Saturday, November 22, 2014

my taiwan: my top 10 expat posts

We have been living in Taiwan going on three years now.
And we just signed a contract for one more year.
To celebrate, I am highlighting some of my favorite expat posts.

Some will make you laugh and others may make you shake your head in confusion.
We have come a long way in our expat adventure.
And three years into this adventure, we still have days of wonder, merriment, extreme culture shock, and lingering confusion.

So here are my expat highlights:

Taiwanese Baseball Insanity
It may sound ludicrous but the first time I felt like I ever truly understood what it meant to be Taiwanese was when I went to my first Taiwanese baseball game. It was total pandemonium. Up until this game, I had a very limited perspective of the average Taiwanese person: quiet, respectful, non-confrontational, happy. Then, bam! This was a game changer. I saw the other side: obnoxious, over the top, passionate, don't *%@# with my team!

My Love Affair with my Scooter
When we first moved to Taiwan, I had only ridden a scooter two other times: in Thailand and in Canada. Both times were in remote areas. Suffice it to say, I was ill prepared for the reality of relying solely on a scooter for transportation. The streets of Taiwan are congested with cars, trucks, over sized buses, and thousands of scooters. As an added bonus, there are flashing, neon lights stacked all the way up super tall buildings. Riding a scooter in Taiwan is truly like being sucked into a motocross video game. See that car aiming for you? Quickly veer to the left to avoid it. See that scooter that is going to pull into traffic despite the fact there is literally no room for it? Slam on the brakes pronto! Despite all of that, or perhaps because of all of that, I freakin' love riding my scooter around town.

A Welcome Home, Taiwan Style
Nothing says welcome back to Taiwan more than these dragon covered temples. Or maybe I just appreciated my welcome home from this temple more than the welcome home we got from our apartment. Over summer, we were in the states for more than eight weeks. Apparently, that was sufficient time for all of our utilities to be turned off, which we discovered upon our arrival back in Hsinchu, you know, when it was a billion degrees and humid outside. Power? Water? Who needs things like AC and showers? Most of the time, we like to think we manage our daily affairs alright despite the immense language barrier. However, having to locate each office and communicate our issue and sort out payments and times for people to pop over to connect things turned out to be a huge undertaking and a few days.

Sometimes, being an expat forces you to humiliate yourself. Like that time, for example, I had to ask a coworker to write it burns when I pee on a post it note so I could bring it to the clinic and show the doctor who only speaks Chinese. Sometimes, bring an expat forces you to reveal TMI to people who probably would like to remain ignorant of your medical woes.

Pole Dancing in Rush Hour Traffic
Months and months later, this still tickles me. This was the scene outside of my school last spring. You see, a mother felt the lottery system for admittance into my school was unfair so she hired pole dancers, who dance on top of moving jeeps, to put on a real show in front of my K-12 school as a form of protest. Taiwanese people are extremely non-confrontational. I suppose the mother thought it was better to have strippers make her point rather than go to the office herself.

Ugly - Pretty
It took me a while to appreciate Taiwan as a whole. A lot of days, all I could think was: how ugly! Because, honestly, a lot of Taiwan is hard on the eye. But I have learned how to spot the pretty, in nature and in culture. Taiwan is a land of great contrast but I have come to a place where I can appreciate the beauty it does offer.

Up on the Roof
One major adjustment we had to make after moving to Taiwan was dealing with a lack of space. Taiwan, especially on the west coast, is densely populated and very cramped. We are from the Pacific Northwest. We always had a yard and a back yard and empty places we could wander like forests and beaches. Here, not so much. Instead, we have claimed our rooftop. No one ever goes up there so when we need to get out of the apartment but we don't actually want to go out out, we simply go up. We especially like to go to the roof at night time. We like to observe Taiwan's crazy light pollution and every now and again catch a glimpse of the stars.

Typhoon Preparation
We have experienced two pretty major typhoons since moving to Taiwan. The first typhoon knocked a tree through our bedroom window, flooded our apartment, and caused electrical damage in our bathroom. It was a pretty interesting experience, especially considering is happened three days after we first moved to Taiwan. That said, our second typhoon was a real treat because we only learned of its imminent threat hours before it hit and therefore every single store was sold out of necessities like bottled water and batteries. We survived the storm just fine eating chocolate and drinking wine though.

Moving Day, Taiwan Style
That's us, moving everything we own in Taiwan from our first apartment, which was located on my school's campus, to our current apartment, which is about a five minute scoot away. You will be surprised to note that despite going out in rush hour traffic on a major roadway, not one single thing fell from either of our scooters and we successfully moved everything from point A to point B.

Cobras on the Loose
I found this letter on my desk at work one spring day and sat down and started crying. I was horrified. I had researched all of Taiwan's numerous deadly snakes prior to moving to Taiwan and even went so far as to purchase snake boots from REI, which protect hikers' feet from snake bites. To discover that Chinese Cobras were slithering around my work place, which also happened to be where I lived, was too much to bear. I took a flashlight with me everywhere and literally contemplated not going outside for a few days.

It was hard to choose just 10 of my favorite expat posts, but I love these ones because they show so many elements of our expat life. There have been really amazing ups and some pretty severe downs. That said, I am totally ready for one more year of Taiwan and all it has up its sleeve for us! 

This post is part of the Sunday Traveler link up! Check out the blog Pack Me To for more fun travel stories + photography! 


  1. Congrats on the newly signed contract! I loved reading these posts :)

  2. Yay for another year! A lot of these had me laughing, but some had me nodding in agreement. We had no hot water for 2+ weeks in the middle of summer here in Korea. Yea, not fun. Also seeing the beauty. Most buildings in Korea I find pretty ugly. Boxy, tall and full of windows with everyone's stuff on display. But when I think about where they've come from I can appreciate what they've built. Also, the natural beauty makes up for the made made.

    1. Thank you. It was a tough choice to make but we are content knowing that one year from now we will be in Taiwan, a place we have truly come to love and think of as a home away from home.

  3. Happy new contract to you! That's pretty exciting, it definitely shows that you love the place where you are. The baseball game sounds pretty crazy, indeed, and that snake story--oh my goodness!

    1. We really, really do love Taiwan. The only reason we even consider leaving is to find a school with more opportunities. I don't think we could find better than Taiwan.

  4. Congrats for 3 years and for signing up for year 4! Great collection of posts. They always make me miss my life abroad.

    1. Thank you! Life abroad sure has its ups and downs but regardless of those swings it's a treat :)

  5. Congrats on another year! WOW! I always love looking back on other expat's posts on their experiences abroad. Always so different and fascinating. Looking forward to reading more!

    Also, did you get my email about your feature post on my blog this month? Would you like to still take over my blog for a day soon? Please let me know! :)

  6. Congrats on singing up for another year. It sounds like such an adventure (of the good and bad sorts) but what stories you get to tell because of it

    1. Yes, good and bad. But that's just life, huh?