Everything you need to know about teaching English in Taiwan: Qualifications, Salary/Cost of Living, Taxes, Benefits, Working Hours and Conditions, Transportation, Culture, Expat Community and more.
After living and working in Taiwan for three years, I have gained a lot of knowledge on living in and teaching English in Taiwan and can provide a lot of resourceful information.
Teaching English is a HUGE industry in Taiwan, and there is no shortage of Foreign English Teaching jobs!
General Qualifications and Types of Schools to Teach English in Taiwan
Education and learning English in school is taken very seriously in Taiwanese Culture.
All schools require their foreign English teachers to be native English speakers – your country should list English as (one of) it’s official languages.* These countries include The USA, Canada, The UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Teaching at Cram Schools and Kindergartens
The most common Foreign English Teaching positions in Taiwan live in bilingual extracurricular “cram” schools and preschools/kindergartens. If a family can afford to send their children to any of these schools, they usually will do so. There is a HUGE abundance of cram schools in Taiwan. These schools also require any bachelor’s degree and a Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate (TEFL).
Jobs that require “real teachers”
If you are a “real” teacher with an accredited Teaching Certificate or substitute Teaching Certificate from your home country, you can apply for jobs at public schools through recruiting agencies, or for jobs at private Elementary Schools that require Teacher Certification of their Foreign English Teachers. Since these jobs are government funded the locations of these jobs are often rural, but some are urban. Some recruiting agencies that help you find these jobs are listed below.
Master’s Degree Jobs
If you have a Master’s Degree you should be scouting out jobs that require it, and subsequently, pay more. There are also jobs that don’t require a master’s degree but pay more for having one. Some of the public school programs pay more for having one, while other (like mine in Taichung) do not. There are also posh private schools that are happy to have teachers will a Master’s degree and are likely to pay up for it, especially if you are negotiating payment.
To begin searching for a job you can select one the websites below. Dewey is one of the largest recruiting agencies in Taiwan, you may want to start there. There is also Teach Taiwan, who I worked with to find a job.
Teach Taiwan http://www.teachtaiwan.com.tw/
Salary and cost of living: How much money do Foreign English Teachers Make in Taiwan?
The average salaries range from about $50,000 TWD per month to about $80,000 TWD per month depending on your level of experience and the kind of job you are offered. There are enough jobs that offer $60,000+ per month (before taxes, for tax information, see below!), so I wouldn’t suggest settling for anything lower than that.
The cost of living in Taiwan is generally cheap compared to the countries the foreign teachers come from. One thing that foreigners coming to Taiwan should know is that their salaries are often higher than the salaries of local people and the people they are working with at their schools. This is due to the fact that many of us have student loan payments to make everything month, and are supporting ourselves without any family support, and possibly because we expect a certain standard of living that may be higher than some of the locals. The payment really reflects a level of respect and appreciation for foreigners moving to Taiwan to teach their kids. This is important to keep in mind while working there and dealing with the challenges that come with the job.
Rent in Taipei
Rent definitely varies based on location, Taipei will surely have the highest rent (by far) than any other location in Taiwan, without necessarily having higher salaries to go with it. As someone who never actually looked for an apartment and only heard stories of finding a place, the vast majority of renters choose to share apartments and end up spending $9,000-13,000 TWD for a shared space. The cost of a one-person tiny apartment is very high, about $16,000-$25,000 TWD per month.
Rent in Taichung City
The rent becomes much more affordable in Taichung city as compared to Taipei. Living alone is much more doable. If you live in a decent one-person apartment (bigger than in Taipei) ranges from about $10,000-$14,000 TWD. But, if you live with roommates will bring you down to roughly $6,000-$11,000.
Rent in Kaohsiung City
Kaohsiung City is an awesome beach city in Taiwan, and the rent there is even slightly lower than the rent in Taichung City. Being a person who didn’t look for a place to rent, my information is second hand again. From what other people told me, finding your own place will cost roughly $6,000-$10,000. Sharing with roommates will roughly cost $7,000-$12,000.
Rent in Other Rural Areas
Renting outside of the city is obviously much cheaper than in a city. Rural rent is quite low in these other areas. I personally lived in rural Changhua during my first year there. I spent $7,000 for a studio apartment that had plenty of space for just myself. The rents really do vary, but it seems that no matter how you slice it, you’re getting a steal living a rural area.
*For more information on choosing a place to live, I will be posting information on these places, and providing links shortly.
Cost of Food
The dining culture in Taiwan is very different from most western countries. Taiwanese people tend to work more hours per week than most westerners do. Also, a lot of apartments don’t even have kitchens. The reason for this is the abundance of very affordable local restaurants. Eating at these places often proves to be cheaper than buying groceries and cooking at home. I won’t say this food is the highest of quality, and I would really question the farming practices to produce this very cheap food, but it is very convenient to have these options when you are very busy or traveling.
Taxes, plus a BIG TIP on taxes!
Taxes are a complicated business everywhere in the world and Taiwan is no exception. Here I will try to break down the tax situation for you in a very simple, easy to understand way.
The percent of taxes that is taken from foreign teachers per month depends on the total number of days you have spent in Taiwan in a calendar year to date. If you have been in the country for LESS than 183 days you will be taxed at 18% of your monthly income. When you have passed 183 days in a calendar year you should be (if the accountant at your school knows what they are doing) taxed at 5% of your monthly income.
Example: Jan 1st-June 30th your income should be taxed at 18%.
From July 1st – December 31st, your income should be taxed at 5%.
Total taxes the teacher owes is 5% IF they have spent more than 183 days of a calendar year in Taiwan. When you file your taxes the following year, you will receive back the extra 13% taxes you paid during your first 183 days in the country (18%-5%=13%) IF AND ONLY IF you spent at least 183 days of the tax calendar year IN TAIWAN. This means if you move to Taiwan in July or later you will NOT get ANY tax return for that year. If you move to Taiwan in June and make sure you stay in Taiwan for at least 183 days in Taiwan during that calendar year, you WILL receive back the 13% of the taxes you paid for that year. Many of us move there in August and never get our 13% back from that first year, which is a significant $1500-$2000 USD.
If this is too confusing for you, feel free to email me for clarification at http://email@example.com
How to File Taxes
Some schools or recruiting agencies will file your taxes for you, however, if you’re left to do it on your own, it is simple enough (if you don’t have extraneous tax situations like owning property, being married to a local, etc.)
You will need an official tax income document from your school, your ARC, passport, and bank account book. Simply go to your local National Tax Office in your city. There should be someone there who can help you. When you show them all your documents, they will have a paper for you to fill out some basic information, and they will complete the rest of the relatively simple paperwork for you in a few minutes. They will wrap up with the total amount of money you will receive back and your signature. The amounts I received back ranged from $65,000-$80,000 TWD.
Benefits of Teaching English in Taiwan
The benefits of teaching English in Taiwan are extensive. Taiwan ranks number one in the world in providing excellent healthcare for expats. (Click here for an article on the topic.) Going to a local clinic typically costs $150 TWD (about $5 USD) and includes prescriptions if needed (prescriptions that would be extremely costly in certain other countries). This health care also covers dental, also $150 TWD per visit, possibly including fillings at the dentist’s discretion.
Working hours and conditions
The working hours depends on your school. Most jobs require that you teach 20-25 hours a week, using the remaining 15-20 hours per week for teacher prep time. Public schools generally go about 8-4 Monday through Friday, while other schools may have random hours. Many contracts are Kindergarten and cram schools, teaching Kindergarten from about 9-3, and then teaching after school/cram school from about 3-6. Some schools are only pm hours like 2-9. Some of these cram schools also require Saturday hours, but not all. Personally, I would specifically look for jobs that do not require any weekend hours unless it’s a rare governmental makeup day.
Taiwan has a very hot and humid climate, and from about April/May-Sept/Oct/Nov, you may be very uncomfortable without air conditioning. One major perk of non-public schools is that they usually use their funds for air con. Public Elementary schools don’t. It was the most uncomfortable working condition of the public schools.
Public Transportation and Scoot Scoot! Buying a scooter in Taiwan
Other benefits of living in Taiwan on a Foreign English Teacher salary includes great public transportation and the affordability and convenience of owning a scooter in Taiwan. City driving is horrible without a scooter, with a scooter you can scoot ahead of all of the cars, find easy parking, and get to where you are going much quicker and easier than you would in a car.
How to buy a scooter
Search on Buy and Sell and Swapshop facebook pages in your area. A decent but old used scooter runs for $12,000-$18,000 TWD, is very fuel efficient, and you can sell it again once you get ready to leave Taiwan yourself.
Here are examples of facebook groups I used for my city in Taichung
Taichung Swap Shop
Taichung Buy and Sell
Taiwanese Culture and Major Cultural Differences
Taiwanese people are simply the most hospitable and expat friendly people I have ever met, based on my own personal experience. The following are the biggest cultural differences I found between western culture and Taiwanese Culture
1. Education trumps (mostly) everything.
Kids are spending their days going to school and often going to another school after that before they eat dinner and go to bed.
2. Education is less developmentally appropriate, less diverse in activities, more streamlined.
Test scores drive a lot of impressions of success when evaluating preparedness for schools, job, etc. It’s a VERY competitive academic environment and curriculum is packaged, boxed up, shipped out, consumed, and tested. Almost literally (lots of textbooks, workbooks, practice books).
3. Nap time is as ingrained as eating lunch.
Following lunch every day, schools, jobs, everyone has about a 40 minute “nap time.” Kids and teachers lay their heads down and check out for a little while. It’s a beautiful thing.
4. Adults often live with their parents or spouses’ parents
All those times we’ve judged someone on “Still living with their parents?!?!? Oh EM GEE!” They do it. Family units are stronger and more intact. It’s a beautiful thing.
5. Air Pollution
With so many factories there is a lot of air pollution in Taiwan, particularly on the urban west coast, next to China. Some of the air pollutions are drifts from China, but most of it is homegrown.
Do you need to know Mandarin Chinese to survive?
Short answer, no, not really. There are enough people at work who want you to stay and have a great experience in Taiwan, so your school will be more than willing to help you will everything you need.
Having said this, as someone who let my opportunity to learn a new language pass me by, I would strongly recommend trying to learn it. It could be a great way to meet other expats and do something very productive with them. Most expats in Taiwan come and teach their own language to earn good money from these people who so value learning your language. It’s a good way to show respect and gratitude for the amazing opportunities Taiwan provides us by making an effort to meet the local people in the middle and try to learn their language as well.
There are countless facebook groups to meet foreigners, buy used items, etc to help make your transition to moving to Taiwan much easier. Here are a handful to get you started.
For any other questions on the life of a Foreign English Teacher in Taiwan, feel free to email me at http://firstname.lastname@example.org