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Thomas Underwood

Who are you?

I’m Thomas. I’m 30 years old and from Australia and am living in Taiwan.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I’m so glad to have been born and raised in Australia. Australia has such a natural aptitude of caring and cultivating good worldly citizens.But if you want to experience everything that life has to offer, then you need to get out of your backyard. I moved abroad because unfamiliarity in my surroundings inspires me. Over the years I have lived in Hong Kong for one year, Thailand for one year and am currently loving and living in Taiwan.

What challenges did you face during the move?

I honestly can’t think of anything I’d consider a “challenge.” Yes it can be hard adjusting to the culture, lifestyle, food, etc. But it is all part of the enjoyment.

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How did you find somewhere to live?

I’ve travelled and lived throughout Asia. I’m currently settled in Taiwan and I can honestly say it is one of the best places in the world I have ever been. The people are amazing, the food is fantastic, the opportunities are vast. It is a shame that more people don’t know about how fantastic this place is.

Are there many other expats in your area?

Yes indeed. According to the foreign demography of Taiwan, western expats are predominately from America, Canada, the UK, France, Germany and Australia (in that order). All up, those countries account for approximately 17,500 permanent residences. Not many!

What is your relationship like with the locals?

It is almost impossible not to get along with the locals in Taiwan. They are very receptive to foreigners and make an effort to accomodate them. Most Taiwanese have at least a basic understanding of English, so not being able to speak Chinese is not an issue.

What do you like about life where you are?

The best thing about Taiwan is the variety of beautiful natural landscapes at your fingertips. Taiwan is a long narrow country (similar to Japan) and so it results in lots of coast lines, and forest type areas with natural hot springs. There is a great public transport system here with good roads, so getting to them is affordable and easy.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

It’s a contentious topic. Taiwan has an unfortunately geopolitical relationship with mainland China. There is a lot of uncertainty about Taiwan’s future, which engenders confusion in local Taiwanese. Taiwan has such a beautifully unique culture, it would be a shame to see it disappear.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Other than the obvious language and eating habits, the attitude towards work and study is like night and day. I am from Australia where playing sports and being active is as important as staying on top of your (home)work. In Taiwan study and work is the #1 priority above everything else.

Young Taiwanese often have “cram schools” after an 8-hour school day and even extra classes on the weekend. It’s a little bit crazy to me, coming from such a different attitude towards work/life balance. When I have the opportunity I like to spread the Aussie styleboy osmosis.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

The food in Taiwan is honestly very, very good. The meat and vegetables are fresh and it’s very affordable. There is a penchant for guts and noodles, but you can get whatever you want if you look in the right places. You can also rest assured that the majority of restaurants or food stalls abide by good food quality controls.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

When I travel, I like to stay for long periods of time everywhere I go. I’m talking a month, two or even three in each location. I think two weeks in a single location should be the bare minimum stay. After you do this in enough places, you’ll get a good understanding of what you like and don’t like, and what you appreciate in a “place.” Once you have this ability, then you can make a confident decision on where you’re going to live.

What are your plans for the future?

Right now I’m helping to build a cool Taiwan blog and travel website that will eventually turn into an agency. There are so many amazing things about Taiwan that the world needs to know about. Right now we have a small team sharing regular articles on things to do and see in Taiwan, as well as a newsletter.

You can keep up to date with Thomas' adventures on his blog, Taiwan Me.

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