By Simon Brandon
Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China — not to be confused with the People’s Republic of China 110 miles to the west — is an island straddling the Tropic of Cancer. Its capital, Taipei, home to one-third of the country’s population, is a cultural, political and financial hub.
Open to expat talent
Taiwan is, with Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea, one of the four “Asian tiger” economies (so called because of their industrialisation and fast growth over the past 50 years). Taipei is the centre of the country’s flagship technology sector.
The country’s labour market is stretched: Taiwan has one of the world’s lowest birth rates, so the government is encouraging companies to recruit from overseas. In October 2017, a law was passed with the aim of attracting more skilled foreign professionals. Among other incentives, expats earning more than NT$3m ($99,000) a year can apply to be taxed on only half their salary for the first three years.
Oases of calm
Taipei is famous for its many temples. Longshan, built in the 18th century, is one of the oldest and largest.
Escaping the city’s bustle is easy, too. Taipei is bordered to the north by Yangmingshan National Park, where visitors can hike over dormant volcanoes and relax in hot springs.
There are pristine beaches for those who prefer to unwind a little closer to sea level. Fulong Beach, known for its golden sands, is an hour’s drive east of Taipei, while the scuba diving off the south coast of Taiwan is some of the best in the South China Sea.
Quality of life
Taipei is the world’s best city for expats, according to online expat community InterNations’ Quality of Urban Living Index. It has also been ranked by cost-of-living database Numbeo as one of the world’s safest metropolises, and is clean — so clean, in fact, that chewing gum on the city’s Metro is punishable by a fine. More than eight in 10 respondents to InterNations’ survey said the capital’s public transport system was “very good”.
Contrasting neighbourhood vibes
The cost of living in Taipei is low compared with some world cities: rent, for example, costs around half that in London. The city’s Songshan district — home to the Wufenpu Wholesale Garment Market, a magnet for fashion bargain-hunters — is one of the city’s more relaxed areas to live.
Those who prefer bustle and nightlife might be more at home in the smart, up-tempo district of Xinyi — known for its bars, including the Landmark Craft Beer Taproom.
Street food specialities
Taiwanese food is an alchemy of Chinese and Japanese cuisines. In 2015, viewers of US news channel CNN voted Taiwan the world’s top foodie destination. In Taipei, street food is the star and the city’s night markets — Shilin is the most famous — are the best places to try specialities such as gua bao, a steamed pork belly bun.
Alternatively, do as locals do and follow your nose: a local delicacy and acquired taste called stinky tofu announces itself from a good distance.
Photographs: Dreamstime; Getty Images/iStockphoto; Marek Slusarczyk