3 Reasons to Teach English and Live in Taiwan
| Inside a Buddhist temple in Taiwan.
In today’s climate of financial uncertainty, where layoffs are rife and jobs are increasingly hard to find in many Western countries, more and more people are looking to Asia for employment.
Different countries in Asia attract different types of workers. Taiwan is an especially attractive locale for recent graduates with student loans to pay and travelers looking to make a quick buck. There are several reasons for this. Jobs for English teachers are abundant, the requirements are minimal, and the pay is generous. The cost of living in Taiwan is low, the climate is very pleasant, and the people are very welcoming to foreigners.
The single most common job for Westerners in Taiwan is teaching English. But there are lots of places in Asia to teach English, you may say. Why Taiwan?
Reason #1: Money
There are three major English teaching destinations in Asia: Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. It is easy to find work teaching English almost anywhere in Asia, but most countries other than these three are relatively poor and can only afford to pay teachers a living wage.
The pay for teaching English relative to the cost of living is best in Korea. Taiwan is a close second, with jobs that pay from US$18 - $25 per hour and a cost of living (depending on where you live) that ranges from one-half (big cities) to one-quarter (rural townships) of the cost of living in Western countries. Japan comes in last in this respect, not because the pay in Japan is lower than in Korea or Taiwan, but because the cost of living there is relatively high
Reason #2: Climate
Whereas Japan, and Korea have very cold winters, Taiwan is a sub-tropical island that straddles the Tropic of Cancer. Southern Taiwan is on the same latitude as places like Puerto Vallarta Mexico, and Northern Vietnam. Once you get away from the cities you quickly realize that Taiwan is just as beautiful as many of the tourist destinations of South East Asia, with sand beaches, palm trees, and lush jungles.
Reason #3: People
Japan and Korea both have long histories of xenophobia. Although they are improving, and are certainly not bad countries to live in, they are not as welcoming as Taiwan. Korean men have a reputation for being fighters, and sometimes take exception to seeing foreign men dating Korean women. Although many teachers live in Korea a long time and have no problems, incidence of violence against foreign teachers in Korea are certainly more common than in Taiwan or Japan where fights are almost unheard of.
Taiwan as a country and as a culture is very eager to join the international community. This is apparent in their treatment of foreigners. While many Taiwanese are unaccustomed to seeing foreigners, and will stare in amazement when they see us, the majority of Taiwanese are extremely eager to help and get to know us. Many teachers arrive in Taiwan and find that they need a Taiwanese person to co-sign their apartment lease. This need is usually filled surprisingly quickly by a friendly co-worker or acquaintance who—after knowing you just a week or two—is willing to take the responsibility. Foreigners are given free entrance to many bars where Taiwanese have to pay. And, although this is changing, police have been known to turn a blind eye to foreigners’ traffic violations.
Many expatriates in Taiwan liken their experience to that of being a rock star. The fast easy money, extra attention, and special treatment that they receive makes them feel like celebrities.
A Note on Choosing Your Destination in Taiwan
When choosing the country where you want to teach English, there are a multitude of factors to consider—many more that could be discussed in this article (see Teaching English in Taiwan: The Vital Information by the author for more detail.) Where you should go depends on what you are looking for. Many people leave Taiwan to teach in Thailand, where they find the atmosphere more relaxed and the beaches more beautiful, but make barely enough money to get by. Many people leave Taiwan for Japan because they are not comfortable in less-developed Taiwan, where pollution clouds the streets, you can often smell the open sewers, and food preparation hygiene standards are less stringent.
Many factors come into play when deciding where you will be most comfortable in Asia. No single article could take the place of personal research into the aspects of that are most important to you. I strongly suggest that you read more articles on TransitionsAbroad.com, and other websites relating to people’s experiences in different countries in Asia. There are people that love and hate each one. Find out why and with whom you most identify. Although I take the above factors to be the most important in deciding where to live—and feel that Taiwan is the best place in Asia to teach English—mine is but one opinion. The only things that will make your transition to teaching English in Asia as comfortable as possible are preparation, research and, most importantly, an open mind.
Useful Taiwan Links
Official Government Website
A website that covers almost anything that you would like to know about the legalities involved in living in Taiwan.
This is a very useful site with articles about living in Taiwan, a weather report, and classified ads where you can look for jobs.
Taiwan’s largest English forums website with forums about every topic that you can think of (and then some...) related to living in Taiwan, all moderated by experts in each topic.