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.
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
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.
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.
Learn Mandarin (chinese)
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.
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
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.
- 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.