Taiwan is one of the best countries in the world. Everyone should learn more about this bastion of democracy in Asia, which also happens to be the best kept tourism secret in Asia. There is so much here to do and explore, and thanks to a great quality of life it has been constantly named one of the best places for foreign expats to settle.
For those of you that are new to Taiwan or know little about it, we have created this short listicle to help educate you about this amazing country.
1. Taiwan is Not Your Home Country 臺灣不是你的家鄉
You are not in Kansas anymore. One of the initial stages of culture shock is to look at all the negative aspects of a new culture by comparing it to one’s home country. If you do compare, try to find the good things about Taiwan that your home country lacks; this way you will have a much happier and fulfilling experience in Taiwan. Taiwan is a separate country with different history, customs, and beliefs than your home country, so you should forget everything you know about your culture and accept Taiwan for what it is. Come to Taiwan with a good attitude, and you might learn something!
The best advice I can give is when in Rome, do as the Romans do. If you mimic what other Taiwanese people do, you might find that they do things better than your home country, and you will discover new things about the human experience.
2. Taiwan is Not Part of China 臺灣不屬於中國
If you are a foreigner in Taiwan claiming that Taiwan is part of the People's Republic of China, you are going to offend a lot of people here. Even if this is a view that you truly believe because Taiwan is not in the U.N. or whatnot, just keep it to yourself. Taiwan is an independent Nation for all intents and purposes. Which leads me to my next point.
3. Taiwan is a Free and Independent Nation! 臺灣是個自由獨立的國家！
If you respect democratic freedom, you should also respect Taiwan independence, or at least recognize the current status quo that means Taiwan an independent nation state, even if it is a geo-political absurdity and not recognized by most of the world. Taiwan has its own independent democratically elected government. It was the first country in Asia to legalize gay marriage. It has its own military, legal system, tax system, and immigration system. Also, it has a unique culture and history separate from PRC China.
4. Most Foreign Residents are from Southeast Asia 大部分的外國人來自東南亞
Most foreigners in Taiwan are blue collar laborers are from Indonesia, Vietnam, The Philippines, and Thailand. According to Taiwan's government database, there are 657,983 foreign blue collar workers in Taiwan as of July 2017. Most of these people either work in manufacturing or caring for Taiwan's elderly.
Most of your fellow foreigners in Taiwan are from Southeast Asian countries coming here to do blue collar jobs that nobody else wants to do for very long hours and for very low wages. We want to give them a voice and hope these people are not forgotten.
5. Taiwan is Not Thailand! 臺灣不是泰國
I don't understand why people get these places mixed up. Taiwan is way different from Thailand. Just because they both start with the sound "tie" and are countries in Asia does not make them the same. Go study some geography!
6. Taiwan is Not Taipei! 臺灣不是臺北
Many Foreigners come to Taiwan only to visit sights around Taipei, and then leave not seeing all that Taiwan has to offer. Chinese Taipei is a fake country. It is the country of the sky dragon 天龍國, full of many idealistic and westernized Taiwanese that have been abroad and are rich. The Middle, South, and East are the real Taiwan. Taipei City is only one city in Taiwan and only has less than 12% of its population and .01% of its land area. New Taipei, Keelung, and Taipei City only account for 33% of Taiwan's population and 7% of its land area. If you have only been to Taipei City and call yourself a Taiwan expat, you are not; you are a sky dragon expat. There is much more of Taiwan to be explored.
7. Taiwan is Safe 臺灣很安全
Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world; it was named in the top global peace index and was named the safest country in the world in 2016. People are not allowed to own guns in Taiwan. You don’t need to worry about getting mugged in the street when you are here, being racially profiled by police, or walking alone on the street at night. People here are nice to people they don't know, especially if they are from a vibrant (rich) foreign country. Also, Taiwan is politically stable, even with pressure from China.
8. Taiwan is Relatively Cheap 臺灣的東西比較很便宜
Take a look at some of the commodities above! The cost of living in Taiwan is relatively low, and Taiwan has one of the best standards of living in Asia and the world.
9. Taiwan Has the Same Population as Australia 台灣的人口跟澳洲一樣
Australia's population is about 25 million. Taiwan's population is about 24 million. There are lots of people packed onto this island.
10. Taiwanese People are Super Friendly 臺灣人很友善
Taiwanese people are really nice, especially to foreigners. Many love to practice English and make foreign friends. It might be one of the most foreign friendly countries in the world. Also, if you need your picture taken, you can be sure Taiwanese people will be happy and willing to help, and they will not steal your camera. Need directions? They are happy to help even if it is in broken English. Need to use the restroom in the middle of nowhere? I was camping in the middle of nowhere and suddenly had explosive diarrhea. The neighbors nearby let me take a shower in their house and showed me to the nearest clinic. They are genuinely the nicest people on the planet.
11. Taiwan is Convenient 臺灣很方便
Taiwan is one of the most convenient countries in the world. There are almost 10,000 convenience stores, putting them in walking distance for most people. It is hard to tour Taiwan without seeing a 7-11, Family Mart, OK Mart, or Hi-Life everywhere you go. These stores also let people pay their bills with cash, purchase travel tickets, print pictures, ship and receive packages, buy everyday items, and much more.
In addition, Taiwan has some of the most convenient public transport anywhere, from the MRT, lots of buses, to the train and high speed rail.
Also, health clinics are everywhere, and even if you don’t have insurance a checkup is very affordable. A normal checkup is no more than $30 USD, and if you are enrolled in NHI, the copay will range from $2 - $8 USD.
12. Taiwan's Healthcare is Perhaps the Best in the World 台灣健保是世界第一
Taiwan has recently received a lot of press for its great response to the Covid-19 outbreak. But Taiwan has had a world class universal healthcare system for decades, known as National Health Insurance (NHI). People have long been coming to Taiwan for "medical tourism," due to Taiwan's low cost and high quality medical care. In this article we will answer common questions about Taiwan's healthcare system and why it is perhaps the best in the world. For more info, check out our healthcare FAQ here.
13. Taiwan Has Great Public Transportation 臺灣的交通設施非常好
Taiwan has an extremely convenient and efficient public transportation system. In Taiwan it’s easy to go anywhere on the island within hours. There is a railway that encompasses the entire island, as well as high speed rail along the west side connecting the major cities. Most major cities in Taiwan also have airports, with 4 international airports in total. Freeways and expressways also cover most of the island, which makes it easy to get to place to place by car or bus. It is so easy to travel in Taiwan that one can have a business meeting in Taipei in the morning, and travel via high speed rail for a relaxing afternoon on a tropical southern beach.
14. Taiwanese Food is Delicious! 臺灣食物好吃！
We love Taiwan food! Don’t be the expat that eats at McDonald’s for every meal. There is so much delicious food everywhere!
15. Taiwan is fun! 臺灣很好玩！
Because Taiwan is so convenient and has such a developed transportation system, it is easy to travel and have fun. Two thirds of Taiwan is covered in mountains. It has the highest mountain in East Asia (Jade Mountain), and the world's deepest marble gorge (Taroko Gorge). You can also visit Kenting’s tropical beaches, beautiful beaches and snorkeling locations on outer islands, to Hot Springs in nearly every county, to night markets and endless shopping. Check out ourblog index for more places you should check out.
For more pertinent information for foreigners new to Taiwan, check out our foreigner survival guide here.
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We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.