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Recently I’ve been enjoying writing articles about my job (headhunting) and the job market in Taiwan. I had the idea to write a love letter to Taiwan in the form of a list of things I think are wonderful about the country.
Arriving in the sweltering humidity of late August during the summer of 2009, I never expected to be taking my first steps on an island that would remain my home for the following decade. Apart from two years spent in Shanghai, Taiwan has been my adopted home ever since.
Recently I’ve been enjoying writing articles about my job (headhunting) and the job market in Taiwan. I had the idea to write a love letter to Taiwan in the form of a list of things I think are wonderful about the country. Obviously, this list is personal to me and often subjective. I’m also sure that some people will disagree with a few of the points I make, but keep in mind this list is trying to be entirely positive.
I’ve split my list into nine categories, although of course, these are fairly arbitrary: Geography, People + Culture, Politics, Convenience, Travel, Food, Fun, Work and For Foreigners. Here are 101 reasons why I think Taiwan is the best country in the world to live.
Being from Scotland, I grew up in a climate that was far different from Taiwan. To put it mildly, Scotland is cold, windy and wet. Taiwan on the other hand has days full of sun and blue skies. The tropical and sub-tropical climate is wonderful. Going to work early in the morning in 28-degree weather really lifts the spirits and I absolutely love the sunshine. Yes, it can get a bit too hot at times, but I would always choose too hot over too cold.
I spent a fantastic year in a boarding school in Ontario, Canada, and whilst it was a transformative and positive living experience, the winter period was brutally cold for around four months. In contrast, Taiwanese winters are pretty mild, driving my scooter in shorts and a t-shirt on a sunny day in January feels like I’ve won the life lottery. I spent Lunar New Year down in Taichung this year and every single day was absolutely beautiful, playing pitch-and-putt golf outside was the best feeling in the world. Love it!
Air-conditioning is a must for such a hot climate. How many of my Taiwanese readers have thought to themselves, “I’ll switch off the AC for a bit, I’ve had it on all day”, only to turn it back on ten minutes later when you start to sweat on your living room couch. However, those beautiful periods between the long summer and short winter in Spring and Autumn where the temperature is just right are absolutely fantastic. No need to have the air conditioning on but still hot enough to wear summer clothes. These are the perfect times of the year and I always look forward to them.
If we are talking about the geography of Taiwan, this list would be amiss without mentioning the beauty of the nature here. From the mountains all down the East Coast, to the lakes in the middle, Taiwan has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. The dense jungle compares to the incredible vistas in Hawaii, also one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Alishan, Sun Moon Lake, Taroko National Park, Wulai, Danshui, etc. Just a whole bunch of wow!
I’ve only lived in Taichung and Taipei during my 11 years in the country and both places were fantastically livable places. There are so many good options to choose from here: Kaoshiung, Tainan, Taipei, Taichung, Taidong, Hualien, each with their own advantages depending on your preference. I think I could be happy living anywhere on the island.
Taiwan has a population of around 24 million people but the island itself is not too large, less than half the size of my native Scotland. This means we are all packed into a smaller area. For someone who loves people and being around bustling urban centers, I really like this. It also means that economically, Taiwan can really punch above its weight on the global marketplace. Taiwan still feels like a small community even though the population is actually quite big.
I’ve heard that several decades ago, the riverside through Taipei was dirty and gross and had a reputation for being quite a dangerous place to go. Not so anymore! I live in Minsheng Community next to Taipei’s Songshan airport and 5 minutes’ walk from my house the riverside park is absolutely beautiful. I take my dog there every day and the views of Neihu buildings backed by Yangminshan in one direction, and Taipei 101 backed by Elephant mountain on the other side are incredible.
There are cycle paths, basketball courts, baseball fields and a dog park all right beside my house. Thanks to the government efforts to build public green spaces, Taiwan has an abundance of green areas to go for a picnic. Special shout out to Daan park in the center of Taipei and Wen Xin park in Taichung, places where I’ve spent many a day hanging out with friends in the sunshine.
The Taiwan mainland has so many great spots to check out, but this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the islands. My wife’s family have a house in Penghu, an island off the West coast, and it is incredible there. Xiao Liu Qiu island beside Pingtung is also one of my favorite places to visit in the world. Sitting on the grass, reading a book and listening to the sounds of the ocean on Xiao Liu Qiu was one of the happiest moments of my life, true internal bliss.
I also had my bachelor/stag party there, less inner bliss and more drunken tomfoolery, but amazing nonetheless. I haven’t had the chance to visit Green Island or Orchid Island yet, but I’ve heard they are equally stunning. We are lucky to have you little islands, thanks for existing!
Taiwan is a volcanic island, and the natural hot springs are part of nature’s gift here. My parents absolutely loved staying in a hot spring hotel in Beitou and Wulai when visiting and I can see why. Take a dip in any number of hot spring spots and feel the naturally heated water cleanse your soul. It is easy to find public or private baths as well as natural or expensive hotel-type options.
I’m trying to keep this article super positive so mentioning the earthquakes that occur here might seem like a bad direction to go in. However, after the Jiji earthquake of September 1999, the building safety standards became a major focus. Thanks to a concerted effort since then, the damage and loss of life caused by natural disasters has hopefully been somewhat tackled. Dangerous typhoons and earthquakes are still a scary reality of living in Taiwan, but hopefully safety measures taken by the people and government will continue to move things in the right direction.
I’m not sure if I really need to go into detail here, anyone who has lived or visited Taiwan will have come away with this impression – Taiwanese people on the whole are a very friendly bunch. This makes life here so much better.
There is a theory on human happiness that states, “the more positive social interactions you have, the happier you will be.” Living in Taiwan has been absolute bliss for me in large part because of this factor. Everyone from 7-eleven clerks to colleagues are generally friendly and helpful. This might actually be my favorite thing about the country.
In general, Taiwanese people are quite humble, and tend to praise humble behavior in others. This can be a bit annoying in my job (I send candidates for senior level job interviews and sometimes I wish they would sell themselves a bit more!), but in general it is an admirable quality.
Humility within a culture seems to have the effect of everyone being nice, open and friendly. I sometimes find this in contrast to some of Taiwan’s Asian neighbors like in Hong Kong and Singapore, where overconfidence and arrogance seem to be a lot more common.
Taiwan has consistently been voted as one of the safest countries in the world and my personal experience would align with this consensus. The crime rate here is very low, and even in dark alleys at night time, I have never felt threatened or scared. Most cities and countries will have parts that are more dangerous, areas where you need to be careful of criminals or gangs.
I would struggle to tell you which part of the island is particularly unsafe and this just makes life here so much better. Who wouldn’t want to live in a place where the fear of being the victim of a crime is not a day-to-day reality?
This ties into the previous point. The country where I grew up, Scotland, unfortunately has quite high rates of violence. Whether that be fights in a bar or a group of angry teenagers looking to hurt some innocent person unlucky enough to walk past them at night. Taiwan really has very low rates of violence, even in situations where alcohol is involved.
I hate violence and I if I can manage to avoid it for the rest of my life, I would be entirely grateful. Again, this is another one of the major reasons why I have chosen to make Taiwan my home.
I personally think it is important to learn the local language of the place you live, for me it is the respectful thing to do. I have one-on-one Chinese lessons with my teacher every Tuesday morning and I hope I will always try to keep improving my Mandarin. Having said that, I think Taiwan’s push to become a bilingual nation is a progressive step forward.
As Chiang Kai Shek told his son Chiang Ching Kuo, “without English, you might as well be mute.” The push to have the Taiwanese population improve their English is a step forwards on the global stage and also one of the factors that makes living here as a foreigner so much easier.
I’ve heard that a couple of decades ago, Taiwan’s attitude towards animals was not great. There were stray dogs all over the island and horrible stories of exotic pets being bought and then discarded into the jungle. I’m thankful to say the trend these days is in the opposite direction, with a growing number of animal lovers springing up all around the island.
My wife works in the animal health industry, for Royal Canin, and it is a fact that the money and care spent on pets increases year-on-year. As a dog and animal lover myself, I think this is a wonderful thing. Doggos are the bestest.
I think that adults should be allowed to do whatever they want in the bedroom as long as consent is involved. There are still many countries in the world where sexual politics is massively conservative and the effects this has on the population is in my view wholly negative. I think liberal attitudes towards sex is a good thing for everyone involved and I’m happy to say Taiwan is one of the more progressive countries when it comes to this issue.
Leading on from my last point, Taiwan was the first country in Asia to legalize gay marriage and I want to give it a huge gold star for doing so. How dare anyone deny others the right to love whoever they want to love. I sincerely hope that the gay population of Taiwan continue to find happiness and acceptance.
It is about time that the taboos around homosexuality should disappear. Studying the history of prejudice, discrimination and outright violence against same-sex attraction is an agonizing endeavor and I’m pleased to see Taiwan moving in the right direction. Taiwan Pride parade is one of the biggest is Asia with thousands attending every October.
If you visit one of aforementioned public parks on a Sunday, you are likely to see a whole host of different groups out together. You’ll see children there with their parents and grandparents, families out spending quality time together.
Filial piety is a massive part of the culture in Taiwan and people care a great deal about their family and spending time with them. This gives Taiwan a rather wholesome feel and is probably a major contributing factor as to why it is so safe.
The cliché is that Western society is more individualistic and East Asian society more collectivist. I don’t know whether this is the legacy of Confucius or not, but I would say it rings true from my personal experience of living in Taiwan. As a recent example, when masks were declared mandatory on public transport, there was very little (if any) fuss about individual sacrifice for the collective benefit.
The idea of face in Taiwanese society means that individuals are less likely to do something that damages their credibility or reputation and negatively affect their relationship with their family and friends. In general, this means less criminal activity and anti-social behavior.
I worked with homeless people in Edinburgh for one of my previous jobs. I spent every day with a group of about 160 homeless people and got to know them very well. Of the 160, I’d estimate about 90% of them were at the very bottom end of society because of heroin addiction (alcohol and gambling made up some of the other 10%).
Serious drugs like crystal meth, crack cocaine and heroin wreak absolute havoc in many other countries. The cycle of addiction and dependency on these drugs has numerous knock-on effects, like increased crime, public disorder, burden on the police and health service, mass homelessness etc. Taiwan seems to have a relatively small problem with these substances compared to the global average.
For my career, I work as a senior level headhunter, helping both foreign and Taiwanese companies recruit the best Taiwanese talent available in the market. I would argue that women completely dominate the industries and functions that I specialize in. There are thousands of incredibly impressive and successful women in the Taiwan market.
Engineering, both hardware and software, continues to be predominantly male, but for functions like marketing, finance, sales, HR, supply chain and recruitment, women are completely dominant in Taiwan at every level of seniority. In terms of the ongoing battle for gender equality, fairness and access to opportunities, I think Taiwan is doing an excellent job.
Improvements in maternity leave and corporate attitudes towards women choosing to start a family could still be made but I have to salute recent changes made to subsidizing childcare. I believe my family will be entitled to around 10,000 NTD per month to help pay for my son’s nanny when my wife goes back to work in March 2021 after taking eight months maternity leave.
Out of the 101 points on this list, this one is probably the most likely to get me into trouble. I don’t like religion at all. I think that every major religion is some form of human-created mythology. At its worst, religion throughout the world is used as an excuse for intolerance and traditionalism, especially with regards attitudes towards homosexuality and women.
In Taiwan, religion doesn't seem to affect the day-to-day of most people in too dramatic a fashion and I’ve seen very few examples of extreme or radical religious dogma here. Taoism and Buddhism are also fairly reasonable and less dogmatic than the Abrahamic religions or the new wave religions like Scientology.
On a fairly similar note to the point above, nationalism can be a really poisonous ideology when taken to extremes. I think there is nothing wrong with pride in your country, until that pride becomes hatred of outsiders.
Taiwanese people are proud to be Taiwanese, but the patriotism here feels healthy. Actually, if anything I think the average Taiwanese person could afford to be a bit more proud of their country! If anyone needs help finding reasons why, please see number 1 to 101 on this list.
In Scotland we have tribalism linked to religious affiliation of the two big football teams, Rangers (blue) and Celtic (green). In Los Angeles it is the Crips (Blue) and the Bloods (Red). Tribalism can lead to brutal violence among divided groups of people and has done since homo sapiens first existed.
Taiwan used to have a fairly serious divide between the wai sheng ren (who arrived during and after the Chinese civil war) and the ben sheng ren (still historical immigrants from the China mainland but from long before). This divide and resentment seems to have largely faded, especially within the younger generations of Taiwanese.
This point feels literally materialistic and shallow after the previous few, but anyway. I think Taiwan has a lot of beautiful people. Beautiful things are nice to look at. Actually, let’s just move on before I say something else to get myself in trouble.
Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year as some prefer, is the biggest holiday in Taiwan. It is usually about seven days spent with the family, eating great food, drinking, chatting, gambling and giving red envelopes. It is a great tradition and one I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy with my wife’s family for many years.
My mother-in-law is also one of the best cooks on the island (personal opinion) and so the feasts down in Taichung every year are ridiculous. Her cooking is miles better than most restaurants and I’m not just saying that because I know she will read this ;)
Alongside Taiwanese Mandarin, there is Taiwanese or Taiwanese Hokkien. It is spoken by about 70% of the population as either a first or second language. Languages are beautiful, abstract things and many are slowly dying, like my grandmother’s native Scottish Gaelic language. Preserving an old Taiwanese language is a worthwhile endeavor and many people support its resurgence.
Taiwan’s indigenous population is another unique part of the island that should be celebrated. There are many distinct tribes with their own history and culture and throughout Asia and Australasia they have many famous descendants like the Maori in New Zealand and the native Hawaiians.
I actually think Taiwan should go a lot further embracing the aboriginal culture as a core part of its national identity. As a musician myself, I especially find their musical culture incredibly cool.
I once attended a Paiwan tribe wedding in Taimali near Taidong. One of the musical performances was a 30-minute call and answer “round” performed by the men and women from the tribe. To call it phenomenal wouldn’t do it justice. It was breathtaking, spiritual, transcendental. My friends and I stood at the side watching as the sun went down. I have never seen so many grown men cry.
The National health system in Taiwan is amongst the best in the whole world. Public healthcare is cheap and well-run, based on automatic individual contributions from salary, plus add-ons based on use. Hospitals, dentists and clinics are abundant and staffed with excellent medical professionals.
My wife and I recently had a baby and chose to do the full process in a private maternity hospital called Dianthus. The service was impeccable and I have true love for the doctors and nurses who helped us bring little baby Finn into the world. In terms of price, it was a bit more expensive than the public system but having an affordable private healthcare choice was a great luxury and one we felt was absolutely worth the money.
Buying a house or apartment in Taiwan is incredibly expensive, but this list is about the positives, and so it must be said that rent in Taiwan is very reasonable. Taipei is a little more expensive than other places on the island, but still affordable on the average salary.
We pay around 1000 USD per month for a beautiful 3-bedroom apartment in one of the nicest areas of Taipei. When I first moved to Taichung in 2009, I paid 233 USD per month for a fully furnished apartment with a swimming pool. Taxis are cheap, food is cheap, bars are cheap. In general, you can live very well here on a reasonable salary and budget.
The pareto distribution is a law that was originally applied to the distribution of wealth in a society. It was found that there is a strong correlation between violence and wealth inequality. Taiwan isn’t a country of extreme haves and have nots. There are definitely a lot of rich people in Taiwan, but it doesn’t feel like the gap between rich and poor is an ever-present problem.
There is very little visible poverty on the island and this is a wonderful success story of the state. Obviously, I’m not suggesting Taiwan be complacent or too self-congratulatory, helping the suffering elements of society is a never-ending challenge for any government.
The infrastructure within a country is often an indication of how developed the country is. Taiwan is most commonly categorized as a “second world” country although I wouldn’t really agree with whoever made this assertion. The roads, bridges, water supply, sewers, electricity and buildings in Taiwan are all of a reasonably high standard.
Sometimes it blows my mind how quickly things are built or fixed here, public spaces are remarkably well done and small changes are efficiently made all the time. In some of the poorer countries I’ve visited during my lifetime, the infrastructure is visibly shoddy and dilapidated, this is certainly not the case in Taiwan.
The high-speed rail in Taiwan can take you from the top to the bottom of the island in under two hours (it is an eight-hour drive). Taxis and Ubers are abundant and cheap. Public buses likewise are abundant, cheap and reliable.
The MRT (subway) system in Taipei must be one of the best in the world and it seems like a new line opens every year. Compare this to the overground tram line built in my hometown of Edinburgh that cost 10 times the budget and took more than a decade to complete. Taiwan puts this kind of incompetent transportation upgrade to shame.
Income tax in Taiwan is very reasonable, coming in at around 13% of total annual salary for most of the population. Last year I jumped into the 20% tax bracket thanks to a strong personal performance in my job, which stung a little at the time but I think it still incredibly fair.
Taxes are also super easy to file here. The system is incredibly efficient and usually only takes 10-15 minutes of your time. For foreigners, there are legions of accounting students who come to help us file taxes in the designated government office. You simply hand over your Alien Residence Permit (ARC) and they do everything else. Fantastic!
“Vibrant democracy” is the often-used cliché that journalists will use to describe Taiwan’s political system. It is true though, when President Tsai was re-elected in 2020, the voter turnout was 74.9 %. That is remarkably high compared to many other democratic countries where turnout is usually 50-60%. Democracy works best when people are engaged. Expressing your political opinions freely is something that every Taiwanese citizen can enjoy.
Taiwan’s incumbent President is serving her second term in office after being re-elected in 2020. I have seen President Tsai speak in-person and I found her to be intelligent, rational, humorous and likeable. This is what I want in a leader, someone emotionally stable who can calmly steer the ship.
Having a sensible, former-academic as the head of state has meant relatively few scandals and I can’t think of any major justified criticisms of her presidency up to this point. If you wanted to make a list of the world’s dangerous and erratic leaders, it would end up being as long as this article. President Tsai is also the first female President in the country’s short democratic history, and in politics especially, representation matters.
Audrey Tang is a software engineer and “Minister without Portfolio” in the Taiwanese government. She is also the Taiwanese person I most admire. At the moment Audrey is probably Taiwan’s most visible intellectual on the global stage.
Please go to Youtube and watch her discussion with Yuval Noah Harari (my number one favorite intellectual). Not only is she providing some understanding and empathy for the non-binary and transgender community in Taiwan, she is also spearheading the digitization of modern democracy. I think the open-source, consensus building mindset that she promulgates will be a template for the future running of many global governments. My hero!
Anyone working in business in Taipei will have noticed the influx of Belgian, Danish and German expats into Taiwan over the past couple of years. These wind energy professionals are part of a massive green energy spending program by the government here.
Renewable energy in wind, solar and hydro are seeing heavy investment and serve as positive signs for the future. Taiwan was scared, quite justifiably, by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and is making an effort to move away from reliance on nuclear energy.
Burning coal also doesn’t seem like a rational replacement. In 2020, Taiwan’s biggest semiconductor company TSMC signed the world’s largest ever green energy contract with the Danish wind energy firm Orsted. Definitely something to be proud of!
I have a master’s degree in politics and history from the University of St. Andrews. I would say my main take-away from a lifetime of studying political philosophy, wars, governance and history would be that radical politics and ideology usually results in bloodshed. Examples of extreme left-wing and extreme right-wing political systems are rife with human tragedy, suffering and death.
Even in America, the current split between Trump style Republicans and far-left social justice warriors is incredibly toxic and I think both camps have major faults in their political philosophies. Taiwan seems fairly down the middle in terms of politics, which I think is a good thing. There is a strong welfare system and nationalized healthcare without many loud voices in favor of mass socialization or nationalist militarism.
Taiwan has a strong commitment to humanitarian aid and often provides financial care packages to countries hit by natural disasters. This has been especially true during the Covid pandemic, with Taiwan donating millions of surgical masks to foreign countries. Long may this kind of ethical spending continue! #Taiwancanhelp
Since the Covid virus started spreading and wreaking havoc throughout the world, Taiwan has done an excellent job of protecting its citizens. There has been a total of 951 cases (as of writing) and only 9 deaths in the country.
Thanks to precautionary planning as a result of the SARS experience in 2003, mandatory 14-day quarantine, contact tracing, digital fencing, temperature checking and use of alcohol disinfectant, Taiwan has probably been the most successful example of how to tackle a global pandemic. New Zealand has enjoyed the majority of positive media attention, but I think it is hard to argue Taiwan is not number one!
This is definitely not true in every country. Even in places like Australia and America, the general ethos of the police force is to seek out criminals, to take the initiative in proactively catching lawbreakers.
KPI (key performance indicators) focuses on getting higher numbers of arrests and the controversial “stop and search” policies in the West can lead to accusations of discrimination and at worst, innocent lives being lost.
Taiwanese police are generally very friendly, they are there to help and protect. I have never heard or seen anyone getting randomly searched or hassled by police officers here. Actually, because Taiwan is so safe, the police seem to spend most of their time on traffic duty and road collisions. I’ve never felt intimidated by the sight of flashing blue and red lights here.
Let me pose this question: If you were stopped by the police in Taiwan, would you take out your wallet and offer money to the officers so that you could continue your day? I think if you tried this, there is a high chance you would get yourself into serious trouble.
For Taiwanese people who haven’t spent much time living abroad, corruption might not be a reality they understand. Many countries have problems with corruption and some places have endemic corruption at every single level of society. Usually this means that to get anything done you have to pay money under the table.
This might be at the post-office to ship a parcel, in your job to get your product sold in the supermarket or at the hospital to skip the long queue. Corruption is poison within a society and once it seeps in, it can be incredibly hard to remove. Taiwan has very low levels of corruption and I’ve heard very few stories from friends or business contacts about encountering it here.
The original article :101 Reasons why Taiwan is the best place in the world to live
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