I’d like to share an interview with Jaclynn, a friend of mine who lives in Taiwan. In this post, she’ll be sharing her experience of living and working in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city. I hope you find it really interesting and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section.
Jaclynn, let’s start by you introducing yourself!
My name is Jaclynn and I am originally from the beautiful but rural eastside of Hawai’i island, in the glorious (but inconveniently) located state of Hawai’i. I am fifth generation born and raised in Hawai’i and while I adore my home state, I was bitten by a very aggressive travel bug from an early age! And living thousands of miles from, well, anything gave me cabin fever. I have been living and working in Taipei, Taiwan for the past decade (gasp!) and originally came as a model. In my advanced age, (mid-30s, I might as well be 80 in that industry!), I have returned to my original occupation of teaching. I am a high school teacher, an animal rescue volunteer, an avid reader and devourer of books and world traveller!
What made you choose Taipei?
Luck of the draw, really! I was living and working as a model in Los Angeles and hating it. Too expensive, no decent public transportation, people weren’t always so nice. I wanted to eventually go to graduate school and I knew I would never have been able to afford to do so in the USA. My ex-boyfriend received a full scholarship to a Taiwanese university and asked me if I wanted to just sell everything and go and I jumped at the opportunity. We broke up a year later but remain friends…. and both remain in Taiwan!
How did you go about finding a job and an apartment?
It wasn’t easy to find an apartment, and my first one was rather disgusting! I lived there for three long years before I learned what websites to scour and some Taiwanese friends to harass into helping me! That was many years ago and I believe it is much easier now for foreigners to find an apartment; more websites, more housing agents and more assistance now from schools and employers. I was able to find a job from Los Angeles. My modelling agency got me a contract with one in Taipei. I eventually found a teaching position through an agent that places educators in schools.
What do you enjoy most about living in Taipei? Has it lived up to your expectations?
Taipei is an extremely convenient city to live in. The public transportation is inexpensive, safe and reliable. I love not having a car and dealing with the expenses and worry that comes with owning a vehicle. The nationalized healthcare is high quality and it’s always easy to see a doctor on short notice. As a woman alone, this is a safe country for me to live in.
What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced living there?
It’s always hard to move to a place where the culture, people are ethnically homogeneous. You stand out like a sore thumb and although the attention is usually positive, I don’t enjoy the attention or being stared at. People have a lot of old fashioned views of foreigners and it can be frustrating dealing with this day in and day out.
How does the cost of living in Taipei compare to home?
I save a lot of money, something I’d never be able to do if I lived back home. My only real expense is my rent, everything else is small in comparison. I save money and I still travel to between eight to ten countries per year. Not owning a vehicle, having nationalized healthcare and low living expenses keep my bank account happy and full!
Is there anything you miss from home that you can’t do/find/buy in Taiwan?
I miss Mexican food, even Americanized fast food versions like Taco Bell, desperately. It’s hard to find good Mexican food here and it’s pricey when available. I miss access to nice, clean beaches. Taiwan has fabulous mountains but the beaches are lacking and far from my apartment.
What Taiwanese food do you like the most and least?
I am a HUGE fan of Taiwanese breakfast foods like dan bing! I would eat 5 of them at a sitting if I could! Green onion pancakes with cheese and some hot sauce are another beloved snack. I have also some to be addicted to the many variety of teas, such as oolong and a simple black tea. On a hot day it’s very refreshing!
As a vegetarian I can’t eat many of the local, traditional dishes on display. Pigs’ blood cake and chicken feet are especially revolting to me, but my students love them!
Have you travelled much outside of Taipei to other places in Taiwan? What are some of your favourite places you’ve been?
I absolutely adore Sun Moon Lake. It’s stunning and relaxing and such a lovely place for a weekend getaway! I don’t think much of the beaches here, and it’s not a “beach culture”, but the many waterfalls and rivers throughout Taiwan are beautiful! I hike fairly often and I am always amazed at how gorgeous the mountains and forests are.
What’s next on your Taiwan bucket list?
Nothing! I am sure I haven’t done everything there is do but after nearly 11 years I feel confident that I have experienced most of what the island has to offer. I am looking to move to a new country and try a new adventure!
Thanks so much Jaclynn! For photos of her life in Taiwan (and wherever’s next), along with travel photos from around the globe, follow her on Instagram.