Common misconceptions and clichés about life in Taiwan

Hello everyone,

Old clichés die hard, as the saying goes... and living in Taiwan can generate lots of misconceptions in the eyes of the people.

What are the most common misconceptions about the expat lifestyle in Taiwan?

What are the most common clichés about life in Taiwan in general?

Did you have a biased view of the country before moving there? What is you view now?

Thanks in advance,


Many clichés have been labeled on expats in Taiwan, not least of which being only poor Caucasians without substantial job skills and social capacity to find partners of the opposite sex tend to end up in Taiwan.

The list of clichés and perhaps misconceptions about life in Taiwan is even longer.

Since Taiwan has grown affluent quickly in the last 50 years, so one can easily find plenty of clichés for the nouveau riche on the island.

Many Taiwanese hesitate to admit that the nation is "uncivilized" despite ubiquitous modern amenities in the major cities. Practically every day one can see on TV news reports of settlement of all kinds of affairs via gang violence. Many innocent people have been beat up just for eyeing another motorcyclist the "wrong" way in Taiwan.

A news report says that over 75% of Taiwanese have received scam phone calls. While street vendors all across Taiwan hijack public space for tax-free wheeling and dealing. And when was the last time you saw a phone booth, streetlight and power pole and wall in Taipei free of little posters promoting real estate? These are just readily visible illegalities in Taiwan, with less obvious incidents of crime minor and egregious brimming across the nation. But the authorities continue to pitch the cliché that Taiwan is a nation ruled by law. 

Those who have been to Tokyo would also find many alleys, streets (Linsen N. Rd. and Jinzhou St.) in Taipei a cliché summed up by the word "dump." Littering in Taipei is still taken for granted as a civic right.   

The wealth gap in Taiwan is also a cliché for being wider than the Grand Canyon. New condos along section 2 of Zhonshan N. Rd. in Taipei are ritzy enough for 5th Ave. in NY City and yet contrast starkly against street vendors peddling used clothing, knickknack and shoes in the same area.     

Some clichés may be inaccurate due to prejudice and bias but just stay tuned to local TV news to form your own conclusions about life in Taiwan.

Cliches are what help many people feel like they have an understanding of a group of people when they don't have any real experience to help them make an informed opinion.  Depending on what you hear it's possible to create a really believable impression which can be backed up by even the most superficial evidence.  In fact when we go into situations with preconceived notions, we usually go looking for and find "facts" that only loosely justify our opinions.

Being a minority in Canada and in Taiwan, I've been exposed to cliches and misconceptions about my ethnic group my whole life and I know how ridiculous and uninformed people sound when they say them out loud.

There are tons of generalizations about foreigners and also Taiwanese people but I would suggest that you please don't listen to them.  Get out and meet them before you form opinions because for each one I've heard, I've experienced situations which support and also contradict what they say.  There is a really good youtube video of a foreign guy getting harassed by a Taiwanese guy on the MRT.  This one really breaks down a lot of cliches and old adages Taiwanese people have of foreigners.

You really have to look at everything and then make your own decision about what to think.

You should set up a workshop to share your personal insights regarding ex-pats in Taipei. Meanwhile maybe you can cite a few that you've met who defy negative stereotypes to be enviable examples, instead of the usual cash-strapped, English-majors without Chinese literacy nor substantial job skills forced to Taiwan to eke out a living by teaching ESL, many of whom also marry local women to gain residency and roof over their heads.

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