Discover why Taiwan is known as Ilha Formosa meaning ‘beautiful island’. From the hustle and bustle of Taipei to the beaches and tropical mountainous regions, Taiwan is a small country worth exploring. The cultural and religious hybrid of the island makes this a unique destination. Taiwan’s economy consists of both smaller businesses and international manufacturing companies, making it a stable economic environment and a thriving English language market. With its rugged mountains, unique landforms, and stunning coastlines, this island is a unique draw to ESL teachers and tourists alike.
Living in Taiwan Teaching English
Here you will find out what it is like living in Taiwan, from housing, to transportation, to food, etiquette, and culture.
Finding a Home in Taiwan
Most teaching contracts in Taiwan include a housing allowance or access to school-owned apartments. The low cost of living, relatively high salaried positions, and school assistance in accommodations, make Taiwan very popular with ESL teachers.
- Studio apartments are usually furnished with a bed, armoire, AC, desk and chair. Some apartments may also come with a microwave, hot plate, or toaster oven. Having a TV and fridge could be an extra expense. Monthly rent ranges from 7,500 – 10,000 TWD in Taipei and lower in other cities.
- Furnished one-bedroom apartments typically include a bed, armoire, desk, chair, fridge, and AC. Monthly rent in Taipei can range from 10,000 – 20,000 TWD.
- A furnished two- or three-bedroom apartment costs approximately 15,000 – 35,000 TWD/month, but can be cost effective if shared with other teachers.
Services are generally a separate fee on top of rent and can include garbage collection, lighting for hallways, and security, costing approximately 1,000/month TWD. Utilities usually include electricity, water, and gas for 1,000-2,000 TWD/month.
Health Care Benefits When Teaching English in Taiwan
All businesses and schools in Taiwan have access to government health insurance and most schools include this benefit in their contracts. While a school may only cover a percentage of the premiums, health care is excellent and still very affordable.
Having independent health insurance from your home country may be prudent until benefits with the school are fully activated.
Communications in Taiwan
Taiwan is one of the electronics manufacturing centers of the world and is considered ‘cutting edge’ in many respects. ESL teachers will find access to Internet and phone services easy and affordable. If they do not have Internet at their place of residence, their school will likely provide this to staff during working hours. Most coffee shops and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi to customers.
Mobile phones are inexpensive and require use of a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. The SIM card can be reloaded by use of calling cards, which are available everywhere. You will need one to two pieces of ID, including a valid alien residence card (ARC) to purchase a SIM card.
Transportation in Taiwan
There are a few great options for transportation in Taiwan. Consider the following for personal travel or getting to work:
Taxis are generally a cheap way to travel. If you choose to travel by taxi, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Flagging a taxi is best, as opposed to using those sitting and waiting for customers.
- Ask other foreign teachers which taxis are safe and reliable.
- Choose a taxi that is metered, and make sure the meter is working before getting in.
- Choose a taxi driver that appears to be well-groomed with a well-kept car.
- Make note of, and use, the driver’s name.
- Follow your instincts; if you feel unsafe, remove yourself from the taxi and get another.
- Carry a map so that you can point to your destination.
Train and Subway
The train system in Taiwan includes new high speed trains along the west coast, express trains that travel between cities, and other, slower trains which travel between towns. The trains are often packed on weekends, but relatively empty during the week.
Taipei and Kaohsiung have mass rapid transit systems (MRT) which are quite popular, and somewhat inexpensive. Both systems stop at major tourist attractions, a popular feature for ESL teachers who want to explore these cities.
City buses are readily available in Taipei, generally running on the half-hour. In smaller cities, routes are not as extensive or frequent, making other modes of transportation, such as a scooter, more appealing and feasible.
Scooters and Bicycles
Scooters are very popular with ESL teachers. Second-hand scooters are readily available and can be purchased for 10,000 – 20,000 TWD, and a new scooter typically costs 30,000 – 60,000 TWD. They can also be rented if you have a valid international or local motorcycle license. Bicycles are also common. When riding a scooter or bicycle, remember:
- Wear a helmet!
- Practice riding in a safe area before using it on main roads.
- Be cautious as roads in Taiwanese drivers can be aggressive
- Wear a mask to mitigate the effects of pollution.
- Take an extra shirt as the heat will make for a sweaty ride.
- Confirm that your scooter or bicycle was not stolen and resold.
- Ensure that your scooter or bicycle is well-secured when parked or stored.
Proper Etiquette in Taiwan
The Taiwanese are a gracious, respectful, family-oriented, people who value humility and patience.
- The nod is the most common greeting in Taiwan. The handshake is also common and expected among foreigners.
- Greet the eldest person in the group first to show respect.
- Taiwanese will generally lower their eyes as a sign of respect when being introduced.
- Address others using their title and surname. Wait until invited to use the first name before doing so.
- Dress professionally when teaching unless told otherwise.
- Avoid touching anyone on the head as it is disrespectful.
- Consult a Taiwanese friend before giving a gift to ensure it’s appropriate. Give and receive gifts with both hands and open gifts in private.
- Remove shoes when entering someone’s home.
- Tipping is expected for porters, hairstylists and other services, but not expected for taxis or waiters.
- As modesty is highly valued in Taiwan, playing down a compliment paid to you is considered proper etiquette.
- “Saving face” is an important part of Taiwanese culture and as such, showing respect, paying compliments, and avoiding harsh confrontation and blame is very important.
Dining etiquette in Taiwan is similar to other Asian cultures with some differences. Unless there is a well-established relationship, groups will likely dine at a restaurant instead of in one’s home. The host of the meal makes order selections, initiates toasts, and pays the bill. Following are some dining hints:
- Arrive on time and dress in business attire.
- Wait for the host to assign seating and to begin eating.
- Always try to leave a small portion of the meal on your plate to show the host/hostess has provided an adequate amount of food.
- Avoid putting bones on your plate. Put them on a specific plate provided or directly on the table.
- Never stand your chopsticks up in your bowl. This is considered an offering for the dead.
- A belch is not uncommon during a public meal as it is simply an indication that one is enjoying it.
- The serving of tea is an indication that the meal is ending.
- Put your hand over your mouth when using a toothpick.
- If it is within your means, reciprocating with a meal of comparable value is considered polite.
Many foreigners call Taiwan a “food heaven”. Local food markets offer a huge variety of fruits, vegetables, and seafood. Taiwanese cuisine is generally flavored with pork fat and spices such as ginger, anise, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Dried fish, fermented beans, and chili peppers are often used as well. Dairy products are uncommon but becoming more popular due to Western influence. Popular food choices for foreigners include:
- Shui Jiao (boiled dumplings with pork and/or vegetables)
- Zheng Jiao (steamed dumplings with pork and vegetables)
- Mochi (sweet snack dipped in peanut powder & filled with a variety of pastes)
- Steamed Buns (variety of savory meats inside)
- Chow Mein (pan-fried noodles with vegetables and meat)
- Ji Si Tang Mian (soup noodles with chicken)
- Xian Yu Tang (fish soup)
Climate in Taiwan
Taiwan enjoys a sub-tropical climate with moderate temperatures in the North, and a tropical climate in the South. The country’s average annual temperature is 73o rising to 95o in the summer. The weather fluctuates frequently during spring and winter. There are four seasons in Taiwan, but some contend that there are only two: hot, and cool.
- Spring: Usually runs from March to June, with temperatures climbing to meet the hot months of summer. The monsoon rains start in May and occur until October in the south.
- Summer: Generally, June to September with the temperature averaging 82o Fahrenheit. The tropical breezes from the Pacific keep the island from becoming too hot.
- Fall: Generally, from September to the end of October. Temperatures begin to drop, but remain very pleasant. The latter part of the monsoon occurs during the fall season in the northern parts of the country.
- Winter: Typically lasts from November to February. Temperatures average 59-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to the high humidity, most people wear multiple layers of clothing or a light jacket.
How to Get a Job Teaching English Abroad
Our Job Placement Service provides assistance with finding teaching jobs at ESL schools in Taiwan and around the world. If living in a vibrant city on a tropical island, experiencing another culture, and gaining teaching experience is a dream of yours, Taiwan may be your destination.
Our Job Placement Advisors provide timely job placement assistance to help make your experiences abroad as rewarding as possible.