I lived in 🇹🇼 Taiwan for 3 months. Here’s my TL;DR on Taipei: great food, friendly people, mellow vibes, great for working, great infrastructure and slightly boring but in a good way.
First thing (and I recommend everyone does this wherever they arrive ALWAYS), get a 4G SIM card. It’s only 1000 TWD (or $33) for UNLIMITED 4G! And it’s VERY fast. The only other country I know that has this for foreigners is South Korea.
Da’an is my favorite area. It’s the center of Taipei for fashion, shopping, hipsters, mixed Taiwanese and foreigners a like. Da’an itself is pretty giant and it has lots of sub-neighborhoods with third wave coffee shops, boutique vintage fashion and lots of excellent (and cheap) Taiwanese and (not so cheap) Western food.
For Taiwanese, Da’an is supposedly expensive af. But internationally it really isn’t. I had a good deal but I paid $23/night for a clean studio with bathroom right smack in the center. The more normal price would be $40/night. That’s $1,200/month for an Airbnb. That means the rent is generally half here, so $600/month. As I said, that’s pretty cheap to live in a really cool area. I was told houses here cost upwards of a million dollars. Okay.
Now, if you’re not Taiwanese. You might already have been in contact with Taiwan in your daily life. Your iPhone is made in China, but by a company from here called Foxconn. You used to have a laptop that always broke and it was probably by a company from here called ASUS. You might not have an ASUS laptop but there’s a 30% chance your laptop is still made by a Taiwanese company called Quanta, who actually makes the laptops sold by Dell, HP, Lenovo and Toshiba. Their microchips are great and they’re probably in almost every electronic device you have made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC). This is most of their entire economy. It’s high tech AF. And it’s for a reason. They’re smart AF too. They’re the highest educated people in the world.
The fact that they’re high-tech means that their internet is super fast and solid everywhere. Their 4G is also on-par with the best in the world, which is Korea. Generally, technology is approached just very proper in Taiwan. Government somehow gets it and most interfaces you’ll use in Taiwan will work very very well.
So what’s the vibe here? Culturally? Well, it’s pretty unique. You can see the strong Japanese influence in their aesthetics. It’s still here. Girls wear giant lenses to make their eyes look bigger (that’s a predominantly Japanese thing) and their make up looks strongly Japanese, not at all Chinese. “Oh Pieter, why do you talk about how people look?”. Well, because it’s a pretty good indicator of their cultural influences.
Then there’s that definite Western vibe. As in, people talk, move and behave very Western (unlike the rest of Asia). Now, there’s not many foreigners here at all. So I can only presume that comes from the Taiwanese diaspora (that means people living outside the country), which is massive and predominantly in America. That means you get lots of American-born Taiwanese and Taiwanese studying and working in America. You know a few of them probably, like YouTube’s co-founder Steve Chen and Yahoo’s co-founder Jerry Yang.
Another thing is, it’s a dense city but somehow it’s not busy on the streets. There’s so much space. I’ve never seen any crowds in the street in Taipei. That has a very calming effect.
Actually, yes, that’s the keyword. Taipei is calm. It doesn’t stress me out like Tokyo or Bangkok or (sometimes) Bali does. It’s not loud here. It’s not busy. People are mellow. I’d go as far to again call Taipei boring, but unlike when I was here 3 years ago, now I like that it’s boring. It’s boring in a good way.
There’s one big thing that makes it hard to live in Taipei. The air is one of the most unhealthy in Asia.
And it’s not so much their fault, but China’s. When the wind blows east, China’s pollution goes straight to Taiwan. But it doesn’t pass over. Taiwan is pretty much an island that is half one big mountain that crosses it. And that mountain is so high it blocks the air pollution, so it gets stuck. I don’t really know what you can do about this except blowing up that mountain. But that’s probably unfavorable.
Here’s my TL;DR on Taipei: great food, friendly people, mellow vibes, great for working, great infrastructure (like 4G, roads, etc.), slightly boring but in a good way.
The most important word though is, Taipei is mellow. Maybe boring. But in a good way.