10 Tips For New Expats In Taiwan

Moving to a new country is always a stressful venture. You haven’t made friends yet. You’re still unsure how money works, and the possibilities of what’s to come is enough to leave anyone lying awake late in the night.

Casey and Dan Teachers in TaipeiAfter a while in your new country though, you start to realize little tips and tricks that make life easier. You know all the short cuts on the subway, and you can recognize a phony western food restaurant from a mile away. In Taiwan there are little truths to be had that all expats come across eventually. These are the top ten hacks all expats wish they knew from the get-go.

1. Brunch is a buzzword. Don’t believe the lie.

It’s seemingly impossible there has ever been a buzzword expats hate more in Taiwan. To the dismay of many newcomers, the word “brunch” splashed across so many cozy little cafes is a lie, an evil and horrible lie. Often what many of these brunch toting shops sell is sandwiches and sub-par cheeseburgers alongside instant coffee or watery orange juice.

If you happen to be a die-hard brunchie  (yes, I made that word up), then steer clear of any small cafes that go out of their way to advertise they sell brunch on the exterior walls of their shop.  Better yet, pop in and check the menu. There’s really no shame in leaving a place that claims a delicious brunch but doesn’t serve eggs benedict. In fact, it’s plain rude.

2. The expat circle is much tighter than you could possibly imagine.

There’s really no point in being shy because the expats you meet will continuously be on your radar. Taiwan is the island version of an everybody-knows-everybody one-horse town. Toss your reserves to the wind because there’s really no sense in holding onto your introversion. The expats you encounter daily will break those barriers down one way or another, and you’ll love them for it.

3. Do as the Taiwanese do

When it comes to food stalls, there’s always one golden rule. If no one is in line, move along to another stand. If there’s a line half an hour long for fried squid, guess where you should be? You should be queued up with the Taiwanese waiting for the most delicious fried squid you’ve ever eaten.

4. Stay away from Taiwanese rice alcohol

If you had the chance to visit or live in Korea, don’t expect a version of soju in Taiwan. The cheap alcohol sold here is pure death in a glass bottle.

5. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all

Your first time in the market, you’re going to come across a very pungent, almost sour smell. Yes, that delightful stench is stinky tofu. Don’t like it? Hold your breath, shut your mouth, and power-walk to a food stall you do like.

Do not make an exaggerated pained facial expression, pretend to gag, or scream out that you’re dying of suffocation. It’s rude; especially to those around you eating the food offending your delicate nose.

6. Watch what you say in public

Don’t be a silly expat and assume no one on the subway understands your conversation about a wild romp in the sheets with your boyfriend. Not only is everyone around you listening because their English is so amazing, but they’re also judging you in two languages.

7. Always stay to the right

You should always stay to the right on sidewalks and escalators, especially if you don’t plan on climbing the moving stairs or are a particularly slow walker.

8. Assume any bit of sidewalk or street is a motorbike zone

If you hear a little honk behind you on the sidewalk, just move to the left. Motorbikes reign supreme in Taiwan, and there’s no use in fighting that fact. Just think of them as fellow pedestrians – sure, they’re motorized pedestrians who could kill you, but that’s all the more reason to get out of their way.

9. Never touch a friendly dog without first asking

Some learn this in their respective countries at the age of 5 when an overly excited dog bites them; others need to learn through this life hack. Dogs are almost like children in Taiwan. They wear cute little outfits, and have their behinds wiped after a poop.

Because they’re so dear to their owners, ask before petting a dog. You’d never walk up to a stranger’s child and hug him/her, so don’t be so familiar with a stranger’s dog in Taiwan either.

10. When all else fails, use Google

It’s 4 am; you’re drunk and can’t remember the Chinese word for noodles when you’re in desperate need of drunk munchies. What do you do? Use Google. Nothing says “Dear god, please give me some noodles because I’ve drunk too much tonight” like a shaky finger pointing to a photo of noodles on a smartphone.

Sure, you’ll look like a complete ass, but you’ll get your noodles.

If you’ve lived in Taiwan, what life hacks would you add to the list? Share your answers with new expats in a comment below!

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