Here is a mini interview article about my experience in Taiwan. It includes the many highlights, the downsides and information about the country in general. Perfect for you if you’re interested in working abroad or finding out more about the life of a foreigner living in Taiwan.
1. What made you decide to go abroad and teach?
At first, I wanted to become a teacher in England but did not want to go straight into doing my PGCE. I tried to apply for assistant jobs which were difficult to get without experience and did not pay amazingly either. So, I tried my luck and applied for teaching roles in different countries. Since I wanted to travel too, I was killing two birds with one stone.
2. Why Taiwan?
It was a random decision!
Originally, I was looking for a job in Korea but it was quite competitive. I was applying last minute but finding a suitable role took months with several long applications to complete. I did not have the patience to wait a few months or to endure the lengthy application processes. I applied to the company Hess but it turned out that there were no vacancies in Korea. Instead, I was offered a role in Taiwan, so despite not knowing anything about the country, I accepted.
3. What were the highlights?
I did not plan these experiences beforehand. They happened spontaneously so I’m not complaining because those make the best memories!
To start off with the basics: Bubble tea (which originates from Taiwan).
I had the option of different varieties from hundreds of shops for low prices starting from only 50p (I know right, even I was shocked!). This of course made it the obvious choice to try. I even replaced my typical English breakfast tea for bubble tea almost every single day.
[Image: Instagram @bubbleologyusa]
Secondly, the main thing I really wanted to experience in Asia was staying at a capsule hotel. I thought they were only available in Japan but I soon found out I was wrong. As I travelled around Taiwan, I searched for cute affordable hostels and stumbled amongst many capsule hotels which I had to try out. It provided me with an incentive to travel more. I’ve also written a separate article about capsule hotels if you want to find out about that experience in detail.
Thirdly: Taiwanese rap.
As odd as it may seem, I don’t really listen to English music. I prefer music in different languages, namely Korean. When I was in Taiwan, I had the chance to find out about Chinese rap and the local Taiwanese rappers, who were quite popular, in the Hip Hop scene. I became a fan and went to a few concerts which were lit!
Lastly, I had the opportunity to try snorkelling for the first time. I wanted to broaden my experiences and try water sports. I was afraid of deep water due to my inability to swim but wanted to overcome that fear as I was living on a small island after all. My school offered a weekend trip for a small price to a neighbouring island where we went snorkelling and I absolutely loved it! It was a calm and enchanting experience, which made me more comfortable with the idea of the sea and doing more water orientated sports.
4. What were the downsides?
I was working part-time on a 22-hour contract and paying for my rent alongside other expenses and fitting in time to travel. I ended up spending my wage by the end of each month and did not manage to save up. The part-time working hours were chilled out but the hours were set after the main school timings. This meant that classes began in the afternoon/night and there was not much time to do things unless you were a morning person.
The small number of holidays were also a problem as the schooling system is completely different in Asia. There are no Christmas or Easter breaks. The only holidays given were for the Chinese New Year, bank holidays and 14 days of annual leave which personally weren’t enough for me.
[Image: Instagram @marsshanghai]
Navigating another country was made more difficult because of the culture shock. Culture shock is when you experience differences that make you feel surprised and intensify your feeling of being in an unfamiliar location. I experienced this when I was trying to become comfortable with the road systems. Initially, I felt unsafe because there were no pavements so pedestrians were expected to walk on the side of the roads which would be packed with scooters and cars!
As well as this, the recycling system was a complete surprise to me. There were no public bins anywhere! They used a system where the recycling truck would come everyday (except for Wednesday and Sunday in my area) at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. They would play a song, similar to the one played by an ice-cream van, to alert everyone to their arrival. So, I had to make sure I was available according to those times in order to throw away my rubbish and recycle. This would prove difficult, especially when I had class, and could not throw away my trash. It meant that I would have to be sat in my flat waiting at the designated times.
Surprisingly, the language barrier was not an issue in comparison to other countries. In Taiwan, a great deal of importance is given to learning English. Wherever I went, there was usually at least one worker who spoke English. That being said, I did use the opportunity to try to brush up on my skills and would use Google translate as well as learn some basic Chinese phrases to help me communicate.
6. If you could prepare with the knowledge you have now, what would you do differently?
It was my first time moving abroad for a long duration so I ended up packing too many things, right down to toiletries and homeware. I thought they would not be available abroad but then I ended up having to pay a shit load of money to ship it back home once the year was up! I would advise that it is best to pack less because you will probably be able to find the same products.
I assumed that Taiwan was always warm since it is an island. I was proven wrong when winter finally came and the weather dropped to 7 degrees at night. All I had packed to keep me warm was one jumper. Remember to pack clothes accordingly for all seasons to avoid unnecessary and panic-stricken shopping in the future.
I accepted the job offer quite quickly. In hindsight, it was a rash decision and if I had spent longer doing research, I probably would have received a better opportunity. If I get a similar opportunity in the future, I will do more research in regards to the salary, hours and benefits.
7. Finally, are you happy you did it? Or do you regret it?
I am definitely happy that I went to live in a new country as I underwent several experiences which helped me mature as an individual. Over time, I became more comfortable and even met new people and formed strong bonds with them. Now I feel like Taiwan is my second home!
[Image: Instagram @mikaeradesu]