Teach English in Taiwan | Bamboo Butterfly

Students in Taiwan

This is a guest post by the talented travel blogger Rhonda Mix.

Why Teach English in Taiwan?


One of the best places for teaching English overseas is the small but spectacular island-nation of Taiwan. For those of you who don’t know, and often confuse Taiwan with Thailand or some place in China, the country is located 60 km (99 miles) from China, across the Taiwan Strait. After living in Taiwan for a little over two years, I fell in love with the beautiful island. Taiwan is so much more than a high-tech urban jungle that exports products to the U.S. And Canada; it’s a multi-faceted nation that will appeal to the most adventurous of travelers. But first—let’s talk about teaching/living here and what you can expect.

Temple - Puli, Taiwan

How does one find a job in Taiwan?

Chingshui Cliffs, Taiwan

Avoid recruiters/placement agencies if at all possible. While some of them are legit, the majority of these headhunters place teachers in shady schools with equally shady contracts. Naively, I made the mistake of signing on with one such school through a recruiting agency while I still remained in the U.S. I stayed at the school for only a couple of months before finding a much better job on my own after I discovered the school ran on unscrupulous business practices. Word of advice? Secure a 90 day tourist Visa and look for jobs to begin the ARC process asap when you arrive in the country. Visit the schools, talk to the employees, do online research on bulletin boards and forums. One of the best places to find legitimate jobs is Tealit.com. During my two years living in Taiwan I worked for two wonderful schools I found through this site.

Taipei, Taiwan

Though the pay is not quite as high as Korea, most English teachers can expect to live comfortably and save at the same time due to the low cost of living. An average starting salary is around 60,000 NT per month (about 1,933.55 U.S. Dollars). Apartments are fairly cheap depending on where you choose to live and some schools offer subsidized living as part of the employment agreement. Some schools offer a bonus and/or flight home as a reward for completing the duration of your contract.

Taroko Gorge, Taiwan

The hours and days you work will vary from school to school so this is important to understand when looking for a job. Some schools will offer weekends off while others require working weekends, various shifts, and even traveling to various branches of the school. Another reason why it’s critical to do your research before signing a contract.

Hehuan Mountain, Taiwan

What’s teaching in Taiwan like?

 

I really enjoyed teaching ESL in Taiwan. My personal favorites were the little kids—these kids came in knowing absolutely nothing and I started them on the basics, such as ABC’s. By the end of the year they were reading short books and sending me text messages on my phone. With this age group a lot of drawing, miming, acting, music, and flash cards will come in handy. I also taught grade-school and junior high aged students. These students were a little more difficult as their Chinese school schedules can become very hectic and the last thing they want to do is sit and hear their foreign teacher blab away at the buxiban at the end of the day. For these kids it’s best to have entertaining games and group activities available to keep their attention. A great place for gathering ideas is Dave’s ESL Cafe.

Kids, Taiwan

What’s living in Taiwan like?

 

Be prepared for an assault on your senses. Taiwan is not for the faint of heart and from personal experience you’ll either love it or hate it. The cities can be chaotic—be prepared to dodge an endless parade of scooters, cars, trucks, food vendors, elderly people riding bicycles and motorized wheelchairs, pedestrians, and aggressive street dogs at any given moment. Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way and traffic lights are optional. If you’re up for the challenge, driving is quite the adventure and also extremely dangerous, so be on guard. Public transportation, such as the MRT, HSR, or bus system can be very crowded as well. Locals will be violating your personal space on all levels. People walk fast, talk fast, and frequently don’t look where they’re going. Sometimes the stench from the sewer vents rises up in the heat of the summer…competing for the stinkiest award with the stinky tofu vendors lining the streets.

Market vendor, Taiwan

Despite these unpleasantries however, Taiwan has more positives than negatives. The cities, crowded as they are, depict a colorful blend of tradition and modernity. Temples and lively food markets spring up between shopping malls and business districts. Outside the cities, in the Taiwanese countryside, the mountains, villages, and coastline ignite a passion that seduces and enchants those looking for an escape from city living. I fell in love with the more remote regions of Taiwan. In these regions visitors will discover Taiwan as it once was, a truly majestic island full of mystery and deep cultural roots.

Sun Moon Lake Nantou, Taiwan

Best places to explore:

 

Some of my favorites include Yangmingshan Mountain and its hot springs, Shilin Night Market, Taroko Gorge and Hualien, Sun Moon Lake in Nantou, Kaohsiung, Sun Link Sea, Hehuan mountain, Chingjing Farm near Puli, Maokong Tea Fields, and Fulong beach. Other hotspots are Kenting National Park, Jade Mountain, Orchid Island, Green Island, and Penghu Island. There are many more beautiful places for nature lovers, hikers, climbers, surfers, and outdoor enthusiasts to discover as well.

Hsinchu City, Taiwan

If you want to live in Taiwan, you must keep an open mind and open heart. The people of Taiwan are some of the nicest you’ll meet but at the same time foreigners should not take advantage of their hospitality. Though many Taiwanese do speak English, it’s best to learn as much Mandarin as you possibly can, especially if you’ll be working in the more remote regions where English is very rarely spoken. For more information on living/working in Taiwan, please visit Tealit’s ARC, Working, and Contracts page.

Taipei City, Taiwan

This is a guest post from Rhonda Mix – a freelance photographer & writer with extensive experience living overseas, traveling abroad and teaching English in Taiwan. Connect with Rhonda on her popular travel blogs Bamboo Butterfly & Midwestern Adventures and be sure to follow her on twitter and facebook as well. 

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam November 30, 2011 at 1:07 am

I’ve always thought it’d be really hard to teach English if you didn’t know your students first language, but lots of people seem to do it and really enjoy it.

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Nomadic Samuel November 30, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Hey Sam, it’s a bit intimidating going overseas to teach for the first time but I find you can pick up the language and understand the culture more and more over time.

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Dean November 30, 2011 at 1:11 am

Great info. Do you need to have a degree/TEFL to teach in Taiwan?

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Nomadic Samuel November 30, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Hey Dean, from my knowledge Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam require degrees but one can find work in China and Japan without one.

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Claire November 30, 2011 at 1:18 am

Sounds like teaching in Taiwan would be quite an adventure. Great post!

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Nomadic Samuel November 30, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Claire, I agree! I might give it shot sometime myself :)

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Roy Marvelous November 30, 2011 at 1:53 am

Very comprehensive! I’ve previously taught in Prague and often toy with the idea of going to Taiwan or Korea to teach. Interesting to hear that it’s easy to just turn up and find a job. Apparently it’s the same for China.

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Nomadic Samuel November 30, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Roy, I’d be very interested to hear about your experience in Prague. I know one other person who has done that and they absolutely loved it!

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Roy Marvelous December 12, 2011 at 9:43 pm

I plan to write a blog post about it at some stage. There’s not much money in it but the life-experience is priceless.

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Nomadic Samuel December 13, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I can imagine. I’ve taught in Korea exclusively for the money but I’m hoping to try somewhere else soon for the experience.

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James Cook November 30, 2011 at 2:15 am

I would love to teach in Taiwan. I have not yet been there but I really really want to!

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Nomadic Samuel November 30, 2011 at 8:01 pm

James, I’ve only traveled in Taiwan but I can definitely see why others have stayed to teach and explore.

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Traveling Ted November 30, 2011 at 2:51 am

Great info. I will remember this post if I ever decide to teach in Taiwan.

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Nomadic Samuel November 30, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Ted, I’d love to see you teaching in Asia someday – whether it is Taiwan, Korea or elsewhere.

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dtravelsround November 30, 2011 at 3:52 am

I’ve been in the beginning planning stages of long term travel (again) and just signed up to take an online course to get my TEFL certification. This post was really informative and interesting … while I don’t plan on teaching in Taiwan, the general thoughts and suggestions are really helpful!And, you never know … I say “don’t plan on teaching in Taiwan …” which means I very well could!

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Nomadic Samuel November 30, 2011 at 8:02 pm

HAHA, that’s a good point. Sometimes where you least expect to end up you eventually find yourself there. Any ideas where you do want to try teaching first?

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DTravelsRound November 30, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Well, was thinking Thailand … but my new plan could really lead me anywhere in the world. Likely Europe first, then Asia.

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Nomadic Samuel November 30, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Thailand would be awesome! I’ve thought of teaching there as well :)

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Rhonda November 30, 2011 at 4:10 am

Glad you liked it! Happy to share information about Taiwan, I had a fantastic time there. It’s full of wonderful surprises. It’s not quite as easy as “showing up” but if you have a legitimate degree in any field (you don’t have to have TEFL certification) you shouldn’t have trouble securing a job. Forgot to mention that in the post! :)

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Nomadic Samuel November 30, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Rhonda, thanks for a great post! I think Taiwan is definitely one of best destinations in Asia for teaching and traveling.

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Rhonda December 1, 2011 at 12:32 am

You’re welcome Sam! Hopefully I catch up with you sometime in Korea! :)

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Nomadic Samuel December 2, 2011 at 11:56 pm

That would be great :)

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The Orange Backpack November 30, 2011 at 4:44 am

Great post Rhonda! Very informative and you are definitely right about the shady schools lol. One other thing that I think is worth mentioning is the fact that teaching kindergarten in Taiwan is technically illegal. It’s rare but people do get deported. When the officers came to my school they went so far as to put a bed in one of the offices to make it look like we lived there. I don’t know who they thought they were fooling (1 bed for 3 teachers???) but at least we got the day off from teaching. That said, Taiwan is a great place to live or visit and I’m missing the weather there in particular right now because Korea is only getting colder and colder. :(

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Rhonda November 30, 2011 at 5:04 am

Yes, the first shady school focused on teaching Kindergarten (that wasn’t the main unscrupulous practice), though at the other two schools my youngest kids were around 6 and technically in first grade. So those schools weren’t doing anything illegal. The majority of foreign teachers do teach Kindergarten however and very rarely get deported, though I’ve heard numerous stories such as yours about teachers having to hide when the officers arrive! Hilarious about the bed incident. :)

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Nomadic Samuel November 30, 2011 at 8:08 pm

I never realized that about teaching Kindergarten in Taiwan. In Korea, there are probably more Kindy jobs than anything else!

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The Orange Backpack November 30, 2011 at 10:44 pm

It’s actually illegal in Korea as well. It’s one of those “turn the other cheek” type of things – same as Taiwan.

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Nomadic Samuel December 2, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Yeah, they’d have an awful mess to clean up if they seriously enforced it.

The Orange Backpack December 3, 2011 at 12:22 am

Yeah the way foreigners are sometimes portrayed here it would probabaly be a national incident! LOL

Ayngelina November 30, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Wow the photos are really gorgeous and the children are unbelieveably cute.

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Nomadic Samuel November 30, 2011 at 8:04 pm

I agree!

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Rhonda December 1, 2011 at 12:35 am

Thanks Ayngelina! I miss the kids a lot, and Taiwan’s loveliness too.

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Stephanie - The Travel Chica November 30, 2011 at 6:39 pm

For someone who has never had an experience like this but still have a love for travel, it is interesting to read stories from those who have.

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Nomadic Samuel November 30, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Steph, it’s certainly an option to consider if you plan to extend your travels. My trip overseas has extended beyond 6 years and teaching ESL has been one of the main reasons I’ve been able to do it for so long :)

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Ronald Robbins December 1, 2011 at 10:25 am

“Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way and traffic lights are optional.” hahaha I love it. This is a great article with some good advice. I often wondered what would be the best route towards getting a job teaching ESL. I had considered using a placement agency but after reading this I think I’ll veer towards your recommendations of visiting forums and talking to locals. One questions though: How did you manage to get from place to place? Was it through the purchase of a car or is the public transit system just that great around there?

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Rhonda December 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Thanks Ronald! Glad you liked it.

My first 6 months in Taiwan I got around using public transportation until I finally worked up the courage to buy a scooter (most scooters are passed around from foreign teacher to foreign teacher!). After my first year I felt much more comfortable driving, and my second year I moved to central Taiwan where I lived near the mountains and the pace of life was a little slower. I bought a new scooter, fell in love with the TW countryside, and the rest is history. Every weekend I took my little red Yamaha cruising and became an expert.:) I strongly advise against driving a scooter in Taipei though (which is where most foreign teachers first end up). The traffic is insane and really dangerous. Best to make use of public transportation there.

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Ronald Robbins December 2, 2011 at 4:58 am

Thanks for the advice!

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Hilbert December 1, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I think its really hard for a teacher to teach English Language to his student if he/she didn’t know a little bit in there 1st language. Right? But the good thing is if you are teaching kids. They learned it in the easy way. In the crucial stage of development kids are have good mind to develop lots of language. There brains are the same with a memocard that if you put an input they can store it directly. Not like the adults trying to learned another language. They struggle for learning it.

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Rhonda December 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm

It’s a little difficult at first but as we’ve all heard, young kids are like sponges so they pick everything up so quickly. From personal experience, it’s best not to use the native language in the classroom that much though knowing some Mandarin of course did come in handy at times. My little kids were much more interested in learning English when we established certain “English only” rules. To be honest, at the end of the year their English was better than other classes who had also started out at the school around the same age but their previous teacher(s) had used Chinese frequently in the classroom to explain English.

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Maria December 3, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Love this post! Honest, upfront, listing pros and yes… cons too of both the work and the country. Kudos

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Nomadic Samuel December 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Thanks Maria, I think Rhonda did do an excellent job of highlighting both the pros and cons – teaching overseas is definitely full of both.

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Rhonda January 5, 2012 at 2:49 am

Thanks Sam.:)

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jade December 8, 2011 at 3:44 am

What a great resource- I’ve thought about traveling and teaching english before, just haven’t figured out where I would want to do it.

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Nomadic Samuel December 8, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Hey Jade, it’s a tough decision to make – especially with so many options to consider.

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trvl8dintern December 12, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Impressive ;)

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Nomadic Samuel December 13, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Thank you!

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eileen ludwig December 30, 2011 at 5:44 am

Love the pictures and your story of turning a not great situation in a wonderful experience

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Cornelius Aesop May 7, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Thanks for this great resource. I’ll admit that I haven’t really considered teaching in Taiwan specifically, you find more and more information on countries like Japan, China and Korea. I made sure to bookmark the suggested TEALIT website into my ever growing job resource guide for when I make it to Asia.

Thanks for sharing!

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Rhonda July 5, 2012 at 2:06 am

You’re welcome! Yes, definitely check out TEALIT. And in my opinion, Taiwan is probably the best Asian country in which to teach (aside from Korea). Thailand would be nice too but the pay isn’t so great. It depends on what you’re looking for but Taiwan has it all.:) Beautiful scenery, good money, and wonderful people (most of the time!).

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Lisa May 15, 2012 at 3:26 am

The photos look beautiful, though the driving conditions sound insane. It sounds like you had quite the adventure living and teaching in Taiwan.

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Rhonda July 5, 2012 at 2:04 am

It was quite the adventure, an amazing adventure. Driving was insane but I got used to it quickly. :)

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Samuel August 25, 2012 at 9:24 am

Hi Rhonda! Thanks for your great post! I’m thinking of going to Taiwan to teach ESL next year but I’m just wondering what are the visa options? Do we have to apply for a work visa to do that and how long can we stay?

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Rhonda September 1, 2012 at 4:42 pm

You’re welcome! If you are from the U.S. you should apply for an extended 90 day visa before you leave the country. Once in Taiwan, start looking for a job right away, otherwise, you may have to fly out again for a visa run. Once you secure a job in Taiwan, your school will apply for an ARC card for you, which has to be renewed every year. For information, visit
http://www.tealit.com/article_categories.php?section=arcs.

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Mathew August 23, 2013 at 10:01 am

Hi, great post. Me and my girlfriend are travelling from hanoi to Taiwan and thinking of staying somewhere for a few weeks but ideally would like to get a 20-30 hour job but possibly out of the hustle and bustle of the city. We leave in 3 days as we have been recommended Taiwan so gunna give it a go. Dans got a tefl and I have nvqs and gnvqs and both got certificates and other stuff with us. U got any friends we can contact or any ideas at all ? Thanks Mat and Dan

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Samuel Jeffery August 25, 2013 at 4:13 am

You should contact Carrie of My Several Worlds. She’s involved in hiring English Teachers in Taiwan.

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Nick October 19, 2013 at 12:45 pm

This was a really good overview on what it’s like to teach English in Taiwan. I’ve been here for 8 years and have traveled quite a bit around Asia. While there are certainly better places to go on vacation, I think Taiwan is one of the best places to live and teach English for a few reasons.

1. You can make a decent salary that should easily cover the cost of living and then some.
2. The cost of living is cheaper than the West by about 50%. It’s not as cheap as South East Asia, but you can live a comfortable life on under $2000 USD a month.
3. The food is cheap and good.
4. One of the safest countries you’ll ever visit. You can be in almost any area at any time and never worry about personal safety.
5. If you like to be outdoors then there is so much you can do as Taipei as it is surrounded by mountains.

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al March 20, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Sorry — you lost me at “60 km (99 miles)”.

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Nomadic Samuel December 3, 2011 at 12:43 am

LOL, that’s definitely the truth.

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