Welcome to Taiwan

Hello everyone!

Thanks for reading, if you are, this is my first official blog-like post about my experiences living and teaching in Taiwan. I left the USA on November 10th, so I’ve been here almost two months and I’ve been teaching ESL in a cram school in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

Where is Hsinchu? you may ask — it’s about an hour away from Taipei by train. Why did I go there? Well, Hsinchu isn’t the most thrilling place in itself, but it’s much cheaper to live there than in Taipei, and it’s a great place to take day trips and hikes from.

Here are some photos I’ve taken around Hsinchu.

Right down the road from my apartment.
View of Hsinchu.
Downtown area.
Local mural
The street I live on, Bao Shan Liu

Here’s a list of my general first impressions of Taiwan, in no particular order.

  1. Amazing public transportation and general public areas. Incredibly clean and easy to understand, especially considering how many people there are here.
  2. Taiwanese people are extremley gracious, polite and helpful. When I got off the plane and was coming out of the aiport on my first night here, I was wandering around looking quite lost and stupid because my school had forgotten to send a driver to pick me up. No less than 5 different people approached me to ask if I needed help, not including airport workers and taxi drivers.
  3. Nothing tastes the way it looks — there’s always a surprise!
  4. As a white person, it’s impossible to blend in here. I just look different, and it attracts a lot more attention than I’d anticipated. People stare, wave, point, shout any random phrase they may know in English, do the smile/nod thing that’s really common here, and sometimes just start giggling, especially if you make any sort of acknowledging gesture in return.
  5. Although there is a hefty language barrier and things ARE different here, I’m surprised how westernized Taipei and Hsinchu are. 7–11, McDonald’s, Domino’s, GAP, Pizza Hut etc are all quite common.
  6. Dogs are either totally spoiled and pampered here, or are limping around on the street eating garbage and getting hit by scooters. The number of stray dogs is appalling! On the other hand, people treat their pets like babies. I’ve seen people pushing dogs in strollers, carrying them in baby slings, purses, wrapped in blankets, tucked down people’s coats, and riding around with them on their scooters. Half the time it looks like someone’s holding a child and then they turn around and it’s actually their dog wearing a sweater and little boots.
Well-dressed chihuahua.

Taiwanese culture, however, is very different to American culture. For one thing, people eat out all the time — three meals a day mostly, I think, and that’s just normal here. It’s just as affordable, if not cheaper than cooking, and I think many apartments are just too small for cooking to be practical. Mine certainly is! Secondly, there’s a whole culture of going to night markets after work to eat dinner, meet friends, shop etc until 10 or 11 at night. People of all ages too, not just young adults. Here’s some photos of the Tuesday/Thursday nightmarket in Hsinchu.

Hilarious slippers and hats.
Tiny little carousel ride at the night market for the kiddies.

There are a number of other everyday differences. People tend to take off their shoes before they go inside their house/apartment and then put on slippers or ‘inside shoes’ right after they go in.

The garbage truck comes by twice a day, and people have to stand on the side of the road and throw their bags in as it drives by. It doesn’t stop, and it plays a song like an ice-cream truck to announce it’s arrival.

This is my apartment. The photo was taken when the previous teacher lived here — I’ll post a better photo of it later.

These are some of the things I walk past on my way to work ☺

This is an elementary school, but many of my students go to a different one.
This is where I get lunch many days, it’s closed in the photo, sorry!
I walk up and down this road, Shipin Liu, twice a day!

More later about my trips to Taipei and my school and students. Lots of love to everyone — Kate xxx

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