Taiwan is not necessarily the first place that people think of when they decide to teach in Asia. It’s often overshadowed by its popular, larger neighbors like China and Japan, and to many Americans Taiwan is simply a place in Asia that makes computer chips and fields great Little League baseball teams. But tucked away in between those shadows is a hidden gem of an island, just off the Southeast coast of China. Formerly known as “Formosa” (Portuguese for "beautiful island"), Taiwan provides an amazingly friendly environment to teach English, learn Mandarin, and experience adventures of a lifetime.
Here are a few reasons I chose to teach English in Taiwan and why you should too!
1. Tropical climate
Whether you’re fleeing the wintry weather of your hometown or you’re simply accustomed to a warmer way of life, Taiwan is the perfect country for the tropical weather connoisseur. It’s an island that’s located on the same latitudinal line as Jamaica, so expect some balmy summers and relatively mild winters. And during those extra simmering summer days, there’s plenty of ways to take refuge from the heat. Take a quick dip into the Pacific Ocean, or one of the many natural cold springs that can be found all over the island.
If you ask anyone who’s lived in Taiwan what their favorite part about the country was, there is a high probability they will say “the people.” Taiwanese people have a genuine curiosity about foreigners and they love hearing their stories of why they came to the tiny island. They are also known for being very honest and trustworthy. I’ll never forget the time I left my cell phone on a train. A fellow passenger luckily saw me leave it behind and quickly ran off to track me down and give it back. I don’t know of many other places in the world where a scenario like that would play out, but it’s simply common practice in Taiwan.
Whether you’re wanting to buffer your savings account or pay off student loans, Taiwan is a popular country to accomplish your financial goals. The low cost of living combined with a relatively high teacher salary, make for a great opportunity to save money - often $500 USD a month or more in many cases. After 2 years of teaching in Taiwan, my roommate at the time not only paid off her $18,000 credit card bill, but she also went on a 4-month long backpacking trip throughout Southeast Asia.
4. The public transportation
You’ll feel like you’ve entered the future when you experience Taiwan’s public transportation system. The “MRT” is the local subway system in Taipei that connects the entire city. It’s clean, modern, extremely efficient, and easy to understand and navigate with English signs posted everywhere. And if you’re looking for a city getaway, the bullet trains are a must-do as well. Topping speeds of 180 MPH, you can travel from the northern most part of the island to the southern tip in less than 3 hours!
Recently voted by CNN as “Best Food Destination in the World,” Taiwanese cuisine is world famous and well worth traveling for. It has many Asian influences, ranging from mainland China to Japan. The cuisine is often vegetarian friendly with tofu being a main staple in many meals. However, meat eaters will definitely get their fill with famous dishes like beef noodle, shabu shabu (Taiwanese hot pot), lamb skewers, and the absolute “must-try” soup dumplings! The Taiwanese people are very proud of their eclectic cuisine and with good reason.
All of these reasons, combined with a healthy teaching market make Taiwan a wonderful place to call home. It’s not unheard of for teachers to sign a year-long contract in the beginning, and then decide to stay for much longer. The longer you live there, the harder it is to leave. So, if you’re considering Taiwan – go ahead and give it a chance and experience everything this beautiful island has to offer. The soup dumplings alone make it all worth it!