Pros & Cons of Moving to Taiwan Based on my Experience

This guide covers the good and bad parts of living in Taiwan. Read along to learn more.

You might find yourself on the fence trying to think of whether it’s moving to Taiwan. I think it is. But I’m not you.

Creating a list will help you decide. Or you could flip a coin. I recommend the former.

Check out what I like and dislike about Taiwan after living here for more than 5 years, and use my experiences to help you decide.

This is an opinion post. It’s meant to present a single perspective of what it’s like to live in Taiwan (for an American). Your experience will differ.


Quality of Life

Pros

  • High-speed internet
  • One of the safest countries (crime-wise)
  • Plenty of entertainment: malls, nightclubs, hiking paths, & more
  • I love the convenience stores
  • No internet censorship

Cons

  • Lack of Mandarin knowledge will limit what’s possible
  • Many services (like banking) require guarantors to use: even if you have an ARC
  • Most shopping malls feel the same

I want to discuss some of these points.


1. Taiwan’s internet speeds are fine.

Taiwan’s average fixed broadband internet speed (April 2024) is 178 Mbps download and 92 Mbps upload [1]. Their average mobile data speeds are 80/15 Mbps. While nice for most folks, Taiwan’s internet choices aren’t ideal for folks who want to run home media servers.

Source: Speedtest.net

The highest speed I’ve seen their ISPs offer is 1 gig. If you think that’s too fast, then you’ll do fine with their regular speeds. It’s not the best, but it’s not the worst.

There’s no Great Firewall.

Meaning you won’t run into censorship. However, some websites (e.g., Home Depot in the US) don’t allow folks with Taiwanese IP addresses to access them. This is common amongst countries.


2. It’s really safe.

The United States has 4 times higher crime levels (overall) than Taiwan [2]. And the States have a 74% higher intentional homicide rate than Taiwan.

I feel safe walking around Taiwan during the day and at night. Never felt like I was in danger.


3. I don’t like guarantors, but understand why the system’s in place.

The guarantor con is ridiculous, though. In many scenarios, despite having an Alien Resident Certificate (ARC), institutions and landlords required me to have a local act as a guarantor.


4. Convenience stores are fantastic.

If you’re in cities like Taipei, New Taipei, and others, you’ll find it’s easy to get around and find things to do. Convenience stores are literally on every block. They offer mailing services, bill payments, and affordable food.

I talk about convenience stores more in a separate guide, check it out.


5. Taiwanese work culture. Is it as bad as you’ve seen on Forumosa or Reddit?

I wish I could give you more input on their work culture, but I’m a freelancer. I confine myself in my apartment and don’t have contact with the outside world.

I know people who’ve taught English, and they’ve had mixed experiences with it. Engineers I’ve talked to don’t seem to have much to complain about. And I can’t speak for factory workers from countries like the Philippines.

Foreigners in Taiwan has actual experience dealing with Taiwan’s work culture. Check out his blog post and build a pros and cons list based on what he said.

He doesn’t represent all foreigners, though. Your experiences will vary.


Finding a Place to Live

Pros

  • Affordable apartments in safe areas
  • Earthquake-resistant infrastructure
  • Some flats offer trash-collecting services

Cons

  • 1 in 9 apartments is over 50 years old [3]
  • Many landlords won’t rent to foreigners
  • Most landlords don’t speak English
  • Condos are expensive to buy

English isn’t Taiwan’s primary language. So long as you’re in Taipei, you’ll likely find landlords that speak English.

However:

The old apartments in Taiwan are ridiculous. Many of them, like my first apartment, don’t have windows, which is dangerous and insanity-inducing.

If you spend more than NT$25,000 monthly on a contemporary Taiwan apartment, you’ll love it. These apartments have amenities like trash collection, elevators, balconies, and community areas.

Otherwise, you get what you pay for. You’ll most likely find apartments without elevators, trash collection services, or washrooms, which are bathrooms without shower stalls.

The worst experience I’ve had regarding apartment hunting is landlords who refuse to rent to foreigners. Despite having a Taiwanese guarantor.

I can kind of understand, considering it’s likely that some foreigners bail on their lease and go home. People can rent to whomever they want, and I’m sure this happens in other countries.

But sheesh.

Despite having “unique”-looking buildings, they’re very resistant to earthquakes. For instance, the 7.4 earthquake Hualien had in April 2024 resulted in a few buildings leaning over (not collapsing). Thus, they’re built to resist a lot of earthquakes.

I couldn’t find any specific numbers. But considering Taiwan has at least one 6.0 earthquake every year, most buildings can take quite the beating.

What comes to mind as the city with the most expensive real estate in the world? Tokyo? Nope. Singapore? Nuh uh. Taipei? Almost.

If you’re moving to Taipei, which around 50% of foreigners do, and you want to buy property, expect to pay $1,631 per square foot [4]. That makes Taipei the second-highest city in the world to buy property (behind Hong Kong).

New Taipei’s real estate costs are also super high. If you swim in gold coins daily like Scrooge McDuck, then you don’t need to worry about this.


Getting Around: Public & Private Transportation

Pros

  • Actually has high-speed trains; unlike the US
  • Sparkling clean metro stations
  • Public transportation is affordable
  • Clean trains & buses
  • No drama (for the most part) on public transportation
  • Most passengers are quiet & respectful
  • Smart cards (e.g., EasyCard) makes paying for transportation quick & simple
  • Google Maps is available

Cons

  • The lack of sidewalks in Taiwan’s urban areas is ridiculous

I lied a bit when I said the US has no high-speed rails (HSR). We (in Amurica) have Amtrak’s Acela, which has max speeds reaching 150 mph. That’s nothing compared to Taiwan HSR’s 185 mph.

Moreover, America’s HSR doesn’t go across the country. Taiwan’s does. Though, just on the western part for now.

I’ve taken public transportation in Taiwan, the US, Singapore, Japan, and Canada. Taiwan was the cleanest and most affordable. Tickets for the Taipei MRT, for instance, cost NT$20–NT$65 per journey.

Most countries have smart cards, but I don’t think most of them also can buy stuff from grocery and convenience stores.

Only 42% of roads in Taiwan’s cities have sidewalks [5], partially resulting in a traffic death rate around 8 times higher than other countries. And it results in around 47 dead or injured pedestrians each day.

The solution (for you) is to just not go outside. Or to keep your head on a swivel like I do. Because even motorbike drivers will drive on sidewalks and not give you any warning. A couple have almost hit me in the past.

Are sidewalks public transportation? I’m grouping it with transportation since you’ll use them to get around. Here’s a forum post with images to illustrate what I wrote

I digress.

Google Maps isn’t available in every country. For example, China. Hence, why it’s a “pro.”

Let’s move on to the weather.


Air Quality & Weather

Pros

  • Mild winters: 66.7–75.6 °F on average

Cons

  • Sweltering summers: 72–92.8 °F (excl. humidity)
  • Frequent typhoons from July–September
  • 82% average humidity levels
  • Not the best air quality

If you’re from a cold country (like me), it’ll take you several years to acclimate to Taiwan’s hot temperatures. The winters, though, give you a pleasant break from the extreme heat.

Typhoon season is a bit scary. High-speed winds and torrential rains make going out dangerous, and frequent flooding will occur.

When I go outside on a humid day, I’m instantly drenched in sweat and get really stinky. It’s not as much of a problem when I’m inside since I always use a dehumidifier. If you don’t use a dehumidifier, prepare to lose a lot of possessions due to mold.

The air quality is pretty bad on many days, to the point where I can barely see buildings outside. However, the country’s air levels have slightly improved over time due to decreased nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and other pollutants.

IQ Air didn’t mention specific percentages. But I’ll take the win.


Private Education

Pros

  • Affordable college pricing
  • Western-style private schools in some cities

Cons

  • Cram school culture: overwhelming amounts of homework

I don’t have the most experience in this area. I’d recommend checking out other bloggers or foreigners for their perspectives.

Here’s a pleasant video that provides a good overview on Taiwan’s cram school culture:


Healthcare

Pros

  • Low co-pays: NT$150–NT$350 per visit
  • High-quality healthcare
  • Various pharmacies
  • 20–30-minute waits to see a doctor

Cons

  • Not as much medicine availability
  • Many doctors won’t speak English
  • Time crunch: doctors need to get through many patients quick, which could affect their diagnosis

Most doctors whom I’ve encountered spoke English. If you’re worried about whether a doctor at a clinic or hospital speaks English, check their website or type “Does the doctor speak English” into Google Translate and show the receptionist.

This has worked for me in every scenario.

My biggest complaint about Taiwan’s health system is the time crunch in its hospitals (and some clinics). This has led to quite a few misdiagnoses. However, I have had more misdiagnoses from doctors in America.

Warning: incoming information that’s not relevant to pros and cons…

But this is a nuanced situation. The average age for many Taiwanese doctors is 57, which means many of them are retiring. The country’s birth rate is low, and many young people don’t want to become doctors due to the high stress and low pay for many hospitals.

Now, you have a shortage of doctors, which results in less medical staff to treat patients. With an aging population and affordable health care, there are more people at hospitals and clinics, which doctors need to get through quickly.

Thus, there’s the current situation in Taiwan.


Food & Supplements

Pros

  • Clean(ish) drinking water
  • Great food safety & sanitation record
  • Night markets everywhere
  • Affordable grains & produce

Cons

  • Hard-to-find many fast food restaurants
  • Restaurants don’t focus on dietary restrictions: e.g., allergy to “X” food
  • More difficult to find Halal and kosher food
  • Not much variety regarding produce
  • Imports cost a lot
  • Many supplements are difficult to find and expensive

I’ve never gotten food poisoning in Taiwan. And I’m susceptible to food poisoning. I believe that’s a testament to Taiwan’s food safety and sanitation.

If you’re American, you won’t find Taco Bell, Dairy Queen, Carl’s Jr. and other fast food joints. But perhaps that’s for the best if you’re trying to make dietary adjustments.

Speaking of American food.

Imports are EXPENSIVE and difficult to find. The same goes for various supplements.


People

Pros

  • Honest people: if you lose something, someone will usually turn it in to lost-and-found
  • No “foreigner pricing”
  • No forced friendliness: for the most part
  • Accommodating

Cons

  • Some people spit betel nut on sidewalks

I’ve had mostly pleasant interactions in Taiwan. Most of my interactions with Taiwanese people involved them being curious about where I’m from.

I think 2 people randomly insulted me. One was a homeless dude. But that’s a lot less than what I’ve encountered in America.

Speaking of…

I haven’t encountered aggressive beggars. Mostly, they’ll just sit in a spot and beg for money. Unlike in the US, where homeless people would come up to my car and knock on my window when I waited for a traffic light.

There’s no tip culture. Meaning, no restaurant staff will (likely) force friendliness.

I don’t know whether it was luck, but when in awkward situations where I didn’t know how to respond in Mandarin, English-speakers magically appeared. And were very helpful.

Perhaps, I’m a mage that can summon people? Or my “luck” has to do with the fact that more than 28% of the population knows some English.


Living in Taiwan vs. America: My Perspective

In short, I prefer Taiwan in these areas:

  • Health care
  • Safety
  • Public transportation
  • Convenient convenience stores
  • Street food
  • No tip culture

What I miss about the States includes:

  • Access to more jobs
  • Produce variety
  • Virtually no earthquakes (in WA)
  • It’s easier to receive a loan in the US than Taiwan
  • There’s less friction with creating a bank account

Part of why I chose to live in Taiwan over the United States is because of access to more affordable healthcare. Taiwan is also safer, and I don’t need a car to get everywhere.

I hate driving.

The US has safe communities, but they’re usually much more expensive to live in.

I’m not going to compare people in each country. Because how they’ll interact with us will vary. I’ve had some negative encounters in Taiwan. But I’ve had plenty in the States as well.

I do miss being able to access certain goods and restaurants from the United States. For instance, I miss having 1-day shipping from Amazon Prime and access to bulk food powders from Nuts.com. I think I’ll survive without these perks, though.

I’ve only lived in cities in Taiwan, so I can’t speak for living in the countryside versus residing in rural areas in the States. When visiting the countryside, it became inconvenient to access everything. But the same goes for the United States.

Here’s a video I found about some of the difficulties of opening a bank account in Taiwan:

There is also little English support at banks, and passbooks are pretty annoying to deal with. I signed up for a Chunghwa Post bank account and didn’t have that much difficulty. But I’m sure the scenario would change if, for instance, you wanted a Bank of Taiwan account.

One more thing before I finish.

The United States has a wider variety of produce than Taiwan. For instance, I love beets. It isn’t easy to find beets and beet juice in Taiwan. Unless I spend more than NT$2,000 on beet juice powder at organic stores.

The air quality in Washington state was great most of the time. But come forest fire season, the air was worse than any day I’ve experienced in Taiwan.

I’m grateful to have been born in the US. However, I’m happier living in Taiwan.