forced to exclusively cook all their meals at home. It’s probably other things like certain strains of bacteria in the food, but who knows.

TLDR: If there’s one thing I wish I did differently in the past three years since my arrival, it would have been to (re)learn how to cook my own food here. I started doing this last month and already see a huge difference in expenses and personal health.


#5

I think a lot of foreigners have passable Chinese in Taiwan,
Maybe less can read but still a decent number should be able to struggle through a menu.


#6

I got acid reflux before…to much greasy food…coffee…beer…stress and travel. Was overweight and supposed to be a major factor. Cut the weight might help.

When I reduced the weight and cut back a bit on the black coffees and greasy food helped a bunch!


#7

This is not my reality here. I make outstanding meals in my little kitchen. Very easy to adapt. Been in worse situations back in the West. Learning functional Chinese was easy enough first few months here and ordering food, knowing what to order was no issue. Nowadays you can easily get all and anything foodwise from all over the world piece of cake. We often make ribs, clam chowder, salsa, curries, Thai, Taiwanese, jalapeño poppers, cottage pie, and so on and access to world class cheeses, beers, meats and many more is a stones throw away. Agree with you that it’s much harder grocery shopping outside of Taipei for the rarer items.

And yes the acid reflux burning burping and other problems is very noticeable here, you must flush your system often eat fresh make home cooked meals lots of salads exercise all that


#8

Good thread.


#9

Not much to add to this except to mention that in the Hsinchu area, rent is cheaper but transport is more expensive compared to Taipei; the two will pretty much balance out. The 40K figure for disposable income sounds about right; you can either save it or spend it on eating out :slight_smile:

On the issue of cooking: there’s absolutely no need to get a tiny place with a tiny kitchen. Apartments in that area are all pretty spacious and have a proper kitchen, and realistically all you need is a two-ring burner, a sink, and a fridge. Even in Taipei, you can get a “real” apartment (as opposed to a bedsit) for 20K or less if you shop around, and don’t attempt to live in fashionable areas (which have no real advantages anyway, unless you count neighbours with more money than sense as an advantage).

There are whole threads on the financial merits of cooking at home, but my gut feeling is that you’d be best off preparing your own breakfast and lunch, and eating out in the evenings. Stock control for one person is difficult unless you eat very repetitive meals, and hopefully you’ll have some sort of social life, right?


#10

Thank you all for your detailed responses! I didn’t think this would turn into a food thread, but I’m glad it did. It’s a big part of my life and I enjoy learning to cook, I see it as a hobby I must do 3 times a day, ha!

For sure, I’ll be eating breakfast at home and where I am now, I normally bring a pack up for lunch, although that’ll depend on what the school’s canteen is like. As for dinner, I do like to mix it up, typically at the weekends and Friday I’ll eat dinner out, be it fast food or a fancier/healthier option.

StuffNthings, thanks for going into detail over the issues that could arise, so much that I never really thought about. I’ll definitely take care to ensure I have a second burner. And, I expect I’ll be buying a decent toaster oven too.

TheSweetMeats, it’s good to know! I don’t expect to be in Taipei but at the same time, I wouldn’t consider many of my ingredients to be ‘rare’, I often cook Indian dishes and have always found my ingredients quite easily… although I have lived reasonable near to large cities all of my life so maybe I’m taking it for granted.

Finley, The school I’m looking at offers 10k housing (that’s included in the 70-75k) but I’d be willing to pay a bit more, if I need to, for a decent kitchen and a separate bedroom. I spent 2 and half years in South Korea in a bedsit, I’d really prefer not to go back to that. Fashionable areas are not an issue either. I’m not particularly fashionable! I’d prefer to be somewhere close to work with decent transport links. You’re definitely correct, stock control for one is difficult. It’s difficult getting it right and I do find myself cooking enough for 2-3 meals and storing it for the next couple of days.

Social life is important for me because I’ve not had much of it in China the last couple of years (living on campus in rural Guangzhou). So with my goal of saving between 25-30k it seems like I’ll have plenty left over for socialising although the reality is my hobbies are not typically expensive. Where I am now, I typically hold TV show and movie nights, computer games nights and boardgames nights (yes, I am geek!). I do enjoy going to a bar or a club occasionally but I really struggle with hangovers so I rarely drink enough to feel bad in the morning.

All in all, 30k a month savings would be great, but I’m not a miser. I want to go to Taiwan to live a more comfortable life, socially and at work. I’d say that’s more important that the savings.

Thanks again for all the input and I definitely do welcome more from anyone else here.


#11

You’ve good attitude and comfortable in your won skin, that’s 80% of the battle there.
As for socialising doing geeky stuff ive known foreigners with your hobbies and they had more friends than me, but they did live in the big city. That doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in smaller places just it is hard to have a big social circle due to the language and cultural barriers. There are plenty of activities you can do besides them too to get out and about.


#12

I just had a look on here:

https://www.rakuya.com.tw/

and you can get a really, really nice place for 15-17K in Hsinchu. Expect to pay on the high side if you want it in a specific location (ie., close to work).

one other addition: I have to disagree with StuffNThings about Chinese. It’s a very easy language to learn (at least for everyday conversation) and reading/writing is not nearly as hard or illogical as people imagine: many characters are quite pictorial and are built from a limited number of radicals (the alphabet, if you like). For example, look at the character for meat: 肉. It’s a half-pig hanging in the butcher’s window, right?

Food names in general are very simple: for example, pork and beef are just ‘pig meat’ and ‘cow meat’, and nearly all vegetables have the character for ‘vegetable’ in their name. So simply by learning the characters for ‘meat’ and ‘vegetable’, you’ll have an increased chance of ordering something you like from a Chinese menu.


#13

with those conservative habits and living outside of taipei you wouldn’t have a problem saving. i wouldn’t recommend moving to xin zhu though, outside of taipei somewhere with SUN is surely a must.

you must already know some chinese if you have been living in china, shouldn’t be to challenging to switch to here. i’ve seen signs for board games clubs, seems popular here.

i usually only eat one meal out a day and cook the rest. definitely saves some money. i find the most unhealthy thing that creeps up on you is the drinks. back home its quite easy for me to avoid fizzy drinks but here all the teas, soymilk, fresh fruit juice ect all seem to come with sugar and all taste pretty good.


#15

Hello everybody, it has been a long time since I last posted here because I ended up staying in China while I was completing my Master’s (through distance learning). However, I have now got a few interviews lined up for jobs starting in August/September in Taiwan and, although I’m getting ahead of myself, I’m very excited at the prospect of moving to the island. You’ve provided a lot of useful hints in this thread and I just wanted to thank you all again and if there’s anything anyone else wanted to add, I’d love to hear it.

Cheers!


#16

Ah, this explains a lot. Charlie and Johnnie were waiting down by the docks in Danshui to welcome you. We had to take tents down to them after the first night few nights which they spent sleeping on the concrete. After a few months out there, Johnnie was developing a sort of Stockholm Syndrome; he was sure you’d finally be on the next boat. Finally, after a little more than a year, Charlie convinced him it was time to pack it up. The two of them have been down at Carnegie’s drinking ever since. You should drop in to say hi when you get over here.

Oh, and the Airport MRT finally opened.


#17

Tell them to get back to the docks! :slight_smile:


#18

What a great thread to revive! We managed to save a ton both living inside Taipei ( in the non- cool area of Taipei, Wanhua, where our 1.5 bedroom with a ok kitchen an big living room was about 10000 NT a month). And when our salaries were better, we lived in Lotus Hill just in the suburbs of Hsi-Chih ( where our rent was 20k for a nice 2 bedroom with a good kitchen). We cooked our dinners at home, and half of our lunches and breeakfasts.

Really, as.long as you keep the eating out and drinking to a minimum, you can save a lot in Taiwan.

One issue nobody mentioned though, real ovens are a rarity. But if you lived in China, you would be familiar with this already.

By watching House Hunters International however, everyone seems scandalized that in some countries not having an oven is normal …


#19

ovens are not that expensive. had mine for over a year now and its done a great job. would not wanna live without one!


#20

Is it a real full size Western one? Or one of the smaller ones? I had one of the smaller ones ( but bigger than a toaster oven) and it was ok, but for real baking ( cakes,etc.), the heat was not evenly balanced enough.

If it is a full sized one, what did you pay, and how did you set it up in that kitchens aren’t set up for them here?


#21

i have space for it luckily. space and a plug. i know kitchen space is pretty limited here. its about the size of a microwave, bigger on the inside though. has like 4 rack levels inside. haven’t baked any cakes, not really my thing but its handled everything i’ve tried to cook, including pizza.