Having spent a year away from Taiwan now, I am continually amazed by just how cheap things were there. Of course, it helped that we were living in Kaohsiung, which is less expensive than Taipei, but it is still almost ridiculous how far our stipend of NT42,000 (a little under $1,300 USD a month) managed to stretch.
For a start, there was our apartment. Situated in a luxury complex in the heart of the city, facing the 文化中心 and featuring lovely guards, a multitude of apartments, a leafy green courtyard and a koi pond, our apartments were huge. Our rents were charged by the size of our room, so my monthly share worked out to around $200 USD, plus gas, cable, electricity, water and internet, which worked out to maybe another $100 more. For $300 then, this is what I got:
Food is also very cheap – lunch would be purchased from my favorite noodle or dumpling shop down the street from San Min, and dinner would be from any number of restaurants located within five-ten minutes walking distance from our apartments. A hearty meal of niu rou hui fan (beef in a delicious sauce with bok choy, gravy and rice from the sweet old couple who run a restaurant on Linde Jie would set me back roughly 70NT, and failing that, there was always our favorite standby dish, 餃子.
Even shopping proved a relatively inexpensive habit – between night markets and sales, I scored some awesome deals, which is always a good thing. Was it possible to overspend? Of course, but I would say that it takes good effort to exceed your income as an expat in Taiwan. Certain things were pricey – fancy shoes, movie tickets, shopping in malls – but these were not necessary elements to my daily life, so it hardly mattered.
It’s worth noting too that we made less than your average buxiban teacher, but lived comparatively luxuriously by Taiwanese standards, where our wages were above normal. Still, as I prepare to move to Boston and begin the clichéd life of a broke grad student, I can’t help but feel nostalgia for the cheapness of a wonderful life in Taiwan. I miss many things about Taiwan, but living the good life on the cheap is definitely on the list.