Stay in taipei with the cushy gig or head south for the $$$?

hi all,

my gf and i are considering moving out of taipei and down south when our contracts runs out this summer but aren’t sure if we should or where we would go if we do. i’ve heard that you can put away alot more $ once yer out of the city, so that’s a motivation. Also, living somewhere a bit more nature oriented than taipei is a pleasant prospect as well.

the thing is though, we have (so far) a decent work situation in the city and wonder if we wouldn’t be shooting ourselves in the foot by giving it up. both of us teach adults at the same private college 14 hours/16 hours a week. the school lets us determine our own curriculum, only giving us a general theme to abide by and a specific time to teach it. the school doesn’t give a shit about what we do in the classroom, or whether or not the students learn anything. the school gets paid, the students get their A and everyone is happy. yes, it’s a diploma factory but what buxiban isn’t? ignoring the laughability of the degrees offered by the school though, i take my classes and my students desire to learn seriously. at the beginning of the semester, regardless of the radically mixed levels of students the office has placed in my class i evaluate each student and tell them whether should remain in the class or switch to one of the higher or lower level ones. if they want to learn english, i help them. if they want to get an A, the school gives them that anyway. i use good textbooks for my listening and pronunciation courses, assign my students english novels and newspaper articles for my advanced reading classes, demand essay’s and weekly journals from my writing classes, and i make syllabi, midterms, finals, quizes and lesson plans for every class. the students who are serious love it, the slackers dropped out after a few sessions.

aside from the fraudulent nature of calling where i work a “college” this has been much more satisfying and rewarding than the cram schools we’ve worked for. we enjoy teaching adults, and genuinely like many of our students. while pay at the school isn’t much (600 NT an hour) we get paid 4 hours for every 3.5 we teach and there is no bullshit with office hours. we show up, teach two classes in the morning or evening and leave when the’re over. this leaves alot of time free for more lucrative, but way less stable one on ones. also, we get a month off between semesters(unpaid. but gives us alot more freedom to travel than most of friends) and have the option of teaching summer school if we want.

so, here’s the question: would we(two CELTA certified, late 20’s americans with loads of experience) just be setting ourselves up for disappointment and frustration ala shiesty buxibans if we headed down south in a few months? is the money you save really that much better and worth it? can you find fulltime or ARCable work teaching adults?

is the grass greener, or is it all just astroturf and promises?

also, where do you guys like living? we have off until the 20th of feb for CNY and are travelling a bit to check out other places. any recommendations?


First I have to say that I’ve always lived in Taipei, so I might be a bit prejudiced in its favor. :smiley:

The job you describe sounds pretty darn good, though. If it were me, I’d stay there and pick up a couple of privates (erm…I mean, help a couple of friends with their English and then deposit the money you happen to find in red envelopes lying around your house in your savings account, because naturally privates are technically illegal…I guess… :wink: )

I’ve known people doing only privates to bring in 60-70K per month, and the guy I’m thinking of also had a part-time teaching job at a school (I hired him because he was a great teacher). Same sort of setup you describe, although he probably had fewer hours because his was a part-time job.

With the schedules you describe, it should be possible to get out of Taipei on nice trips fairly often. And there are lots of nice places near Taipei too. If you really went all around Yangmingshan, for instance, it would take quite awhile.

You might want to check into how easy it might be to “rearrange” class schedules when you want to – i.e., rescheduling the time slots with the students (with or without the administration’s knowledge depending on the situation) so that you could take longer trips if you wanted to.

Again, though, I freely admit to loving Taipei.

Unless you live in a really tiny village in the mountains, you can’t get much closer to nature than in Taipei. We’re surrounded by mountains you know and there’s a 100km of biking trails along the rivers. You aren’t going to get that anywhere else.

Look into moving to Muzha, Tienmu, Neihu, or Xindian. Where I live in Muzha I am 1 minute from the river. From my house I can walk up to the mountains through the university and be on trails that literally go on for hours and hours. It’s clean, fresh, and convenient. Smaller towns in Taiwan are on average dirtier, less convenient, and offer far less chance to get out into clean nature unless you have local guides.

We have a hiking club that goes out most weekends. We never venture more than an hour from the capital. Don’t need to. We swim in clean rivers in the summer (one of our favorites is only a 30 minute ride from the Zoo), and enjoy gorgeous scenery and challenging trails in the other parts of the year. Haven’t seen you guys out on any trips. Before you go looking for nature down south, check out what’s in your own back yard.

As for money, you really only save on rent. Food, clothing, utilities will be the same. Transporation may be a bit less if you currently take the MRT but will switch to a scooter. With two of you together that means maybe an extra Nt10,000 a month savings. Since relocating is going to cost money both in transportation and lost wages, you will need probably a half year to recoup the loses with the extra money you have. At the end of a year you may be NT50-60,000 ahead. Is that worth giving up a job you like? Unless you are committing to two years down south I doubt the relocation would be worth it.

Good advice from the Mucha Man and Ironlady although they failed to mention the superior winter weather down south. :slight_smile:

The cost of renting in Taipei is high but in this case it is split between two so it’s not too much of a burden. It is easier to save money outside of Taipei, partly because there are so many great dining places in Taipei where you can spend your money. However, the costs of moving and settling in would be more than any extra savings unless you plan on staying put for several years.

Nemesis’ two cents:

I’ve just spent over 5 years “down south”.

What Mucha Man said about Mother Nature is true; usually the jobs down south are in cities without Taipei’s infrastructure. These cities (Taichung,
Chiayi, Tainan and Kaohsiung) tend to be dirtier and have all of the things that you hate about Taipei in abundance. The traffic and pollution are worse and everything is less organised.

If you move to a smaller town, there will be less selection in terms of jobs and there will likely be a gutter just outside your house or flat. It will stink to high heaven. And that’s in winter; you don’t want to smell it in summer! As a teacher, you’ll find the students functioning at a far lower level than in Taipei, at least in general; they’re not nearly as exposed to it on a regular basis. The pace is much. much. slower. Though this could also be seen as an advantage.

On the plus side, getting into the country (the pretty part, anyway) will be easier; likely it won’t be further than half an hour’s drive. You’ll be able to rent a house for the same price as a paltry “studio” flat in Taipei, and everything in general is cheaper. If you really are in a small town or village, you probably won’t buy too much except on your “provisions trips” to the city, so saving money will be a piece of cake. Sweet, oily, village bakery cake…mmmmm…fish floss… As for the people, country people are generally far less cosmopolitan (of course!) and are usually very friendly and willing to help, but it might be a good idea to pick up some Taiwanese (and to get used to being stared at). You will be an oddity, but usually people will be nice enough, and you’ll make a lot of friends (meaning that helping you and telling friends about it will give them face). Use it to your advantage, and many of them may become friends for life. Picking up Chinese will be easier too; it’s often a matter of necessity.

My advice is to stay put unless you can get an offer at a school that you know can offer you both what you want. You sound happy where you are (in terms of work) and are not likely to find anything comparable, though some of the colleges/ universities may have something available as a lecturer, etc).

Please note that I’ve never spent a significant amount of time on the east coast, so I’m not speaking for anyplace there.

I cant say anythign to the teaching aspect, but my wife is taiwanese and as such we visit kaohsiung about 2 weekends per month, but live and work in taipei for me.
Assuming the pay is comparable you will end up saving quite a bit of money, from all the little things.
A meal at McDonalds will cost the same in both taipei and kaohsiung, but rent, bento type meals, market fresh foods, and other assorted stuff tend to be cheaper in the south. Although you dont really need to get far outside of taipei before costs start dropping, it just has to do with population density, and modernization. You will save money in NT10 and 100’s but it will add up for day to day life, and mostly be noticable in better housing, for the same price or lower.

All this aside, i would still opt for taipei, because my chinese is bad enough, and further south you go the more english turns into taiwanese making communication that little bit harder. And your farther removed from some of the high tech conviences of modern life im accustomed to :-).

dont give up the cushy gig in Taipei…take a long term vacay or leave of absence for one semester and go down south and substitute someones classes for a while. I love Kaohsiung, but Taipei is more long-term liveable over the 3 yr mark.