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Determining if Taiwan is Actually Convenient

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Taiwan is well known for its convenience, having over 5,000 7/11 stores open 24 hours a day, small- to medium-size stores offering every service you can possible imagine at every single block, and an MRT line that connects people all over the city. For this article we are not going to feed into bragging how much Taiwan is convenient but instead pose questions to get readers thinking about whether Taiwan is perhaps inconvenient. The reason we chose to write about this topic is because we think there are two vastly differentiating experiences between being a student and a worker looking to settle down. Below are some examples based on personal experience and what we have observed from local expats looking to settle down.

Housing

When you are a student you can pair up with a couple of roommates and get a decent place at a relatively cheap price per person ranging in the US$300-450 range depending on the amount of rooms and locations. That is cheap compared to other cities in the world, allowing the student or the first-time worker making $2,000 grand a month to save money and put it toward schooling or paying back loans. However, the tides turn when it comes to thinking about purchasing. The same house if you were to buy it would most likely cost around US$500,000 due to inflation. The reason why there is such a difference is because the owners most likely bought the property a long time ago when it was cheap and are no longer reliant on paying mortgages. Thus, landlords can afford to meet local pricing needs. For those who didn’t purchase such a property years ago we consider the pricing versus amount of space and in no way can justify it, especially with what local salaries have to offer. In fact, Taiwan statistically has the most severe problem in the world of local wages versus housing costs to put this in perspective followed by Hong Kong. All of a sudden life doesn’t seem so convenient if you want your own place as you will spend the rest of your life struggling to pay your housing debt when you could get a similar house for 1/3 the price and double the salary elsewhere, at least in the US outside of the major metropolises.

Commuting

Taking the bus for NT$15 or the subwa for NT$30 is great. You can get anywhere, and if you are a student paying your way through Chinese classes or a cheap masters program this helps a lot. We couldn’t think of a better place to get around cost wise coupled with adding a scooter that gets great gas mileage into the mix. However, one day you simply will get tired of having to walk to point A and then take 2 different subway lines plus a bus to get to point B, and simply hope you can drive. Vehicles however are all subject to 100% import tax, which means that a new Toyota may cost what a BMW does elsewhere, which is one of the reasons when Taiwanese here how much such a car costs abroad they are shocked. All of a sudden you are forking out way more money than necessary just to get around. More so, you will get stuck with US$4 a gallon gas minimum and about a $150 parking fee every month just to have your vehicle placed nearby, not to mention all the other parking fees you will be charged just to drive the thing since there is almost no concept of an open parking lot.

Food costs

Being a student or a hectic on the go worker means you may need to eat out a lot. Luckily, food costs are cheap compared with other countries so you can help yourself out a lot in this regard. However, when it comes to buying food that you would take home and cook, the total costs are almost that of what you would pay in the west, especially if you throw some western food into the mix. Most individuals buy US$75-100 in groceries per a week, which is about what it adds up to if you eat more than rice and cabbage. Meat is imported, western food can be twice as much, and milk is not cheap. Essentially, there isn’t that value of saving on food costs once you settle out of that hectic lifestyle that gives you time to get groceries and cook like most people do in other countries.

These are only a few examples out of many we could think but since they are the most direct in terms of living standard issues we thought we would bring them to light. We have to admit they are a bit depressing to think about and it bothers us they exist but that’s the reality. The only question you have to ask yourself then is –just how much do you love Taiwan that you are willing to accept it?

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