American Expat Living in Taiwan - Interview with Andrea

Published: 27 Apr at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Taiwan
Andi is an American expat currently living in Taiwan where she teaches, travels, and writes about it in her blog "Andi on Adventure". The adventure began a few years ago when she quit her job in aviation sales, rented out her condo, and got rid of her “stuff”. Then she left her life in the US to start over somewhere in Asia, starting in Vietnam where she volunteered for 3 months. Vietnam wasn't a good fit for longer term, so she drifted through Southeast Asia for a few months and considered settling in Cambodia or Thailand. She finally stumbled into her new life in Taiwan where life is good! Andrea's expat blog is called Andi on Adventure (see listing here)

View above the clouds in Taroko Gorge.
View above the clouds in Taroko Gorge.

Here's the interview with Andrea...

Where are you originally from?
I'm originally from Zumbrota, Minnesota, a small town in the southeast corner of the state.

In which country and city are you living now?
I'm currently living in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

How long have you lived in Taiwan and how long are you planning to stay?
I've been in Taiwan almost 3 years and have no plans to leave! Taiwan offers expats permanent residency (APRC) after 5 years in the country, so that's my goal.

Scooter trip in the mountains.
Scooter trip in the mountains.
Why did you move to Taiwan and what do you do?
I originally considered a lot of other Asian countries and crossed them off the list as I found reasons NOT to move there. I spent 3 months in Vietnam but didn't feel it was a good fit for longer than that. After that I applied for teaching jobs in Korea but was faced with some "ageism" there and crossed that off my list. Cambodia was a little too wild and underdeveloped for me - great place to visit but not to live permanently. When I began getting job offers from China, a good friend of mine from Hong Kong convinced me to cross China off my list and consider Taiwan instead. During my Skype interview with my current boss she commented that they like to hire "mature" teachers with life experience. Finally my age was an asset!

Did you bring family with you?
No, I'm children. I moved here totally alone!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The first six months were pretty difficult because everything in my life was totally new. I had never taught before and that was a little overwhelming at first. During the first few months I didn't have transportation so I had to rely on the bus to explore the city. I also had a hard time finding a gym and developing any kind of routine. Shopping was also an adventure, kind of like a treasure hunt just to find the most basic things. After about six months it started to feel more "normal" and more like home.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
This city isn't very big and there's not a lot of nightlife, so meeting people has been more difficult than I expected. I joined a running club for a few months and met some expats there. I also have some good friends who are Taiwanese. I'm still working on developing more of a social life... it takes effort.

Aboriginal village in the mountains.
Aboriginal village in the mountains.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
One of my favorite things to do on weekends is escaping into the mountains on my scooter with a few friends. There are so many mountain roads to explore and lots of really interesting aboriginal villages. I know a lot of the mountain roads like the back of my hand but still manage to find new roads to explore. Going for a long drive on a beautiful day is very therapeutic!

What do you enjoy most about living in Taiwan?
My life in Taiwan is much simpler than the life I left in the US. I work a lot less, have less stuff and fewer financial obligations. Work is not my main focus here (hope my boss doesn't read this!). I have much more time to plant my garden, go for a drive in the mountains, work on my blog. Simplicity is good! Also, Taiwan is centrally located within Asia which makes it easy to travel and explore other countries.

How does the cost of living in Taiwan compare to home?
As I mentioned, the cost of living is so much lower than the US. I rent a very comfortable one bedroom apartment with a huge kitchen, a nice patio and a big garden for $10,000 NTD per month (just over $300 US). I don't have the expense of owning a car and can fill up the tank on my scooter for about $3.00 a week. The lower cost of living in Taiwan is definitely an attraction!

Got lost in the mountains and found these guys.
Got lost in the mountains and found these guys.
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Taiwan?
The Chinese language is hard! I made an effort to learn some Chinese and that lasted about a month before my brain exploded! I seem to get by OK without speaking Chinese, but I think learning the language is another way of embracing the culture. It's a sign of respect that I don't expect them to communicate in English all the time.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Taiwan, what would it be?
Definitely be ready for some culture shock...and don't be afraid to rely on expat forums on Facebook for help. There is a "Where can I find?" group on Facebook that I wish I'd known about from the start. Most questions can be answered by the expat community on that forum.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I think the most difficult thing has been developing a social life. I'm older than the average expat (53) and sometimes feel very alone. I'm a natural introvert, so I'm very content with spending quality time with myself. But sometimes it'd be nice to have a group of friends to meet for happy hour or "Girls Night" at the local bar. That's one part of my old life that I miss sometimes.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I'm really not sure how I'll cope. I've been making trips back to the US once or twice a year, and I always feel culture-shocked when I'm there. Going back permanently isn't something I can wrap my mind around at the moment.

The view across the water to Jiu Fen.
The view across the water to Jiu Fen.
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Do your research before deciding on which country to settle in. Contact other expats in that country for advice on the reality of living there. It's a big decision so take your time making it!
  2. Consider volunteering in a few different countries before you make a decision. It's a great way to sample a country before you actually dig in and put down roots.
  3. Try to develop a routine. For me, exercise is the way I deal with stress. I had a difficult time finding a gym when I first arrived and didn't get into that routine right away. Once I did, I felt more at home.
  4. Join groups to meet people. There are great activities with "Meet Up" groups, Facebook activities, or running groups like the Hash.
  5. Take a deep breath and don't let the changes and newness overwhelm you! Embrace the adventure!
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I write an adventure/travel blog geared toward older expats, encouraging people to take chances and embrace change. I spent many years working in aviation and had the opportunity to travel all over the world, so part of my blog is "flashbacks" to those trips. I also write profiles of some of the interesting people I've met along the way.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I'll be happy to answer any questions from future expats!Please see the "Contact" page on my blog to get in touch.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingAndrea is an American expat living in Taiwan. Blog description: Adventures of an American expat living in Taiwan. Teaching, traveling, and telling stories about places I've been and the people I've met.
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