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Why Teach English in Taiwan?
One of the best places for teaching English overseas is the small but spectacular island-nation of Taiwan. For those of you who don’t know, and often confuse Taiwan with Thailand or some place in China, the country is located 60 km (99 miles) from China, across the Taiwan Strait. After living in Taiwan for a little over two years, I fell in love with the beautiful island. Taiwan is so much more than a high-tech urban jungle that exports products to the U.S. And Canada; it’s a multi-faceted nation that will appeal to the most adventurous of travelers. But first—let’s talk about teaching/living here and what you can expect.
How does one find a job in Taiwan?
Avoid recruiters/placement agencies if at all possible. While some of them are legit, the majority of these headhunters place teachers in shady schools with equally shady contracts. Naively, I made the mistake of signing on with one such school through a recruiting agency while I still remained in the U.S. I stayed at the school for only a couple of months before finding a much better job on my own after I discovered the school ran on unscrupulous business practices. Word of advice? Secure a 90 day tourist Visa and look for jobs to begin the ARC process asap when you arrive in the country. Visit the schools, talk to the employees, do online research on bulletin boards and forums. One of the best places to find legitimate jobs is Tealit.com. During my two years living in Taiwan I worked for two wonderful schools I found through this site.
Though the pay is not quite as high as Korea, most English teachers can expect to live comfortably and save at the same time due to the low cost of living. An average starting salary is around 60,000 NT per month (about 1,933.55 U.S. Dollars). Apartments are fairly cheap depending on where you choose to live and some schools offer subsidized living as part of the employment agreement. Some schools offer a bonus and/or flight home as a reward for completing the duration of your contract.
The hours and days you work will vary from school to school so this is important to understand when looking for a job. Some schools will offer weekends off while others require working weekends, various shifts, and even traveling to various branches of the school. Another reason why it’s critical to do your research before signing a contract.
What’s teaching in Taiwan like?
I really enjoyed teaching ESL in Taiwan. My personal favorites were the little kids—these kids came in knowing absolutely nothing and I started them on the basics, such as ABC’s. By the end of the year they were reading short books and sending me text messages on my phone. With this age group a lot of drawing, miming, acting, music, and flash cards will come in handy. I also taught grade-school and junior high aged students. These students were a little more difficult as their Chinese school schedules can become very hectic and the last thing they want to do is sit and hear their foreign teacher blab away at the buxiban at the end of the day. For these kids it’s best to have entertaining games and group activities available to keep their attention. A great place for gathering ideas is Dave’s ESL Cafe.
What’s living in Taiwan like?
Be prepared for an assault on your senses. Taiwan is not for the faint of heart and from personal experience you’ll either love it or hate it. The cities can be chaotic—be prepared to dodge an endless parade of scooters, cars, trucks, food vendors, elderly people riding bicycles and motorized wheelchairs, pedestrians, and aggressive street dogs at any given moment. Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way and traffic lights are optional. If you’re up for the challenge, driving is quite the adventure and also extremely dangerous, so be on guard. Public transportation, such as the MRT, HSR, or bus system can be very crowded as well. Locals will be violating your personal space on all levels. People walk fast, talk fast, and frequently don’t look where they’re going. Sometimes the stench from the sewer vents rises up in the heat of the summer…competing for the stinkiest award with the stinky tofu vendors lining the streets.
Despite these unpleasantries however, Taiwan has more positives than negatives. The cities, crowded as they are, depict a colorful blend of tradition and modernity. Temples and lively food markets spring up between shopping malls and business districts. Outside the cities, in the Taiwanese countryside, the mountains, villages, and coastline ignite a passion that seduces and enchants those looking for an escape from city living. I fell in love with the more remote regions of Taiwan. In these regions visitors will discover Taiwan as it once was, a truly majestic island full of mystery and deep cultural roots.
Best places to explore:
Some of my favorites include Yangmingshan Mountain and its hot springs, Shilin Night Market, Taroko Gorge and Hualien, Sun Moon Lake in Nantou, Kaohsiung, Sun Link Sea, Hehuan mountain, Chingjing Farm near Puli, Maokong Tea Fields, and Fulong beach. Other hotspots are Kenting National Park, Jade Mountain, Orchid Island, Green Island, and Penghu Island. There are many more beautiful places for nature lovers, hikers, climbers, surfers, and outdoor enthusiasts to discover as well.
If you want to live in Taiwan, you must keep an open mind and open heart. The people of Taiwan are some of the nicest you’ll meet but at the same time foreigners should not take advantage of their hospitality. Though many Taiwanese do speak English, it’s best to learn as much Mandarin as you possibly can, especially if you’ll be working in the more remote regions where English is very rarely spoken. For more information on living/working in Taiwan, please visit Tealit’s ARC, Working, and Contracts page.