Moving to Taiwan with my 5 and 8 year old


#1

Hi

I was born in Taiwan and came to the US when I was 4 and have been living in NY for over 30 years. Next summer (2016) I plan to take my two kids who will be 5 and 8 to Taiwan to live for a minimum of 1 year (hopefully 2 years) for them to learn Mandarin. Since they were born, I have been trying to speak to them in Mandarin and they can understand me however cannot communicate back in complete sentences. However, my Mandarin is limited to just conversational and I cannot read and write. As they grow older, it is harder for me to speak to them in Mandarin and I would like them to continue to learn the language. It would be great if they can read and write some words but mostly having a conversation back to their grandparents is ideal. I do not wish to send them to Chinese school in NY because in my opinion these classes just do not work. I want to also add that almost all my family members with the exception of my parents and siblings still live in Taiwan although I am not close to them.

I need some advice for anyone who’s been in my situation.

  1. How difficult do you think it would be for my 5 and 8 year old to live and attend public school in Taiwan with the knowledge (of me and my kids) I indicated above?
  2. I do not wish to send them to international schools. How and when do I register for public school?
  3. Can anyone suggest a good public school that they’ve attended? Or know ones that are open to accept students in my situation?
  4. Is there an option to leave my 8 year old behind a grade once in Taiwan so it might be an easier process for her?
  5. What are some “nice” and safe places to live in Taiwan considering I am a mom traveling with 2 young children?
  6. Do you think there will be a culture shock for us? (I haven’t been back to Taiwan since 2006 and only stayed a week)

Ideally once there and situated, I would like to find a part time job but working is not a priority. I believe I would have enough savings to spend a year or two in Taiwan and any excess income is just supplemental. Being in Taiwan will also give me the opportunity to learn some of the language, connect with my roots and teach my children the culture. Any advice, suggestions, comments and opinions are greatly appreciated. This idea has been floating in my mind since 2012 but several factors held me back. But because it is an idea that hasn’t subsided, I would like to know what I am potentially getting myself into and if I have thought it through since I know my parents and friends may not agree with my decision.

Thank you.


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#2

Probably will be a great deal of culture shock yes, lol. Sounds like a mission. Good luck!


#3

I guess it depends if you are treated as a local or non-Taiwanese. One of my co-workers (non-Taiwanese) was initially refused by the local schools to enroll his kids. They told him that he needed to go enroll at the American School. He eventually got them in the local school with another expat’s help. He is American Chinese and wanted to enroll his kids for the same reason as you, to learn Chinese.

I think you need some kind of Taiwan residency to enroll, not sure if a Taiwanese passport alone cuts it. I suppose the best thing is to clear up your residency status in Taiwan. Which I assume you have more of an idea than me about how to do that. if you’re Taiwanese and show proof of residency, I imagine it would be easy for you.

Neihu or Xinyi are probably the best areas. Xinyi is better area, but it’s also expensive.


#4

Ariel, welcome

  1. How difficult do you think it would be for my 5 and 8 year old to live and attend public school in Taiwan with the knowledge (of me and my kids) I indicated above?

Not much. In most schools, there are special classes for new immigrants and kids of mothers whose native tongue is not Mandarin. Of course, certain schools have a better reputation, others are better adapted to foreign kids, etc. Most enrollments are done according to the area where you live.

  1. I do not wish to send them to international schools. How and when do I register for public school?

School schedule is similar to the one in the US, but coming early is advised. A pal came a couple of weeks late and the kids were allowed to enrolled because the school was really nice about it, they were quite helpful, but it is better not to rush into things.

  1. Can anyone suggest a good public school that they’ve attended? Or know ones that are open to accept students in my situation?

Depends on the area where you will live. Any considerations in the ballpark?

How familiar are you with Taipei areas?

  1. Is there an option to leave my 8 year old behind a grade once in Taiwan so it might be an easier process for her?

sure, that would be highly advisable actually.

  1. What are some “nice” and safe places to live in Taiwan considering I am a mom traveling with 2 young children?

Define nice and safe. Most of Taipei doesn’t look pretty, but it is very convenient and extremely safe -well, except traffic but that is another story. You do not have the overwhelming en garde attitude here. Think Japan… just not that clean. Safety is not a major concern, you will not find “lost” areas like in Western cities, so basically you will enjoy safety from violent crime anywhere you live.

Taipei city proper has more parks but higher cost of living. The outskirts have more space and lower costs.

  1. Do you think there will be a culture shock for us? (I haven’t been back to Taiwan since 2006 and only stayed a week)

Yep. Quite. People will look at you strangely because you do not speak the language even though you look Taiwanese. They may not be as patient when you need help to fill out forms in Chinese, for instance. And you will be looking for Whole Foods and gourmet cheese and complain about the quality of 7-11 cheese -which is no cheese at all. It is a matter of being flexible, taking a deep breath and letting a lot of stuff slide.

Yes, there is good cheese and bread. Yes, there are organic stores. No, you should never drink the tap water.


#5

I’m spending two months in Taiwan right now for the same reason. It’s working like magic with my four year old. No problem at all to get him into a private kindy in Yilan. He loves it.


#6

Try to avoid Taipei, as it is crowded, ugly, and boring. If, as you say, you can live off savings for a couple of years, then there’s really no need to come to Taipei. Taipei is a place people go to make money or go shopping. Your money will last longer anywhere else in Taiwan, and anywhere else is more beautiful, more relaxed, more friendly, and healthier for mind, soul, and body.

Many people have followed this path before and have succeeded in getting their kids into the public education system, despite being ‘foreign’. There are no obstacles in your path that cannot be overcome.


#7
  1. Can anyone suggest a good public school that they’ve attended? Or know ones that are open to accept students in my situation?

Depends on the area where you will live. Any considerations in the ballpark?

How familiar are you with Taipei areas?

I am not familiar with Taiwan at all so if you can suggest somewhere, that would be greatly appreciated.


#8

If you don’t live in Taipei, you should consider how you will get around. Taipei has good public transportation (MRT, bus, ubike,taxis). The rest of Taiwan does not. Outside Taipei, you will need a scooter or car. Many people on this board do drive a scooter or car, but I am afraid to drive in the big cities. In Taipei, you don’t need a scooter or car (though it does help). Taxis are cheap and can be used to carry stuff back home.

Are you planning to drop your children off at school or let them make their own way? That might also influence where you go.


#9

Hi Ariel,

I’m in a similar situation myself and I am handing in my resignation today to spend the next few months in Taiwan to learn Chinese and reconnect with my roots.

Then, when I have kids I’ll be able to speak to them more fluently and later on I want to bring them to Taiwan to live for a few years.

I encourage you to execute on your plan. Although I’d recommend you consider smaller cities like Taichung that should be much more kid friendly.


#10

Teach your kids bo-po-mo-fo and as much basic Chinese as you can before you get here.

Good luck! :slight_smile:


#11

Hardly difficult. After all it is the law that all children must attend school. Some expats choose home schooling. There is no policy preventing foreign kids going to local schools.


#12

[quote=“ariel7120”]3. Can anyone suggest a good public school that they’ve attended? Or know ones that are open to accept students in my situation?
[/quote]
The best public schools are in Taipei, and the best ones in Taipei are in Daan District (Just look at the housing prices there). Once you set up residency (hukou) in the city, your kids will be eligible to attend the local public school. But keep in mind some of the better schools tend to be full (people from outside the city set up spurious hukou in the district so their kids can attend) and have a long waiting list, in which case your kids will be assigned to the school in an adjacent neighborhood.


#13

[quote=“nonredneck”]If you don’t live in Taipei, you should consider how you will get around. Taipei has good public transportation (MRT, bus, ubike,taxis). The rest of Taiwan does not. Outside Taipei, you will need a scooter or car. Many people on this board do drive a scooter or car, but I am afraid to drive in the big cities. In Taipei, you don’t need a scooter or car (though it does help). Taxis are cheap and can be used to carry stuff back home.

Are you planning to drop your children off at school or let them make their own way? That might also influence where you go.[/quote]

Hi,
As much as everyone says to avoid Taipei, I find I may have to live there for public transportation. I am not planning to ride a scooter and definitely not going to drive. I remember when I was there 10 years ago, cars did not necessarily follow traffic rules. (Maybe this was more in the south) but either way, I considered transportation as a factor I may need to live in Taipei. I plan to drop them off at school. I think they are too young to go themselves especially in unfamiliar territory.

Although I’ve been reading from others that Taichung and Kaoshiung are better places to live. Taichung sounded great until I read they are lacking in public transportation.


#14

No big cities in Taiwan really lack public transit, but Taichung’s certainly is not up to the Taipei standard. In Taipei, you can live a very full life on just the metro and taxis alone; in Kaohsiung, probably the second best city for public transit, you’d need to combine it with buses. Taichung and Tainan do not have any metro systems, so you would have to rely on the sometimes confusing and traffic-prone bus systems. Public transit in Taoyuan isn’t even worth using at this stage, but they’re building a metro.

If convenience and quality of life are your top priorities, your top choice is hands down Taipei. However, if you can’t put up with crowds and ugly buildings and sweltering heat, it’s worth considering elsewhere.


#15

Quality of life, ha ha.


#16
  1. Can anyone suggest a good public school that they’ve attended? Or know ones that are open to accept students in my situation?

My youngest son has been attending Longan Elementary School (located in Daan District) for the past year. He’s in the kindergarten and has had a great experience. We’ve been very happy with the teachers and the overall school experience, and they’ve been very understanding of his situation (he’s Taiwanese, but didn’t speak much Chinese before starting school as we are Americans).
Other schools in the same area that I’ve heard recommended are Guting Elementary and Xinsheng Elementary. I know of a couple of families who sent their children to Xinsheng in order to learn Chinese, as they supposedly have a comprehensive program for Chinese-language learners.


#17

I also recommend not living in Taipei.

I would recommend Taitung City or maybe Dulan near Taitung instead. Your money will go a lot further and the schools will be more relaxed than hyper-competitive Taipei. Kaohsiung City and Yilan are other possibilities. In Yilan, you might consider living in Toucheng so that your kids can go to the Humanities Primary School there. blog.ilc.edu.tw/blog/blog/27589/ … 253/469943. Toucheng/Yilan are close enough to Taipei so that you could get into the big city on the weekends but still enjoy a laidback rural/lifestyle.

If you must live in Taipei, I would recommend one of the “mountain schools”:

Datun: w2.dtps.tp.edu.tw/english/introduction.htm

Hutian: htes.tp.edu.tw/

I also suggest that you read the earlier posts on this blog: talesfromthebeautifulisle.blogspot.tw

The author (who posts here) describes her experience in having her son go to a Taiwanese elementary school. I think he was about eight. It sounds like it was a bit rocky at first but that it worked out.

Good luck!


#18

If you can afford to live in XinYi area (the new constructions buildings), then you should live there. It is the most expensive part of Taipei, close to the 101 and the shopping malls. Just it is expensive so not everyone can afford it. Also a lot of Taiwanese living in the US have invested in those appartments, so you could bargain with them. That’s the best place to live in Taiwan.


#19

Feiren, the problem is she isn’t willing to drive or scoot. I can’t imagine living in Taitung without transportation…


#20

OP, What do you mean by a “good” public school? To the locals, “good” is defined in terms of academics. The “good” elementary schools in Daan will prepare your kids academically for secondary and higher education. They’ll be asked to memorize Tang Dynasty poems as early as first grade. But to others, “good” means a natural, well-rounded environment that allows kids to play as much as they study. They’ll be able to get a tan from running around outside and maybe try out different musical instruments but probably won’t learn any Chinese poetry until much older.