At this time last year, I was hoping to be teaching English in South Korea at this point.
I’m not. I’m in Taiwan.
Before coming here, I spent a month visiting South Korea. Because I’ve been even more in love with Taiwan than usual lately, I’ve been thinking about how lucky it is I ended up here instead.
Here are some things I used to think made South Korea preferable to Taiwan.
1. They pay English teachers a lot.
Like, a lot. I read online once that the average English teacher in South Korea can expect to save around $1,000 USD a month. That’s a lot of extra money just floating around for virtually unqualified (like me!), just-out-of-college English teachers. I was in love with that idea. Lemme tell you.
2. Korean cities have quite the active nightlife scene. (And you’ve heard of soju – right?)
It’s a common stereotype that Asian culture doesn’t encourage drinking as much as Western culture does. Not so in South Korea. First of all, everyone stays up all night. All the time. Saturday nights, even Korean families are out and about, hitting the town with their 3-year-olds at midnight. And the folks WITHOUT three-year-olds are seemingly always down for another bottle of dirt-cheap, poison-strong soju and a trip to a KTV for some drunken tunes.
They’re just doing their part, contributing to their country’s impressive rate of stomach cancer – the highest in the world.
3. All the Koreans I have ever met are incredibly fun, nice, and friendly. (And beautiful.)
Seriously. They’re beautiful. And yet? They call you beautiful all the time. And drink with you. And stay up late on the beach with you.
4. Their language is pretty cool and has an alphabet.
I trust languages with alphabets. It’s working for us, isn’t it? English? Germanic languages? Romance language? All of the languages with which I am even slightly familiar? No characters to deal with. No tones.
5. Did I mention how much they PAY?
6. The food is incredible.
Kimchi for days – I’ll take it. Weird, crunchy, ice-cream filled tubes. Something amazing called a “potato tornado.” Fried chicken – somehow, weirdly, very different and way better than your average fried chicken at home.
And now, here are some things that I think make Taiwan preferable to Korea. This list is admittedly unfair because I’ve spent more time in Taiwan than in South Korea.
1. They don’t pay as much, but they let me work here.
South Korea has incredibly strict rules about criminal records. I have a driving-related offense on my criminal record (from a very mild incident in which no one was hurt and no major property damage was caused) from a couple years ago, so realistically? South Korea was never an option. At this point, I hear even arrests – sans charges – will preclude you from getting a visa. Coming to Taiwan, this wasn’t a problem. Getting an FBI check was unnecessary altogether, which also meant that I saved money, time and stress dealing with the paperwork mess I’m sure that would’ve been.
Plus, I still make enough money to save a few hundred USD per month. And I live comfortably.
2. Taiwanese temples are better. Hikes are better. Landscapes are better.
South Korea was gorgeous, but I paid for nearly everything I saw – even things like waterfalls and temples. Taiwanese temples are so much a part of everyday life here, I think people would find it quite absurd to charge entry fees. And as for getting outside? Some national parks charge entry, but I’ve found less of that – as well as fewer stairs and beaten paths. I feel like here I can really hike in a way I couldn’t in South Korea.
3. Taiwanese food is awesome.
Korean food is, too, but NO ONE COOKS FOR THEMSELVES IN TAIWAN. As a single person living alone, it would be bizarre for me to have meals in. I love that, because it means I get to eat out every day.
4. It makes more sense to learn some Chinese than some Korean.
Just. You know. Objectively. More people in the world speak it. Taiwan is also the only place you can really immerse yourself in traditional Mandarin at this point, since mainland China has switched to simplified Chinese.
5. Taiwanese people are also great, friendly, aaaand… less beautiful.
Plastic surgery is less commonplace in Taiwan. If I need to explain why that’s a good thing, get outta here. We have nothing in common. My life is greatly improved by the fact that I don’t have to hear my teenage female students talking about upcoming surgeries their parents are getting them for their birthdays or whatever.
I also feel less like an ogre living here than I would in South Korea. Everything is relative, right? If you’re larger than you’d like, don’t stand next to Gisele Bundchen. If you’re shorter than you’d like, don’t stand next to Michael Jordan. If you’ve ever known insecurity, don’t stand next to a Korean. Ya know?
6. Better travel spot.
I’m a closer plane ride to a lot of cool places. Na-na-na-na-na-na. Catch me in the Philippines or Vietnam or Bali OR MYANMAR OR CHINA OR ANY NUMBER OF PLACES
…if you can.
Taiwan! See? No tickets to see waterfalls here. JUST PUT YOUR BODY IN IT