Hey all you Taiwan haters and long-term whiny expats, this is the article you have been waiting for. We are sick of writing Taiwan propaganda pieces, it's time to get down to the nitty gritty, why Taiwan sucks. Sure there are lots of good things about Taiwan, in fact, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, but to be fair and honest we must tell the whole story about the dark side of the best place for expats to live in the whole world.
1. Banking Sucks 台灣的銀行很爛
Banking in Taiwan sucks, let's just get that out of the way. There is just no way to sugarcoat it. From the hour-long waits for a simple detail change, to all banks in Taiwan closing at 3:30 PM so they can push papers until they get off work, to the ridiculous signature requirements. Not to mention the lack of English web banking tools, endless paper forms for foreigners to sign, and ridiculous "guarantor" requirements for foreigners trying to get a credit card or bank loan. However at the end of the day, the daily banking system works for our basic needs, and we can all spend our money and wire it in and out of the country without government interference.
2. Foreigners have less rights and are second rate citizens, especially southeast Asians 外國人的權利比較少,算是二級公民, 特別東南亞人
Foreigners have fewer rights than the average Taiwanese citizen. We can't vote, we can't get long-term phone plans, and lots of websites do not accept "ARC" numbers to register online. For Southeast Asians, immigration and other requirements are also more strict, in what can only be described as racist policies. Wages and work hours for migrant workers are also inhumane. In addition, many Taiwanese look down on people they consider to be from poorer countries. However, these issues are getting more and more attention and hopefully, the situation will improve in the future.
3. Foreigners can't naturalize without giving up original citizenship 外國人不能申請歸化國籍, 除非放棄原國籍
Even though I have permanent residency and am married to a Taiwan National, I cannot get a Taiwan passport without giving up my American citizenship (however, there are a few exceptions for special professionals and French priests). Taiwanese citizens however can enjoy dual citizenship as long as they were born Taiwanese first. Recently new laws have been put in place to change this for special professionals or those with special contributions to Taiwan, but it needs to be expanded further. All permanent residents should be eligible for citizenship without having to give up their original nationality.
4. Lack of foreign products 沒有甚麼外國產品
Even though Taiwan has Costco, Carrefour, and PX Mart, the variety of foreign products is limited. As a foreigner in Taiwan, you are bound to miss out on some foreign products that are not sold in Taiwan. Even if they do sell the product you want, it is probably three times the price it is in Taiwan compared to back home. However, there are some foreign shops in Taiwan as well as Shopee and Amazon to help.
5. Lack of Taco Bells and other foreign restaurant chains 沒有塔可貝爾等外國連鎖餐廳
There is a serious lack of Mexican food in Taiwan. Also, I do not understand why there is Taco Bell in China but not in Taiwan, while we have KFC and Pizza Hut. Not every foreign restaurant chain has established a business in Taiwan, so you are bound to miss out on your favorite restaurants from home. But Taiwan has some amazing and delicious local cuisine that you should try, or else you will truly miss out during your time in Taiwan.
6. Taiwan's traffic is a nightmare 台灣的交通就是惡夢
Taiwan's traffic is not safe. Compared to your home country, there may be way more scooters here. The driving culture is different. The accident and traffic rates may also be higher than in your home country. Taiwan still has a long way to go in regards to road safety, especially for pedestrians. But you cannot deny that riding a scooter around Taiwan is both fun and convenient.
7. Taiwan's schools are stuck in the past 台灣的學校太落後
Taiwan's schools are rigorous and students are slammed with homework, tests, and after-school study. Students in Taiwan barely have time for anything except school, and teachers and parents encourage a culture of rote memorization, competition, and perfection in school instead of encouraging play and critical thinking. Private foreign schools are also ridiculously expensive. It is a struggle that every foreign parent and child will have to go through, but somehow most of the kids survive it.
8. Employment sucks 工作機會很爛
Taiwan's Labor Standards Act, which gives a very low standard for employment rights, is considered the standard here. Taiwan workers work some of the longest hours in the world. There are very few holidays, and there are also periodical "work makeup days" on some Saturdays. Employee rights are a joke. HR always stands on the side of the employer. It is expected that you work overtime for free. Managers and bosses have all the power, and employees must comply without complaint. But some foreigners have found work that they enjoy in Taiwan.
9. Wages suck 薪水很低
Taiwan's wages are low compared to the rest of the Asian Tigers and the western world. Taiwan's government and corporations also work to keep wages low to support a manufacturing export-based economy. This happens to dampen Taiwan's chances to attract high-salary foreign professionals and top local talent in Taiwan, fueling a brain drain. The only silver lining here is that goods and services are also less expensive than in other countries.
10. There's China...it's there 中國大陸在旁邊
China could attack at any time, right? China will always be there in the back of your mind, what if China attacks? What is the point of going to such a dangerous island with escalating tensions? Well if you want to support democracy, basic human rights, and freedom, you should still choose to come and support Taiwan.
11. Lack of English Resources 沒什麼英文資源
For people that cannot read or speak Chinese, trying to navigate life in Taiwan may be hard. Although more English materials have been made in recent years, many signs, menus, government information etc. are all written in Chinese. It sucks. But there are a few solutions, such as asking for help, using Google Translate, or actually learning Chinese.
12. The air quality 空氣汙染
Taiwan sometimes can have terrible air quality, such as the photo above shows. This is true especially in winter when there is less rain and the chances of dirty air floating over from China are greater. You can also choose to blame cars, scooters, and local coal plants in Taiwan. Whoever you blame, blame someone, and make it count.
13. It's too hot 太熱了
Compared to your home country, Taiwan may be a hot place. It can get up to 38 degrees Celsius or more in the summer, with near 100% humidity. If your home country is a cool, dry place, this may come as a shock to you. But believe it or not, your body can adjust to a hotter temperature. Also, if you stay hydrated, you can feel comfortable in the heat and humidity for longer amounts of time. In addition, almost every building in Taiwan has air conditioning.
14. Taiwan is different than your country 台灣跟你母國不一樣
Taiwan is not Kansas. So many things are different. They don't speak the same language. People do things differently. In fact, their whole life outlook and philosophy are probably different. But actually, it is a great opportunity to try to learn about a new culture and way of looking at the world.
15. Look in the mirror 去照鏡子
The biggest disadvantage to coming to Taiwan will likely be the struggle inside your own mind to defeat your own pessimism. Taiwan is different. It is up to you to decide what is most important to you, and what are some disadvantages of Taiwan that you can live with. You can choose to complain about every little thing seen from your expat point of view, or you can choose to be humble and learn about a new culture, climate, and new way of living.
Now that you know about the dark side of living as a foreigner in Taiwan, it is up to you to decide whether to come here or not. You have to decide whether or not the advantages that are calling you to Taiwan outweigh the disadvantages.
But in the end, whatever you choose, you should still come to Taiwan. Taiwan is awesome. It has friendly people, amazing food, amazing scenery, an interesting history, and vibrant democracy. You won't regret it!
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.