The other day we started feeling awfully nostalgic about the two years we spent living in Taiwan. Leaving was a whirlwind. In between packing up our apartment, saying goodbye to the most adorable 6 year olds in the world (that I taught almost the entire two years!), writing our first eBook, and planning our cycling trip through Vietnam, there wasn’t a whole lot of time left to process our farewell.
That said, one of the good parts about spending eight hours a day on a bike is that it allows for plenty of time for reflection. When we weren’t thinking about how uncomfortable we were or what we wanted to gorge on for supper that night, we did inevitably find time to think about leaving Taiwan. And while we aren’t ready to return yet, we quickly realized there is already plenty we miss.
In no particular order, the 10 things we miss most about life in Taiwan:
1. Driving A Scooter/Motorcycle
I was petrified to drive a scooter. I actually managed to resist it for a whole six months while my loving husband chauffeured me around town. But then our work schedules changed and there was just no denying it. I was going to have to face my fears and learn to drive in Taiwanese traffic. I hated it for the first few weeks. It was stressful and scary and I was convinced I was going to get into an accident that would leave me even more terrified of driving. But then something miraculous happened. As I became more comfortable with the flow of scooters around me, I realized I actually enjoyed driving my scooter. And by the end of the two years, I didn’t just enjoy it—I actually loved it. Luckily I’ve seen a remarkable amount of scooters around our hometown. Looks like they are finally making an appearance in the US. Maybe by the time we finally move back home scooters will even be trendy… Although, unless I can drive like everyone in Taiwan, it won’t be nearly as fun.
And Dan? I think he might have shed a few tears when he sold his motorcycle. Since then, he asks my opinion of every single motorcycle that passes. There will definitely be another one of those in his future.
2. Using Chopsticks
We were acceptable at using chopsticks before moving to Asia. However, using them day in and day out, we realized we actually preferred them to Western utensils. With a fork in hand, we tend to shovel food into our mouths, barely leaving a moment to inhale. But with chopsticks we slow down a bit—and it’s not even because we’re having difficulty transferring the food to our mouths. Something about eating with chopsticks makes the entire process more contemplative. Maybe that’s just us.
3. Teaching English
This certainly didn’t feel true a lot of the days we actually had to go to work. We’re also not certain if teaching will find a spot in our futures or not. However, we will always remember teaching fondly, and part of us will always miss being in the classroom. Teaching is difficult, but it’s also extremely rewarding. Seeing that light bulb go off, building a relationship with students, fostering their growth…those are all hard things to replicate in other career paths. Not to mention, we learned a heck of a lot about ourselves by being in front of a classroom for two years.
4. The High Speed Rail
Travel in Taiwan is quick and convenient with the High Speed Rail. If you’re on the west coast, you can easily get from the north to south in just a few hours. Traveling in countries without such efficient public transportation, it doesn’t take long to miss the HSR.
5. The Hospitality
We’ve beaten this nail on the head a few too many times on the blog, but there is just no way that we could exclude Taiwanese hospitality from the list of things we miss. We couldn’t have asked for a friendlier culture to take us in, help us day in and day out, and make us feel like we were truly at home in Taiwan. We’ve encountered amazing hospitality around the world, but Taiwan will always top the list of places where we were overwhelmed with kindness.
6. The Tea Stands
They’re everywhere. Most famous for serving the addictive and calorie-packed Pearl Milk Tea (Bubble Tea), you can also get any variety of fruit or Taiwanese style teas and juices. Our favorite was the fresh-squeezed grapefruit green tea with no sugar. With a large cup only costing between $1-$2, we didn’t feel guilty drinking one every single day.
7. Mr. Bubbles
Laundry at our apartment was a tedious task. Our washer sounded like it was tossing around bricks rather than cotton tees, and our teeny-tiny balcony on the 17th floor wasn’t exactly conducive to drying. The end result was always a dank mustiness that blanketed wrinkled and stiff clothing. Bleck. But then we discovered Mr. Bubbles and our lives were forever changed. Drop off about five loads of laundry and a few hours later Mr. Bubbles has them clean, folded, smelling like fields of flowers. Laundry will never be the same.
It just doesn’t get any more convenient than a 7-11 in Taiwan. We even wrote an ode to them: 13 Amazing Things You Can Do At A 7-11. After frequenting 7-11s multiple times every single day, you can certainly believe we miss them.
9. Feeling Like A Celebrity
I have no idea why, but Taiwanese seemed to find Dan and I very attractive. It’s odd. Like, one day we were running laps around our apartment complex. A stranger stopped us on a corner so he could ask us to participate in a modeling shoot because we were a ‘beautiful couple’. Unfortunately we went to Bali and then lost his phone number, so our encounter with fame was cut short. However, that would have never, ever happened in the U.S. While some people might not like the attention, we’re going to be honest: feeling like a celebrity is fun, and we appreciated all the compliments we received.
10. The People
We met some truly amazing people in Taiwan. Fellow expats and Taiwanese alike, our experience in Taiwan would not have been what it was without the meaningful friendships we made. Before we start to tear up thinking about it, we’ll just say thanks to everyone for being awesome. Thanks for the karaoke nights and the scooter trips, the late nights of dancing and the weekend getaways, for celebrating Thanksgiving at our place and teaching us about Mid-Autumn Festival at yours. It’s always the people that make a place, and you’re definitely what we will miss the most!
We’ll always remember our time in Taiwan fondly. However, that’s not to say that it was perfect. As much as we love Taiwan, there are a few things that we…well…won’t miss so much. For example, there are those expensive 15-hour flights across the Pacific. Luckily this upcoming year should find us on primarily quick, affordably priced flights this side of the hemisphere.
Check back next week to find out all the other things we won’t miss about living in Taiwan. In the meantime, let’s hear from you!