You Know You’ve Lived in Taiwan a Long Time When….

Expat in Taiwan
Expat Excepts: You Know You Have Lived in Taiwan a Long Time When….

On June 13th of this year, I celebrated my 15th Taiwanversary (15 years living in Taiwan). And even though that day has long since passed, I thought I would share a reflection of how my life has changed over the last decade and a half since arriving on the island of Taiwan. It’s funny how some things that once seemed so strange and foreign have become completely normal and a part of every day life.

So, you know you’ve been an Expat in Taiwan for a long time when….

~1~ the main condiment in your refrigerator is soy sauce, not ketchup.

~2~ your vegetables are bargained for and bought at a morning market and all of this is done without even getting off your scooter.

~3~ hearing an English conversation is the most amazing thing and chances are, you can’t help but listen in.

~4~ you stand out like a sore thumb and people make it their mission to greet you with a friendly ‘hello.’

~5~ you neglect to follow some of the traffic rules and regulations as it is more dangerous to obey them than not.

~6~ you appreciate the simple things in life all the more – seeing your favorite brands or snacks from your native country makes your day, month, or even your year. Also, finding your own piece of paradise and having it all to yourself is a highlight moment.

~7~ Beethoven’s music has a whole new meaning which involves you running out to personally place your trash in the yellow garbage truck (and recycles in the white one).

~8~ you tend to speak Chinese phases even when you return ‘home’ to your native country for vacation.

~9~ people sometimes try to cut the line – but you are not afraid to give them a polite reminder to ‘pai dui’ (which means line-up) and you do it with a smile on your face.

~10~ 7-11 (or any convenience store for that manner) is a one-stop shop for everything. You can eat, pay bills, buy coffee, purchase phone cards, and the list goes on.

~11~ hello has an entirely different meaning and it is used to capture your attention – whatever happened to ‘Excuse me.’

~12~ you tend to be cultural influenced and gravitate towards cute things. – You are fully aware that Taiwanese love ‘hao keai dongxi’ (very cute things)!!

~13~  the smell of stinky tofu no longer makes you hold your breath. **Bonus**

~14~ you are surrounded by people who are extremely friendly and will go out of their way to help you without any expectations in return.

~15~  you are content and happy with life in Taiwan and you realize your initial impressions about this island were inaccurate!!

I could add a lot more but I will stop here!!

Are you or have you ever been an expat? What are the things that stand/stood out to you while living in a foreign country?


50 thoughts on “You Know You’ve Lived in Taiwan a Long Time When….

  1. That’s a nice list and I like the point of doing your shopping at the market without getting off your motorbike, I can almost picture it 🙂

    I lived in The UK fro almost 7 years before starting travelling and I have to admit there are things that just became part of my everyday life and routine. Like having at least two jars of marmite with me in case I’d run out and believe me that said by an Italian is a big thing, I know only few Italians that are in love with the delicious yeast extract 🙂

      1. Apart from learning English which was the reason why I first went there, no challenges, not really. Oh that’s not true, hang on. Coming from Italy, the rainy and gray weather was difficult to get used to.

  2. What a cute post! Happy Taiwanniversary!

    I think I know I’ve been living here in China too long b/c I have become addicted to online grocery shopping. I literally no longer have to step into a store to get all of my favorite things — they deliver, straight to your door! No more lugging it down the road in your bicycle (or on the bus). And we always buy enough to make the delivery free. I think next time I go back to the US, I’m going to hate having to set foot in a grocery store.

  3. Love the fact about traffic rules. Though I never drove a car in Mainland China yet it is already enough for me to just sit in a car/ taxi to make my heart race. I think I could not witniss any followed traffic rule so far and really believe it would be deadly to try to follow them 😮

    1. I know what you mean. I have only driven in one of the bigger cities once and it was a total nerve wreaking experience. However, I am not afraid to drive in the smaller cities or towns. If we go to Taipei, for example, my husband always drives and I am the co-pilot instructing him to watch this car or that scooter (I make a great ‘back-seat’ driver, only I am sitting in the front). 🙂

      1. If your kitchen isn’t in broad daylight, it should be fine. After all, it’s always sold in non-refrigerated areas… which is the same for ketchup, but I did use to keep the latter in the fridge (no longer have some like you haha), haha. I just make sure to keep it away from my stove, because the heat may affect it.

  4. I especially like number 14! I feel the same way about the Germans – such a pleasant change after the Latvians. Something like that makes or breaks a place.

  5. Great list! I would love to go back 8 years, interview me thoroughly and video tape my life. I can’t remember what threw me or fascinated me from that first year in Japan. I do remember getting fired up about human rights, racism, political ridiculosity and work culture. I never intended to marry a Japanese man or forever set an anchor in Japan. Little bits get incorporated into daily life and then you can’t imagine not having them. 😀

    1. I know exactly what you mean. I have been writing about my expat experiences (especially from my first year in Taiwan) and it is amazing how things that were so foreign is now so ordinary. I know one thing is for sure – my first year here was one crazy year.

  6. Loved this! Wow, I can’t imagine living fifteen years abroad! I only did three-ish, with some visits home in between. I can totally relate to #8, though. When I came home from Korea, I kept wanting to say thank you in Korean and cross my arms for “no.” I loved #2. The thing that really stands out to me now that I’m living in the US, after years of not dealing with cars abroad, is how cumbersome needing a car to navigate the suburbs is.

  7. I loved this! You really are a pro if you can bargain for your veggies without even dismounting from your scooter. If you and your hubby have your own house, I’m going to assume you guys must live in a more rural location (please correct me if I’m wrong!) My husband, who is Taiwanese, and I live in the middle of Taipei. Housing is expensive, so we live in a studio apartment, a very nice studio, but it’s small.

    As an American, I’m used to more space. Since I used to live in Changhua County and even had friends living in Yunlin and Nantou, I’ve seen sprawling apartments with super affordable rent, houses even (like yourself, but I guess you’re an owner, congrats). At this point, what I want most is a kitchen. Like you, we’re surrounded by markets and places to buy fresh produce– and my husband is a chef (he recently quit his office job to pursue that dream).

    Pray tell, which part of Forumosa do you live in and are you an English teacher? I usually assume most foreigners are, not to be presumptuous, but simply because 85% of the time it seems to be the case, albeit there is the odd entrepreneur and in Taipei, student. Are you planning to reside in Taiwan permanently? Buying a house is a big commitment.

    1. I know what you mean about living in Taipei. I lived in Taipei for 6 years and lived in a 30 ping apartment on the outskirts of Taipei city which I thought was huge. Life was sure more fast paced and busy compared to life now.

      Yes, my husband and I live on the west coast of central Taiwan, a short drive from Taichung. The place has all the conveniences of life in the city (at least 7 major supermarkets) and everything you would need to live comfortably (its funny how ‘rural’ in Taiwan means a town of 80 or 90 thousand people). It took a little of adjusting when I moved here but life, in general, is awesome once I got my bearings and began driving around myself (freedom is very important to me and when I first moved, I missed the convenience of public transportation). And I do teach English but a career change may be on the horizon.

      I think it is awesome that your husband is following his dream to be a chef. I believe that it is important to do what you love – kudos to him for taking such a huge step. Do you ever miss living in Changhua? I bet life in Taipei is very different.

      1. Honestly I don’t miss living in Changhua, although I look back on some things fondly. My first job was at a buxiban and it was stressful. My job is so much better now. I also do odd jobs and freelance work. More options in the city. But again, a lot of jobs can be done online, too. For example, editing work. Even now, while I’m back here in the states visiting, I’ve been editing and doing voice recordings that I just email. You guys must have APRC’s , it’s so much more chill once you’re a resident and don’t need to depend on your job to stay in Taiwan. Freedom is important to me, too. Do you drive a car or just a scooter in Taiwan? I’m scared to drive here. It’s just so unpredictable on the roads. I don’t ‘get’ the driving culture so I just rely on my feet, my bike and public transit, lol.

  8. After driving in Manila for a couple of years, I learned to drive like a Filipino. I actually enjoyed weaving through traffic and ignoring the rules. I had to relearn American rules of the road when I returned.
    One of the things I miss is going to the fish market where I can lift the gill and run my finger down the fish’s back to see how fresh it is.

    1. Your experience of returning to America and re-learning the rules of the road reminds me of all the times that I had to tell my husband that ‘you can’t do that in Canada’ while driving there during our trips. He quickly learned the rules through, especially the one of stopping at crosswalks for pedestrians.

  9. Congratulations! 15 years is a long time to be away from home. Have you applied to become a citizen of Taiwan? I believe holding dual citizenship is perfectly fine for Taiwan and Canada.

  10. Happy 15thversary, Constance! Just wondering, how often do you go back to Canada and ever miss your hometown? =)

  11. Happy Taiwanversary and Happy Thanksgiving! 😀
    There seem to be a lot of similarities between Taiwan and Japan (the cute things, the convenience stores being *incredibly* convenient) and the classical music in “odd” places… The New Year regular “Auld Lang Sine” is played when at closing time in shops here, and I’ve heard “Yankee Doodle Dandy” at a train station (to announce a train’s arrival to the platform).

    1. I just love how there are so many similarities – actually, Taiwanese really love Japan and all things Japanese so I am not surprised that there Japanese influence to a certain extent.

      But, wow! That are some, let’s say, different uses for these songs. I just can’t imagine the train pulling up to the station and Yankee Doodle Dandy blaring from the loudspeakers or hearing Auld Lang Sine at closing time – but then again, that would make it feel like New Year’s Day every day!! 😉 Thanks for sharing!!

      Hope your weekend if off to an amazing start!

      1. Yes, dittoーthe Japanese love Taiwan too, so I think it’s mutual! I have many friends who go on a foodie adventure there almost every year and I am sorely tempted to go with them after hearing all their stories about wonderful food and experiences they have. 😀

        It did, thank you! It’s ending far too soon though! Hope you’ve been having a lovely one. 🙂

  12. I just arrived in Cusco, the most touristy place in Peru and can entirely identify with what you say about hearing people speak English. I’d not heard another English conversation in 3 weeks until I came here, now I can’t help but listen in! I’d love to visit Taiwan too. 🙂

    1. I am glad you can relate! I can think of several occasions where people were speaking English in Taiwan that I couldn’t help but listen in. The conversations were not that exciting but they stood out among all other Chinese speakers! Hope you make it to Taiwan some day!

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