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Teaching English in Taiwan: What it's really like

Updated: Jan 18


Teaching English in Taiwan: What it's really like
Head to Taiwan if you want something a bit more of the beaten EFL track

Why Taiwan?


When someone is thinking about where they could live abroad, one of the things they worry about is whether or not they will always be made to feel like a foreigner. In Taiwan, this isn't something you need to worry about. Taiwan is very welcoming of people of all races and religions and the metropolitan capital, Taipei, is very diverse. It's a country where you don't need to speak Chinese to survive (although of course it would be useful) and there are freedoms for women, for the LGBTQ+ community and for religious minorities that don't exist in other parts of Asia.


It's an island of contrasts. The west of the country is industrial with the buzzing modern city of Taipei and all it offers in terms of restaurants at the top of glistening skyscrapers, like Taipei 101, shopping at bustling outdoor night markets, visiting fascinating museums and all the modern conveniences you'd expect from a technologically advanced place like Taiwan. The centre and east are where you'll spend your weekends and time off, seeing magical ancient temples, hiking on stunning mountain trails and relaxing by the scenic lakes. You can also experience a host of culturally unique festivals, such as the Dragon Boat Festival, Chinese New Year and the Ghost Festival.


Danny's experience

DC Teacher Training Director, Danny Wilkins, spent 6 months living in Taiwan and tells us what life as an English teacher was like for him.


Three young people in Taiwan
Cycing along the east coast
I found a job in Taiwan on TEFL.com and was on a plane two weeks after my CELTA had ended. I was given a friendly welcome by the recruitment agency, who arranged an airport pickup and spending money for my first few days, as well as my accommodation. My flat was in a city called Taoyuan (a 20-minute train ride from central Taipei), which I shared with a fellow English teacher, who became a lifelong friend. My colleagues and friends were from the UK, Canada and the US and we used to like to do very 'typical' Taiwanese experiences. We'd travel to Taipei and eat at the ninja restaurant or the toilet restaurant. We'd also get out of the city as often as possible. Once, three of us took a week off and cycled down the east coast, staying in hostels and stopping at beaches, visiting the Taroko Gorge along the way.

A group of teenage Taiwanese students performing Snow White
End-of-term school play in Kaohsiung

Teaching in Taiwan was more enjoyable than I'd expected. The students were so smiley and polite, and were shy and nervous to speak out. The students all wanted English names and sometimes asked me to make them up for them. There were no behaviour issues to deal with and even if there had been, I always had a Taiwanese teaching assistant there to help. The students I was teaching were mainly teenagers and were very motivated and I frequently got gifts from them and they invited me to social occasions in the evenings and at weekends. Most days, I taught from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm (with a long lunch break at the hottest part of the day, when we could have a snooze). The school itself was nothing like what I'd experienced in the UK; the classrooms all opened to the outdoors and we had to use squat toilets. Food was provided at school and the teachers and students would eat together in the classroom and the students would then go to sleep at their desks. Every day, the students would race with their chopsticks to get the eyeball of the fish that was brought in at lunchtime.

Cost of living in Taiwan

Life in Taiwan is a lot more affordable than the UK. According to some expats living there, you'll need about $1400 a month to live in Taipei. The cost of living is, on average, 17.8% lower than in the UK. Street food is so cheap and easily available at all times, that you'll find yourself never needing to cook. Although many teaching jobs do come with accommodation provided, if you find yourself having to rent an apartment, it's over 50% cheaper than in the UK.


How much do foreign English teachers earn in Taiwan?

Most teaching jobs in Taiwan for CELTA-qualified English language teachers come with quite a few perks, like paid accommodation, working visas and annual leave. The salary also tends to be quite generous. Reviewing ads on popular jobs site eslcafe.com, most teaching jobs were advertised for between £1500 and £1900 per month. Taking the low cost of living, paid accommodation and fair salary into account, a single person can save quite a bit of money while working in Taiwan. If you wish to build up more earnings, some English teachers make extra money by working as a private tutor, because Taiwanese parents are often willing to pay extra to see their children excel academically.


What qualifications do you need to teach English in Taiwan?

The most recognised qualification for teaching English in Taiwan is CELTA, which will give you the tools you need to actually teach English. However, visa regulations also state that you must have a bachelors degree. Luckily, it doesn't matter which subject you studied in university, so long as you have the CELTA. Another requirement for a visa for an English teacher is that you come from a native English speaking country, and often schools will only accept passport holders from the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.


How to become an English teacher in Taiwan

The first step for a CELTA graduate looking for work in Taiwan would be to consult international jobs websites like www.tefl.com and www.eslcafe.com. Here, you are likely to see advertisements from recruiters for jobs teaching in kindergartens and evening cram schools. You may also see ads for university work, but this is less common.


In general, once you apply, you'll be invited to an online interview. Because schools are eager to hire teachers from native English-speaking countries, different ads will describe different perks, in terms of health insurance, holidays, accommodation, flights etc, but in spite of the bureaucracy of booking flights and applying for visas, a job offer can be turned round quite quickly and you can find yourself starting work quite soon after your interview. Peak hiring times will be summer for September starts and again in winter for February starts after the lunar new year.


If you'd like to talk to someone about job opportunities in Taiwan, you can always book an appointment with DC Teacher Training here.


Taiwan is an attractive destination for English teachers for many reasons, including the relatively high standard of living teachers can have, the polite, generous and friendly students, the chance to experience a culture that's both deeply Asian (with many traditions in terms of food, festivals, housing and daily life) but is also well set up for Western visitors. As well as this, it can make for a more "exotic" experience because it is further off the beaten track than more popular teaching destinations in Asia like Thailand and Korea.



Dr Connor O'Donoghue hails from Ireland and he started teaching English as a foreign language in Poland in 2003 and he became a CELTA trainer in 2008. He has taught and trained in Ireland, the UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. Connor also holds a Masters and a PhD in Education from Trinity College in Dublin. He has previously managed large teacher training centres in Vietnam and in London before founding DC Teacher Training.

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