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July 7, 2015

Thirty-something things you might want to know about Taipei before moving there

I'll believe you when I die of natural causes in my old age, sound of mind, supported by loving family and friends, but YOU CAN'T PROMISE ME THAT, CAN YOU, NOTEBOOK? Didn't think so.
Taiwan, land of the most blindly reassuring stationery.

As a foreign student, I found adapting to life in Taipei to be fairly easy. Oh, hello, reliable metro system with clear announcements and signage in English. Hey there, endless supply of cheap eats. Wattup, low crime rates. Thank you, 7-Eleven on every other block, open 24 hours every day, instantly fulfilling my every wish and desire, our eternal bond sealed with a blood oath that I shall chant while dragging you with me into the afterlife.

Easy pease!

Yes, Cat, sleep wherever you damn well please.
Yes, Cat, sleep wherever you damn well please.

But there are plenty of things I wouldn't have minded knowing before moving there. Where do I put the toilet paper? How do I garbage? Wait, I don't have to tip anyone? What's up with all these cafe cats? OMG STAMPS EVERYWHERE, OMG OMGGGGUUHH.

So to help out those of you who plan to travel to or live in Taipei, and to give non-visitors a little glimpse of the fabulous* Taipei life you're not living, here are some random tips from a total non-expert's point of view about living in Taipei—local customs, habits, and resources you might not be familiar with, written from the perspective of an American who lived most of her adult life in New York City. People moving to other parts of Taiwan may also find useful information here, although I don't know how local regulations differ in other cities. If you have corrections or more suggestions, please let me know!

* During my last few months in Taipei, I got into the habit of pointing at things and passionately exclaiming, "FABULOUS TAIWAN," a hyperbolic sentiment I stole from a student photo exhibit of the same name. Sometimes the things were truly fabulous. Sometimes the things were mundane. Perhaps through my unbridled enthusiasm and/or penchant for yelling dumb shit, I degraded the word to a wisp of its former self, but I'd rather say everything in Taipei could be deemed fabulous.

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