teaching in china
August 25, 2005 7:41 AM   Subscribe

I have been asked to move to Tainan, Taiwan for one year to teach English and take a few Chinese classes. Is this a smart idea, safe place... [I have a few more questions inside].

1. Smart?
2. Safe?
3. Can I blog from China?
4. Is it easy to get around in the city as well as Taiwan?
5. How are the living conditions there?
6. Can I practice my faith as a Christian?
7. Is there anything I should know?
posted by bamassippi to Society & Culture (22 answers total)
Taiwan is not Communist China. I think you had the wrong China in mind.

Taiwan is a democratic country. Republic of China has a Communist government

So as for point 3: Yes. It is safe. In Taiwan. Can't say the same for China though.

And point 4: Yes. Its safe. According to Wikipedia. Taiwan has 600,000 Christians.
posted by merv at 7:56 AM on August 25, 2005

1. Yes
2. Yes
3. Yes (its the ROC not PRC)
4. Yes
5. Better than most of 'Bama and 'Sippi
6. Yes
7. It is crowded with humanity like you've never imagined. Don't get an apartment over a night market. Worst case, it's only a year and it will still look good on a resume, best case you'll spend a lifetime in love with Asia. You could become a model (not kidding).
posted by Pollomacho at 8:16 AM on August 25, 2005

Taiwan is a democracy, with freedom of speech for the most part... but you're talking about a country where a sex tape got released of one of their members of congress. Can you imagine something like that happening in mainland china?

(The government eventually banned the VCD, unsuccessfully. Their freedoms of speech are not equivalent to the USA, but probably with Korea or most European nations.)

Taiwan is crawling with fundamentalist Christians, so I don't think you'll have too many problems. The leaders have historically been Christians, although I don't know about the current ruler.

As far as learning Chinese, you might have some troubles if you're used to Pin-Yin and simplified characters. Taiwanese avoided that stuff for being too "communist".
posted by delmoi at 8:18 AM on August 25, 2005

1. Smart?

Seeing as much of the world as you can is the smartest thing you could possibly do.

2. Safe?

Yes, Taiwan is a safer place than America. (sorry if my assumption you are American is incorrect)

3. Can I blog from China?

You'll find more broadband in Tiawan than you could ever possibly eat.

4. Is it easy to get around in the city as well as Taiwan?

Lots of public busses, it is a small little island, transport will be easy.

5. How are the living conditions there?

Good. I don't know what you are used to, but the place is a modern, developed country. Toilets, electricity, cable TV, etc.

6. Can I practice my faith as a Christian?

Only if you really MUST... :)

7. Is there anything I should know?

You should know that they look different, speak a different language, and eat different food than you are used to. That is a good thing.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:18 AM on August 25, 2005

Response by poster: Hey now Pollomacho... I love the twin states of Bama and Sippi... :-)

And you all are welcome to come down her at any time... you'll never want to leave, I promise.
posted by bamassippi at 8:21 AM on August 25, 2005

7. Is there anything I should know?

Things might be getting uncomfortable for Taiwan within the next couple of years as China starts flexing its newly-found capitalist muscles.

As merv pointed out, Taiwan is a seperate country from China. However, China has wanted to "acquire" Taiwan for many, many years, but has been unable to do so without provoking a number of other countries (including the US) that have treaties with Taiwan for economic reasons. If the Chinese leadership ever thinks that the (rapidly growing) benefit of controlling Taiwan outweighs the (rapidly shrinking) cost of angering countries like the US, they'll invade in a heartbeat. And, since Taiwan is basically one large city with a token military force, China would be able to take it without much effort.

At any rate, you should know that the political scene between China and Taiwan is somewhat volatile. Do not make the mistake of, for example, saying that a Taiwanese person is Chinese. You'll have some very angry, very not-Chinese people on your hands...
posted by voltairemodern at 8:21 AM on August 25, 2005

From what I hear, Tainan is not quite as westernized as Taipei, but it is a city with a growing high tech industry and a respected university. Taiwan's current president is from Tainan. Tainan was the historical capitol of the country before it moved to Taipei, so there is a lot of interesting history and culture in the area. Everyone tells me the area has some wonderful local food, even better than Taipei for certain dishes and specialties.

As for your faith, please be respectful of the fact that Christians only make up 4.5% of the population. Taiwan has an interesting mix of religious and cultural beliefs from its unique history. I doubt anyone will bother you about your faith, so please don't bother them.

It sounds like you should do some basic research on Taiwan and its history before you go.

Wikipedia's article about Taiwan is a good place to start.
posted by babar at 8:26 AM on August 25, 2005

Personally, I wouldn't worry about Taiwan getting a surprise invasion from China. Make no mistake, it will be acquired by mainland China within the decade, and the US will definitely not lift a finger to prevent that action. However, it won't be a surprise, it will be well telegraphed and announced. There's no need for China to take Taiwan by surprise, since no one is going to try to stop them in any case.

I envy you, I'd love to live in Taiwan for a couple years.
posted by Invoke at 8:35 AM on August 25, 2005

Grew up there. Love it, yet left it. Roll Tide.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:39 AM on August 25, 2005

Oh, Bama not Taiwan, sorry. Also go Majors.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:40 AM on August 25, 2005

Taiwan is a great place to get your first taste of chinese culture in a relatively bite-sized way. Beautiful island scenery (used to be called Formosa), super friendly people, and a very progressive, western-looking consumer culture to boot. A buddy of mine has been teaching in Taipai for a while and just can't get enough. Check his website for lots of great anecdotes and photos.
posted by Aquaman at 8:42 AM on August 25, 2005

1. Smart? Sounds great! My sister did Chinese at university and spent 2 years living in Taiwan. She loved it. It sounds like a great opportunity. She's currently working for a law firm in China.

2. Safe? As safe as anywhere else. Probably safer than downtown LA. Probably safe as anywhere else. There's always talk about the mainland trying to stifle any kind of Taiwanese independence, but if something was going to kick off, you'd be able to get out.

4. Is it easy to get around in the city as well as Taiwan? My parents got back 3 days ago from visiting my sister. They didn't seem to have any problems getting around. Bus seems to be the main way to get around the cities in Taiwan.

5. How are the living conditions there? My parents found my sister's flat to be wonderful. They said it was an almost identical flat to where I live in England.

7. Is there anything I should know? Prepare yourself. Everything you think you know about China and Taiwan will be blown apart when you get there.
posted by xpermanentx at 8:48 AM on August 25, 2005

Delmoi mentions this briefly, but I believe it's worth emphasizing again. The written Chinese that you learn in Taiwan will be different from what most of mainland China uses. As a result, you will not be able to read the Chinese that mainland Chinese write, though you will be able to understand the Chinese that Taiwanese and Hong Kong people write.

The spoken variant is the same, so you'll be able to understand anyone who speaks Mandarin Chinese.

The weather there is tropical, meaning that it is rather mild throughout most of the year with a warm and humid summer. If you come from the Southern US, it should be around what you're used to.

Outside of that, what everyone else has said is spot on. If you decide to go, you'll probably learn more about the Taiwanese independence movement from old Chinese men than you'll ever want to or need to know. They do love to talk off the ears of foreigners about that subject...
posted by C^3 at 8:50 AM on August 25, 2005

Response by poster: Ahhh, Pollomacho, I see we have differences on both ends... War Eagle, and go Chocs...

Where you live now?
posted by bamassippi at 9:44 AM on August 25, 2005

My brother taught english in Tainan and loved it. He has/had no concerns about safety, etc. etc.
posted by docgonzo at 11:07 AM on August 25, 2005

If I may ask, what percentage of the population there speaks English?
posted by madman at 12:01 PM on August 25, 2005

I taught in Taiwan (Tamsui, not Tainan) and loved it. And the food is incredible.
posted by languagehat at 3:12 PM on August 25, 2005

I lived in Taiwan for almost a year, and loved it. It can be a great experience if you keep your mind open to new things.

A large part of the younger population speaks English. The older generation may speak Japanese instead. I have some background information that you might find useful, so feel free to send me an email (it's in my profile).

Oh, and
Republic of China = Taiwan = Multiparty democracy

People's Republic of China = Mainland China = communist party state.
posted by gemmy at 3:32 PM on August 25, 2005

Jeez, now I kind of want to go to Taiwan.
posted by rfordh at 3:45 PM on August 25, 2005

You may want to practice using a squat-style toilet, unless you're going to stay in the city the whole time.
posted by casarkos at 6:26 PM on August 25, 2005

not difficult rfordh:


where there's a will there's a way.
posted by n o i s e s at 6:35 PM on August 25, 2005

One thing to keep in mind: Tainan is much more rural than Taipei. I don't think you'll find quite as many people that speak English, at least not well. But I think you'll find that people are generally friendly and helpful. You may also hear a lot of Taiwanese, especially from older folk, which is very different from "Mandarin Chinese." Another random note: Taiwan has some of the best fruits in the world (my opinion)! Try everything!
posted by edjusted at 11:00 PM on August 27, 2005

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