A mountainous island off the coast of mainland China, Taiwan is home to the tallest peak in northeast Asia, and has an abundance of nature reserves and hot springs. Expats moving to Taiwan will likely notice that space is a concern on the island – it has one of the highest population densities in the world.
Living in Taiwan as an expat
Taiwan has ultra-modern cities that still strongly uphold traditional Chinese culture while at the same time embracing a capitalist business culture that appeals to Western expats. As a result, many new arrivals find that the lifestyle in Taiwan is highly convenient – goods are easily accessible and both the public transport and healthcare are excellent.
Taiwan's main industries include electronics, industrial processing, and information and communications technologies. Expats looking to work in these industries should be highly qualified, as Taiwanese companies tend to employ skilled local workers. Those keen on working in Taiwan often take the route of working for an international company with a presence on the island and requesting a transfer. Otherwise, many young Westerners move to Taiwan to teach English.
Taiwanese are extremely friendly, helpful and gracious people. They will generally go out of their way to make visitors feel at ease. They pride themselves on being good hosts. Expats may find themselves asking a stranger for directions and be personally escorted to their destination and invited home for dinner. The language barrier is no obstacle to this hospitality and willingness to assist, as many locals can speak English.
Cost of living in Taiwan
Although cheaper than many of its neighbours, the cost of living in Taiwan is generally high – the capital city, Taipei, is by Taiwan's most costly city. Accommodation, which mostly consists of apartment living, can be expensive.
That said, public transport is extremely affordable. Local goods and produce and even eating out at local restaurants is cheap. Western goods come at a high cost, and those who choose to shop locally will save money they can spend elsewhere.
Expat families and children
Most expats choose to send their children to international schools in Taiwan, the majority of which are situated in the capital. International schools are extremely expensive though, and expats will therefore have to factor this into their budget or negotiate a school allowance into their contract.
Parents wanting to spend some quality with their family will be happy to discover that weekend getaways are possible no matter where in Taiwan expats live, thanks to the extremely efficient and affordable public transport system. Although the cities can be crowded, it's easy to spend a family day outdoors as nature is never too far away. There are also plenty of family-friendly attractions, such as the Taipei Zoo, for the kids to enjoy.
Climate in Taiwan
Taiwan has a tropical climate. Summers are hot and humid, and winters are mild. Although it rains all year round, the summer months are the wettest. Typhoon season sets in towards the end of summer and lasts until mid-autumn. Temperatures in Taiwan range from a high of 90°F (32°C) at the hottest time of the year to 54°F (12°C) at the coldest.
Taiwan is incredibly safe, and foreigners moving to the destination are unlikely to be affected by political tensions. In fact, those living there enjoy Taiwan's cultural richness, modern amenities and the island's embrace of the wider world.
Official name: Republic of China
Population: Around 24 million
Capital city: Taipei
Geography: Taiwan is an island characterised by a contrast between rugged mountains (which run in five ranges from the northern to the southern tip of the island), flat land and the gently rolling Chianan Plains in the west.
Political system: Semi-presidential republic
Major religions: Buddhism and Taoism
Main languages: Mandarin (official), Taiwanese Hokkien, Hakka and English (mostly in Taipei)
Money: The New Taiwan Dollar (TWD), which is divided into 100 cents
Tipping: Tipping is not standard, although it's unlikely to be refused if offered. Baggage handlers at hotels and the airport will accept loose change. Hotels and restaurants typically add a 10 percent service charge to the bill.
Electricity: 110V AC, 60Hz. 'Type A' two-pin plugs with flat blades and 'Type B' three-pin plugs with two flat blades and a grounding pin are commonly used.
Internet domain: .tw
International dialling code: +886
Emergency contacts: 110 (police), 119 (ambulance and fire)
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right. Taiwan has an extensive public transport system that is easily accessible and reliable.
►For info about the ups and downs of life in Taiwan, see Pros and Cons of Moving to Taiwan
►See Moving to Taipei, for more about living in the capital
"Taiwan has been chosen as one of the top cities in the world for expats, and for good reason. It’s safe, comfortable, convenient, welcoming, has delicious food, and there are loads of things to do, whether you like socializing in the city or exploring the great outdoors. No place is perfect, of course, and any complaints I’ve made are minor ones. Taiwan is my second home, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to experience a different part of the world with ease." Read Nick's thoughts on expat life in Taiwan.
"I wouldn’t say that I had culture shock because Taiwanese people are extremely kind and welcoming, but the biggest adjustment was the language. I couldn’t speak or understand any Chinese when I arrived, and that made daily tasks quite difficult." Learn more about Melanie's expat experiences in Taiwan.
Are you an expat living in Taiwan?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Taiwan. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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