Why Taiwan may be right or wrong for you

 After a lot of deliberation, and with a bit of inspiration from a fellow gold card holder who's post can be found here, I have decided to write a post about whether you will find Taiwan suitable to you. Please note, that the following are my own views and observations, and you should always try to seek as many opinions as possible before deciding whether Taiwan is for you. I have personally found that Taiwan is not the place for me, so if you are looking for a post that will affirm your decision to relocate to Taiwan, you may want to find an alternate blog, or perhaps you may decide my reasons are not a deterrent for yourself.

Before I get into details, there are a few cultural differences that I would like to highlight:

  • Taiwan is #1 - there is a mindset in Taiwan held by both locals and foreigners that Taiwan is the #1 place on earth, despite a lack of immigration or anything else to suggest it is indeed #1. This applies to handling of Covid, living standards, healthcare, education, etc. Being #2 or among the best just doesn't cut it here. As it's the #1 place for everything, there is nothing to improve.
  • Rinse and repeat - with a lot of things that foreigners see as potential issues, and areas that can be improved upon, there is tons of resistance to change. Take any government website, or better yet compare the website of a Taiwanese company such Giant in Taiwan to their websites in other countries and you will quickly see how dated the Taiwanese sites are. If you ask the locals if they prefer the existing interface or the western interface most will tell you they prefer things as they are. 
  • Work culture - for those from the west that are coming to work in Taiwan for a Taiwanese employer, you are about to experience a massive culture shock. Your attendance is far more important than your productivity, and your boss will insist that you do things as they've been done for the past 70 or so years. Same as above, innovation and any suggestions for improvements are going to be met with backlash. Don't expect to have the ability to work from home here, have flex times, or real time off. You are expected to show up and work.
  • Moving goal posts - this is a personal favourite of mine. Goals will be set, and as with any goals, not all can be achieved. Some try to learn from shortcomings and make improvements and adjustments as needed as they continue to attempt to reach their intended goals. Taiwan takes the opposite approach. If a goal isn't met, it isn't an issue at all. They just move the posts, and voila they've exceeded their goals. As Denis mentioned in his blog, it is essentially a culture that will reward mediocrity. 
  • Failure is not an option - Some say that a lot can be learned from failures. I personally believe this statement to be true. I have learned a lot from every failure I have encountered, and have no regrets regarding any of them. in my opinion there is very little to learn from success. In Taiwan the fear of failure is deeply ingrained and forms part of the reasoning as to why things do not change. The proven system and processes work and as such there is no reason to change anything. Change brings about an immense risk of failure. When someone tries to innovate if it fails or causes undesired consequences, the immediate reaction is to revert back to the old, and any future improvement suggestions will be met with, something along the lines of 'remember the time we tried and what happened'.
  • Foreigners in Taiwan - most foreigners in Taiwan are from the U.S. west coast. Keep this in mind when speaking to them as their expectations tend to be far different from those coming from the east coast, and the country north of them known as Canada. Most foreigners have embraced Taiwan as being #1, so expect any issue you raise to be met with equal or greater backlash than you will get from a local.

The gold card program and what it tries to achieve:

The gold card program was designed to bring foreign professionals to Taiwan to aid in the development and advancement of Taiwan both culturally and economically. Taiwan can benefit immensely from foreign talent in my opinion, in all categories covered by the gold card. But as mentioned above, they aren't likely to take advantage of the talent they are able to bring in and so the frustration builds.

Renting and banking:

This is the one thing almost everyone can agree with. You will not encounter two more difficult tasks when trying to settle in Taiwan then these too. Be prepared, be very prepared.

Money talks:

There are plenty of places around the globe that will happily allow foreigners in for them to spend their money. They tend to see the value both in terms of having foreigners in their respect countries to share cultures and to boost their economy. Taiwan expects more. Taiwan wants your tax money and spending. If you are planning on relocating to Taiwan, you should create  tax plan prior to arriving to ensure you do not get double taxed. 

Language barrier:

I cannot stress this enough. The language barrier in Taiwan is massive. I believe this may be more of a deterrent for tourists, but it is definitely a massive obstacle for those looking to relocate here. The government of Taiwan has a goal of making Taiwan bilingual by 2030, and it is pretty close to 2022 now. I will gladly revisit this issue in 2030 to see whether the goal has been achieved or whether the posts have been moved. I am personally placing bets on the posts getting moved, as there appears to be no plan in place to accomplish this goal.

Cost of living:

I have tried to find a way to compare the cost of living in Taipei to other cities, and this is proving to be extremely difficult even though I m an accountant. A failure on my part that I am working to rectify. But for now, all I can say is that the cost of living in Taipei is comparable even not higher than NYC. Some will tell you that Taipei is just like NYC, and if it is than it implies that I have never been to New York City, or that I am not living in the same Taipei as everyone else. Expect your standard of living to drop here. People will tell you that the cost of living is really cheap, and yes it is possible to live very cheaply in Taipei, if you are willing to live like a local poor person. If you are coming here to increase your standard of living at a lower cost you will be highly disappointed. I highly recommend you do your homework and look at the cost of rentals, their location, and what he place will be like. Browse the websites of grocery stores, liquor prices, and eating out. Keep in mind that for dishes served in the markets and restaurants the quantity of food you will get will likely be no where near what you get at home. Be sure to factor in the salaries in Taiwan and the difference becomes even more pronounced.

Availability of products:

Any items I have tried finding in Taiwan has required a scavenger hunt, and when you do find it be prepared to pay a hefty price for it. Foreigners will tell you that you can find anything you want it Taiwan. This is very true if you want a type of an item and don't care about what it is. I am not certain exactly why, but I always use mayonnaise as an example. You can find mayonnaise, it's true, but most places only carry one mayonnaise. So if all you are after is mayo, you will find it, on the other hand if you are used to having a selection of over 20 mayos to choose from you will find yourself disappointed. This applies to everything. When it comes to electronics the selection is even slimmer as a lot of brands just don't exist in Taiwan.

Learning Mandarin:

This is a massive problem in my opinion. There is really nothing set up to help foreigners learn mandarin. You can read all about my experiences trying to learn mandarin here. I have tried learning mandarin on my own, but I would not recommend this approach to anyone. Here are a few high level observations about learning Mandarin in Taiwan. First and most importantly mandarin refers to the spoken language. If you love the characters, you should note that speaking and writing are two separate languages. Second, in Taiwan they still use the zhuyin method, whereas in China they use Pinyin. China has also changed to simplified characters whereas Taiwan still uses traditional characters. In other words the mandarin you will learn in Taiwan will only be suitable to Taiwan. Third, it costs more to learn mandarin in Taiwan than it does to learn English, which I still cannot grasp.

Privacy and security:

Don't expect any in Taiwan. There are millions of cameras everywhere capturing everything. Every service that you wish to sign up for including online shopping requires your full identification and a verification process. Be prepared to give out your ID number, full name, date of birth, and number to anyone and everyone. There are places where when you sign up in person, the employee will use their personal phone to take pictures and capture all of your information, for example while signing up for a gym membership. The employee you deal with at any business will add you to their personal Line account for communication. 


I do consider myself somewhat of a foodie, mostly in the sense that I love food and love trying new things. You will find that you will quickly run out of local Taiwanese food options. Not only that but I find the local dishes quite bland. It is not the type of food I consider Chinese food probably because in Toronto I became very accustomed to Cantonese, and Sichuan cuisines. Taiwanese cuisine typically does not include rice or noodles and no sauces. A market with 100 stalls in it can be dwindled down to 5, and they compete between them on a very subtle change, typically a half teaspoon of salt. Eating anything other than local foods will most likely break the bank, so if you do enjoy variety, be prepared to pay up for it. 

Real estate:

Real estate tends to be very expensive in all of East Asia, but typically this is a direct result of supply and demand, but not in Taiwan. Over the past year the Taiwanese population declined by roughly 100,000, while new residential buildings continue to be erected. You can find entire buildings and neighborhoods that are fully vacant, and yet if you look at the cost of rent and sales you will notice that every month the price of both increases. I don't quite understand the logic here, but it is really what it is.

China, China, China - if you believe that China is the devil and hell on earth, then welcome home. Taiwan has a tendency to blame anything and everything on China, and the locals will love you for your anti China stance.


Having arrived here in March, I came at the tail end of winter. The summer here is truly unforgiving. It is extremely hot and humid and it constantly rains. I might feel differently about the winter, but I doubt I would want to survive another summer in Taiwan. Shouldn't forget about the earthquakes either. As Taiwan sits on a fault line, there are constant earthquakes.

Why Canadians and Californians tend to see Taiwan so differently?

There is definitely a very large gap in the way Californians and Canadians see Taiwan and what they find attractive:

  • Cost of living - San Francisco and Los Angeles are both ridiculously expensive, and as a result those arriving from here find the cost of living in Taiwan far lower. The standard of living is higher and cost of living is lower in Toronto. In Toronto you can really get anything and everything you may want
  • Healthcare - Canada has government healthcare which is funded by tax dollars, and as such no one has to pay for it. The Taiwan healthcare system is an insurance scheme, whereby each person has to pay their premiums to be covered. The US has no true healthcare plan and as such Americans view this as a plus in Taiwan. Plenty of local Taiwanese are not covered as they do not pay their premiums. As a side note about healthcare in Taiwan, hospital stays only include medical care. This means that if you need personal care while you are at the hospital for instance grooming and feeding you need to hire someone to provide you with these services.
  • Safety - I have to admit that safety always seems to be a massive concern in the US, but it isn't to the same extent in Canada
  • Transportation - there is a transit system in Taipei, but then again there is a transit system in all of the major cities in Canada. The difference between NYC, Toronto and Taipei, is that Toronto and NYC are both essentially a giant grid and you can get everywhere by going north or south. Taipei on the other hand is not, which means if you live in a neighborhood without the subway it will take a long time to get anywhere. For instance where I live it takes me nearly 20 minutes by foot to get to the subway station. Even though I live within a 5 minute walk to a bus station ,there is no bus that will take me to the subway station due to how the roads are laid out. If you wish to be able to use transit I strongly recommend living next to the MRT station in Taipei as otherwise you will face quite the commute. Also, due to the number of stops, transit is actually quite slow for the distances covered.
  • Friendly - the Taiwanese are definitely friendly, but so are Canadians, but obviously different for Americans.
Aside from the English teachers that come to Taiwan, you will find that most foreigners fall into one of the following categories with respect to the gold card program:
  • Were here before Covid and were looking for a long term solution for staying
  • Have Taiwanese significant others
  • Choose to learn Mandarin in Taiwan
  • Those that were assigned or found employment in Taiwan but were unable to enter with only a work permit
  • Have a Taiwanese family background or returning to support family members
  • Those that traveled here and fell in love. Some still love, and some realize that being on vacation somewhere is not the same as living somewhere (guilty)

Overall if I were to summarize Taiwan I would refer to it as the 'Good Place'. For those that haven't seen the show you might want to. It's clever with tons of laughs and a great cast. It's #1 and everyone will keep telling you how great it is, so how can you not love being in the greatest place on earth?

I hope this helps you in figuring out whether or not Taiwan is a suitable place for you.


  1. I agree with everything you said apart from the fact that the majority of foreigners in Taiwan are Southeast Asians. They just don't get visibility and are often not present in discussion boards because they are paid less than minimum wage and often don't have a life (many are expected to work 24/7).

    1. I fully agree. Should have phrased it much better. Was referring to western foreigners in Taiwan.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Goodbye Taiwan

Scooter license in Taiwan