How To Teach English in Taiwan

Ian taking a break from his work as an English Teacher in Taiwan

So, you want to travel forever and make money on the road? After giving you ideas on how to travel for free and how to make money while traveling. Now I’m talking to people who are doing just that! Maybe they can inspire you to also make your dreams of a life of travel a reality?

So how about Teaching English in Taiwan? – Interview with Ian an English Teacher in Taiwan

I recently caught up with Ian to ask him about his lifestyle as an English Teacher in Taiwan

Ian is from the UK and moved to Taiwan shortly after graduating. He admits that originally it was because he wanted to travel but I didn’t have enough money saved up so he took the plunge and decided to do a working holiday (teaching English) instead and it all happened so fast that he didn’t even go to his own graduation as he was already in Taipei training. Ian’s now been teaching in Taiwan for over 3 years and doesn’t have any plans to leave just yet.

Wow, you must be enjoying teaching in Taiwan then. Briefly, what made you want to teach English in Taiwan and how did you make it happen?

Originally a friend asked for an opinion about moving to Japan, I looked into it and decided it looked great and I wanted to go too. After more research I read a lot about Japan, China, Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan. Taiwan had far more positive reviews and the people writing them seemed a lot more like my kind of people. I originally moved here through an agent, I advise against this if you are brave enough to go at it alone as they often represent the worst schools that can’t hire internally. I stayed with my first job for only 3 months but my second job I’m still with today.

teaching in taiwan halloween
Ian with his class at Halloween

If you had only three words to describe your life as a teacher in Taiwan what would they be?

Adventure, self-development (I’m counting that as one) and relaxing

What do you like the best about life as an English teacher in Taiwan?

In this order: Money, adventure, people, culture. English teaching pays well here, well…not really, but with the cost of living 1/3rd of the UK and bills are dirt cheap, for example £4 a month for water and only £10 a month for electricity. This allows you to engage in plenty of adventures, driving scooters along the coastline, camping on beaches, cheeky 4 day weekend trips to Japan, Hong Kong, The Philippines, Chinese New Year (7-9 day holiday) in Vietnam or Cambodia. It really allows you to see Asia, also the other people teaching here often share the same sense of adventure so it’s easy to find a great group who say…want to rent a car and drive out to abandoned surfing beaches in the countryside.

And what irritates you the most about Taiwan?

Driving! While I love my little scooter some people out here have a death wish and you see accidents weekly, luckily most just look like a broken arm or so but I’ve seen some more unpleasant ones too. It’s really frustrating when you see parents with a 3 year old running red lights, the kids never seem to have helmets either.

ian bike
Exploring Taiwan by scooter


Have you had any embarrassing moments while settling into teaching in Taiwan?

Well, if you’re not prepared to embarrass yourself at least once then lock the door and get an internet based job, it’s all part of the fun really, from bad translations – I think I asked if I could go into the toilet (literal meaning) for about 6 months at every 7/11 in town, to getting lost and relying on the help of kind strangers. My favourite was last summer. I took a bowl of water to a neighbourhood stray dog, just in swim shorts, no shirt, phone or wallet, it was right outside my building and I forgot my key, door locked behind me. If you could see the policeman’s face when this semi naked foreigner turned up at the station trying to translate the word locksmith.

Do you have one standout highlight of your time in Taiwan?

Loads, absolutely loads, Taipei 101 NYE fireworks are amazing, especially if you get in with a nice group of locals who will take you out to a big traditional dinner first. Kenting Spring Scream is the closest I’ll probably ever get to an American Spring Break (same thing really) and that was amazing. Oh and a festival to the gods of hell where they shoot fireworks at you and you wear scooter helmets to protect yourself. My buddy’s video is here:

Ian on a school trip with his class


And what has been the greatest challenge?

Was, is and probably always will be Chinese, the language is so different and I made the mistake of not learning straight away, I wish I’d been more proactive in my first year.

Do you ever get homesick? What do you miss the most about home and how do you deal with it?

My first 3 months were pretty tough, I didn’t make a lot of friends at first, it wasn’t what I expected and I hated my job. Life got better instantly after I started my new job and moved apartments and bought a scooter. I also miss the food a lot and often get a strange craving for British culture. I got so happy to find Rugby on the internet the other day. It’s mostly food, to be honest, I’d do terrible things for a decent Sunday roast right about now!

What aspects of the life and culture in Taiwan would you most like the UK to adopt?

Their whole perceptions toward school, society and respect. There is barely any crime here andI feel safe enough to not lock the door. It comes from a society that has respect for themselves and each other. When I hear about parents shouting at teachers in the UK because their 15 year old chav daughter punched another student I feel a little angry.

What’s your top recommendation or local tip for travelers visiting Taiwan?

Winter: Taipei, mountains and lots of hot springs.
Summer: festivals, beaches and still the mountains.

Taipei - Taiwan's modern capital
Taipei – Taiwan’s modern capital

What about the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

This is the single biggest….only….worry in my life right now, it’s comfortable and so easy to stay, but I have to move on eventually. I am looking into doing an MBA right now, not sure why but I can save up for it in 3/4 months and it will probably be useful eventually, also another year to figure out this difficult language.

What is the most important lesson that life in Taiwan has taught you?

Always listen to people, especially the older expats, I’ve met people who were in banking for 15 years and came out here on a midlife crisis and never looked back. I’ve met people who’ve been travelling and teaching their entire lives and love it. I’ve also met the opposite who wish they’d left when they were younger and are effectively stuck now. Peoples experiences are the richest form of education if we are prepared to listen.


What tips would you give for people wanting to follow in your footsteps and teach English in Taiwan?

Do it, Don’t over complicate it and make excuses why you can’t travel. Sell your stuff and go, Many people reach a time in their lives where they can’t travel, children being a common reason, do it while you still can, you’d be amazed at what’s out there and how much you can grow as a person!

Thanks Ian for sharing so much about your life in Taiwan, those kids are so cute! 

Global Gallivanting is still looking to interview people working abroad, if you are interested in being featured email [email protected]

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Charlie March 8, 2015 at 10:06 am

I can totally relate to all of this (except the Spring Scream thing, which I never went to). 100% the most irritating thing about Taiwan is the driving!! As well as young children on scooters without safety precautions, what really got me was that people were allowed to drive on the sidewalks o.O Crazy. Interesting experiences though, thanks for sharing.

Luhan de Jager March 24, 2018 at 3:28 pm

I am teaching in Taiwan for almost one year now. I am looking for a new adventure in or around Taipei. Please let me know of any vacancies in an Elementary School


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