Taiwan - Ihla Formosa - It was called The “Beautiful Island” when the Portuguese explorers discovered it 500 years ago. Two-thirds of the total area is covered by forested mountains. Amazing views, modern cities, and world-class hiking. The astonishing natural beauty and the friendliness of people has won Taiwan as the best expatriate destination in the world by Expat Insider Survey in 2016.
Taiwanese people are generally courteous and polite and emphasize form and ceremony. To do the “right“ thing is very important. Almost all adults growing up, at one time or another, are influenced by Confucian traditions and values. Chinese and Western cultures are not only different but often opposite. This has greatly impacted the Taiwanese in ways of doing business and the daily behaviors.
Names and titles are very important doing business. It is customary to exchange calling cards upon introduction. Keep them in your wallet at all times. The Taiwanese are anxious to please people. Rather than disappoint another, a person will often agree to do something that he or she is unable to execute. They will generally not say “no” and instead to say, “Understand and we’ll try”. The Westerner may become frustrated when he learns too late that “yes” really meant “maybe” or was just a polite substitute for a realistic “no”. The westerner considers this dishonest, whereas the Taiwanese person thinks it is polite.
Some behaviors that are quite normal in Taiwan may somewhat bring cultural surprises to foreign nationals. Don’t be surprised to find locals wear masks in daily public. Wearing masks is believed the best measure to prevent getting sick. However, sometimes with no particular reason, it can simply means, 1. I’m not feeling well today 2. I don’t want to get sick today or 3. I’m feeling ugly today.
Health and Medical
Taiwan has a compulsory national health Insurance (NHI) system implemented since 1995. All citizens and foreign ARC holders are required to make monthly contributions to the NHI and are entitled to full coverage for medical and dental treatment. Patient pays a minimal registration fee between TWD100-150 for each visit to the medical facilities and the rest will be covered by NHI. A high percentage of hospitals and clinics in Taiwan are privately owned, but deliver services under the NHI system. One of the Very high standard hospitals, Taipei Veterans General Hospital was being elected one of the top 15 hospitals in the world in 2016.
Please note: The outpatient clinics are usually crowded. While there are some English-speaking volunteers at the information counters in most of the hospitals, the first visit is usually the most difficult. It is recommended to have a friend who speaks Chinese to accompany you for the very first time. Hospitals do not accept checks. Some, but not all, will accept credit cards. Be prepared with some cash as you are expected to pay as you go. Many will want to see your passport.
Our in-depth articles on healthcare and giving birth and registration of birth/nationality provide more information.
Taiwan is one of the safest countries to live. Rental properties in Taiwan are the same as you would find in other developed countries. In cities such as Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, space is at a premium. Rental prices are very high and apartments tend to be smaller. If you are coming from North America whereas the sizes of housings are incomparable, you have to compromise the desirable in terms of the size of the market availability.
The 3 major areas whereas with high expat-demands are Xinyi, Neihu and Shihlin districts.
Xinyi being the city center, whereas most of the upscale newer apartments are generally 3 bedrooms with 24 security guards.
Neihu - Between Xinyi and Shihlin, is a newly developed semi-residential neighborhood with two science parks within it.
Shihlin - Is considered the most expat family friendly neighborhood due to the 2 most renowned international schools are being housed.
Read our finding a home from home article for more information.
Housing Availability and Cost
The buildings are in mixture of new and old. Most of the leasing units are non-furnished with some partial furnished and less than 35% furnished housings can be found. Average Size – 1800 to 5400 sq. feet (gross size with 25-30% common area included). Only the newer buildings have amenities of a gym or simple exercise equipment, very few with swimming pool.
Single homes in gated communities are available on outskirt of the city on the hillsides. If you opt to live in single houses, it’s recommended to consider hiring a driver as the minimum commute to an office in city center would take average 45 minutes to an hour during peak hours. You might need another car for your spouse to get around and do daily-living supplies or picking children up from the school if you decide to drive to work.
Moving to a new country is not easy. The quality of furniture that would make you feel more like in a home away from home is a very important factor that adds so much value to an overseas assignment. Moving a family 10 years ago may have more things to consider such as shipping all main furniture items which make one’s temporary stay more cozy and homey. However, with today’s global trend, more and more transitions no matter for singles, couples without children and/or families with children, there are more choices of renting furniture from 1 month onward for both short and long term demands.
There are few suppliers in Taiwan that would provide needed furniture based on one’s preference and needs. Almost all leasing furniture are previously used but well maintained. Rental items are ranging from living room furniture, bedroom sets, bedding and kitchen appliances. Rental varies depend on the item and condition of the rental furniture.
Alternatively, some furniture companies are negotiable for options of leasing brand new furnishings at higher costs.
Although limited in number, there are various international schools in Taiwan offering the expatriate community with foreign curriculum - most are US based. In order to gain entry to an international school, a child must hold a foreign passport. Admission to most of the international/English schools is based on their own set of prerequisites.
It is strongly recommended that the parents select at least two schools and begin the admission process as soon as the transition becomes evident.
Scooters- the “most democratic vehicle on earth”
Taiwan has the highest density of scooters in Asia. It makes driving a bit more exciting especially during peak hours. In addition of driving, there are many ways for expat to get around in Taipei. The public transit system in Taipei is excellent. If an expat opts to commute to work by public transports, the buses, trains and the mass rapid transit (MRT) are always air-conditioned providing comfortable rides. During the rush hours, it tends to be more crowded. However, you can always wait for the next one to come soon. The buses run every 5-10 minutes with MRT runs every 3-5 minutes.
Read our article about driving in Taiwan.