Living in Taiwan

5 Interesting Observations When Visiting Home

One of the cool things about teaching English in Taiwan is that you can often get a decent amount of vacation time, although for most jobs it will be unpaid (usually people go on vacation between contracts or in the summer and during Chinese New Year).

Chances are if you stay in Taiwan for awhile you will go home to visit family and friends. And actually right now I’m in Boston visiting my home for a couple weeks.

I always enjoy coming back to the US and have a great time when I’m here. However, even though I lived in the US for almost my whole life before coming to Taiwan, it always feels a little weird to return. In the post below I’ll cover the top 5 top observations I have about visiting home.

1. Everyone speaks English

Yeah, it seems pretty obvious that everyone is going to speak English, and yet every time I come back to the US it takes a day or two to realize that I can understand everyone and everything. During my first few days back I always find myself getting ready to use my broken Chinese with cashiers or waiters until I remember that they speak English.

At the same time, I find myself tuning into other people’s conversations while I’m out and about. I’m not doing it on purpose, but it’s just that I’m not used to hearing English constantly spoken so I start listening in until I remember it’s normal for people to have English conversations in the US!

2. People are, well, much bigger in America

Hopefully no one is offended by this and it isn’t a judgment on people in the US. Rather, it’s merely an obvious observation that I have every time I come home.

Now this isn’t to say that everyone in America (and other similarly sized Western countries) is fat and everyone in Taiwan is skinny. Far from it.

But overall Taiwanese people are considerably smaller than people in the US. This is always a little shocking when I return home and notice the size difference. Even people deemed skinny in the US are bigger than people who are considered skinny in Taiwan.

For example, in the US I can often get away with wearing M sized clothing, whereas in Taiwan I need to buy L and often XL.

3. Things are much more expensive

I wrote a post about monthly living expenses while living in Taiwan and if you read it you’ll be able to see that you can live quite cheaply there. For example, my wife and I pay about $650 in rent in Taipei near an MRT stop, and for a comparable place in Boston we’d easily pay double if not triple that. The same is true for nearly everything in the US from food to clothes and it can be quite a shock when you are used to Taiwan prices.

It can be a little uncomfortable at first spending money because things can be so much more expensive, but I usually get over it after a few days. However, that certainly doesn’t mean I like spending more money for things and I still compare prices for nearly everything I buy.

4. Things seem a little boring

If you have read any of our posts you know that Tim and I both think living in Taiwan is a lot of fun. Taipei is a vibrant and active city and there is always something going on. While Boston is a great city and I always have a lot of fun here, things just seem a little more boring compared to living in Taipei.

At the same time, most of my friends are still doing the same normal routines that they were doing before I first left for Taiwan 8 years ago. This is fine and most of them are perfectly happy, but it’s hard for me not to compare my life and all the fun things I get to do in Taiwan and realize that if I had stayed in Boston I’d probably be stuck in the same routines as before.

5. Your friends don’t want to hear every detail about your life in Taiwan

I think it’s pretty common for people who are abroad to come back to the US and want to tell their friends and family every little detail about how life in Taiwan is cool/exciting/interesting/crazy/terrible/awesome/horrendous/(whatever adjective you want to use).

I learned this pretty quickly when I studied abroad in Prague and came back to the US all excited to share my awesome adventure with my friends here only to find out they didn’t really want to hear most of my stories. Now of course your friends and family will be happy to hear some stories for the first day or two — they are your friends and family after all. But in my experience they will start to tune you out in a day or two if all you talk about is your life abroad.

There are a few reasons for why people don’t want to hear every detail about your life Taiwan.

First, they may be a little jealous of your time abroad. While you have been abroad doing cool, interesting and new things they’ve been stuck in their normal (and possibly boring) routines. Hearing your stories makes some people jealous that they aren’t have the same kind of adventure.

Second, while your stories may seem interesting and exciting to you, in reality it’s hard for people to really grasp the details if they haven’t had similar experiences. I’ve told what I thought to be wild and crazy stories about some of my experiences abroad, but my friends just didn’t seem that excited by them because they couldn’t really relate to the experiences I had had.

Third, while your friends aren’t having crazy adventures abroad, they have still been busy with their own lives while you were gone. So remember that they will be happy to hear about your life in Taiwan, but they also very likely want to be able to share what’s been going on with them.

For a somewhat related post, but in reverse, you can check out my post on dealing with culture shock in Taiwan.







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