Taipei, Taiwan Report of what it's like to live there - 04/03/23

Personal Experiences from Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan 04/03/23


1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Nope, I've lived in several countries in Asia and Europe.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

DC is home. Getting back requires a 12 hour flight to San Francisco first.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What years did you live here?


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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?


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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is made up of mostly 3 bedroom apartments in Neihu, Dazhi, Tianmu, and Daan. It's pretty spread out and the size and facilities vary greatly. The biggest challenge is deciding on living close to AIT (Neihu) or close to the schools in Tianmu. If the former, the kids have an hour bus ride. If the latter, you have a 45 min commute to work. If you live in Dazhi, kids still have a long bus ride but the commute to AIT is shorter. Our building's facilities are nice. They include a green space, indoor swimming pool, kids play room, gym, library. There's a park next door and you can walk to shopping and restaurants. There's an MRT stop a 10 min walk away and access to several buses. The apartments are small compared to US standards but big for Taiwan and there isn't much storage. The facilities are supposed to make up for the small size.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There's Costco and Carrefour so you can get almost everything you want. If not, you can get them shipped. The one item that drives me nuts is no turkey. Costs are similar to US grocery prices, sometimes a bit more.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?


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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

You can get almost any sort of food you like if you are south of the river. Tianmu has more western restaurants. Other neighborhoods have more Japanese and Taiwanese food. For many good local restaurants you need to speak or read Chinese.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Most housing has bugs (roaches). If you go out at night you will see cockroaches walking down the street. The guidance has been to "buy traps", which aren't always effective.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO mostly.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help is widely available and affordable compared to US standards, but you do need to sponsor their visa, which includes paying for health insurance and tickets back home. Some families have tried to get out of this by asking other families' helpers to work for them for one day a week.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are tons of gyms and prices are the same as the US. Most housing facilities have small gyms and pools and AIT has a small but functional gym.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

NO. It's a cash society, even at Costco! You need to make sure you have enough cash on you when you go out to eat or go shopping. Some places that accept cards will only accept one local bank card. You can also pay with some things via LINE Pay or your EasyCard.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Many churches will have one English service. I'm not sure about other religions.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You should have some Chinese (1-2 years). I guess you can get by with no Chinese but it limits you. Most young people speak English but older people don't.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Most places and public transport seem to be accessible.

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1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

MRT and buses are very affordable and easy with an EasyCard. Depending on where you live, you might not have access to them though. If you live in Tianmu, there isn't an option for public transit to AIT, although there is a shuttle. Tianmu doesn't have an MRT stop but there are buses.

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2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?

I wouldn't bring anything too big as parking is tight. We have a mid-sized SUV that seems fine. Many people purchase motorbikes locally. I would also bring a bike, although a part of the transit system allows you to rent bikes.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Wifi is fine and not very expensive.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I kept my US phone but also have a local phone which is inexpensive.

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1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Pets require a two week quarantine which is rough on them, but they seem to be fine after acclimating. Vet care is fantastic and reasonably priced. People here love animals and there are dog parks throughout the city. You will also see many dogs in strollers. There are also so many mountain dogs that need a home so many people adopt while here.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

AIT has limited EFM jobs compared to similar missions. They have a ton of rover jobs but only a handful of quality EFM jobs, and when jobs are available competition is high. I have heard that they cannot have EPAP jobs here. Working remotely is tough because of the time difference, so many EFMs don't work. It's definitely a morale issue, and there doesn't seem to be a desire from HR to change it. It's possible to work locally but only if you are fluent in Chinese.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

PACK Taiwan, Salt Collective, and the Community Services Center offer volunteer positions.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

AIT is business. Most other places are business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Taipei is ridiculously safe. Kids walk around with no worries. I know someone who left their wallet on the bus and someone found it and returned it to them no problem. There are many earthquakes here so that's something you need to get used to. There is also the occasional typhoon. Drivers tend to not follow rules which can be frustrating. You need to watch out for motorbikes and people drifting into your lane/driving in both lanes.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Healthcare is fantastic and AIT also has a health unit.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality tends to be good. There are days when it's not great and you should wear a mask but those are few and far between.

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4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

During COVID, it was hard to get off island as you needed to quarantine upon return. That was rough, but now things seem to be back to normal.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and humid April-October/November and then it cools down a little and rains November-March. Weather can feel like 100s in the middle of summer and can dip to 50s in the winter. You can escape the heat a little in the mountains. We were once in the mountains in January and it was in the 40s.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most people send their kids to Taipei American School (TAS) but some also send their kids to Taipei European School. TAS is fantastic. I can only speak for the lower school, but they push kids while making it fun. My kids have learned and grown so much, and the facilities are amazing. Families seem happy with TES but there is no school bus until Grade 3.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are English and blingual preschools available. Tiger Tots offers English language preschool ages 18 months-4 years. The pre-k is located at TAS but for 18months-3 years it is located at a separate building a 10min walk up the street. Many families send their kids to bilingual Little Lily for them to pick up Chinese. Tinkerseeds is in Dazhi. Families liked the English speaking environment but it only offers half day.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Sports are available through TYPA which is associated with TAS and runs Tiger Tots. There are so many options, everything a kid would want to do, TYPA has it. There are also local soccer programs and gymnastics programs. The American Club offers tennis and basketball lessons for members.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There is a relatively sizable expat community, mostly working in wind or tech. You will likely see the same people if you go to different expat events. Morale is ok, but many spouses would like to work.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are book clubs, mahjong clubs, fundraisers, cruises. FIT..Foreigners in Taiwan is a good Facebook group to join to get you started.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Single people seem to like living here. There is a vibrant nightlife and a lot to do south of the river.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

If you don't speak Chinese or aren't Asian American it's a little hard to break into local groups. Foreigners tend to hang out with each other. In the housing complexes, many locals will blame foreigners for issues or think that we all have COVID.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Taiwan is very LGBT-friendly!

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I know of.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

If you get out of Taipei, you will like Taiwan more. The beaches and mountains are beautiful. Be warned that local hotels are expensive and aren't high quality.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Night markets, hiking in Yangminshan, Maji Square.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

I haven't purchased anything really, but some people buy furniture, art, and pottery. There's a government-run auction in Neihu where people bid on furniture.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's safe and clean and the kids like school.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Shopping and parking aren't convenient. You need cash, stores don't open until later, there are a million people trying to buy things, stores are often out of basic things (like eggs).

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes and no.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

High heels

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4. But don't forget your:


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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Green Island. There are also a few Netflix documentaries on the food and nightlife scene.

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