Moving to Taiwan

Taiwan is an island off the coast of mainland China with one of the highest population densities in the world. Expats moving to Taiwan are equally likely to notice that it's very mountainous, home to the tallest peak in northeast Asia, and has an abundance of nature reserves and hot springs. 

Taiwan has ultra-modern cities that still strongly uphold traditional Chinese culture while at the same time embracing a capitalist business culture that appeals to Western expats. As a result, many new arrivals find that the lifestyle in Taiwan is highly convenient as goods are easily accessible and both the public transport and healthcare are excellent.

Taiwanese are extremely friendly, helpful and gracious people. They will generally go out of their way to make visitors feel at ease. They pride themselves on being good hosts. Expats may find themselves asking a stranger for directions and end up being personally escorted and then being invited home for dinner. The language barrier is no obstacle to this hospitality and willingness to assist as many can speak English.

The main religions in Taiwan are Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism and almost all Taiwanese pay homage to their ancestors. Homes have sacred shrines where people can burn incense and make offerings to ancestors. Beautiful temples are found throughout the cities, but churches and mosques are also easy to find.

The cost of living in Taiwan is generally high. Accommodation, which mostly consists of apartment living, can be expensive. Taiwan's main industries include electronics, industrial processing, and information and communications technologies. Expats looking to work in these industries should be highly qualified, as Taiwanese companies tend to employ qualified local workers. Due to this, expats looking to work in Taiwan tend to transfer to the country from within an international company. Otherwise, many young Westerners move to Taiwan to teach English.

Taiwan has a problematic relationship with China, mostly as China insists that Taiwan is a province of China. While many cultural traditions of the Taiwanese stem from a long history with China, the majority of Taiwanese see their country as autonomous and have no wish to unify with China. This is a sore point and the reason behind the rocky political relationship with the mainland.

Taiwan is incredibly safe. Foreigners moving to the country are unlikely to be affected by political tensions. In fact, those living there enjoy Taiwan's cultural richness, modern amenities and the country's embrace of the wider world.


Fast facts

Official name: Republic of China

Population: Over 23 million

Capital city: Taipei

Neighbouring countries: China, Japan and the Philippines

Geography: Taiwan is an island and is characterised by a contrast between rugged mountains, which run in five ranges from the northern to the southern tip of the island, and the flat to gently rolling Chianan Plains in the west that are also home to most of Taiwan's population.

Political system: Semi-presidential republic

Major religions: Buddhism and Taoism

Main languages: Mandarin (official), Taiwanese Hokkein and English (mostly in Taipei)

Money: The New Taiwan Dollar (TWD), which is divided into 100 cents

Tipping: Tipping is not standard, although it's unlikely to be refused if offered. Baggage handlers at hotels and the airport will accept loose change. Hotels and restaurants typically add a 10 percent service charge to the bill.

Time: GMT +8

Electricity: 110 volts AC, 60Hz. 'Type A' two-pin plugs with flat blades and 'Type B' three-pin plugs with two flat blades and a grounding pin are commonly used. 

Internet domain: .tw

International dialling code: +886

Emergency contacts: 110 (police), 119 (ambulance and fire)

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right. Taiwan has an extensive public transport system that is easily accessible and reliable. 

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