By: Noah Cooper
Before I considered teaching English abroad,I never gave Taiwan much thought. I knew it was a small island off the coast of China where things were manufactured and then shipped all over the world (a lot of slot machines—who knew?), but that was really the shallow extent of my familiarity. Not until I read an article on Taiwan by International TEFL Academy that underscored its general awesomeness and financial opportunities as a teacher did I seriously consider moving here for a year.
Well, let’s just say I’m certainly glad I did!
Taiwan is probably the friendliest place I’ve ever visited. I’ve traveled and studied a fair amount in Europe, once rode a camel in Morocco, and had several awesome trips to the Caribbean, all the while enjoying the seemingly universal human trait of hospitality everywhere I ventured. But never had I experienced the sense of pure warmth and welcome from a country’s people until I came to Taiwan. It’s delightfully typical for a Taiwanese person to randomly come up to you on the street and say “Welcome to Taiwan!” even when you’ve been living here for several months (or years!).
On my second day, I was introduced to a whole group of new Taiwanese friends that were smiling, friendly and curious about why I chose their home and what I wasdoing here. Taiwanese people also go ridiculously far out of their way to accommodate any need you might have. Even strangers! Once, my friend Heather and I took a day trip to a beach town outside of Taipei and had no idea as to how to find the beach from the bus station.
While attempting to locate the shore with our broken (a vast understatement) Mandarin, a woman came up to us and asked if we needed help—in perfect English. We immediately accepted her kind gesture and after explaining our situation she said, “Let me take you there in our car!” After exchanging looks of excitement, we grinned widely and said, “Okay, thanks!” We piled in with several of her friends and she offered to take us up to her cottage on the mountainside just above the beach. Without hesitating (because Taiwan is also the safest place I’ve been), we agreed and had a lovely time hanging out for a bit at her beachside home. We’re planning to meet up again and ride bikes together in Taipei!
I have a lot of fellow expat friends that have had similar experiences with Taiwanese people. We all seem to think that this degree of genuine earnestness really doesn’t exist in the US. Unfortunately, when we do encounter it at home, we become suspicious of a stranger’s kindness! I know I’ve been jaded by this sense of “stranger danger,” but because Taiwan is incredibly safe, I almost never worry about it here. Moreover, it’s not uncommon for people to leave their bags or helmets on parked scooters and return several hours later to find their possessions left undisturbed. I don’t think I’ve ever been concerned about my safety here in Taiwan (actually, maybe once when some friends and I were climbing a preposterously steep hiking trail —but whose fault was that?!)
Not only isTaiwan a remarkably safe, clean, and convenient place to live (especially in Taipei), it also has an abundance of teaching positions open year round. Demand is high, especially during the peak hiring period from summer to early fall. I’ve met teachers that arrived during off-peak months without a job and after hitting the pavement a bit, they got legitimate positions at buxiban, or private afternoon/evening English schools.
Most teachers work about 20-25 teaching hours each week, not including the time it takes to plan lessonsor grade tests. Plus, because the cost of living is relatively low in comparison to the US, the UK, or Australia, it’s quite easy to siphon your paycheck into a nice little savings account for future travel. You can even pay off some lingering student debt with your hard earned New Taiwan Dollars (TWD). I’ve lived very comfortably throughout my time here, so I’m grateful for how much the Taiwanese value education. Who says teaching doesn’t pay well, anyway?
When I was completing my Online TEFL class, I knew I was headed to Taiwan. But did I have any nagging misgivings? Of course! Now, however, I feel incredibly lucky to have picked this place over other Asian countries where I initially considered moving. From fellow teachers and travelers alike, I only seem to hear positivity regarding Taiwan. It’s gorgeous, the people are great, safety isn’t a concern, and jobs are plentiful. The island may be small, but its heart is large and open to foreigners ready for an adventure. If you come to Taiwan, you definitely won’t be disappointed!
Noah Cooper is 24 years old from Jacksonville, Florida. He graduated with a BA in English and a Spanish minor from the University of Florida in 2011. After studying abroad in the Netherlands and Spain, he knew the expat lifestyle was for him and now teaches ESL in Taipei, Taiwan.