Moving to Taiwan worth it?


#1

My present company is offering me a position in Taipei (I find out the details tomorrow).

I am wondering for those westerners there, has the experience been worth while?

My reasons for considering the offer are that I think it would be an amazing adventure having everything I am used to changed/different. I also think it would be wonderful to learn to speak a second language. I am not married and it is reasonably simple to relocate (so why not give the expat thing a try!?).

Are there people like me over there? Are these reasons sufficient to overcome the certain difficulties I would face there?

I already know a little mandarin as I have studied here in california for a couple years for fun (there is a big chinese community here in silicon valley and it is fun to practice speaking to my chinese co-workers – and I used to love the TV show Kung fu :slight_smile: ).

Am I crazy? Is it difficult but rewarding? Is my perception of racism blown out of proportion? Are all foreigners there because they are married to Taiwanese? Anyone there a transplant from silicon valley? Any regrets?

I would appreciate any suggestions/etc – particularly input on what is important in a job offer in Taiwan. I have been to Taipei extremely briefly a couple times (one trip lasting an entire afternoon), so I dont really have a feel for the place.

Thanks!!
-E


#2

You sound fairly open to new experiences. I would try it here. What’s the worst that could happen? That you’d give up and go home. So what? You’d still have accomplished something.

Don’t pay too much attention to most of what you read here on OrINETted – some of it can be useful, but most of the posts are just a tiny handful of people with too much time on their hands having a kvetch.

Look at the number of people registered here – over 3,000 – compared to the number who post on the forums – roughly 20 or so.

The vast majority of folks here have experienced absolutely nothing they consider bad enough to warrant complaining about here, and that should give you some perspective, I think.


#3

Ditto what Sandman said, but what’s a kilt-wearing Scot doing using Yiddish?

If you’re white you won’t experience much racism in Taiwan. I don’t know what it’s like for other races/ethnicities.

Since you’ve been to Taipei you probably already have an idea of air quality and traffic, so I won’t bore you with those details.

As far as what you should look for in your relocation package, those can vary wildly. If they give you a housing allowance as opposed to providing you with a furnished apartment, do some checking into rental prices near where your office will be. In nicer parts of town, you’d probably need a couple thousand US/month to get a good furnished apartment.

Other perks might include per diem, transportation allowance, paid trips back to the States at least once a year, relocation back to the States at the end of your assignment, membership in the American Club (?), etc. I presume you don’t have any kids yet, so you won’t need to worry about tuition fees.

I’m not saying that most expat packages DO include all these things… It will depend a lot on your campany and your position within it. Most professionals would expect a LARGE wage increase for taking an assignment in Taiwan.

Last time I checked, you would not be required to marry a Taiwanese person during your stay.


#4

Are there people like me over there?

Yep. I have been an expat for 7.5 years now. First 7 years in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and now I moved to Taipei.
Quite a change and not as nice and cheap here but kind of ok. At least I didn’t get a culture shock since I was used to the Asian environment already and have travelled around the region before, including once to Taipei.

Are these reasons sufficient to overcome the certain difficulties I would face there?

Depends what you consider difficult!? Food, standard of living, language? I think it also depends very much on the individual but obviously those if not most difficulties can be overcome.
IMHO being an expat is a great opportunity, not only financially but also from an experience point of view, let it be working here or even learning a new language and eating the weirdest food.

As for the contract here are some guidelines in addition to those mentioned before. You may ask to include those in your employment contract, if you get them or not may depend on your company policies and negotiation skills:

  1. Housing allowance (>USD1500/month if in downtown Taipei), car parking goes extra (around USD50/month)

  2. All utilities to be paid by the company (water, gas, electricity, maintenance fee, phone line (basic fee)) - no hassle for you to settle the bills

  3. Health Insurance - very important! You may need to subscribe to the local NHI

  4. All cost for visa, workpermit, ARC etc., if necessary visa trips to be covered by your employer

  5. Free tax consultancy (not just someone filling in the form but actually consulting you)

  6. Clauses of termination (include “pressing personal reasons” so you can take off if you can’t stand the place)

  7. Compensation in case you are being terminated before the contract ends

  8. Home trips or value of ticket to be paid, alternatively include in your salary (if it’s paid as a lump sum you may get taxed for it!)

  9. Add x-mas and holiday pays (if applicable) into your expected salary

  10. Bonus and ex-gratia payments (if any)

  11. Transportation to and from host country, incl. shipping of personal belongings (up to a certain limit) by sea or air

  12. Pension contributions if applicable


#5

There’s a certain amount of anal gits around who don’t like to make the effort to learn a bit of Chinese, always complain about the food, wonder why not eveything is the same as it is back home etc etc, but you sound as if you’re not one of those so I’d say do it for sure. Best advice is get yourself a scooter (or car even) and learn Chinese.

Bri


#6

I would like to know if anyone has any suggestions who to contact to find these types of jobs?


#7

I left the California hi-tech industry to come and work here, although my route was not so typical. I just persuaded a local company to hire me.

The experience has been fascinating and will provide interesting dinner party stories for the rest of my life. But it has not been without problems, I would summarize some of the key questions that you might ask before taking the plunge:

    [*]Are you comfortable living outside your own country for a long period of time? You will be remote from your friends and family, possibly for a long time.[*]Can you accept the values of the country you choose to live in, even if they are rather different to your own? Expat workers are generally more successful if they accept the values and culture of the country they live in. Aim to find Taiwan's differences 'educational' or 'interesting', rather than 'annoying' and to be avoided at all costs.[*]Taiwan's business climate is rather different to the west. Chinese business practice emphasises different values, particularly with respect to loyalty, honesty, ways of showing respect, feedback, obedience, and teamwork. Would you be happy in a Chinese business enviroment?[*]Business tends to be small, fast moving, agressive, competitive, and somewhat chaotic compared to typical Western countries. Again, do you like this type of enviroment?[*]People work very long hours. 50-60 hour weeks with evening working are rather typical at busy times. Is this okay?[*]Can you handle the language? Learning the language of your target country can make you a lot more comfortable and accepted, even if you do not need it for business. Mandarin Chinese is not an easy spoken language and is a very difficult written language.[*]Is the physical enviroment okay for you? This includes climate, noise, pollution, traffic, transportation. Note also if you can do your preferred sports, live in cramped accomodations, tolerate the strange TV...[*]Are you okay with appartment living? Taipei and most large cities have few detached houses with yards. You could probably not affort accomodation similar to that in your home country[*]Does the job meet your financial objectives and will it look good on your future resume?[*]If you got here and hated it, could you return get back into a job without too much trouble?[*]How does this fit in with other major life goals such as family? If single, would you be comfortable dating here, or even getting married? If married, do you have the support of your family in this move? Strangely I have met foreigners here who compained that it was hard to find other foreigners to date! Duh!![*]Would another location in the Chinese speaking world be more appropriate? Some prefer more westernized Singapore, the aggressive business climate of Hong-Kong, or the wide open business frontier of Mainland China.[*]Will you be able to meet your health care needs and expectations here? [/list]I was a bit surprised to read how little time you had spent here. I would insist on a minimum of one week review trip to see if you like the place. Taiwan has a lot to like, but there are some aspects that are not so good.

#8

I’m going to totally disagree with sandman and bu en lai on this. I haven’t met a Westerner yet that doesn’t have major complaints about Taiwan. And no, just because you have complaints doesn’t make you an anal “git” or whatever.

Learning the language can take you a long way it’s true. That’s something that most don’t do and it can really open doors. But if you’re working full time you just won’t be able to devote the right amount of time to it.

All i’m going to say is that you will always be a foreigner in this culture regardless of how much chinese you speak or how much you like chinese food, etc. If you can make peace with that then you’ll be happy.


#9

Some advice which I wish I’d received before I arrived:

Don’t trust what ANYONE says about how much you will need per month for a “decent”, “nice” etc. apartment. A good apartment is expensive. Get a relocation company (i.e Crown Worldwide, Allied Pickfords, etc.) to provide you some estimates.

Taipei is very cheap for some things, but mainly expensive if you want to live well. I think very expensive, personally.

I’d suggest you contact the American Chamber of Commerce (www.amcham.com.tw) and get a copy of their cost of living guide before you enter into negotiations about your package.

I’m also going to get flamed for this, but I’d insist on an American club membership. It’s a good focal point for expats and local business people, and someplace to have a swim when it gets hot.

Electricity is stupidly expensive (if running aircon in summer) so the advice on utilities is highly valid.

If you have the luxury of a car and driver (good luck to you, I’m not in that league I’m afraid!)otherwise taxi and MRT is easy and cheap. If you live in Tien Mu (where many foreigners live, not myself) then you might want a car or allowance as it is not serviced by MRT and expensive in a cab.

Otherwise, whatever you can get. My priorities as an expat are salary, housing, medical insurance (not the local health scheme, it sucks, get something off-shore), relocation costs, trips home - in that order. You may have very different priorities, and it will depend on how flexible your company is with regard to structuring the package.

On the subject of expat life and work, It’s great, and if you are smart, very rewarding financially also.

Best of luck with whatever you decide!


#10

Don’t trust what ANYONE says about how much you will need per month for a “decent”, “nice” etc. apartment. A good apartment is expensive.

I should say I am very picky and my allowance is less than what I quoted, initally I asked for USD2000/month based on my friends advise (some expats living here for some years) but had to lower the figure in the end to a more reasonable level (it’s a very small company afterall).
After looking for a place (which btw takes a lot of time, so ensure the company will cover e.g. one month at a hotel first) I found the minumum you need is USD1500. You can have a two bedroom apartment for less but it will be old (10+ years) and in a condition to match (incl. most applicances and e.g. piping system etc.), i.e. pretty shitty.
Options are sharing or small units, but I have seen a few Japanese style and couldn’t even stand up in the sleeping area - and I am by no means tall! Still cost around USD1000/month.

As opposed to NFI I recommend to come here, stay in a hotel and get a local agent to show you some units. You can specify your requirements (state around 70% of your max. budget to allow some flexibility) and preview the units on a cardboard with pictures and descriptions. Pick those which you would like to see and then go around with the agent and check them out - pictures can be deceiving though, too.
If you find something suitable negotiate a lower rent, which usually is possible, and sign a 1 year contract only, not 2 years, resulting in a lower agents fee and no need to pay a penalty in case you leave or want to move after a while. If you want to extend (after that year) you just stay on as I heard …

When signing a private contract you may also be able to skip the tax.
If it’s directly paid by your company you may not care about the actual rental price as long as it fits the budget, just leave it up to them to sort things out (my boss’ wife seems to be a very good negotiator but luckily she had no say in case of my salary ).

Two things I wish to add here:

  • Get your contract to cover the agent’s fee and tax (in case of a company contract).

  • Specify your annual leave, do not put a clause like “follows the local regulations” as this means only 7 days a year (or less)


#11

Travel is the best education you’ll ever experience. I ummed and arred for while, but am glad I made the choice. I actually arrived on the day of the 921 earthquake, and since then have experienced so many things we don’t get down under - earthquakes, typhoons (paid day at the pub), air raids, cheap video cameras, bing lung mei’s and dumplings.


#12

Hmm…Recently, I am trying very hard to convince my friend to come to Taiwan, but he is worry about “job”, “living” and other things here. Most of people come here for making money by teaching English. But since there is already a job waiting for you, then you won’t need to worry about “teaching will be boring”. Agree with other people’s talking above, some are right, but some are wrong. The people here are really nice (I’ve been showing so many friends around Taipei, they said and I do believe that they love here). But true, the air and traffic is not that good. we couldn’t do anything about the “air polution”, but the traffic is getting better since we have the MRT(subway) though I still prefer to ride my scooter.
Well, just make your move to Taiwan, it will be fun. And, true, What could be worse? Neway, if you need any help, don’t feel bad to ask ~ We’re very friendly and nice


#13
quote:
Originally posted by Rascal: [b] 3. Health Insurance - very important! You may need to subscribe to the local NHI [/b]

How is NHI? Is NHI pretty good, or do people usually go with independent insurance? What is the quality of health care in general? Would I find it the same or similar as the US?

(Thank you everyone who responded! It sounds like overall a very good experience if new experiences are what I am looking for.)

-E


#14

The National Health insurance is great! I have had to visit the doctor for regular check-ups and medication to make sure that my ulcerative colitis does not flare up: the insurance covers everything from about 70% of the medicine cost, as well as the usually expensive colonfibroscopy examination, which one must get every year at least if you have my condition… You will be amazed at how much money you will save if you use the NHI system; no need to use the local private hospitals either – which are often too busy and not so worth-the-money as some would have you believe: instead, use the university hospital if you have a specific condition that requires treatment…

As for living in Taiwan, it is absolutely wonderful for the variety of food and folk: you can meet people here that you would never encounter at home, from all over the world. You can visit the mountains or the beach and enjoy the blessings of the subtropical climate, etc… Language is up to you: it is really not necessary to speak Chinese, I am lucky maybe, or just a typical “xenophobe”, but my Taiwanese/Chinese friends don’t mind me not speaking their tongue… it’s up to you… I hope you come along for the adventure… If you are coming thru a foreign firm, then you are actually set-up, as you will be getting a decent salary and perks… I am still trying to figure out how to squeeze more money out of my company, since I am earning less than the same man in America for the same work… However, I found my job here, and that’s completely different than being sponsered by a corp from overseas… I think you’d be silly not to give it a try… Remember, living abroad gives your perspective a whole new set of insights…

good luck…

pppppppooooooooooooopppppppooooooooooooooooo


#15

I am still trying to figure out how to squeeze more money out of my company, since I am earning less than the same man in America for the same work… However, I found my job here, and that’s completely different than being sponsered by a corp from overseas…

Gimme a call and for a small fee I might tell you how …

Well, in my case I guess I was just lucky that my (local) company was willing to invest in me and mostly agreed to the contract I proposed. Must admit I missused their inexperience a bit as I am the first and one and only foreigner in that company (and probably will ever be …).
Quite a change from a big intl. company like I used to work for before but it was worth the “risk”. After all a much better option than having no job and returning to Germany with an unemployment rate of nearly 10%.

If it’s your first time though I would recommend to do so under care of a big company, makes you perhaps feel more comfortable and secure as well for a start.
That said my new company takes really good care of me, too. Which is nice.


#16

What do you guys actually do ? I though expat positions were a thing of the past.


#17

Rascal: Actually, I have composed a goddawfully long letter to the horse’s mouth himself… We’re talking containers of high grade silicon mounted on fine fibre-copper platters… They make at least 500 grand per each of us mice in the wheel, sooooo, it’s – weird…


#18
quote:
Originally posted by EBJ: ...How is NHI? Is NHI pretty good, or do people usually go with independent insurance?
I have not had much of a problem with the NHI scheme. It can be a little inconvenient until you learn how to 'work the lines', however I have found the standard of health care at least as good as my US HHO (not sure if that says a lot!). It is also *very* cheap.

Bear in mind the system is set up so that the sick get very good care, but people with simple problems delt with in local clinics. You may have to hussle a bit to ensure you get what you want. In practice though, most hospitals don’t mind foreigners referring themselves. Note that sometimes the doctors are also under legal obligation to test you have a condition before they can prescribe certain drugs.

I also had experience of some private cosmetic surgery and found that the standard of care was very high and the cost a fraction of the US.


#19

Previous expat information on this site.


#20

I would say that, especially since you’ve already made a start on Mandarin, you should definitely keep working on it here. You’ll almost certainly have a far richer experience of the culture than if you rely on English. You can talk to anyone you like without relying on a third party, who might potentially filter things.

Also, without knowledge of the language, you risk becoming isolated. You could become one of those expats who hangs out only with other expats or a few locals from the office doing things you could mostly do at home.

You don’t sound like that kind of guy, but in an office, there’s also just the risk of not knowing what’s going on under the surface. This happens anywhere to some extent, but you’re particullarly vulnerable if you don’t know what people are saying. I knew an expat whose housing allowance became common knowledge because the person in charge of paying his rent for him had taped up a note to remind herself in her cubicle that included the ammount and his name. Everyone could read it except the expat and I don’t think he ever realized that that had gotten out in the open and was one of the reasons he was resented by the Taiwanese staff.

So if you want to be cued into what’s happening around you, try to keep working on the language. I don’t know how these contract things work, but you may want to find a way to sneak that in.