Living in Taiwan

It is quite easy for someone who does not speak Mandarin to get around Taichung by themselves. The people are friendly and you will always be able to find someone to help out if you ask in a polite manner. There are also a lot of foreigners at our campus who would be in the 'same boat' as you and classmates usually help each other out. There are also good maps of the city and a great local English magazine calle the 'Compass' informing locals of activities, clubs, restaurants etc...

Remember that you are a visitor in this country. At all times, respect their social customs and cultural differences. They may seem odd to you but they are a part of their life and culture. Particularly, in visiting religious institutions, adhere to a semblance of protocol. Respect their deities. In some cases, you may be required to remove your shoes before you enter a specific area. Obseve what others do and, wherever possible, ask if you are not sure. Common sense rules.

Here is some other info about Taichung City:

FOOD

One of the delights about living in Taiwan is the abundance of cheap and delicious food. For about US$2-3[NT$60-100] you can sample the endless variety of restaurant fare. Cheap does not necessarily mean bad.Some great meals are in this price range. You will find this mainly at noodle shops and simple restaurants that line every street in the city and you can point at various dishes if you dont yet know the chinese names. Most eating establishments are quite safe and clean. Just use your judgement.

For those who prefer to stay away from food like that, there are other types of restaurants to choose from. At our Center you will find a great Cafe' on the first floor of the Center - it is called Cosmo Cafe'. There you will find healthy and fairly large servings of Salads and Pastas. There are also a lot of great teas and espresso coffees to choose from. Many students arrange their language exchange at Cosmo. Cosmo offer students the chance to slip out of class and go downstairs during their breaks or before and after class to relax in the cafe.

WATER

You may drink tap water after it has been boiled vigorously but buying bottled water or investing in a water filter is advisable. The many 7-11's [ you can find a 7-11 on almost every corner!] stock a variety of imported and locally produced bottled waters that cost on average USD0.45 per 500ml bottle.

When you buy bottle water or any other beverage in a similar 1500ml container, look at the label. There will be a recycling symbol with '1' in the middle. This means that there is a NT$1 deposit on that container. The same is true for plastic soda bottles (but not glass) and for glass Taiwan beer bottles (not cans, and not for any other brands of beer). You can redeem it at any convenience store or supermarket.

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GARBAGE AND RECYCLING

You will notice that Taiwan has lots of garbage and this is simply because there are too many things that are disposable and not enough places to put them. If the amount of disposable waste concerns you, try to reduce your consumption of bags and containers. You can refuse to take a plastic bag at most stores by saying "Bu yong dai dz" (I dont need a bag). Another way is to properly sort the garbage you generate for recycling.

Garbage trucks come around everyday and sometimes more than once. If you live in a new high-rise, the kind with security guards and maintenance fees, you may have a large garbage receptacle downstairs. Otherwise you will have to chase the garbage truck. Spot a garbage truck and listen for its catchy tune. No, its not an ice-cream man. All garbage trucks play this little music box melody and you can hear them coming from a mile away. Once they stop in your neighbourhood, its time to scramble down four of five flights of stairs to catch it before it takes off. This is a good time to see the neighbours because they will be doing the same thing.

Separate your glass, aluminium, plastic, and cardboard because there will be seperate buckets and bins hanging off the side of the truck. There should be one for organic waste too. The trucks now only accept recyclable materials on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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LAUNDRY AND DRY CLEANING

As the standard of living in Taiwan improves, the cost of living also rises on the island. But it is lower than many Asian countries. However, most imported goods and many types of services in Taiwan are not inexpensive.

If you can 'go local' and eat at food stalls and noodle stands, your food cost should not exceed NT$300 a day. On the other hand, you can spend a lot more if you decide to go to fancy restaurants and western watering holes.

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COST OF LIVING

As the standard of living in Taiwan improves, the cost of living also rises on the island. But it is lower than many Asian countries. However, most imported goods and many types of services in Taiwan are not inexpensive.

If you can 'go local' and eat at food stalls and noodle stands, your food cost should not exceed NT$300 a day. On the other hand, you can spend a lot more if you decide to go to fancy restaurants and western watering holes.

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MONEY MATTERS

Currency used in Taiwan is the New Taiwan Dollar (NT$). Coin denominations are $1, $5, $10, $20 and $50 and notes come in $50, $100, $500 and $1000. Current exchange rate is approximately NT$34.00 to a U.S. $1.00. U.S. Dollars and USD travellers cheques are the easiest to exchange. However major banks will handle Canadian dollars, British sterling, Japanese Yen or the Australian Dollar. In addition, many ATM's will handle foreign ATM cards. Look for machines that advertise Cirrus, Plus, Star, Interlink, Accel, etc. Most International credit cards are accepted everywhere.

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OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT

You may open a local Currency account or a Foreign Fund account at major banks. You should have your passport and you will be asked to complete an application form which includes [1] Name and Address [2] Contact details at home and work. As a foreigner, you can sign your name instead of using a 'chop' as the locals do. After a couple of weeks you will be issued an ATM Card.

Suggested Reputable Banks:

China Trust Bank, ICBC [International commercial bank of China]. Their services are good especially compared to to government-run banks, and furthermore, their ATM Cards support Cirrus and Maestro so you can withdraw your money from abroad.

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TIPPING

There is no need for tipping in restaurants or for taxis and other services. However, at hotels and in the airports, the bellhop will expect about NT$50 per bag.

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SHOPPING

7-11's are almost on every street corner and are all open 24 hours here in Taiwan. You can get snacks, microwave popcorn, sushi, basic toiletries and personals and lots of different kinds of beverages. If you crave more variety in your life, you can find a supermarket like 'Yumaowu' [they always have passport photo machines in the front of the shop]. There are three major size department stores called 'Sogo' , 'Chung Yo' and 'Shin Kuang Sun-Yeh' and they all have restaurants in the basement and lots of Coffee shops and all the popular or fashionable clothing stores.

For Personal items and toiletries you may want to shop at 'Watson's' or 'Mannings' stores if you are not satisfied with what you find at 7-11. They have as good a selection of 'western' personals as you will find in Taiwan, as well as medication and imported chocolates.

Lots of places have recently sprung up for hardware and houseware. B&Q, which shares the same building as Geant, has lots of DIY, Hardware and building materials. Homart also has a fairly adequate selection of hardware and is worth checking out.

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HEALTH CARE

Many new arrivals to Taiwan get sick, mainly due to the change in environment and the accompanying set of different microbes and bacteria. It may take a few times of getting mildly ill to build up your body's natural immunities. Avoid the night markets when you first get here. If you get sick then stick to a diet of bread, plain rice and water.

Unfortunately, hepatitis A and B are frighteningly common. Hepatitis is a disease that affects the liver. Once you have it, you have it for life, so be careful. Hepatitis A is often spread due to food, water, or utensils being contaminated by infected saliva. It is a good idea to use disposable chopsticks or to bring your own, and to make sure that the places you eat are relatively clean. Also, be careful who you share your drinks with, or whom you kiss. You can obtain vaccination shots at most hospitals or clinics. The vaccine is called Havrix and is administered in a series of 3 shots, the second 1 month after the first and the third 6 months after the second. Each shot costs NT$1200. 95% of the people who get Havrix are vaccinated against Hep A after the second shot. So, if you didnt plan ahead, you can always get a blood test to see if you already have the antibodies before sepnding another NT$1200 for the third shot, or you can consider getting the third one in another country.

Make sure you carry your vaccination records with you. Hepatitis B is usually spread by sexual contact or other blood or bodily fluid related interactions. Taiwan has one of the highest rates of infection in the world, so it's better to be safe than sorry, if you know what we mean. Vaccination is available here for both varieties. It's expensive, but still cheaper than in the U.S.

HIV/AIDS -You know the consequences of this disease. Dont have unprotected sex! AIDS does exist in Taiwan, despite little mention of it, so dont take any chances.

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STUDENT HEALTH INSURANCE

For NT$2,200, you can get insurance that will cover you for 6 months. The insurance company will pay up to NT$500 of each Doctors bill for minor things like flus and other visits to the Doctor. You will also get full accident cover. With this type of insurance, you will need to pay up front and then claim it back from the company who will refund the amount upon receving the bills from you. This insurance is also limited to certain hospitals in the city and cannot be used at clinics or private Doctors.

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NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE

Once you have had a Residents visa for 4 months, you can apply for National Health insurance. You pay a monthly fee to the government of NT$600 and you get full coverage. With this type, you may visit any clinic or hospital of your choice. Dental care is also covered. There is also a co-payment of NT$150 for each visit and you will need to pay extra for prescription medications.

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