With the ESL market expanding rapidly, Taiwan has become a popular expat destination, especially with younger expats. Like with most destinations, a move to this East Asian island comes with ups and downs. While the warm weather and plentiful travel opportunities have drawn many expats in, the culture shock and language barrier have also shortened many an expat's stay in Taiwan.
Below are some of the biggest pros and cons of living in Taiwan.
Accommodation in Taiwan
+ PRO: Affordable accommodation is easy to find
Accommodation in Taiwan can be expensive in certain areas, but it won't take much effort to find an affordable place that suits an expat's needs, even if they only speak English. There are plenty of dedicated groups on social media for foreigners looking for accommodation for long- or short-term stays in Taiwan.
- CON: May not meet Western standards
The downside to accommodation in Taiwan is that apartments aren't all that modern and are generally rather small. Humidity also affects accommodation significantly. Apartments in Taiwan can get hot and humid in the summer months, and although most have air conditioning, cooling it down will result in high electricity bills.
Quality of life in Taiwan
+ PRO: Taiwan is safe
Taiwan is a safe destination, more so than what many expats may be used to. It's possible to walk around alone in most cities, even at night.
- CON: Air pollution is a reality
Taiwan suffers from extreme air pollution. This is especially the case in larger cities such as Taipei. It's not uncommon to see residents walking around with face masks. There are also times when the air pollution gets so bad that residents are advised to stay indoors.
- CON: Taiwanese cities can be crowded
Large cities in Taiwan tend to be crowded and noisy. The cities are densely populated, which can come as quite a shock to expats. Expats who are used to space and quiet will need some time to get used to the hustle and bustle of Taiwanese cities.
Lifestyle in Taiwan
+ PRO: Entertainment is easy to find
Taiwan has a variety of things for expats to do in their downtime. It's very easy to find beautiful spots where expats can spend a day enjoying the outdoors, and Taiwan also has a fun nightlife scene. Most expats and locals are open and friendly, making it easy to find someone to have a drink with, even if it's on short notice.
+ PRO: Delicious and affordable food
The food scene in Taiwan is incredible. Street food is delicious and friendly to the wallet and can be found everywhere. Convenience stores like 7-Eleven also make it easy for residents to get tasty food on the run. Even going out for a night or eating at a nice restaurant in Taiwan is very affordable compared to the prices in most Western countries.
- CON: Expats will experience a language barrier
One of the biggest struggles for expats moving to Taiwan is the language barrier. Mandarin is famously hard to learn for those who haven't grown up speaking it. With the language so hard to learn, it can affect different aspects of expat life, like going to the grocery store, setting up banking or even going to the doctor.
Visa regulations in Taiwan
+ PRO: Possibility of Employment Gold Card
- CON: Visa regulations can be complex
Visa regulations in Taiwan can be complex and may require a lot of paperwork. There can also be strict conditions for obtaining and renewing visas. It's essential to thoroughly research the requirements and be prepared for the process.
Getting around in Taiwan
+ PRO: Excellent public transport options
The public transportation in Taiwan is excellent. Taiwan has a wide range of options, including trains, subways and buses. To add to this, public transport is also very cheap. This makes it easy and affordable for expats to get around the island.
+ PRO: Google Maps is available
An issue many foreigners experience in Asian countries is that navigation apps in their home language aren't available. That said, new arrivals can rest assured that they can still use their favourite navigation apps like Google Maps in Taiwan.
- CON: Strict rules on public transport
Taiwan has stringent rules when it comes to using public transport. This especially applies to the subway system. Some expats may be shocked to find that they aren't even allowed to drink water on the subway. The reason for these strict rules is to keep these areas clean.
- CON: Driving can be dangerous
Many expats choose not to drive in Taiwan. This is because roads tend to be congested and dangerous to drive on. Taiwanese locals often drive scooters and may not always follow the rules of the road. This can take some getting used to. It's therefore advised for expats to stick to public transport.
Weather in Taiwan
- CON: Summers can be sweltering
Summers in Taiwan can take some getting used to. Temperatures can get extreme, with highs ranging between 80°F and 87°F (27°C and 31°C). What makes summers even more extreme is the intense humidity Taiwan experiences, which increases the real-feel temperatures considerably.
- CON: Typhoons and heavy rain occur frequently
Like many Asian destinations, Taiwan suffers through an annual typhoon season. Typhoon season in Taiwan usually lasts from July until September. This season is characterised by extreme rain showers, thunderstorms and strong winds. Expats need to invest in proper raincoats and umbrellas if they want to survive the Taiwanese rainy season.
+ PRO: Winters are mild
Winters are famously mild in Taiwan. Average lows range between 54°F and 58°F (12°C and 15°C) during the day, while nighttime temperatures in the northern region of Taiwan can dip to the mid 40°F range (below 10°C).
► For more information on Taiwan, read Frequently Asked Questions about Taiwan
►For the ups and downs of life in the capital, read Pros and Cons of Moving to Taipei
"I loved that Taiwan was different enough from home to feel exotic, yet modern and developed enough to be comfortable. I loved the hospitable people. I loved how easy it was to get around by public transportation. I loved the street food, how cheap it was, and how it was available anywhere, at all times. I loved that I could buy beer from 7-Eleven and drink it anywhere. I loved that nature, hot springs, a dormant volcano, and beaches could easily be enjoyed as day trips from Taipei. I loved learning to speak Mandarin. In fact, I loved Taiwan so much that the Chinese title of my book was 'Foreigner Loves Taiwan' (it sounds better in Chinese)." Read more about Nick's expat experience and how he adjusted to life 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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