Life as a Nomad: Taipei, Taiwan

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Life as a Nomad‘ is an occasional series that focuses on the nomadic life and where we’ve lived it. Read the whole ‘Life as a Nomad‘ series, including guest posts from fellow nomads!

Today’s Life as a Nomad story comes from Veronika Tomonova, who studied in Taiwan for two years. Take it away!

So, tell me about Taipei.

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I went there in 2012 to study for my Master’s Degree in international communication. For most of my friends and especially my family, this was a really crazy step to do. We have many universities in Czech Republic, and they are even free – so why would I go to other part of the world?

When did you live there?

I lived there from September 2012 for two years.

But why Taipei?

It was the furthest away from Czech Republic! When I was finishing my bachelors, I found by chance this announcement about Taiwanese ministry of education giving away scholarships to international students. I applied and got it. I have never been luckier!!

Why Taipei as opposed to somewhere else in Taiwan?

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Most of the prestigious universities in Taiwan are located in the capital. It was also the only place where I could have communication classes in English.

How do you get there? 

It was one of the hardest departures in my life so far. My mother traveled with me 200 kilometers to Prague. She was holding my hand and crying all the way to airport. The travel was smooth – with long stop over Amsterdam and short one in Bangkok.

Are there many foreigners around? (Read: non-locals, like you)

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Half of my classmates are local and half international. Taipei is much more international that other parts of the country. You can find people from around the world, especially from the US.

What about the language barrier?

Although locals are quite eager to make friends with foreigners and many are somehow fluent in English (at least in Taipei), the language barrier is still present there. Chinese is so damn hard! In addition, unlike in China, in Taiwan they use traditional characters to write – which of course make it even harder to write.

What’s there to see around town?

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One of my favorite places is the Elephant mountain which offers some great views of the iconic Taipei 101 building. Other awesome places are Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and Muzha mountain.

Is it worth coming to Taipei as a tourist?

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Yeah, Taipei is cool. In a couple of days (a week maximum), you can see the major sights. If you are heading there, I would recommend you explore beyond Taipei – the island offers so many awesome places to go.

What’s the best way to get started as a nomad there?

Many foreigners teach English there. It’s the best job when you plan to stay here a year or two – the money is decent and you still have enough free time.

What’s your favorite spot to get local cuisine – a place not frequented by tourists? What about a taste of home or the Western world?

The best place to taste local specialties is night markets – there is plenty of them around the city. The biggest is Shida night market, but I personally love the one in Jingmei. The barbecue there tastes like heaven!

How did you find a place to live (e.g. where did you look)? What will you do differently the next time out?

I stayed in the dorms during the two years – my university (National Chengchi University) has the most beautiful campus I have ever seen. The only stupid things is that no visitors are allowed to dorm after 5 pm. After someone reported my boyfriend stayed overnight, I got kicked out. So my last 10 days before leaving Taiwan I was actually homeless. Lesson learned – don’t live in dorms if you have boyfriend/girlfiend.

Which specific websites, forums, or Facebook groups are worth joining? Which ones aren’t?

Taipei: buy, sell and trade is great for getting second hand stuff such as furniture.

Taipei Hikers is cool if you like hiking.

Are there many jobs available for nomads like yourself, or is it easy to find clients in the neighborhood?

It’s not easy to get a job other than teaching unless you have mastered Chinese. I got gigs with photography and video, so luckily I did not need to know too much Chinese for that.

What’s been the most difficult thing to get used to as a nomad in Taipei?

It was frustrating to find out that although most local people are friendly at first, but it is actually hard to find the real friends. People are trained to hide the negative emotions, so although they think you are an idiot, they keep smiling and being polite. It’s really hard to orientate in the relationship with people when everybody is just faking the sympathy.

Think you’ll miss it after you leave?

I am currently out of Taiwan and I miss it terribly. I have to go back soon – I promised to visit my friend Ruby.

Last, but most important question: where’s the best place to get a beer?

You can get beer in any 7/11 shop! They are really everywhere.

Veronika Tomanova is the travel blogger behind VeronikasAdvenure.com. She is Czech, restless and desperately in love with Southeast Asia. She gained her master’s degree in International Communication at National Chengchi university in Taipei, Taiwan. When she is not blogging, she can be found dancing salsa and/or having glass of wine. You can find her on Facebook @ VeronikasAdventure and Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as @veros_adventure.

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