The cost of living in Taiwan varies a lot across the country with the Northern cities of Taipei and Taichung being significantly more expensive than those in the South. Regardless, as an English teacher you’ll be earning more than double the average local salary and this will afford a great quality of living.
Accommodation in Taiwan is moderately priced and a 2 bedroom apartment in the suburbs of a large city, such as Kaohsiung, would cost you approximately £200/$300 per month. For this reason, it’s fairly uncommon for Taiwanese TEFL employers to offer accommodation as part of your benefits package. Most of the larger schools will provide ‘accommodation assistance’; and what this means varies from school to school – it could mean help paying your rent, or it could be just helping you speak with Chinese-speaking estate agents.
The cost of food in Taiwan is a little strange to someone accustomed to living in the West – eating out is cheaper than eating in. This doesn’t mean that eating in is very expensive (expect to pay around £2/$3.50 for a small chicken) but rather that eating out is so cheap. You could pick up a bowl of noodles and a fresh fruit smoothie at a street vendor for around £2/$3.
Leisure activities are also cheap in Taiwan so your money will go a long way there too. You can expect to pay around £3/$5 for a trip to the cinema and £5/$7 for a local amusement park – the Taiwanese really love their amusement parks so if you want to earn favour with your students an end of year trip could be a great way to go about it!
One thing you won’t need to budget for in Taiwan is your flight home. Almost every TEFL employer offers a completion bonus for English teachers who get to the end of their contract, equivalent to one month’s salary.
If Chinese and Vietnamese food had a baby, Taiwanese food would be it. Noodles, tofu and fish feature heavily on the menu and the food is on the milder, fragrant side of many Asian cuisines.
Lots of Taiwanese schools offer a free lunch to their teachers, usually of rice and locally-caught fish. Some teachers take the opportunity to fill up but you’re certainly not obliged to if you’d prefer to bring your own food.
Taiwan is a sub-tropical island and you can certainly expect the weather to reflect this with temperatures rarely dropping below 18 degrees Celsius/65 degrees Fahrenheit. If you do decide to teach English in Taiwan, you’ll also want to get prepared for some tumultuous weather – Taiwan is located on a major fault line and this means hurricanes and typhoons are common. Luckily, as the Taiwanese are very well prepared these weather anomalies usually just result in disruption rather than injury.
Renting apartments in Taiwan is a little different to in the West. If you’re outside of a major university area it’s almost the same price to rent a one bedroomed apartment as it is to rent two bedrooms. This is because the Confucian culture stops most single Taiwanese people from living permanently away from their family.
It’s also worth noting that the average one bedroom apartment won’t have a kitchen whereas the 2 bedroomed apartment likely will. Most TEFL teachers manage to find an apartment a week or two from their arrival.
Taiwan has an extremely strong work ethic and English is of utmost importance to every Taiwanese student. This means that there are loads of opportunities for English teachers all across Taiwan.
It’s worth mentioning that if you do choose to work for a chain language school program such as Hess you will not have full control over where you will be placed and you could end up in quite a rural area. You can, of course, express preferences for a big city and these will mostly be accommodated.
If you’re set on being in a specific city or location then you should apply direct to the smaller language schools – most advertise online nowadays and you can find jobs in Taiwan on the TEFL jobs board.
Public transport in the major cities of Taiwan is cheap, fast and regular; and Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung all have major metro systems. A single ticket on the Taipei metro starts at 30p/$0.60.
If you’re planning to live outside any of the three major Taiwanese cities, you’ll need to get your own mode of transport and the Taiwanese favourite is the scooter. Available fairly cheaply, most new teachers in Taiwan can pick up one from a teacher that is leaving the school and the country! If you’d prefer to rent a scooter you can pick one up from any local garage for around £5/$7 a day.
One of the great things about teaching English in Taiwan is that you’ll have loads of free time. If you teach at a private school you will generally work on an hourly rate and choose your own shifts. Although this might sound scary to the first-time TEFL teacher it’s actually a really safe option and thousands of TEFL teachers do this every year. You will always be given a minimum number of contracted teaching hours (usually around 100 hours a month) and you can choose whether to take on more hours to make more money or to just enjoy having so much free time.
It’s also common for teachers in Taiwan to have vacation time written into their contract. Schools will usually offer 3-4 weeks but if you have a year or two of TEFL experience already you could negotiate more. If you’re teaching in the city you could use this time to head out to one of Taiwan’s stunning beaches. Mostly located in the South of the island, Kenting National park and Green Island are both local favourites!
It’s also fairly cheap to fly from Taiwan to mainland China or Hong Kong with tickets costing around £100/$150.
If you’re thinking of teaching English in Taiwan, it’s wise to sign a contract for at least a year. This is because the Taiwanese income tax rate is 18% for your first 183 days of your time in Taiwan, which drops to a minute 5% after!
93% of the Taiwanese population are Buddhist or Taoist. This means that a large proportion of the population are vegetarian and you can find over 6,000 veggie eateries in Taiwan!
Many people teaching English in Taiwan prefer living in the smaller city of Taichung rather than in Taipei. It’s still a good sized city with a large expat community and excellent weather; however it has a smaller, more laid back feel than the capital.