Why Taiwan? This is a question many people ask when I tell them where I live. Born and raised in a small town in Indiana, USA, I never imagined I would live on the far side of the globe, much less on an island that I knew nothing about. In fact, I couldn't even locate it on a map. Taiwan was a mystery to me. But living here for the past year has revealed many new things about Taiwan that convince me that it is truly the best kept secret of Asia. Below are just ten reasons why I love calling Taiwan my home.
1. Natural Beauty
It doesn't take long after stepping off the plane to realize that Taiwan is a place of breathtaking natural beauty. Wherever you choose to make your home on the island, you can be confident that mountains, beaches, forests, and rivers are never far away. Even in the huge capital city of Taipei, I can watch the sun sink behind richly carpeted mountainsides from my apartment window every night. I can quickly reach those mountains for a peaceful hike or hot spring soak on weekends. The beach is also only a 30 minute drive away. Any time living in a big city starts to feel a little crowded, it's easy to escape to nature.
2. Convenient Lifestyle
Gone are the days of struggling through traffic just to reach the grocery store across town. In Taiwan, everything I need is at my fingertips. Convenience stores such as 7-11 are always within walking distance, and I use them not only to buy snacks and drinks but also to pay utility bills, send and receive packages, buy tickets for sporting events, and more. When I need to travel a bit further, the public transportation system is amazingly fast, reliable, and clean. I have a pass called an EasyCard that I regularly load with funds and use on the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and buses. As a bonus—those late night snacks at 7-11? I can use my EasyCard there, too.
3. Comfortable Weather
In the Midwest, winter starts in November and lasts a good five months. Snow and ice make leaving your house a miserable experience. Here in Taiwan, we enjoy pool weather most of the year! The summers can get quite hot for a month or two, and then things cool down just enough around Christmastime to enjoy hot cocoa and spiced apple cider before temperatures rise back to the tropical island norm.
4. Low Cost, High Fun
In the US, if I wanted to enjoy a day of fun, my bank account would take a serious hit. In Taiwan, however, things are much more affordable. Food is plentiful and usually extremely well-priced. I can pick up a freshly made sandwich for breakfast, a bento box for lunch, and a couple of pork baozi (steamed buns) for dinner, all for under five US dollars. There is also an abundance of fascinating museums, parks, zoos, and amusement parks with admission costs that will set me back less than a dollar. One of my favorite pastimes is heading to the baseball park, where sitting right behind home plate costs only fifteen dollars.
5. Friendly Locals
One of my first days here, I was walking to a friend's house through some light drizzle. It began to rain a little heavier, so I sped up to avoid getting too wet. However, a woman stopped me. She couldn't speak much English, but she gestured emphatically and I realized that she was trying to give me her umbrella! I was blown away by her kindness that day and have since encountered many other people who go out of their way to be equally helpful. Additionally, many people do speak excellent English, which makes asking for directions or help a breeze.
6. Incredible Food
One of the things Taiwanese people are most proud of is their local cuisine. One day here and I could understand the hype. From the famous Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) to tender beef noodle soup, fresh bread from local bakeries to refreshing mango shaved ice, I can truly find everything I am craving here. And when I'm longing for a taste of home, there are plenty of restaurants offering food from around the world.
Coming from the Midwest, I am used to being surrounded by lots of open space and plant life—especially corn and soybean fields. I was nervous that moving to a densely populated island would mean cold, austere skyscrapers and concrete as far as the eye could see. I could not have been more wrong. Everywhere I look, I see life. Tree-covered mountains are almost always within view, small parks filled with giggling children and quiet, tree-shaded benches dot the landscape, and almost every balcony I see is overflowing with thriving ferns and beautifully scented flowers that bloom year-round. Far from being cut off from nature, I am closer to it than I ever was before.
8. Gateway to Asia
Back in the US, I dreamed of one day being able to witness the spectacular blooming of the cherry blossoms in Japan, walk along the staggering expanse of the Great Wall of China, or lounge on the pristine beaches of Thailand. Such trips seemed too expensive and ambitious from so far away. Now, living in Taiwan, I am strategically placed to make easy trips to the rest of Asia. I can't wait to explore China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and more. First on my list of planned trips is to visit Disneyland in Tokyo!
9. Endless Variety
One of my favorite parts of exploring Taiwan is stumbling across new places. Whether it's a trendy café, a little shop tucked down an alley, or a cozy restaurant perfect for meeting friends, there are always unexpected surprises every time I step out of my door. Although there are a few familiar chain restaurants and stores, Taiwan teems with unique places, full of character and just waiting to be discovered.
10. Top Ranked Destination
Finally, if none of the reasons I listed have you convinced, don't just take my word for it. Expat Insider 2019 has listed Taiwan as the number one expat destination out of 64 countries and territories. Participants in the survey cited Taiwan's incredibly sophisticated and affordable healthcare, personal safety and low crime rate, personal finance prospects, and career outlook (source: internations.org). Taiwan is the definitive destination for anyone looking for a change of scenery.
I came to Taiwan one year ago not quite sure what to expect. Moving to a country I'd never even visited before required a huge leap of faith. However, now that I've experienced the beauty, vibrancy, and kindness in this place, it's hard to imagine living anywhere else. Taiwan is truly a dream destination, a hidden jewel in the crown of Asia. I invite you to come and discover its secrets for yourself.