Should I work in Taiwan or stay in the U.S.? (graduating fro

Hi Everyone,

I’m graduating from a U.S. university soon and am still looking for a job. So far, I’ve found nothing.

I’m Chinese, born in America (ABC)…specifically, New Jersey. Last summer was the first time that I’ve ever been in Taiwan (first time not being in the U.S. as well). During my 3-month stay in Taipei (to advance my Chinese studies), I’ve experienced many of the difficulties that anyone unfamiliar with Taiwanese ways would face. However, I ultimately liked Taiwan very much. So now here I am in my final year of college and am faced with the situation of finding a career or some path to follow. I am double majoring in Economics and Chinese and am wondering if there are opportunities for me in Taiwan (preferrably Taipei). I would consider myself to be a “lower-advanced” Chinese level speaker and have no problems with communicating in the language (deep business-related issues would be a problem—still working on it though). I am currently studying at the business level of chinese and hope to have a career some day that may utilize it. The main problem is…I don’t know what I could do in Taiwan with my credentials.

I don’t think I would mind having lower wages in Taiwan, compared to those in the U.S. Besides, the standard of living is lower in Taiwan and the food is great! So anyway, I would like to know if any of you can offer some advice for my situation. Should I stay in the U.S. or head to Taiwan? Keep in mind that I’m about to graduate from college.

Thanks for any advice. I look forward to your replies!

You must have some idea what you want to do!?

And are you sure the standard of living here is so much cheaper? Housing in Taipei certainly is not cheap. And the food … well, matter of taste perhaps.

Hi there,

Well…here in the US, many Econ majors go on to be consultants or analysts, based on from what I’ve seen. If I was offered a similar job tomorrow right here in the US, I would take it. It would be a great starting point in the field. But if I am to be jobless for several months, then going to Taiwan in search of a “different” job may not be a bad idea…I don’t think. Anyway, whether I go to Taiwan or not after I graduate depends on whether I have found a desirable job or not. I’ll go either route, depending on the job offered in either country. Maybe I could be an editor or technical writer in Taiwan or work in a business firm (Geez, I’d be OVERJOYED if I had that opportunity). Teaching english seems “ok” but I wouldn’t want to do it too long.

As for the food, yeah I like it a lot (then again, I like just about everything)…but too bad the bakeries in Taipei aren’t as good as the ones here in Chinatown NY, or even Philadelphia. And finally, the housing issue…to tell you the truth, it’s bearable in my opinion. It’s still higher in this area of the U.S. so…Taipei isn’t too bad.

I’d say go where you got the best shot of pulling down righteous babes. You’re too young to allow concerns over your career to interfere with the important stuff.

Stay in the US and get a job and then angle for a posting in Taiwan or China. MUCH better pay that way.

hello Wolf-Reinhold,

Yeah, if I’m not misunderstanding your reply, then that is my original plan. But…could you provide an example or explanation on how I would do that? It doesn’t seem easy…

It is easy to be in the US and think about going to Taiwan for “something better”. I believe strongly, however, that a person should have a compelling reason to do so, otherwise he or she may end up just floating through life in Taiwan (it is very easy to get into the “one more contract” lifecycle over there).

I agree with you that the cost of living is lower in Taiwan than in the States. The quality of life is better in some ways (except, notably, in the area of pollution/noise). As a woman, I can go anywhere in Taipei at almost any hour of the day or night and not feel threatened (well, I guess that my normal American “level of alertness” helps). I can’t do that in the States. At least most criminals in Taiwan don’t want the hassle of speaking English with victims (the whole South African Ambassador thing with Chen a few years ago must have been a big mistake, nothing more!)

Anyway, I don’t think that you’ll have much of a shot getting an expat package from the States unless you have work experience and/or connections. There are unfortunately many folks with degrees in economics who are completely bilingual, and they are likely to be placed in front of you for preference (this isn’t ALWAYS so but I think it’s likely).

I don’t see why you couldn’t carve yourself out a nice niche in Taiwan doing editing work. There is plenty of it available, and you could continue your Chinese studies if you wanted to avoid the whole work-visa issue for awhile. Since you have not spent much time in Taiwan, the authorities wouldn’t question you for awhile, anyway.

As a native English speaker, naturally you are aware that you could get work teaching English, but I can understand why that might not be quite your thing at this point in your life. If you just want to “take a year or two off” it might be OK, but it won’t advance your career appreciably when you go back to the States.

You might be able to save some money in Taiwan if you live simply, and you could probably manage to get into a Chinese company to work, although that probably wouldn’t happen overnight. If you have no strong ties to the States, and feel like you have lots of time, it might be a good experience. You might want to set some definite goals for yourself, though (I’ll save $X, or I’ll spend X time, or I’ll get X years of experience) and then firmly and resolutely go back to the States. If you stay too long, you may catch the “I should be in Taiwan” disease, for which there is no known cure.


I’m in a similar situation also. I made the move to Taiwan about 6 months ago, after graduating from college. My job in the US delayed my start date so I decided to check out what Taiwan had to offer. I think it’s important to consider what you want to get out of Taiwan - is it going to be where you start your career or just for time off before returning to the US?
As for the pay, it is lower (actually much lower, compared to entry-level salaries in the States) and the cost of living isn’t that low. It’s something to consider.

Another thing you’ll have to think about is which relevant ministry regulates the industry you want to work in. In my case, it’s the Government Information Office. The GIO requires that you have at least two years of experience in your field before taking on a job in Taiwan. So before you come, I suggest you find out how much experience beyond college you’ll be required to have.

Hello Terry,

Thank you very much for your comments and opinions. What you said about possibly floating around in Taiwan without direction makes a lot of sense. During my short stay in Taipei last summer, I thought about how life would be like if I stayed there longer. I could easily imagine slow progress in my career path and jumping from one contract to another. And although teaching English brings in a decent income, I would only consider doing it for a short time as a means of supporting myself. At the same time, I would definitely go back to NTNU and continue on with my Chinese studies (one of my goals in life is to become extremely proficient in Mandarin). Anyway, I studied at NTNU last summer and enjoyed it very much. The reputation of their Mandarin Training Center is well deserved. Though…I could imagine it being even more intense and thus more effective.

Teaching english for a year or two doesn’t seem like a bad idea. During my stay, I could try to establish a new network over there. So far, my only established network consists of my wonderful housemate in Taiwan, who works for an international trading firm. If I return to Taiwan, she said she would help me find a position within her company. She showed me some of the documents that she works with on a daily basis and I was very surprised to see that many of them are identical to the ones that I see in my business chinese class here in the US (I get really excited when I see a particular class have immediate real-world-use

I think that some time after college, I would like to spend some time in that part of the world. I love studying Chinese and what better way to do it than by surrounding myself in the environment. It’s the career situation that is my main concern for now. I simply don’t want to “float” around, as you put it. Then again, maybe floating around could lead to something meaningful within time as long as I plan out a direction.

It’s such a tough dilemna. With no job lined up (yet) after graduation, I can’t help but think about going to Taiwan for a couple of years to study more Chinese, do some editing work or english teaching, build up my network, and “see more of this world”.

Terry, thanks for your insights. I’ll keep them in mind.


Thanks for posting. It’s comforting to see that I’m not the only one in the same boat. I could imagine how tough it is to simply drop into Taiwan, and bravely go about your search. But then again, you mentioned that you have a job in the US already with a delayed start date. I’m sure that helps greatly. Now that you’ve decided to take the plunge, how are you faring over there?


It’s more or less a matter of determination whether you can find a good opportunity you want in Taiwan. You may start now to send resemes to foreigner-owned business firms, such as securities firms or securities investment & trust companies for internship in Taiwan, or to electronics companies for technical writing, with big possibility of being offered very good stock options and bonus from these reputable tech firms. I know a Canadian guy who came to Taiwan learning Chinese, and then found a job in a tech firm as a techinal writer. After two to three years, that company started up a subsidiary in the US, so this guy applied for going there. He got what he wants, with a bulk of stock options the company pays him on a yearly basis. He sold those stocks when the market was good, and then, you know…

I also know some foreigners who learn Mandarin here work as an editor in the financial sector. With an Economics major, that should be a plus.

But of course, those examples don’t guarantee you will be as lucky as them too. But be aggressive, and keep on trying should be able to enhance your chances to get what you want more quickly than your expectation.

Wish you good luck

Without going into detail, let me tell you this: being posted to Taiwan (or any foriegn country for that matter) pays well. Having a degree in business management and 16 years of living here has not enabled me to rustle up a managing job with an international firm. I have heard of other, similar situations.
But my real question to you is why bother with Taiwan at all? Just because you are ethnic Chinese, does this mean that you have to ‘seek your roots’? Not that this is necessarily wrong thinking, but you seem ready to start a career and as an oldster, I would advise you to get solid experience in your job field in the US before thinking of coming East.
On the other hand, if you are just wanting to bum around for a while, Taiwan is a place to do that, although I might suggest Thailand for its superior creature comforts and cheaper thrills (or so I have been told… ).
Or try mainland China. I hear Shanghai is a happening place these days.

Don’t think the dilemma on whether or not to go to Taiwan exists only for the recently-graduated.

I think that most folks who have spent any considerable amount of time in Taiwan are somehow pulled back more or less constantly. My husband and I are in that position.

What we have found is that although we have all the bells and whistles in the US (house, cars, etc.) the costs are extremely high (makes Taipei look like a free lunch, almost) because of all the required insurance (plus we live near Washington, DC which ain’t exactly a low-rent district). We find that the added financial pressure is a big negative for us, and we are seriously considering whether we might not prefer to live in Taiwan (a lifestyle which we both considered perfectly comfortable and respectable) while holding on to more of the lower salary he would earn (I make pretty much the same no matter where I am, which is somewhat unusual) and paying lower taxes.

What I see among the families and couples our age (er…mid-30ish ) in the States is that most are slaves to a mortgage. Owning a home is the American dream, but paying for it can be the American nightmare. I see families where both husband and wife must work full-time or more to make those payments, and during the year I taught high school here, I saw the effect this is having on the kids. It made me really nostalgic for my nice Taiwanese students and the way they slept, hamster-like, on each other during class breaks. But I digress.

The biggest factor for us is isolation. In the States, practically no one speaks to you. You have to be in some group (church, work, etc.) to be able to make friends with anyone. In Taiwan, it is enough just to be a grinning foreigner. At least anyone will chat with you, and I actually have more Taiwanese friends at this point (still in Taiwan) than I do American friends, because of the difficulty of reconstructing or constructing a social network after 7 years outside the States.

I don’t know if this helps you much or not, but at least this time when somebody tells you “I know what you mean,” you might actually believe it!

Let me know what you decide!

You could look for a job at home for a year or two and then come over.

  1. Got some experience in your field
  2. Maybe you are required to have the 1yr experience/maybe not for the ARC
  3. Learn/improve your Chinese

I don’t know anybody who gets posted over here and if they did they’d be 5-10 years older than you most likely.

Then you can improve your prospects a lot. There are great opportunities for young people with aptitude who work for companies here and you can advance very fast but be warned it’s hard work. Being from America you may be more expectant of this type of work environment. Long hours with
overinflated expectations of stock options.

The pay in business is lower in general compared to the US but you can often get a ‘foreigner rate’ which would be equal to the managers of the company. Taipei living expenses are expensive for Taiwan but cheap compared to Western countries.
However having said this I never did any of it and like most people started teaching English and waffled/used my English skills, jumped through a few jobs until I found a more relevant career job. English teaching pays big bucks here but unfortunately they will often try and discount your pay because you are an ABC. You may get lucky but that’s what I’ve seen myself already.

Taipei living expenses are expensive for Taiwan but cheap compared to Western countries
The tech companies here such as ViaTechnologies and U-Vision will hire you fresh off the boat sometimes, if you’d like to work in marketing.
Check the ads on this site in the business section and you can get an idea of the business jobs initially available. If you speak Chinese (or write) your pay will up 50%.

Helps to have a little experience first. Otherwise
you can do technical writing and move into something else when your Chinese is better and you know your way around. If you want to work in China this is a great bounce board too.

Come on over now or in a year or two. It’s a great experience no matter what happens.

There are many people who are in the same boat as us. The job in the US fell through, as I had expected, which is why I came back to see what life was like here. I must say though, if you are seriously thinking about a future here, then by all means come back here. But, I think it would still be best to get experience in the US first, and then come back here. Living here on a US salary is t-h-a-t much more comfortable. Plus, I think it’s very easy to get wander through life here and if you are on a ‘schedule’ , then maybe the US should still be your focus. As for me, I’m probably heading back soon. TW was fun, but I realized it’s probably not where I want to be right now, starting out. Maybe later on.

Please stay home. This place is already overcrowded.

Originally posted by DWF: I am double majoring in Economics... I don't think I would mind having lower wages in Taiwan, compared to those in the U.S. Besides, the standard of living is lower in Taiwan and the food is great!
You're an economics major and you don't know the diffference between standard of living and cost of living?! [img]images/smiles/icon_confused.gif[/img] Time to review, I think...

DWF, at the risk of sounding like Paulo Coelho…

In my opinion, there is no cookie-cutter answer. There are pros and cons to getting experience in the US first versus coming to Taiwan first. Your experience is what you make of it (either in the US or here), as no two people will have the same perspective or value systems.

Some people come here, work for a local firm, and walk away thinking that they got nothing out of it and wasted their time. Others had just the opposite experience. And sometimes it’s the fear of the unknown rather than the actual event itself that sets us back from trying new things.

(Obviously the Alchemist is fresh on my mind… sorry…)

It’s good to get feedback and do your due diligence (research) before taking action, but I say, don’t think about it too much. Make a decision and just do it.

You are just graduating and have many years ahead of you! Make the most out of it, think of it as just one stage of many more to come in your entire life, and stop doing it when you feel like you are no longer growing personally/professionally.

Hello Everyone,

I must first apologize to all of you for this very late reply. I’ve been busy with exams lately and have been avoiding excess computer use. I’ve been wanting to reply for a while just to at least thank all of you for your excellent suggestions and support. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to doing it until now.

I think, for now, I’ll try to get some experience here in the US first before going over. Hopefully I won’t get stuck in a routine and end up staying here too long. I really do want to see more of Taiwan, work there, learn more, etc.

As for the question that was directed at me as to why I am choosing Taiwan…I’m selecting Taiwan purely based on the fact that Mandarin Chinese is the national language there. Yes, Mainland China’s national language is Mandarin as well…but, I’ll save the opportunity of going to China for a later time. I’m a bit fearful of China and don’t want to get arrested for taking pictures (I take lots of pictures—it’s a joke, but I do love photography Nevertheless, I do indeed want to see Shanghai and hope it to be the first destination in Mainland China that I visit. I hear it’s a beautiful country

So back to the topic…I most likely will be staying here in the US for a bit (1-2 years). Some of my good friends are heading back to HK and Taiwan this summer and will let me know of how the job opportunities are like.

To the user named “Wish You Good Luck”, thanks for your input. But for some reason, I just don’t see myself being so lucky, hehe. I’ll take it to heart though. Eventually, hard work should pay off.

Btw Christine…what you said seemed quite comforting. It takes some bravery but certainly sounds exciting.

Ok, that’s it for now I guess. Thanks again for all the advice and comments. I’ll let you know what I end up deciding on