When I first started telling friends and family members that I was considering moving to Taiwan to teach English for a couple of years I received so many negative responses that I was astounded.
I thought people would be interested and supportive. I made the assumption they would maybe ask me why I wanted to move out of curiosity, but instead the reactions were full of aggression, judgment and doubt. It was so strong it even made me question myself. Sure, a couple of people made some good points that were worth thinking about, but most of it was just silly.
Here are 3 all too common reasons I heard about why I shouldn’t move to Taiwan.
You can’t even use chopsticks!
I cannot even believe that someone would actually think this was a legitimate reason to avoid moving to Taiwan or anywhere else in Asia. The fact that this wasn’t coming from one person, but from many people, was even more nuts. And to top it off, I actually could use chopsticks before moving here.
However, if you don’t know how to use them, don’t fret. Firstly, they are easy to use, and if you want to learn it won’t take very long. Second, forks and spoons are everywhere in Taiwan.
It’s not uncommon for me to be out at a restaurant using chopsticks when I look over and see a Taiwanese person using a fork. If any of your friends try to use this as a talking point for why you should stay home, I suggest that you kindly remind them that it’s 2013 and not 1200 and that spoons and forks have made their way to Asia.
Update: 2 years later, and plenty on people still surviving with forks and spoons here in Taiwan.
They only eat rice over there. You’ll get so sick of it!
Is there a lot of rice in Taiwan? Yes, there is. Do people eat a lot of rice in Taiwan? Yes, they do. Do people ONLY eat rice in Taiwan? Of course not!
That is almost as bad of an assumption as the chopsticks one. Yet, I heard this constantly. I have been living in Taiwan for about eight years at this point and I can’t even count how many people said something like, “Oh, I don’t like rice. I could never move there.” Pure crazy talk.
Rice is a Taiwanese staple food, but it’s not the only one. Noodles are major staple as well. But guess what? I rarely eat either of them, and I eat just fine.
If you don’t like rice or noodles you have just as many options as you do in your home country. There’s plenty of seafood, beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, and fruit here. If you eat tofu, that is EVERYWHERE. If you don’t like or eat rice you’ll be fine.
You don’t speak Chinese, and they don’t speak English!
What a twisted mess of a statement this is. If you don’t speak Chinese, then technically it’s correct. But, the statement as a whole is not a bad thing at all. Let’s take a closer look at why.
For the most part the second half of the statement suggesting that the majority of people in Taiwan don’t speak English well or at all is accurate. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. If Taiwan was an English speaking country there wouldn’t be any need to pay native English speaking foreigners to move to Taiwan and teach English. You would be out of a job before you even got there.
If you speak Chinese just skip his next part, but if you don’t, then like the second half of the statement, the first half is true. Like me when I moved here, you don’t speak Chinese. Of everything we have talked about to this point, this is the one true bump in the road, but that’s all it is. It’s not a stop sign or red light.
Knowing Mandarin in not a must, especially since you will most likely work in an English environment or at least work with people who speak some degree of English. Plus, moving to Taiwan will give you both the motivation and means to learn Chinese.
Of course if you already have some basic Mandarin under your belt, it will make your experience a little smoother, and if you plan on learning Chinese when you’re here, having a base to launch from can be helpful too, but it’s not mandatory. Nick and I already added a couple of language learning tools we found useful in our resources section, with the major one being Rosetta Stone.
If you feel that you absolutely must know the basics before arriving, then it’s worth checking out the software.
Don’t Let the Naysayers Make Your Choices for You
At the end of the day the choice of moving to and living in Taiwan is your decision. It’s not paradise here, but it’s not an archaic chopsticks and white rice only culture either.
There’s a lot to do, a lot to eat, and a lot to see.
If relocating to Taiwan is something that you really want to do, I strongly suggest to reach out to others who have done so, not from people who have never left their home town.