The Best Countries for Expats: Why Taiwan is Number One

Taiwan is the best country for expats
Dear Taipei,

I was recently asked by the BBC to share my thoughts on what makes Taiwan one of the best countries for expats in their article, Want to Move Abroad? Try Here.

The article runs through the most highly-ranked countries to live in as an expat, as voted by 14,000 expats in the most recent InterNations survey on life abroad. And guess which country was awarded the title of the best expat destination in the world? Taiwan.

Those of us already living here as expats met the results with a reaction akin to, “yep, we already knew that!” But for those of you who haven’t visited Taiwan yet, it might not be so obvious why.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I think there are a great number of reasons. Below, I’ve shared my thoughts on expat life in Taiwan which didn’t quite make the cut in the BBC article. I hope they’ll shed a bit of light on why so many expats are satisfied living here!

Living in Taiwan

What makes Taiwan one of the best countries for expats?

As most expats based here will attest to, Taiwan is without a doubt one of the best places to live in the world as an expat.

Not only is it relatively easy to integrate here as an expat, there are so many facets to Taiwan that will keep you constantly intrigued. Taiwan boasts the most captivating blend of attributes: warm-hearted locals, a fusion of historic and modern culture, mesmerizing temples and shrines, sweeping natural landscapes, ridiculously delicious cuisine, and a buzzing nightlife.

A view from Thumb Mountain in Taipei

Phenomenal views are just one great thing about living here

In terms of practical considerations, I think the main attributes which stand out for foreigners living in Taipei are:

  • The relatively low cost of living compared to many Western countries
  • The public transport system: a reliable and cheap MRT and public rental bikes
  • Both modern and traditional landscapes to explore
  • The fact that a lack of Mandarin ability won’t impede you
  • The relative ease of finding an English teaching job

Taiwan also offers world-class, affordable health care, which is a huge advantage when moving abroad.

It’s obviously impossible to properly convey what makes Taiwan a great place to live in just a few short paragraphs. What’s more, expats’ priorities are differ, so it’s hard to generalize. But I’d argue that Taiwan offers such a diverse mix of attributes that you’ll probably find quite a few to appreciate here as an expat.

What makes it easy to integrate in your opinion?

There are many reasons Taiwan is relatively easy to integrate into as an expat. Personally, I found that the two main reasons were the welcoming attitude of both the Taiwanese locals, and other expats.

I was surprised and humbled by the extent many Taiwanese locals were so openly welcoming – from showing patience when I jumbled up my Mandarin, to going out of their way to help when I was in a bind.

Enjoying Kenting Beach in Taiwan

It’s quite easy to make friends if you put yourself out there

The expat community in Taipei is very active – there’s always numerous events organized every week where you can pick up or continue a hobby, make personal and professional connections, and even start a language exchange. I’d recommend anyone who has just moved here and is feeling a bit disconnected should look into the various social and professional groups here and join along for an event.

Once you’ve been here for a while, you’ll realize how connected everyone is, so if you’re willing to put yourself out there, you’ll be able to quite quickly expand your network through friends of friends and other connections.

What intrigued you most when you first visited? 

When I first visited, I was most intrigued by how a place which seemed to “have it all” – rich traditions and culture, kind people, and phenomenal sights and food – had managed to slip under the radar for many travelers including myself.

Taiwan is often called “the hidden gem of Asia” because of this. As I touched on before, it still isn’t popularly considered to be a worthy travel destination despite having an overwhelming number of draw cards. Fortunately, it seems more and more people are catching on to how incredible it is.

penghu-taiwan

The opportunity to travel around Taiwan is a clear advantage of living here

Believe it or not, even after living here for a couple of years, I still walk around wide-eyed most of the time. Maybe I’m just a naturally curious person, but I honestly do think that there’s so much to discover here – in Taipei and beyond.

There’s always another alley to explore, temple to visit, cafe to chill out in, person to learn from, hidden piece of nature to find, and so on. It’s for this reason, I’d like to hope my intrigue with Taiwan will never go away.


Well those are some of my views – but how about sharing yours? I’m really curious to hear what my fellow Taiwan expats think about living here, so please leave a comment below to share your experiences.

For those who haven’t managed to make their way over yet, I hope you’ll plan to come one day! And if that trip goes so well you decide to live here? Well, that’s just the Taiwan effect 🙂

-TTT

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7 comments

  1. This is very interesting. To be honest I would never have thought about Taiwan, and for no reasons either.. but your post has brought it back onto our radar. Maybe a visit at some point is in order 🙂 lol thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Wanderfully Living,

      I’m so glad my post put Taiwan on your consciousness again! You should definitely try to visit if you’re in the area – and give me a shout when you do! Thanks a lot for the kind words and for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Likewise it seems great! We sure will, we’ll keep you in mind 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am pretty excited and nervous of settling in Taiwan in a couple of weeks. Thanks to your various and upto date articles, they helped me get a glimpse of the life there! I hope you will continue you blog!
    A quick question though, could you give me a tip or as to how I can get in touch with the expat community in Taiwan?

    Like

    1. Hi GogoJin!

      How exciting you’re making Taiwan your new home! I hope you settle in quickly 🙂 If you want to settle into the expat community, perhaps you can check out Meetup.com for various social and professional groups, or even just join in some events you can find on Facebook. You can head to “foreigner bars” like Revolver to meet other expats, and even join a language exchange to help with the transition.

      Hope that helps! 🙂

      Like

  3. Hi,

    yes and no. I feel I need to offer a more balanced observation to these points:

    “The relatively low cost of living compared to many Western countries”

    Eating out is cheap, groceries are EXPENSIVE. Food safety is poor.
    Buying a car – more expensive. Running a car- cheaper. Second hand cars are more expensive and not trustworthy (avoid).
    Buying a house – extremely overpriced and expensive. Also, Taiwan’s property market ranks highly on the spectrum of frothy property markets. To name a few reasons – one of the highest property vacancy rates in the world, gap between salaries (stagnant for a decade, now falling as of 2017), huge household debt (this is sadly the norm in Asia now where debt has exploded over the past decade – surpassing even that of the US’s pre-2007 credit boom).

    Grocery shopping in Taiwan is more expensive than the majority of countries I’ve lived. I think one example is fruit. Taiwan is a sub-tropical island and even calls itself the “banana kingdom” – yet bananas are more expensive than many Western countries. Eating out is cheap, but not without its hazards. Taiwanese restaurants are extremely business oriented and not very ethical when it comes to food safety. Observe the regular food scandals in Taiwan – examples include:

    – the recent DEHP scandal in 2011. This was a large international food scandal involving Taiwanese food industries who had been putting the cancer causing plasticizers into cooking oils and drinks to make it cloudy in appearance. Taiwan’s reaction was to fine each of these companies the huge sum of…..US$1000 each to the approximately 40 factories “caught” doing it(hence why food scandals are regular in Taiwan).
    – use of recycled dirty cooking oil, wide spread fake olive oils (importing olive oil from foreign countries and watering it out with cheaper oil and colorings
    – excessive use of pesticides and illegal pesticides overuse of pesticides (this has been going on for many years recent examplein the summer of 2017 a number of countries including the US, Singapore and China destroyed and rejected all mangoes from Taiwan for containing excessive pesticides.

    “The public transport system: a reliable and cheap MRT and public rental bikes”
    MRT is very good and cheap, the public rental bikes (ubike) are good (though a lot are getting old and dirty now). oBike has just entered Taiwan and is becoming widely available in Taipei.
    Planes are far more expensive in Taiwan than the US or Europe. Even budget airlines are expensive. Beware of local airlines e.g. Taiwan’s TransAsia which had two plane crashes in two years (just went bankrupt thankfully). Eva Air is probably the better of Taiwan’s airlines (the safer anyway). I recall even China Airlines has some pretty big international crashes (at one point they also had one of the worst reputations in Asia, this has improved slightly…apparently).

    The fact that a lack of Mandarin ability won’t impede you
    Yes it will. Taiwan’s English language ability it ranked among the lowest in Asia

    “The relative ease of finding an English teaching job”

    Easy yes. However, salaries are low (regardless if you are America, Canadian, European) it is hard to get a salary above NT40,000. Moreover, working hours are long, teaching is robotic and you need to be careful as many Taiwanese businesses will take advantage of foreigners (make sure you don’t get pushed into illegal work – so they save tax and a way to blackmail you). I strongly advise working for a foreign company, salaries and safety is better (though this will be harder as there aren’t that many foreign companies in Taiwan)

    Hope this helps add a little more perspective and someone finds it useful.

    Like

    1. Hi!

      Thanks for reading, and for leaving such a considered response! I think you raise some really solid points, and I appreciate your nuanced insights. Taiwan certainly has numerous areas to improve on, two of which are food safety and low wages as you note. I personally haven’t found lack of Mandarin ability to have impeded me, but then again, I’ve beed based in Taipei. I completely agree with your advice about working for a foreign company – it’s much more likely to have better work/life balance. Cheers!

      Like

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