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!
You guys are cute! #9 doesn’t surprise me…plus you’re a white couple in a place where (from what I’ve heard) being white is very desirable, no? That’s really interesting about chopsticks; I never thought about it like that before!
Sam recently posted…Vegetarian or Raw Vegan? Almazen vs. Raw Café, Lima
o yea, having white skin is definitely huge. every time we would come back from the beach we would be greeted with a “ooo, teacher, what happened to you?” we didn’t have too many people comment on our skin when it wasn’t bronzed, but I did have a friend that had her super white skin caressed by strangers on a regular basis!
Did you ride a motorbike in Taiwan? So awesome. It’s way too dangerous in China so I stick to riding my bike from time to time. There are no 7-11 shops in China, but we love our bubble tea as well!!
Agness recently posted…Exploring The West Coast Of Ireland
Riding a bike is much healthier, anyway :) I tried to ride a bike for a bit, but there were very limited bike lanes where we lived, so I found myself out with all the scooters and cards anyway! Gahh I miss bubble tea SO much!
Love this! So glad I found your blog. We share many of the same experiences here in Korea. Your posts about Taiwan also inspired our recent vacation there during the mid autumn festival last month. Can’t wait to see your new adventures to come.
Thanks Stephanie! So happy to hear you made it to Taiwan! What did you think of it? Hope you got good weather… I thought I heard a storm passed through!
What a great list, guys! As you know, we were only in Taiwan for 3 weeks, but I miss many of the things on your list anyway—it’s a country that really charms you fast! :)
Thankfully before we ever even came to Asia, both Ton & I had our own scooters that we used to ride around Nashville, and I was always SO happy riding mine. I would ideally only want to live places where I could ride a scooter year-round—I always feel like you get to enjoy your surroundings so much more and traffic never seems to be so bad when there are more scooters and fewer cars on the road. Plus, they’re way more efficient and cost far less than a car.
I am shocked, however, that you don’t have any food (other than bubble tea) on this list! Scandalous! :D
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Chewing the Fat with Living If!
That’s SO awesome that you had a scooter in Nashville! I really don’t ever remember seeing them when we were actually living Stateside, but like I said, during our brief visit they were everywhere! Maybe more people are catching on to the cost effectiveness. I remember my friends would get so jealous when I said I could fill up my scooter tank with gas for only $5 :) How did driving in the US compare? Could you still maneuver around cars to get to the front of the line in traffic? And I know, we really do miss some of the food in Taiwan, but I think we just kinda forgot about it after eating such amazing meals in Vietnam! Haha give us a few more weeks of just rice and beans in Costa Rica and I bet we will be dying for some beef noodle soup!
Riding a scooter in the U.S. is different from in Asia—most states don’t allow “lane splitting” so you pretty much drive as though you were in a car with the entire width of the lane to yourself. The downside is that you don’t get to zip around quite as quickly as you would in Taiwan, but the upside is it’s MUCH safer, especially since most drivers in North America aren’t primed to look out for two-wheeled traffic in the same way they are in Asia.
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Chewing the Fat with Living If!
I haven’t left Korea yet but I already know I’m going to miss the public transportation and the easy access to hiking trails. Also, having the convenience stores with chairs and tables out front will be missed as well.
Tim at Travellistic recently posted…Visiting Seoul Grand Park: Seoul Zoo
Wow, I never realized that Korea had so many hiking options! It sounds so similar to Taiwan is so many ways :) Public transportation really is so amazing, especially when it is of such high standard!
There was a typhoon but we got some ponchos and umbrellas and braved the weather! If you have time, check out our videos in Taiwan on youtube..http://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtJ9qlfHq9L_EJ1NKwM_FKE37QgqVQd2x
Stephanie Hedger recently posted…Let’s go to… the FC Seoul vs Suwon Soccer Game!
YAY! Can’t wait to see the videos- definitely going to check them out this weekend :)
Love this list, it reminds me of much of what I miss about Japan. I holidayed in Taiwan and then taught ESL to lots of Taiwanese here in Perth and I definitely agree about their hospitality and friendliness. Wonderful people!
Thanks Amanda! We haven’t been to Japan (or Perth) yet but we would love to visit one day! I’ve heard there is a really large Taiwanese population in Australia!
That’s true – high proportion of Asians to start with (not surprising given how close we are to Asia) and lots of Taiwanese. One of my son’s favourite daycare educators is Taiwanese, she’s so lovely!
Amanda Kendle recently posted…Why travel: To inhale nature and listen to birds sing
Awesome post outlining Taiwan which sounds like a great country to spend time in. I’m currently teaching English in Korea and it sounds fairly different Taiwan seems much better!
alex | Partial parallax recently posted…Capture The Colour – Sharing The Colour
Haha we haven’t been to Korea yet, so not sure if it is better or not! You should read our new post, the things we don’t miss about Taiwan, for a more accurate comparison ;-P Taiwan is a great place to visit though!
I am an American expat, so I guess I am always living abroad, when I am not traveling. We spent 10 weeks in Spain last year and I miss the tapas.
Rhonda Albom recently posted…Lambs, Cows, Pukeko and More in New Zealand’s Shakespear Park
Yummm. I spent a few months living in Spain, and I definitely miss the tapas and wine!
Feeling like a celebrity annoyed me when I was there…but sure do miss it now being back in janada!
Haha, isn’t that always how it works? I definitely sympathize! :)
loved #9 haha. it’s no surprise. you actually are a beautiful couple! add the fact that you have white skin in the middle of asian brown complexion and there you have it. i am sure people always feel starstruck everytime you guys walked around. haha. i think it’s what we call, opposites attract. when i was in the US and Europe, i got the same reaction from people. They weren’t exactly asking me to be a model (i’m too short for that!), but they were telling me I looked beautiful or asking for my phone numbers. haha. I loved my 5 minutes of fame too :)
Heart recently posted…Everest Mountain Flight: the day we saw the highest peak on earth
Haha thank you Heart! And you are so right. We just always want what we don’t have I guess!
After going through what you are going to miss about Taiwan, I too want to visit it and experience all of it myself! It sounds like an amazing country.
Renuka recently posted…5 Best ‘Solo Travel’ Destinations In India
Hi Dan and Casey,
Loved reading your article and I just found your blog here which I loved reading now. Its nice to hear about your experience about Taiwan and the things that you miss from there….Feels like I can relate to such experiences when I think of few places from my travel in past (ex: Nepal, Fiji).
Thanks a lot for sharing this with us.
Kavita Joshi recently posted…You my friend saved my soul
Thanks Kavita, glad you are enjoying it! Nepal and Fiji both sound like wonderful places to travel!
This makes me want to move to Taiwan! We’re headed to Europe next, but maybe after that…
Heather recently posted…Visiting the NYC 9/11 Memorial
My husband and I have been living in Hsinchu City for the past 1.5 years and we just LOVE your blog!!!!!! We have found it incredibly useful + fun!
Jacqueline recently posted…consulting the guidebook
Ah, thanks Jacqueline! We love hearing positive feedback from readers and we’re so glad that you’ve found the blog helpful. How much longer will you be in Hsinchu? Hope you’re surviving the extra cold winter I heard it’s getting this year!!
The weather is really bipolar right now! Yesterday I scooted to work in a long-sleeve shirt and was sweating by 10am because it was sunny + humid but then the weather changed really suddenly and by noon and it was freezing cold and raining. And of course I did not bring my poncho for the scoot home.
We will definitely be in Hsinchu for at least one more school year (I work at the international school in the science park) but after that we just don’t know. We really like Taiwan and think it is probably the easiest Asian nation to live in when factoring cost of living/transportation/friendly locals so I think we will be hesitant to leave :)
Haha I remember all those scooter rides…one of the things I didn’t like at all was the winter rainy scooter drives. But Taiwan is a fantastic place for sure! We miss it often. If we wanted to pursue teaching as a career, we would definitely consider it again! Enjoy Hsinchu for us!!
I have been to Taiwan twice as my son lives there. I absolutely love it especially MRT. I would love to work there (have ESL) but at 60 years am probably too old to get a job. Also hubby is not interested. Oh to be young and free again.
Taiwan is such a special place and we will always remember it fondly. That’s great your son lives there so you’ll always have an excuse to visit :-)
Haha… All of these are so true
I am Taiwanese and have had live there for 10 years, but now I live in the U.S
And yes taiwanese think white skinned people are very beautiful, that’s why they trat you like a celebrity.
I’m really glad you liked Tawian, I miss it a lot too!
I lived in Taiwan as well (as a student). It’s been 5 months since I came back to my country and I start to miss Taiwan more and more every day…
I would add to your list many things but most importantly:
– river tracing, mountains, waterfalls. Taiwan is so beautiful. I had a mountain just behind my house, I could go there any time I wanted to, and river trace on weekends.
– the weather and humidity
– the guavas :)
– I even miss cockroaches sometimes, but just a little bit