Why I relocated my life from Canada to Taiwan and what you can learn from my experience Page 2

Taiwan working holiday

The Taiwanese people

– I have traveled to such cities in Asia such as Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Guangzhou. Of these cities in general I prefer the Taiwanese people. They are generally honest, trustworthy, respectful, and friendly. Coming from a western background I really appreciate these qualities that you cannot expect throughout Asia. I knew I was going to deal with a large language barrier gap, and with it a vulnerability that the Taiwanese wouldn’t try to take advantage of. Well at least I hoped.

  • Safe & clean

    Generally Taipei is a very clean city. The upscale areas such as Xinyi tend to be the cleanest with some local suburbs still being clean, but not to the same extent. Public transport stations on their underground train (the MRT) are very clean. Coming from Vancouver and Singapore it is easy to take this for granted. The only danger I have experienced is while crossing the street looking out for crazy scooter and bus drivers, but generally you can walk in Taipei even until late at night without worrying about being in danger. After traveling to South Africa I appreciate the peace of mind and countries where I can look at my smartphone without being worried about being robbed.

    Taipei's metro system known as the "MRT"
    Taipei’s metro system known as the “MRT”



  • Public transport

    The MRT system and facilities here are top notch. They use the contactless card for payment entry and the service is fast, extensive and reliable. Taipei is the only city I know that offers designated plug and usb outlets for charging phones and devices at their stations. Almost every station has a clean bathroom and well-labeled exits. Taipei also offers an easy to use bike rental program with quality equipment, plenty of bike stations for free 30 minute use.


Taipei, Taiwan is a modern global city
  • Modern

    – I knew Taipei was a modern developed city in Asia that offered a good standard of living, good transportation, and was an Internet friendly city.

  • Geographic location

    – Geographically I like to think of Taiwan as the heart of Asia. It is nearby to Hong Kong, Shanghai, South Korea and not too far away from Malaysia, Japan, Phillipines, and In Indonesia.

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 4.33.42 PM

Under 2 hours to Hong Kong

About 2 hours to Shanghai

Under 3 hours to Seoul, Korea


  • Low cost of living

    compared to Western standards things like food, transport, and accommodation cost less. My private studio in Jingan apartment was small, but it was private and cost me close to $440 US dollars a month and included internet, washing machine, and furniture. I was also prepared to pay 21,000nt or $700US for my very first apartment in Jingan, but I quickly found out after arriving that this was too expensive. (太 贵 了!)

  • Food

    Home to Taiwanese beef noodles, Xiao long bao, bubble tea, and many other great foods. A good bowl of Beef noodles can be found for 90NT or $3US.

  • Visa friendly

    Canada had an arrangement with Taiwan called a working holiday visa. This was was relatively straightforward to obtain and allowed me to legally live, work, and study in Taiwan for up to a year. This isn’t available in every country and there are some age limit restrictions ranging from 35 to 30 depending on the country. The working holiday visa option was an amazing opportunity to gain a rich cultural experience. Read more about working holidays here.

Now that you know why I moved to Taiwan. In my next article I’ll share some experiences and what I have actually observed and learned from living and studying here in my first 3 months. Some things I’ll discuss:

  • How was the experience of learning chinese in Taipei at the MTC ?
  • Could I build a life and friends in Taipei and what adventures did I have ?
  • How did I survive and figure out the basics such as how to eat and find a place to live ?
  • Was Taiwan what I thought it would be?
xiao long bao 小笼包- soup pork dumplings are a taiwan favourite
xiao long bao 小笼包- soup pork dumplings are a taiwan favourite


One of my street food favorites on Yong Kang street.


Why I relocated my life from Canada to Taiwan and what you can learn from my experience Page 1

Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur originally from Vancouver, Canada

Welcome to a series of posts where I’m going to share some of my experiences and what I’ve learned in my 4 months of living in Taiwan. Before we get started I’ll provide a little background and explain my reasons for relocating. You may be interested in this article if you are:

  • Interested in learning Chinese abroad
  • You are thinking of pursuing a working holiday and want to learn useful information on Taipei, Taiwan
  • Lifestyle redesign – You are tired of working a 9am to 5pm job and are curious if there is an alternative life you can create for yourself
  • You are a travel enthusiast and are curious about new travel experiences

Travel can be a life changing experience. My first trip to Europe led me to finally move out of my parents place in Vancouver, BC Canada at 29 years old and started me down a path of independence. 6 years and many trips later I sit in a cozy modern café near downtown Taipei listening to jazz music while I type this blog out.  Travel opens your eyes and mind to the way that other people on this planet live. Sometimes we get stuck in the world that we live in and we forget that there are alternatives to what we know.

My trip to Europe in 2007 ignited my independence and opened my eyes

What I’ve found in the past two years of frequent travel is that visiting a place for 3 days to a week to visit and take pictures of tourist attractions was just scratching the surface. It was too rushed. It wasn’t as gratifying anymore. I felt that I was trying to cram everything in a short period to make the best use of the time.  I felt that that I wasn’t really getting to know the city like a local. When you are working as an employee you think of travel as a vacation. Perhaps a 5 day trip to take a break from the 9 to 5pm before returning with tons of pictures and stories to share with friends and colleagues. I think this is the most common travel experience.

What if there was something else?  Another way to experience travel other than visiting tourist attractions, hotels, tours and cramming in some parties for the weekend? What about relocating your life to learn the language of a foreign country for 3 months or longer? Perhaps you can even work a little and make some friends. If you’re interested to hear more then keep reading!

A little background

I arrived in Taoyuan airport Taipei on August 23 2013. To make my life a little easier I had arranged for a driver to take me to the apartment where I would be staying for a short while. I was driven to the suburb of Jingan in the district of Zhonghe, New Taipei City. The rain was coming down like a flood putting my electronic gear at risk. We pulled into an alley with older apartments and bar lined windows. We opened the metallic doors that led to a dark staircase. I was fortunate to have some help carrying my heaving luggage up those 5 flights of stairs. Finally we reached my apartment. I sank down on my bed and set my alarm for a short nap

The early days - my cozy Jingan apartment
The early days – My Jingan apartment for my first 3 months

It has been just over 3 months since I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan to study, live, and attempt to build a new life. I essentially traded a comfortable lifestyle in my home of Vancouver, BC Canada for some 2013 travel film adventures and this opportunity. I started off in Taipei with some suitcases, my dreams, a few contacts, and film content and gear.

Why Taiwan?

This is one of the most popular questions that I am asked by people in Taipei and there are many reasons for my decision.

I will list my reasons for selecting Taiwan and what I have actually experienced in my 3 months here.

Registration for the school (MTC) I would be studying chinese


Learn Mandarin (chinese)

Chinese environment

This was the probably the most important reason for me coming here. It was a long-term goal I’ve had for myself. I’ve tried to tackle learning mandarin through classes in Vancouver, Rosetta stone, podcasts, and spending time with my Taiwanese friends. My progress was dismal and I got my butt kicked by Mandarin. I’m a self-motivated person, but If I was to tackle this challenging goal I wanted to go all in and give myself a better chance.  I’m sure there is more than one way to learn the language, but this is the path that I chose.

I also knew from my first visit that Taipei was predominantly a mandarin chinese-speaking city, which offered an opportunity to practice chinese daily.

I chose the local suburb of Jingan, Zhonghe for my first 3 months in Taiwan
I chose the local suburb of Jingan, Zhonghe for my first 3 months in Taiwan

My original plan was to live in a local area not to far away from school to force myself to interact with Chinese speaking locals.

Great school to learn Mandarin

Taipei was also home to the Mandarin Training Center run by the National Taiwan Normal University Mandarin Training Center. Wikipedia claims that MTC is one of the world’s oldest and most distinguished programs for Chinese as a second language. I had a friend that had lived and learned mandarin at the MTC better known locally as “Shida”, which is how I found out about the school

An example of how the chinese environment would encourage one to learn chinese. It is common to not have an english menu at some restaurants in Taipei


  • Taiwanese friends and previous exposure to Taiwan and culture

    – One of my best friends Allen, is Taiwanese. We met in Vancouver and I eventually became more immersed in the Taiwanese culture there.  He had introduced me to some local friends of his, which would definitely help get my start in a new country.

2011 Taipei trip. One of my best friends Allen (beside me) help introduce to me some of his local Taiwanese friends


Having some local friends has made Taipei a better experience
Having some local friends has made Taipei a better experience

Prior Visit

  • Prior Visit This is a continuation from the previous point. In January 2012 Allen invited friends and myself for his wedding in Taipei.  Prior to my visit I really didn’t know what Taiwan was like. I think this visit was influential to my decision and minimize the uncertainty I had about Taiwan. As I know not everyone will have this opportunity hopefully I can remove some of that uncertainty for you through my blog and I also shot a modern travel adventure documentary on Asia entitled ChicVoyage in Asia for sale.

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