A Canadian Globe Trotter Living in Taiwan

Canadian expat Carrie, who works as an English teacher in Taipei, Taiwan, is no stranger to living abroad. Here, she shares her observations on living in Taiwan (and China before that), gives some tips on finding a job, and tells us about the sights and sounds she experiences on a daily basis there.

Carrie Marshall

-Where were you born?
Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada

-In which country and city are you living now?
Banciao, Taipei County, Taiwan

-Are you living alone or with your family?
I live with my husband.

-How long have you been living in Taiwan?
We've been living in Taiwan for four years. Before moving to Taiwan, I lived in North East China for three and a half years.

-What is your age?

-When did you come up with the idea of living in Taiwan?
I decided to move to Asia because I've always wanted to travel and I needed a break away from my 9-5 schedule. I have several friends who live and work abroad. I was convinced to make the move myself by their constant enthusiasm and regular updates. I loved hearing their exotic tales of adventure about countries I knew little or nothing about. I wanted to experience it for myself. I loved the thought of traveling on a regular basis and yearned to explore the unknown and expand my own horizons.

Although I had several options, I chose to move to Changchun in North East China because I wanted to immerse myself in Chinese culture. At the time, there weren't many expats living in the city, so I was forced to learn the language and customs. It was an intensely rich and satisfying experience. Living in Changchun opened up my whole world. I met and made friends from all over the world and proved to myself that I have an immense amount of courage. The independence, strength and confidence I gained from moving to Asia has made me a better person.

I moved to Taiwan with my fiance in 2006. Taiwan seemed like a logical place for us to go after living in China. We liked the idea of being able to continue our language studies. Life in Taiwan is a bit easier, because it's a bit more Westernised. I have to admit, money was also a factor in our move. We knew we could travel and save with the money we earn.

-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
Both my Chinese and Taiwanese visas were easy to obtain.

-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
I didn't have any medical insurance when I left Canada. Medical insurance has been covered by the schools I've worked for in Asia.

-How do you make your living in Taiwan? Do you have any type of income generated?
I moved to Asia to teach. I took an ESL course in Canada and started looking for jobs on www.eslcafe.com. I was offered teaching positions in Japan, Taiwan, Korea and China within a day of submitting my CV. The hardest part was deciding which job to take. I decided on China because the package the school offered was really attractive. I was paid well. My housing was provided. I was given three weeks of holiday a year and I only taught 18 hours a week. The real catch was having an American boss. I felt quite secure knowing that there was someone else at the school who could help me deal with the pressures of living abroad.

When we moved to Taiwan, we contacted Mitch Gordan, from www.reachtoteachrecruiting.com. Reach To Teach comes highly recommended on Dave's ESL cafe. They offer continuing support and ongoing encouragement and advice to all their teachers. They have really made us feel at home here. Mitch has become a great friend and we continue to meet fantastic folks from around the world at our monthly Reach To Teach events.

As far as teaching goes, every year thousands of people move away from their homelands to live and teach in foreign countries around the world. Why teach abroad? Hands down, it is the best way to broaden your horizons. There's no better way to see the world, try different things, make money, learn about culture and learn about living an entirely different lifestyle which most people can only dream about.

It really isn't hard to find a job in Taiwan. There are always loads of schools looking for teachers. A good source of information is www.tealit.com.

There's no shortage to the number of interesting jobs in Asia. My teaching career started in China, but within months I was singing professionally, doing radio work, book editing, television programs, commercials and modeling.

An overwhelming number of people I meet here are able to use the market as a platform for their own passions and interests. Writers, musicians, and artists often move to other countries to seek work. I write, sing and create art, so living in Asia has really given my work an edge that I might not have had in Canada. I have found that settling in a new place and meeting new people has sparked creative ideas and offered inspiration that was otherwise unavailable back home.

-Do you speak the local language and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
Yes, I speak Chinese, although not very well in my opinion. I have immense respect for students who come here to learn. I think it's important to learn the local language and customs of the country you are a guest in. We learn more about cultures we live in when we can actively participate.

-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
I miss my family and friends every day and I miss Canada too. We try to substitute by keeping busy. We travel a lot. We like hopping on the motorcycle on weekends and exploring Taiwan. We love hanging out with our Taiwanese and foreign friends. We enjoy heading to the night markets to sample local dishes. We both exercise regularly. Exercise makes a huge difference. It's a great way to blow off steam at the end of a stressful day.

-Do you have other plans for the future?
We don't have any plans to leave Taiwan. Living in Asia allows for a transitory lifestyle. We never know where the road is going to take us.

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
We rent. Last year, we paid $250 for a two-bedroom apartment in Taipei County. This year, we decided to splurge. We moved into a luxury apartment building two months ago. Our rent is a little expensive at $650, but we love our new home. Rent in Taipei can be expensive. It's cheaper throughout the rest of Taiwan.

-What is the cost of living in Taiwan?
The cost of living is quite low in China and Taiwan. Food is really cheap. We eat lunch for a $1 or $2 a day. We stay at home and cook in the evenings. It really depends on where you live and what kind of lifestyle you want to lead.

-What do you think about the Taiwanese?
In Taiwan and China, I've found the people to be very accepting and generous. People are always willing to help and I have a wonderful group of friends. Most Taiwanese are extremely friendly. The people are sincere, warm and hardworking. Life in Taiwan moves at an extremely fast pace, but people still take the time to take an interest in my life.

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Taiwan?
Life in Taipei is really easy. The city is quite compact and the MRT makes it easy to get around. There are individuals of all nationalities here. The food is great and we never have to search for interesting things to do. There's always something going on here. The city never sleeps.

Taiwan is incredibly beautiful. I often feel that travelers overlook Taiwan when they come to Asia. People are really missing out when they leave Taiwan off their travel itinerary. In addition to being home to some of the most breathtaking scenery I've ever laid eyes on, Taiwan also has a rich cultural heritage. Its ancient roots have been preserved in its aboriginal nations, and in its thousands of temples and shrines. In contrast, Taiwan is also ultra-modern. For such a small island, we never have to wait long for the latest in technology or the newest fashion trends. The people here are very hip and up-to-date.

The only thing I don't like about Taiwan is the heat and pollution. Both can be a problem for me, especially during the summer.

If I could say one thing to the people of Taiwan, I'd tell them to slow down a little. The Taiwanese work ethic is go-go-go. I'd like to tell my friends to stop and enjoy life a bit more. It isn't all about work and getting ahead. However, I also realise that Taiwan wouldn't be where it is today if its citizens didn't follow this work ethic. There is an immense amount of pride and patriotism here.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Taiwan?
Keep your eyes open and try to learn from all your experiences, both good and bad. There is a lesson to be learned in everything. Remember you are a guest here. A little courtesy goes a long way. Explore and inquire as much as you can.

-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Taiwan?

David on Formosa is a fellow blogger and an expert on expat life in Taiwan. His site is terrific and offers a vast amount of information on life in Taiwan.

www.tealit.com is the ultimate resourse guide for expats and locals. You can find everything from job listings and merchandise for sale to weather reports and weekend events.

Contact Mitch Gordan at www.reachtoteachrecruiting.com if you're interested in having a professional and reputable company do some job-hunting for you.