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Teaching English in Taiwan

An Underrated Destination in Asia

Taiwan is an underrated destination for travelers and quite possibly the best place in Asia to teach English. First, there’s the money and the island’s insatiable demand for teachers. Beyond that, Taiwan has bustling cities which never sleep, an intriguing mesh of Chinese tradition and cutting-edge technology, dreamy mountains hazed in a sea of clouds, a coastline that rivals Hawaii, and friendly people who, as they define themselves against China’s threats, are currently in a period of self-discovery.

I have lived in Taiwan for the past six years. While Asia boomed, crashed, and now recovers I have consistently made good money. The average wage is NT$500-NT$700 ($15-$22) per hour and rising. The highest-paying jobs are generally at private kindergartens. There are also plenty of opportunities to teach older kids and adults at “bushibans” (private cram schools), though usually at a bit lower wage. Right now, there is a shortage of teachers all over the island. If you come, compare schools and be selective. If you get what you think is a great job offer, take it. But take nothing less.

Most schools prefer that you have a bachelor’s degree in any subject, though I know teachers here who have no degree. Previous ESL teaching experience or training is a plus, but it is not required. Usually, you will be asked to sign a 1-year contract. No two schools’ contracts are the same, so read them carefully. Pay special attention to contracts which require a deposit or threaten to fine you if you break the contract.

Americans can visit Taiwan for 14 days without a visa (with an onward or return ticket). If you plan to work in Taiwan, however, it is best to try to get at least a 2-month visitor visa before coming—the only visa you can get if you don’t already have a job lined up. The visitor visa prohibits you from seeking employment, so never admit that you plan to find. Say you are going to Taiwan to travel or study Chinese.

To obtain a resident visa, you must have a bachelor’s degree and present your diploma (not a copy) to the government as proof. (If you do not have a degree, it is still possible to find work, but you will not be able to able to receive a resident visa, you will have to work illegally and leave the country every month or two.)

To supplement your income, you will probably want to teach privately. You can find private students through friends, at your school, or in posted advertisements. The pay, negotiated between you and the student, averages $15-$25 per hour.

Low Living Costs: Taiwan is a great place to teach because not only are you well paid, you can live cheaply. Outside Taipei it is not difficult to find a 2- to 3-bedroom apartment for $190-$310 per month. Stay in a budget hotel or hostel and find a job first. (This should take less than a week.) Then ask a Chinese person at your school to help you find an apartment, or ask other expatriates if they know of available rooms. Empty apartments are abundant.

Food is also inexpensive—as long as you eat as the locals do. The Chinese are the true masters of creating delicious fast food. Cafeterias and street vendors are ubiquitous. The average dish with a portion of meat, vegetables, and rice or noodles cost $1.50-$2.50.

Take a couple of different jobs and a few private students and save money for travel around other parts of Asia. Or get enough hours at one school to support yourself and then pursue other interests, such as studying Chinese or tai chi. If you’re careful, you still may be able to save some money for travel.

For More Info

Lonely Planet—Destination Taiwan, www.lonelyplanet.com/taiwan

ROC Tourism Bureau, tiscsvr.tbroc.gov.tw/en/

On-Line Chinese Tools, www.mandarintools.com.

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