Moving to Taoyuan from Japan/Sweden?

Hi guys, I’m currently living in Sendai, Japan but got a job offer to teach English in Taoyuan City. I don’t speak any Chinese although I do speak Japanese, and I know essentially nothing about Taiwan. The plan would be to live in Taiwan for 1-3 years until I’ve built up enough work experience (and finished my Bachelor’s degree) to where I can move back to Japan. I’d be bringing my Swedish wife along with me. I have a few questions:

  1. How did you guys bring your stuff over? Mailing it? We mostly have books, which seems pretty expensive to mail.

  2. How’s the air pollution in Taoyuan and Taipei? How’s the amount of litter and general look of the city (does it look like a ghetto)? Is it still easy to get around in if you can’t use a scooter/drive a car? I was told I’ll be able to bicycle to any of my 3 workplaces in 30 minutes or less, but I’m not sure I really trust what the company says, and in general I’m almost blind so if bicycling is difficult or dangerous I won’t do it.

  3. Is it easy to find an apartment that won’t fall over in an earthquake? Are the walls thin? How bad are typhoons? My wife comes from a country with no natural disasters and very high standards of living (=thinks any shop or whatnot that looks a bit dingy is “too scary to go into”) so she’s terrified of possibly going to Taiwan, but she’s fine with the earthquakes and shops here in Sendai.

  4. How easy is it to get stuff in Japanese (ex. manga or movies), and find people to talk to in Japanese? I don’t want to be stuck not being able to communicate for a year or more, and I don’t expect that people have decent English. Of course we’ll be trying to learn Mandarin but ignoring how long that might take everyone’s telling us “Taiwanese Chinese is different” so…

  5. I haven’t been able to find an actual, recent, official list of items that you’re not allowed to bring to / mail to Taiwan. Anyone know where I can get one?

  6. Any Nordic people in here who can weigh in with what they think of Taiwan? Or anyone else that can compare Japan to Taiwan?

By the way, as far as Japan goes, we love Sendai but hate Tokyo (polluted, no nature, depressed/mean people, everyone assumes foreigners can’t even say “hello” in Japanese, etc). And in Sweden we’re something like countryside people (Uppsala).

Finally, if any of you could find me some YouTube videos or something with normal life in Taoyuan (like vlogs or whatnot) that’d be great, I tried searching but really just found travel ads and airport videos.

Is your employer aware that you don’t have a Bachelor’s degree? Do you currently have an Associate’s degree plus TEFL qualification?

Wow, I didn’t expect such a fast reply! Yeah, I have an Associate’s and a TEFL certificate which seems to be some kind of hiring standard for low-level English teaching jobs, and if it has to be argued for the VISA then I actually have 5 years of university-level education (just not a finished Bachelor’s). It’s actually the same in Japan, you can technically get hired and get a work VISA in Japan with just an Associate’s because the actual legal requirement is “university-level education”, but almost no one knows that so they just claim you need a Bachelor’s instead.

In which case you are fine. I’ll try to answer some of your questions:

  1. Taoyuan City is an ugly shithole. Air pollution is bad, but not terrible. If you have pre-existing lung problems it could be a problem. Traffic is crazy, but it’s quite easy to get around on a scooter.

  2. Your wife’s going to get a shock. Taoyuan is nothing like Sweden. I would advise both of you to visit Taoyuan first before making a decision to work there.


Okay, thanks. I’m almost blind so I can’t legally drive a scooter and we unfortunately don’t have the money to visit before we go, unless some miracle happens…

This might be a problem, everything looks dingy. Have a trial visit first

Edit: If trial visit is not an option, check out Google Street view

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There are quite a few:

He’s a bit of a knobend, but Mordeth13 has a lot of Taoyuan videos up on youtube. They usually involve him driving highly irresponsibly through side streets while complaining about his ex-wife.


taoyuan is shite by anyones standards. personally i wouldn’t ride a bike there. walking there is already a challenge. taipei is much better but if you hate tokyo and think its polluted then i don’t really think you have a hope in hell of getting by here. where are you from btw?

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Taiwan in general is comfortable like wearing the same T-shirt two days in a row.

It’s got a bit of first world a lot of second world and a heap of third world all rolled into one.

It’s the country closest to Japan in Asia probably well maybe Korea is.

At least most Taiwanese don’t hate the Japanese like the Chinese and Koreans do.

Taoyuan is like wearing the same jeans for two weeks in a row though. Classy it ain’t

At least it’s close to Taipei

Taiwan is great in general. But you most definitely are not in Kansas no sir Dorothy you are not.

Oh and if you survive the first year the second and third roll into one and suddenly you have been there ten years …it’s like some kind of time warp

Oh there are heaps of vids on the YouTube about Taiwan.

View them


If you think that Tokyo is polluted, then I don’t think anywhere on the west coast of Taiwan will be a good plan as the air is utterly filthy compared to Tokyo proper. Why on earth would you make this move?



What area of Taoyuan are we talking about?

I would advice against scooter driving. It is too dangerous in most cases. Public transport is mostly efficient and reliable, but it depends on where you live…And Taoyuan might be a problem.

Please note most Taiwan is convenient living, meaning you have plenty of stores and transportation options. Most people do not ride bikes to work for such long time, but for short commutes we have a popular UBike service in Taipei and most northern Taiwan.

If you want the advantage of working in Taiwan, like cheaper cost of living and health insurance, but with better air and less chaotic driving, I would suggest looking for a job in the outer islands, like Matsu or Kinmen, Green Island or Orchid Island. Maybe a school in the mountains of Alishan, the hills of Taitung or even Hualien/Yilan. I think government is hiring there. Some schools provide housing on site or close. What I mean is that is you do not want an eyesore and can’t drive a car, better live close.

30 minutes on a bicycle at 38 degrees in summer or in typhoons rain is definitely a no no. In Taipei you might be able to do that with all the bike lanes and riverside parks, but Taoyuan is an industrial are, lots of heavy trucks.

Again, expand your search would be my advice. Have you looked into Kaohsiung or Tainan? Look, parts of Taipei are grittier than Shinjuku, parts are as luxurious as Ropponji. Taoyuan may have some green areas. Taiwan is safe mostly except for driving…And being a pedestrian.

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  1. Try to find a courier. Many Taiwanese like shopping in bulk and there are many services shipping goods to Taiwan.

  2. Bad. We recommend air filters at home and frequent trips to nearby mountains. Or you could find a house closer to the hills, surrounded by nature or close to a park.

Some parts look ghetto, most are a mix. One decrepit building next to a new high rise. For me, Taipei looks really clean for all the foot traffic.

Cycling as said is not so preferable due to safety and weather conditions.

  1. There are mostly safe apartment buildings, you get what you pay for, but if you pay too much that is no guarantee. Do not rent anything from abroad, do not sign anything by yourself. Document everything. Do not get desperate, do not grab anything illegal. Rents in Taoyuan are a bit lower than Taipei and there are many new developments. 25 to 35k will get you covered. Oh and here in Taiwan foreigners do not need a local to rent for them, we can rent on our own.

  2. Japanese is very popular and older folk speak Japanese. We have several tv channels in Japanese and getting services in Japanese is not difficult.

Yes, there will be staring and lots of hellos by weirdos on the street. I tell people that as a foreigner you are the celebrity of your alley. Carry yourself like George Clooney, not the Beiber.

  1. Anything that explodes, certain batteries and knives. Your katana might need a special permit. They have a big sign at the post office. You sure it is not on their website?

Best of luck. Keep a positive attitude.

Thanks for all the replies guys, I don’t have much time right now so I might reply with something longer later. I’ll check out the videos, thanks. The reason why I might accept the job is because Sweden, Japan, Korea etc. won’t hire me with my lack of a Bachelor’s degree and my wife will only live in “safe” countries.

In Tokyo we walked from Shibuya to Shinjuku and some other place I can’t remember all in one day. At least on the day I went it was like being in a rain forest of smog, there was trash, drunk people and drug addicts everywhere, the parks and sidewalks smelled like urine, stuff like that. I grew up near Seattle (never really went to Seattle though) but moved to Iceland and Sweden after that and now I’m in Sendai. My wife’s only lived in Iceland, Sweden and Sendai. So we’re countryside people basically.

I’ll supposedly be working at 3 different schools “in Taoyuan City” and attempting to find a place to live in a spot where I can reach all 3 schools without a ton of effort. Other than that I don’t know the exact location info because I haven’t actually agreed to work there, but I can ask. I’ll try to find schools in other locations to look at while only knowing English, thanks.

Staring and stuff is fine, I’m a white foreigner with curly hair who walks with a cane and wears sunglasses indoors… so it’s kind of the norm for me.

U can’t really escape pollution anywhere on the west cost, but typhoons are less crazy and living is more convenient.

If you’re looking for clean countryside, eastern Taiwan is better, but u do have to wrestle with the weather there.

I’d recommend 蘆竹區if you’re interested in housing in Taoyuan.

And being able to drive I think is still a better choice.

Then you said…

So you cant work or find a job in Japan?

I would suggest coming here for a visit before deciding. It sounds like Taiwan will not work out for you. It will probably put strain on your relationship given your wife’s dislikes.

How are you planning to finish your degree in Taiwan? Distance learning? There are restrictions about distance degrees.

What is your wife planning to do here? What are her qualifications?

Yeah, like I think I wrote, it’s not that I don’t fulfill the legal requirements for a work VISA in Japan, it’s that the companies already “know” that someone with a Bachelor’s degree is “safe” for getting a VISA and that’s the route they’ve been doing forever so they don’t want to try a new route. This is only a problem for full-time jobs of course, you’ll get hired basically anywhere if it’s a part-time job but that won’t get you a work VISA. Plus I have extra restrictions because I’m almost blind, so no positions that require driving for example. In Sweden the problem is the general lack of jobs (not even part-time ones, not even people with degrees can find work) + high cost of living (even on my student loan, I can’t afford to live in an apartment and support another person, and I can’t get student loan money in the summer).

My whole degree from the start is distance learning, so yeah I’d just keep getting the same one from my same school. The timezone difference should work out.

If my wife can get a part-time job while on a spouse VISA that’d be good but I haven’t looked up if that’s allowed or not yet. She doesn’t speak Chinese, knows fluent English, Swedish, German and some Japanese, is an artist but without a finished degree. She’ll also be taking online classes to try and finish a degree.

Interestingly I have lived briefly in both Uppsala and Taoyuan!

Think of Taoyuan as being the opposite of Uppsala .

Taoyuan is messy, noisy , hot, densely packed streets , scooters everywhere , some air pollution . There are a lot of shops and restaurants everywhere, it’s quite lively (Uppsala being an extremely dead place in Summer too…).

That said Taoyuan has improved from years ago but for a person who is not used to this , they will struggle I think. Although personally I preferred living in Taoyuan .

There also are few western foreigners in Taoyuan although there is an English teacher community you can hang out with if you want. There are huge numbers of SEA foreigners working in factories and as caregivers.

As for parks they just have one decent one called Tiger mountain and some nice hills nearby.

One plus about Taoyuan is that people are quite friendly though, especially to Caucasian foreigners.

To be honest it would probably be a stopgap for you but it’s far from the worst place in the world too. There is a good train service into the city.

If you don’t even like Tokyo I don’t know how the hell you could adjust to Taiwan!!


Yeah you’re probably need to use mass transportation to get around especially if you don’t have good eyes riding a bicycle. It’s dangerous for the best riders. Buses are cheap and go everywhere as well as the MRT is quite convenient, not so much in Taoyuan.

Moving from Japan or Sweden to Taiwan, be ready for a shock.

Also don’t rely on what the school is telling you. That frequently or almost always does change.

Unless you live in a Japanese focused neighborhood or they live work and have kids go to school, you don’t really engage or hear Japanese.

The last time I was walking around Tokyo, a few years ago, I was marveling at how clean the air and the streets were in comparison to what I’m used to in Taipei. That was in July. It was hot in Tokyo, but still significantly more comfortable than Taipei. Oh, and the driving looked incredibly organized and safe, and my goodness was it ever great for walking. Wide open sidewalks, and I didn’t feel like the drivers were about to kill me.

Taipei is probably somewhat cleaner than Taoyuan. Mind you, Tokyo does have a lot more drunk people around than Taipei does.

Make sure you investigate what Taiwan accepts for distance learning. They used to not allow distance-learning degrees for getting a visa, although that may have changed. Of course that doesn’t affect your ability to do the degree in Taiwan - but you may find that, after you’ve got the degree, it’s not accepted here.

For getting around: central Taipei is fairly good for sidewalks. Outside of that, Taiwan is usually awful for sidewalks - they sporadically exist, but they’re blocked by parked scooters.

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One final thought is you could consider taking your degree at a Taiwanese university. Might be worth looking into. At undergraduate level it would probably need to be in business (EBBA or similar) or something related to linguistics to be taught in English.