12 Tips for Foreigners Moving to Taipei
You’re planning an exciting adventure to move to Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, but you’re not exactly sure on what to expect?
Here are 12 tips to help you be prepared from the moment you arrive:
1. Bring an umbrella and a pair of rain boots
It rains a lot in Taiwan, many would even argue that it rains almost everyday! May, June and September are some of the wettest months with afternoon thunderstorms that’ll momentarily happen out of nowhere. Across the rest of the year, it will rain suddenly, it will rain then stop then rain again. Then there’s the typhoon season from June to October which can bring about some scary torrential rainfall.
Nothing’s worse than getting caught up in any of these downpours whilst commuting to work without the proper rain gear.
Umbrellas are sold in every convenience store, but rain boots can be a harder to find. Many foreigners realized this a little too late and have shared their regrets of forgetting to bring a pair of rain boots with them from home.
2. Pack for both hot and cold weather
Taiwan may be a subtropical island, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s hot all year around!
Sure, in the summer months (), Taipei can reach blistering temperatures above 30°C (86°F). Not only is it hot, as the country is very humid, you’ll be instantly drenched in sweat when you go outside, feeling as if you are in a sauna.
Although in the winter months, temperatures don’t really fall any lower than 10°C (50°F), it will feel much colder than that. Winters are still wet, meaning the cold painfully penetrates deep inside your bones as you shiver. As the concrete buildings are more designed to keep you cool in the summer, they don’t have any insulation, so the chill creeps indoors.
The best way to overcome the winter chill is to use electric heaters for your apartment, and wrap up warm in many items of warm clothes! It’s also in these cold months that a dehumidifier is pretty essential. Most apartments may even include a dehumidifier to prevent the walls and windows getting mould. – You’ll be surprised how quick it can fill up with water, so be sure to use it!
3. Learn to speak some basic Chinese
It’s true that you can get by in Taipei without speaking any Mandarin as many people can speak a decent level of English. But there will be those situations where knowing some basic phrases could prove very helpful, especially when you are in a taxi or at most local stores where it’s unlikely that they can speak English. Making an effort to learn Chinese in a predominantly Chinese speaking country can go a long way.
The most recommendable way to begin learning Chinese is by using a language app on your smartphone. There are many ideal apps and sites that’ll give you a great start on the basic understandings of Chinese for when you arrive:
- ChineseSkill App – Learn Chinese / Mandarin Language for free.
- Duoingo Site – This is the website version, but they’ve recently launched an app version.
4. Taipei has (almost) everything you’ll need
Don’t worry about what to bring with you because Taipei has pretty much 99% of everything you’ll need or possibly want. Taiwan is a modernized and developed nation with an advanced infrastructure and healthcare system. Thanks to international trade, imported goods are readily available in Taipei’s many convenience stores, supermarkets and malls. This means foreigners have access to many products from their home countries.
However, there are a few things that are a fairly hard to find in Taipei which you should consider bringing from home:
- Deodorant – there’s a limited selection here.
- Drug store makeup – in darker shades.
- Cheap painkillers – it’s much more expensive here.
- Larger sizes – especially in clothing and shoes.
5. Discover the street food
Taiwan’s night markets are a true foodie paradise, and some of the most famous ones are in Taipei. Even the smallest stalls in the street, which have no proper seating besides a couple of plastic chairs, may serve you a very delicious meal. For a cheap price you are able to to try some of the best snacks in Asia, and discover that food is one of the biggest passions of the Taiwanese people.
6. Make good use of public transport…
There is little need to own a car in Taipei. You’ll quickly find taxis are probably a lot cheaper than what you’re used to back home, and they can be helpful when you’re in a rush to get to a specific place. The best tip of all is to use the public transit for your daily commuting needs. It’s very modern, and most signs, if not all, include English.
It has a world-class reputation of being clean, safe, cheap and very reliable. This also extends to all their transport modes, as they run very frequent buses to each stop and a bike sharing system that has a seemingly infinite amount of bike parking stations scattered across the capital city. What makes their transport super-efficient is that all of these modes of transport can all be accessed using the same prepaid transit card, which can easily be bought or credited at any station or convenience store.
7. …but respect its rules and etiquette.
As a guest in what must seem like a strange land, it’s important to familiarize yourself with their rules and respect the local etiquette.
To build a safe and pleasant environment for all passengers to use, the law enforcement in Taipei takes the transport rules very seriously, as they must be upheld by everyone.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Don’t eat or drink inside the busses or the Metro system (the MRT). This keeps the public transit very clean. You’d even be called out on simply opening a water bottle by another member of the public. This rule is taken so seriously that you can even be fined for chewing on a mint.
- Avoid sitting on the clearly marked priority seats. The Taiwanese culture highly respects the elderly and people with disabilities. You’ll often find that those seats are largely avoided, even when there’s no one eligible to use them. In any case, you should always give up your seat to someone who needs it more.
- Unlike many other surrounding Asian countries, most, if not all passengers will be quiet in their conversations when using all forms of public transit in Taipei. So be sure to be respectfully quiet. ensure your devices are on silent, and if possible, avoid having any telephone conversations, it’s considered rude here.
8. Be wary of cockroaches
It’s best being aware now rather than later that you will no doubt encounter these little horrid creatures in the city. Cockroaches are one of the most common pests in Taiwan which become more active in the summer when the temperature rises. They can grow to anything around 2 inches big, and scurrying across the pavements with a frightening speed. It’s best to stay vigilant so they don’t catch you off guard when one inevitably darts straight at your feet from under a piece of trash!
9. Bring your driving licence with you
Although the public transportation in Taipei and New Taipei is the most ideal form of transportation, you’ll notice many choose to ride scooters as another very popular and convenient mode of transportation for areas in the city that are far away from the MRT stations. If you decide to rent a scooter to travel across or outside the city without a Taiwanese licence, you are able to with your home driving licence. Most scooter renting companies will accept your home licence as proof that you can drive, even if you’ve never ridden a scooter before!
10. Expect it to be loud at night
Taipei is one of those cities that never sleeps. The herds of the high pitched scooter traffic will zoom past your apartment building all night long. Even when you think you’re getting used to it, there’s always the odd pesky scooter that manages to pull off an ear blasting screech all the way down the road late at night.
One way to avoid the noise pollution is to find an apartment that isn’t near any main roads when you begin searching and viewing places to live. Nevertheless, there is also the option to use ear plugs when you go to bed to drowned out the constant bustle of city traffic.
11. Connect to the large expat network
It’s easy to feel lonely when you’ve moved to a foreign city far away from home, but rest assured, there’s a very large expat community in Taipei and it’s growing! Taiwan is starting to get a global recognition as it currently holds a ranking of the 4th best place in the world to live as an expat by the InterNations Expat Insider’s report, (it was even ranked #1 last year!). – Which is bringing an ever increasing number of foreigners to visit Taiwan as it becomes more of a popular destination.
Not only will you find the support you need, but you can easily make many awesome expat friends from different backgrounds that will share a range of hobbies and interests with you. They will be more than happy to share activities and explore the city and island with you.
12. Anticipate staying longer than planned
More often than not, you’ll find an overwhelming number of foreigners that have been living in Taipei for over a decade that had initially planned to stay no more than two years at the most when they first arrived here. It’s easy to appreciate that Taipei offers a VERY comfortable and enjoyable life as most expats agree that their quality of life has improved a lot since arriving in Taipei.
Be precious with your time here from the moment you arrive. You’ll look back on what you’re reading after 12 months, and agree that a year can EASILY feel like no more than 6 months. If and when you do leave Taiwan, it’s likely to be in at least some regret. Worry not, This beautiful island is always happy to have you back! As like so many expats have in the past, many have made a return a year or so later. It’s hard not to love the city life in Taipei!
Last updated: February 2018 – Taipei.Expats