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Interview with Tertius – a South African expat living in Taiwan

Updated 11 Dec 2019

Ter Wille is a South African artist and teacher currently living in Taichung, Taiwan. After living in South Korea for two years, he decided to move on to Taiwan for a new adventure. To follow Tertius' experiences in Taichung, follow him on Instagram.

Read more about expat life in Taiwan in our Expat Arrivals Taiwan country guide.

About Ter

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Bethlehem, South Africa

Q: Where are you currently living?
A: Taichung, Taiwan

Q: When did you move here?
A: January 2018

Q: Is this your first expat experience?
A: No, before Taiwan, I lived in South Korea for two years.

Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?
A: Alone.

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I moved to Taiwan for work. I'm a teacher and found an opportunity to work here after South Korea.

Living in Taichung

Q: What do you enjoy most about Taichung? How would you rate the quality of life compared to South Africa?
A: Public transport is free within 10km. Most people have scooters to travel around the city, but the public transport system is great. It gets you where you want to go, and it's free. It's slower than having a scooter, but it helps a lot in the first few months or if you aren't staying long.

Q: Any negative experiences? What do you miss most about home?
A: None so far. I miss eating South African food, but there are a lot of restaurants and amazing international food here.

Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life here? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: The first month in a new country is always a little rough while you are getting to know the city and the people. But after South Korea, I knew what to expect and didn't experience too much culture shock.

Q: What's the cost of living compared to home? Is there anything particularly expensive or particularly cheap in Taiwan?
A: Most things cost roughly the same. Meat and alcohol are definitely more expensive. If you like the local food and can find a good restaurant or buffet, you'll get a lot of food for relatively cheap.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Taichung? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regard to doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: Luckily, I've only had to go to the hospital for my yearly check-ups, but the two hospitals I've been to are great. The first time I went for my check-up, I was assigned a lovely old lady to be my translator, and she took me to all the doctors and nurses I had to see. 

Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Taiwan? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: Most expats get scooters for travelling around the city and country. A lot of traffic accidents happen daily; most of them are slow-moving vehicles, and injuries are minimal. Just be careful and alert while driving a scooter.

Q: Any areas or suburbs you'd recommend for expats to live in?
A: Most expats I know live in West District, South District and Xitun.

Meeting people and making friends

Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there obvious discrimination against any particular group? Have you ever experienced discrimination in Taichung?
A: I've not experienced discrimination in Taiwan. Most locals are friendly and helpful, and some like to have a quick chat.

Q: Was meeting people and making friends easy? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: I met a lot of friends at work and made friends with their friends. There are groups for sports, dancing, language exchanges, board games, etc. You can easily make friends with the same interests. You just have to look.

Q: Have you made friends with locals, or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends with the locals? 
A: I have a few local friends. You'll find them in the same groups I mentioned. Language exchanges are a good place to meet local friends. They may want to improve their English, but you can also learn or improve in a new language.

Working in Taichung

Q: Was getting a work permit or visa a relatively easy process? Did you tackle the visa process yourself, or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: It was pretty easy, but my employer did most of the work.

Final thoughts

Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals to Buenos Aires?
A: Taiwan may be different from what you are used to. Try to keep an open mind, and don't be afraid to try new things.

► Interviewed December 2019

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