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Six months ago we moved to Taiwan, taking a huge leap of faith in ourselves, our marriage, and our future. We’d been married barely a year and now we were on the other side of the world. We didn’t know anyone, didn’t speak the language, and didn’t have a place to live.
But let’s back it up for a second. We didn’t just end up in Taiwan one day. At the beginning of 2017, we started talking about moving abroad. It was only talk until we were on our honeymoon that April. We were floating around a lazy river, fruity boozy drinks in our hands when we realized we hadn’t been this happy or relaxed in years.
Our jobs were draining us in many ways. We worked opposite shifts with long commutes, so we almost never saw each other. We both worked in the service industry and were overworked. Our vacation pulled us out of the fog of our daily grind enough for us to realize that we desperately needed a change.
How did you get started?
When we got back home from vacation, I immediately enrolled in an online TEFL course with International TEFL Academy, hoping to be teaching abroad by January. Two weeks later, Matt enrolled in the same course and we had our sights set on Taiwan. By the end of May, I was interviewing with schools. I interviewed at only a handful of schools and received job offers from all of them. It was such a huge change from the job market in the states.
Just two weeks after I interviewed for my current position, I had accepted and signed my job offer and we had one-way tickets to Taiwan in August. For the next two months, we had to keep our move secret from our employers and coworkers. When we finally announced our move to all our friends and family, the outpouring of support was overwhelming. I talk more about preparing to move overseas in our series How to Move Abroad: An Expat Survival Guide.
How did you adjust?
Between farewells and packing, our final week in the states was a blur, and our first week in Taiwan was very much the same. When we got off the plane, we met our contact at my school and hopped in a cab. Jet lag beat out excitement and we slept for most of the first two days. The rest of our first month was a whirlwind of health checks for my visa, finding an apartment, searching for a job for Matt, and training for my new job.
Now that we’re six months into our new life abroad, we’ve settled into our new routines. We’ve broken some bad habits from the states. We have a busier social life than we ever had time for before. Matt and I spend immeasurably more time with each other now that work doesn’t consume our lives. Our local coffee, tea, and noodle shops know our orders by heart and start making our orders before we reach the front of the line.
What’s it like to teach English abroad?
I’m teaching a full schedule of classes from 6 to 16 years old and Matt is substitute teaching. Friends and co-workers text when they’re at the coffee shop on the corner. We can make plans without a 3-week schedule coordination extravaganza. It almost feels like we’re in college again. We get together with other teachers to play mahjong, drink beer, or celebrate Western holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Is the language gap a challenge?
The language barrier can be a blessing and a curse. You get pretty used to not being able to converse with people you meet every day. If you’re introverted or anxious, it’s nice to not have the pressure of small talk or be able to overhear conversations. Taiwan teaches English as part of its school curriculum, so most people speak enough English that you can get by. When we do have problems, Google translate saves the day. All my students and fellow teachers speak English, so it never feels too isolating.
Do you get to travel all the time?
We travel so much more than we used to, but not all the time. We’re bound to the school schedule, so we take advantage of breaks and school holidays when we have them. In October we visited Hong Kong Disney for a long weekend. For Chinese New Year we’re going to Australia to spend a week with my parents. Matt doesn’t have a work visa yet, so he makes quick visa runs to Macau or wherever is cheapest. Our next big vacation is over the summer when we’ll have over a month off of work.
What do you miss the most?
There are some things we miss from the states – Diet Coke, Amazon Prime, Chipotle, and our friends of course. We still have some familiar stores where we can buy our home goods, like Costco and Ikea. Sometimes we miss the convenience of Amazon, Walmart, or Target. But mostly, we’ve adapted to a more minimalist lifestyle. Shopping trips are few and far between, but we aren’t missing out on anything.
One of the first things we were told when we arrived is that Kaohsiung is ‘sticky’ – once you’re here, it’s hard to leave. It only took a few weeks for us to understand what that meant. It’s hard to believe that less than a year ago, Matt and I weren’t even thinking about moving abroad. Now that we’re here we can’t imagine trying to move back to the states. We’ve gone from ‘working to live’ to ‘loving our work’! We’re completely in love with the lifestyle, the pace, and the people. We can’t wait to continue to travel and explore.
That’s what it’s been like for us as an expat in Taiwan (so far). Do you have any other questions for us? Tell us in the comments below or send us an email!
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