Last updated on August 22nd, 2020
Teaching English in Taiwan: Background
Can You Teach English With Glossophobia?
Teaching English in Taiwan is one of the best things I’ve ever done.
After living in Taiwan as an exchange student for a year, I fell in love with this beautiful island and set about finding a way to return. Teaching English will allow you to live and work in Taiwan, immerse yourself in the local culture, and even save money as you do so. I was sold on the idea, and despite dealing with a crippling fear of public speaking, landed myself a teaching job, and set off for Taiwan.
Yes, even with a fear of public speaking.
That just proves that if I can do it, anyone can.
The entire experience changed my life, helped me overcome my fear of public speaking, and showed me that nothing is impossible. In addition, it taught me different ways of thinking, made me a more well-rounded person, and gave me confidence I never had before.
This guide is going to cover absolutely everything you could possibly need to know about finding a teaching job, moving to Taiwan, and what life is like in this wonderful country.
Why You Should Teach English in Taiwan
The Convenient Taiwanese Lifestyle
In addition, I severely missed the lifestyle in Taiwan. It’s hard to put into words how convenient and laid-back the culture is, but I’ll do my best.
Waking up on any given day off from work or school gives you the freedom to do whatever you want on the entire island; public transportation makes day trips very manageable. Unlike the U.S., if you do not own a vehicle, you will be perfectly fine; while it’s easy to rent or buy a scooter in Taiwan, it really isn’t a necessity.
Many convenience stores, restaurants, bakeries, shops, parks, and grocery stores are located within walking distance; because of the emphasis on convenience and public transportation, it is super easy to get plenty of exercise each day. As a result, the vast majority of Taiwanese and expats living in Taiwan teaching English are really healthy.
Most people focus on culture shock and the difficulties of immersing yourself in a given society. However, for me, it was the complete opposite; reverse culture shock is what I struggled to cope with and still struggle with to this day.
Historical and Natural Beauty
Between all of the historical buildings and museums and breathtaking natural landmarks, you will never have an excuse to be bored in this beautiful country. For the active adventurer, there is an endless amount of mountains and hiking trails waiting for you to explore!
Though I know some will dispute this, Taiwan is one of the cheapest countries in the world, if you know where to go. If you are a budget travel, Taipei is not the place to live! This is a mistake I see expats make all the time.
I absolutely adore Taipei and think it compares favorably with many large cities in terms of affordability, things to do, and entertainment; in addition, the city’s expansive MRT subway system is second-to-none!
However, if you compare it to the rest of the island, your New Taiwanese Dollar (NTD or NT$) will go a lot further if you search elsewhere. I can promise you there’s plenty of things to do, beautiful sites, delicious food, convenient living, and wonderful people outside of Taipei.
Job Security as an English Teacher
With Taiwan looking to possibly have English officially become a 2nd language by the year 2030, there is a constant need for educated native English speakers. Because of this, there are always vacant job opportunities for English teachers in Taiwan. If you feel disappointed in the school you originally chose to work for, it is not difficult to find another job teaching English. If you signed a non-compete agreement, then you should wait until that expires.
Over time, you will make many contacts with fellow English teachers who have a wide array of experience at different schools in different cities throughout Taiwan. It is crucial you make these connections a priority. In any career, networking is one of THE most important tools at your disposal. Even better, networking as an expat often involves beer (or whiskey, if you prefer).
My Many Loved Ones Living in Taiwan
I chose to move back to Taiwan to be closer to my girlfriend at the time (and now wife of 4+ years), Mora. Also, most of my best friends I met the previous 2 years lived in Taiwan, which added another great incentive; these wonderful people are one of the many reasons I return to Taiwan over and over again.
One thing you’ll instantly notice in Taiwan is how easy it is to make friends. Taiwanese are some of the friendliest people in the entire world; in addition, you’ll meet many people from all throughout Asia.
I’ve honestly made more friends in my time in Taiwan than the rest of the world combined. No, this is not an exaggeration.
The 5 Best Cities for Teaching English in Taiwan
As mentioned before, if you are a budget traveler, you should really consider the other cities I have listed down below.
With that said, if you have the means and understand going into the situation that Taipei brings a heavier cost burden compared to the rest of Taiwan, you will absolutely love this city! From the entertainment, mountains, shops, restaurants, and arguably the best MRT subway system in the world, Taipei has it all!
Although the younger generations generally know English throughout the island, it is emphasized even more in Taipei as it’s an international business city. Because of this, many restaurant workers will understand you if you order in English, and you will see English written on many signs and menus throughout Taipei. Even without knowing a word of Chinese, you are unlikely to run into any difficulty; with that said, learn the language. You didn’t come all this way to not fully immerse yourself in the local culture.
Centrally located in Taiwan, Taichung is perhaps the best place for people looking to frequently daytrip throughout the island. I have considered moving here in the past for this very reason.
In addition, Taichung is home to some breathtakingly beautiful mountains and hiking trails, which are perfect for avid explorers but not too difficult for people just starting out. Taichung has always been a vastly underrated city.
Quite possibly my favorite city in Taiwan, Tainan is such a magical, peaceful place that transports you back in time. The feeling I have when going through all of the old streets reminds me of my visit to Rome and seeing all of the ancient roads and buildings. There are many historical buildings in Tainan that I highly recommend visiting.
Some of the best food in all of Taiwan can be found in Tainan: milkfish, beef soup, braised pork over rice, and the best lu wei in the world, just to name a few.
I absolutely adore Kyoto, Japan, and there’s a very valid reason why Tainan has become known as the Kyoto of Taiwan.
The friendliest place in all of Taiwan (and quite possibly the world), Kaohsiung is known for their warm people and weather. Located in southern Taiwan a little ways below Tainan, there are few hotter places on the island, so please keep this in mind.
While there is plenty to see and do, and the seafood is tasty, the main drawback I have with Kaohsiung is the severe lack of nightlife. You can find a few options, but compared to the other big cities in Taiwan, there is a noticeable gap. If this is high up on your ranking criteria, you might want to pick another city.
Zhongli will never be mistaken for any of those other cities on this list in terms of size and popularity. However, it will forever be my home away from home. Many of my friends in Taiwan live in the area, and my wife’s family lives nearby in Daxi.
Outside of the charm and homeyness I feel when I’m in Zhongli, I also believe it is a great option for someone wanting a more authentic, traditional experience in Taiwan. Also, with there being substantially fewer westerners living in Zhongli, that means less competition for you and more incentive for the company to hire you.
What are the Different Types of Schools Where You Can Teach English in Taiwan?
Cram Schools (Buxiban)
Chances are, if you are on this page, you are looking to dip your toes in the water for the first time as a beginner English Teacher in Taiwan. If so, you’ve come to the right place.
When starting out as a teacher in Taiwan, unless you have advanced degrees and/or a teaching license, your options will be more limited than a seasoned veteran.
Your workload and class size will vary, but my hours and most class sizes were in the mid-20s. It is important you adequately research any company before agreeing to go work for them. Ask around, and you’ll find plenty of horror stories out there, so just be careful. There are good cram schools out there, though.
What Is Your Weekly Routine?
Every week, when I taught English, I would begin by creating detailed lesson plans for my older classes and more outlined ones for my younger-to-medium-aged classes. Keep in mind that hours utilized for lesson plans are unpaid.
For the younger classes, all I really needed to do to prepare is determine what few games to integrate into the day’s lesson.
All but 1 of my younger classes were fantastic. Most of the students were enthusiastic and cheerful, and despite being a little out of control at times, their joy was infectious. There is always the one class that you cannot seem to get under control no matter what you do, though. Having an effective co-teacher really helps here.
You might be asking yourself why I would need to be more detailed for one set of classes vs the others. The reason I did this is because I found the older classes much more challenging, personally. However, they were also the most interesting and engaging from an intellectual perspective. By this point, you can have complete conversations with your students on virtually any world topic including sports, music, politics, etc.
I had to come up with unique ways to hold their attention and interest as I knew their level was already pretty fluent. In addition, the older they get, the less they enjoy games to go along with the lesson.
A couple of very effective segments I came up with were teaching slang words and phrases and playing a popular song and having everyone write down the lyrics as it played to the best of their ability.
Many kids are there because they are forced by their parents in order to ensure exams are passed. However, I felt these exercises would help their fluency level in being able to understand other aspects of the English language. I think my students appreciated that as they were always highly engaged with this material.
For each class assigned, there is a Taiwanese co-teacher also assigned to help students with Chinese-English translations and other class needs. Most of my co-teachers were really great and helpful, and I learned quite a lot from them.
By far the most common hourly salary for cram schools is 600 NT$ ($20 USD). I made slightly higher than this at 660 NT$ ($22 USD), but it normally doesn’t veer too far off from the average.
Public High Schools
At public high schools, you will generally teach for fewer hours than you would at a cram school. However, the downside is you still must be physically present at the school for the hours assigned by the school. This can be a bit inconvenient for those wishing to leave behind a life filled with daily 9-5s.
You can generally make a little bit of extra money at public schools; this is especially true when considering added benefits such as the annual bonus coming at the end of the contract. However, some cram schools also offer this, so be sure to check the details.
American or UK Curriculum Schools
The schools that by far pay the best are ones which teach an American or UK curriculum. Unfortunately for you, this is a widely known fact among expats teaching English in Taiwan; you must bring something to the table that sets you apart. Otherwise, it’s best to build up your experience and qualifications.
Fair warning that you can expect to work a lot more hours in this type of school compared to a cram school.
You can expect to more than triple the typical cram school English teacher salary if you are fortunate enough to land a position with one of these well-respected establishments.
Getting a teaching gig at a university in Taiwan is not easy; it requires at least a master’s degree and possibly a PhD. Even if you have the necessary qualifications, the field is highly competitive.
However, it is far from impossible. I have multiple friends who teach at the university I attended as an exchange student.
Salary will differ by area, but it can actually be less than what you make at a cram school. It depends on the amount of hours you teach each week.
How to Get Free Airfare and Housing When Teaching English in Taiwan
Use the English School Competition to Your Advantage
The schools in Taiwan are generally really competitive with each other. They want the best and brightest to teach at their school; the better their education is, the more money parents will spend to send their kids to that particular school.
Impress the Interviewer
As a result, if you impress the interviewer, you may get some added benefits to go along with your salary. It definitely helps if you have strong grades to go along with your bachelor’s degree. You can better your chances even more with a master’s degree and/or PhD. (Full disclosure: although I have a CPA license and master’s of accountancy degree now, at the time, I only had my 2 bachelor’s degrees in accounting and global studies.)
Inquire About Free Housing and Airfare
Some schools will showcase free benefits in order to entice teachers to join them over their competition. Others may do so after speaking to you and determining they need to seal the deal. And there are others who won’t add free airfare and housing unless you specifically ask for it; they may talk it over with other managers, but again, if they feel you have great potential, you have a good shot at lowering your expenses!
If you are unsuccessful at landing free airfare and/or housing, I recommend using Travelocity to book your flight and hotel until you find a nice, affordable apartment to rent. You should also cover yourselves with travel insurance via Travelex; you never know when an emergency will arise. To become a permanent resident, you will need an Alien Resident Certificate (ARC), which you can read about from the Taiwanese government’s website. Once you have your ARC in Taiwan, you can be covered under national health insurance, which is one of the best in the entire world.
My Interview With Gloria English School in Pingzhen, Taiwan
For example, when I had a Skype interview with Gloria English School, I was offered a job right on-the-spot. The interview was quick and easy, and I honestly didn’t have to put much of an effort at all to get the extra perks. They offered to pay for my flight from Nashville, TN to Taipei, Taiwan. In addition, they gave me free housing for 1 year in Pingzhen, a district in the city of Zhongli; this city is about an hour south of Taipei.
What Were My Salary and Benefits While Teaching English in Taiwan?
So, outside of preparing for my move back to Taiwan, it cost me a whopping $0 to fly to Taiwan and live. All I needed to do was pay for food, utilities, and whatever my heart desired when traveling through Taiwan. When I was comparing my options, this seemed like a no-brainer to me. If you take my hourly salary of 660 NT$ ($22 USD) and extrapolate it over 100 teaching hours in a month, that makes 66,000 NT$ ($2,200 USD). When added to free rent, which is roughly 7-12,000 NT$ ($233-400 USD), you’re up to a salary of potentially $2,600 USD per month.
If you’re comparing this to salaries in the U.S., I know that doesn’t sound like much. But you have to take into account how affordable Taiwan is. Unless you are splurging at fancy restaurants, high-end clubs, and taking a High Speed Rail (HSR) every other day, it is easy to get by on this salary. And this is coming from someone who did occasionally eat at expensive restaurants like Din Tai Fung, party at popular places like Club Myst, and take the fast and convenient HSR from Taoyuan station down towards the bottom of the island in Tainan.
How to Choose a Great School to Teach English
There are different job sites in Taiwan, similar to what we have in America. One site I’ve had luck with that I recommend trying is called 104.
In addition, be sure to join several Facebook groups related to English teacher job postings in Taiwan. My favorite Facebook group related to this is Taiwan English Teacher Job Openings (ELT Search).
Reviews and Word of Mouth
Before accepting any job, you should do your due diligence and research the company. If the school is reputable, there should be plenty of reviews to help set your expectations and determine if it’s the right fit. Also, the expat community in Taiwan is a pretty tightknit group; fellow English teachers are generally always open to passing on knowledge they learn.
What Is It Like Sharing a Dorm With Other English Teachers?
Dorm Private Room
If you happen to get free room-and-board, you’re probably going to get your own private room in a dorm with other native English speakers. It will sometimes be located on the higher floors of one of the teaching locations.
In my experience, when I first arrived at the dorm, I took over the room that was recently vacated; it was one of the smaller rooms but fine for just me.
However, I lucked out soon after as a long-tenured teacher, Mandy, moved out of one of the most sought-after rooms. She was nice enough to offer it to me (win!). Not only was it spacious, but it came with a super comfortable queen-sized bed.
Experience of Living With Other Expats Teaching English in Taiwan
Right off the bat, I met a teacher sitting on the couch in the living room by the name of Dimitri; he was from Niagara Falls, Canada and is an all-around nice guy. He did his best to make me feel welcome. In addition, I met 2 other new teachers from America like me: Jordan and Neil. Since these 3 guys were living on the same floor as me, we naturally hung out and talked pretty often. However, guys like Brian, Danny, Chase, and Ari would hang out with us as well.
Other teachers at Gloria who weren’t living at the dorm would sometimes come by to hang out; there was definitely a community vibe, and I became close with many of them, some of which are still living and teaching in Taiwan or other parts of Asia.
When teaching English in Taiwan, Once Class Ends, the Fun Begins
As what became a ritual multiple days per week, many of the English teachers would get together after classes ended. Since we all lived in the same place, it was really convenient to have a fun night out on the town together. Sometimes, we would even just go to the local park within a 5-minute walk.
Suffice it to say, much scotch and beer was consumed over our nights of camaraderie. There was even one night where Brian and I drank until 6 am and practiced tai chi, a relaxing meditation stretching exercise, with a lot of Taiwanese grandmas. But that’s a story for another day.
Typhoon Parties as an English Teacher Living in Taiwan
Typhoons can be scary if you’re living on the Eastern side of Taiwan, or if you’re stupid like when Mora and I tried to drive through a category 5 typhoon.
Not so Scary
With that said, all of my other experiences with typhoons have actually been fun. We had some fun and memorable typhoon parties back at the dorm near CYCU when I was an exchange student. However, the ones we had at the English teacher dorm were just insane.
Typhoon Party Preparations
To prepare, we would buy many boxes of pizza from Pizza Hut (about a 10-15-minute walk), wings, rotisserie chickens, and other meat to cook from Costco, and a huge stockpile of beer, whiskey, rum, tequila; you name it, we probably had it.
We all contributed and bought so much because it was like a big event for us. Classes were cancelled, so everyone was in a great mood. Dozens of people came over to party with us, and it was just an all-around awesome time.
During the Storm
While the typhoon was howling and raging outside, some were enjoying delicious meat cooked to perfection on the portable grill we had on the balcony. Others were drinking on both of the floors allocated to the expats teaching English in Taiwan at Gloria. Some were even on the rooftop drinking; this brings a new meaning to whiskey water. However, by this point, I’m pretty sure no one could tell their drinks were watered down.
Typhoon parties were always a lot of fun, but there are 3 dumb moments I’d like to highlight down below to complete my embarrassment for today.
During one of our large typhoon party get-togethers, I remember rushing to my room to get my phone. As I rushed back out, I didn’t notice the giant pool of water that had come inside; apparently, someone had left the outer door open in the laundry room. I had one of the biggest wipeouts you’ll ever see and landed hard on my lower right leg. It was bruised and hurting for like the next month.
Surprisingly, we went through our entire inventory of alcohol. So, a couple of us dumb souls walked casually and calmly through the middle of the storm to 7-Eleven. Outside of the wind blowing us around and raindrops feeling like needles, it wasn’t too bad.
After the storm had mostly gone away and many of our guests had left, a handful of us made a foolish decision. We decided to climb the giant ladder to the second rooftop way up high. This was obviously not one of our brightest moments; we had just a tad bit too much Johnnie Walker, I’d say (just a smidge).
Are You Interested in Teaching English in Taiwan?
If so, it’s not as hard as you think to make the leap. For me, teaching English in Taiwan was as simple as applying, having a quick and easy Skype call with the school, filling out legal paperwork, making sure my passport was not in need of renewal, and booking my paid-for flight. I’d love to hear any of your thoughts in the comments section down below.
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