As I reach the end of my fifth year in Taiwan working for Shane I can look back on so many things that I have done and yet at the same time there is so much left unexplored and undiscovered. This feeling sums up just how much is crammed onto this relatively small island.
The first thing that anyone who has spent any amount of time in Taiwan will tell you about is the food. It ranges all the way from humble street vendors with delightfully cheap and delicious snacks, all the way up to fine dining matching the most incredible dishes you will find anywhere in the world. The centrepiece of Taiwanese food culture are the night markets which are full of life and energy every day of the week and offer not only food but sell all kinds of goods and you can even try your luck at a variety of carnival-style games. There are local dishes catering to every taste from simple beef noodles or pork rice to dishes such as stinky tofu which only the more adventurous would go near given the foul smell that follows you down the street. Food is the thing that brings friends and family together, exemplified by hot pot and BBQ restaurants that offer all-you-can-eat feasts.
With all the eating that can be done it’s lucky that Taiwan also has some of the most incredible landscape to explore where you can regularly find towering mountains lined up against the coast. Even within the dense metropolis of Taipei, where I have spent my time, hiking trails can be found in all directions within easy reach using the extensive public transport. Even the easiest climbs such as Elephant Mountain offer picture-postcard views of Taipei 101 while more challenging routes can be found in Yangmingshan National Park which also offers a chance to escape the heat in the sweltering summer months. Outside of Taipei the options are even more varied with high altitude peaks, beaches and mountain villages all within easy reach of the city. The High Speed Rail can take you most of the way down the west coast within a couple of hours with each city having its own highlights and local vibe on offer to match your mood.
The pandemic has limited international travel in the last couple of years as Taiwan maintained a successful zero-COVID policy that saw the whole population come together to limit the spread of the virus and allow almost uninterrupted life to continue within its borders. Now as the country moves to open up to the world again it provides an almost perfect base from which to explore Asia. Flights can be found relatively cheaply and take you quickly to any of the incredible nations on Taiwan’s doorstep. Having used this benefit to visit the likes of Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia previously there are many more on my list for the coming year as the opportunity arises again.
The people of Taiwan are incredibly welcoming to new arrivals and as the country is looking to become bilingual in the coming years that will only further reinforce this. Even the garbage truck driver in my neighbourhood goes about his work with a smile on his face and waves to everyone as he passes each day. Politics is hotly debated in public and people are wildly proud of their democratic system, press freedoms and progress of equal rights for all.
Teaching in Taiwan
The teaching has definitely been one of the highlights of life here. Children, in general, are highly motivated to learn and get good grades in school and there is a culture of respect for teachers that was rarely seen back in the UK. Even as they arrive in the cram school after a full day at their regular school they are full of energy, have endless questions and will make every day unique. Seeing students grow and mature over the years I have taught them has been hugely rewarding and they can become something of a surrogate family at times. On even the toughest day there will always be a student who says or does something that will bring a smile to your face and lift your mood.
Living in Taiwan
It’s been an unforgettable experience to date and anyone who comes equipped with an open mind will have an abundance of opportunities socially and professionally in a place that is always changing and offering something new and better.
Written by: Paul (SEST Taipei)
Published by: Head Office