Things My Past Self Should Know Before Moving To Taiwan

Before moving to Taiwan, I thought I had it all figured out since previously living in Korea. My smug past self confidently packed a suitcase and prepared for the new adventure.

Snapshot, Taipei, Taiwan, 隨拍, 台北, 台灣At the time I was quite unaware, of course, that I was being a complete moron in my assumptions about what I needed, didn’t need, and should know about living in Taiwan. If only I could go back in time, I’d leave a letter marked “Urgent” to myself containing these 10 tips:

1. For the love of god, bring rain boots

There are too many rainy days in Taiwan to count when I’ve had to throw out soggy sneakers or walk home with little toes that resemble wrinkly prunes squished in sandals because I forgot to bring proper rain boots with me to a country that literally has months marked as Typhoon Season.

Oh, how I wish I could go back in time to when I was packing for Taiwan and beat myself (probably with one of my rain boots) so I wouldn’t forget to bring such an essential item!

Maybe I’d even tell myself to remove the countless bags of Mexican snacks I was packing to make room for the boots – actually, no, let’s not get too crazy here; my Mexican snacks were just as essential as anything else in my bag.

2. This isn’t Korea so bring on the tank tops (you’ll need them)

Emotionally scarred from my time spent in Korea, I hesitantly tossed a tank top or two into my bag and added heaps of modest tees and dresses with high necklines and cap sleeves.

Turns out, Taiwan isn’t as conservative as the land of morning calm, which is great because I’d probably drop dead like a fly in this stifling Taiwanese weather if I were wearing my conservative Korean outfits while walking the outdoor markets.

3. There’s no reason to smuggle 100 bottles of hot sauce in your suitcase

There are wonderful specialty stores like City Super and Jasons that stock most of your favorite foods and condiments, so please don’t push the limit of your luggage weight by hoarding those spicy foods and dressings you simply can’t live without. (I literally uttered those words to myself as I packed. Silly me.)

4. Embrace the hair bun, love the hair bun

Dear Past Judith, don’t bother painstakingly curling, straightening, or styling your hair in the morning for an hour before you leave the house; your hair will poof out in a matter of seconds in Taiwan’s humidity anyway making you look like a wild animal that all Taiwanese people will avoid.

I speak from experience. Love, Present Day Judith.

5. Don’t cut your hair short after winter

Under no circumstances should you carry out your normal routine of cutting your hair shorter in the summer so it grows in healthily in the winter. The inability to throw your hair up in the heat and humidity of summer is deadly.

6. Stinky tofu is actually stinky, like really The hold-your-breath-when-you-see-the-stand type of stinky.

Just because a delicacy is beloved by an entire country, doesn’t mean you’ll find it appetizing. No matter how adventurous you currently think you are, Past Judith, you’re no match for stinky tofu.

Understand that your stomach of steel is irrelevant in the event where you can’t get close enough to a food in Taiwan to actually taste it.

7. Take advantage of the fresh produce pop-up stands

Buy whichever fruit is in season (no matter how complicated it might to look to eat), and enjoy it. You’re going to love many fruits you’ve never tasted: guava, dragon fruit, lychee, and wax apple.

8. There’s no escaping free size

Free size clothing is an Asian thing, as are no fitting rooms. Get used to it, and be cautious with purchases.

9. Wear comfortable shoes and be snobby about name brands (to hell with cute market shoes).

Healthy feet trump vanity. Unless you want to have deformed little piggies to walk on after your time in Taiwan, invest in good walking shoes.

10. Put your camera, pencil, and notepad down every once in a while

Save some special moments for yourself. As a writer and blogger I know you’ll have the urge to share everything you discover, eat, and experience with others, but remember to keep some memories for yourself. It’ll make the chosen moments even more extraordinary.

If you happen to have traveled or live in Taiwan, what tips or advice would you give your former self? Share your answer with other travelers in a comment below!

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