A major reason why, at this point in my life, I really enjoy living and working in Taiwan is because of the low number of working hours, comparatively high salary I get paid and the low cost of living.
I work about 25 hours a week. This leaves me a LOT of free time to actually “live” (which, up to recently, has been to engage in various different types of debauchery. But that’s beside the point).
Like I said, I work 25 hrs a week. That’s about standard (25 – 30) for anyone teaching English (in cram schools) in Taiwan. It is possible to get more or less hours if you want, but I find that this is the perfect amount that lets me do all sorts of things.
I started off getting paid 55 000 NT a month which is roughly about $1835 US (approx. 30NT = $1). This is slightly lower than average, but has since gone up drastically, and I now get about 64 000NT ($2 136 US). Some consider this to be low as well, but it’s enough for my current lifestyle. Average starting salary for a Taiwanese with a bachelors degree is 25 000 – 30 000 a month.
Foreigners are taxed 18% for the first 6 months, then it drops to 5 %. You get money back if you file a tax return (which my awesome boss does for me) and total taxes for the year work out to around 5 – 7%. Some schools, if you stay with them for long, will work it out so that you just pay around 5% all year with no tax return, so it’s pretty much the same thing. Regardless, my yearly tax rate is around 5%. The only other deduction I have is for national health insurance which is around 200-300 NT per month. One thing to keep in mind about this is that the damn tax laws here keep changing. Luckily, my boss deals with all that, so I don’t have to.
So my take home comes to about 60 500 NT per month.
Here is a rundown of my BASIC expenses per month. Keep in mind, I live in a small town. Prices will be higher in a big city:
Rent : 5200 (incl. hydro, TV, internet etc.)
Electricity : 300 – 800 (depending how much I use the air conditioner and fridge)
Food : 10 000 (eating out every day….local food. If you want western food it will be much more)
Cell: 1 000
Fuel for scooter : 1 200
Total : 17 700
Balance left : 42 800
As you can see, my BASIC expenses take up only about 30% of my take home. It is very possible to live on this budget, without suffering, if you want to save money. I, obviously, have not been doing this. Here are costs of various other things that I find to blow all my money on:
Beer: 50 – 70 for a tall can (depending on brand)
Whisky: 500 – 1 500 per bottle
Cigarettes: 55 – 100 a pack
Expensive food : 300 – 500+ a meal
Movies : 300 – 350 a ticket
Clothes : 1000 – 10 000
Travel : Totally variable.
Coffee : 40 (at 7-11) 90 (at Starbucks)
Western Breakfast : 100 – 250 per meal
Fruit Juices : 40 – 100 a day
English books : 250 – 800 per book
Snacking : 20 – 150 a day
Night out at the bar : 2 000 – 3 000
Surfboard Rental: 500 – 800 per day
Girlfriend : Lots. Makes me cry.
This is by no means a comprehensive list; there is a lot more, but I can’t remember all of it right now.
Once all the dust settles, I now manage to have about 30 000 NT ($1 000 US) left at the end of the month, which is a LOT of spare change in Taiwan.
This was not the case for the first few months. They consisted of spending rampages and living like a rockstar. The first few month of any newcomer to Taiwan seems to be a whirlwind of travel and excitement which results in “zero” savings, but once life settles down a bit, you can save some serious cash. I have started thinking that the way to riches Taiwan is not by making more, but saving more.
Unlike back home, work here does not consume my life. In the west, I defined myself by my job (which I’m sure a lot of other people do as well). Beside taking up a third of my day, I also used to think about work and talk work all the time. I didn’t engage in too many other activities because there just wasn’t enough time, or I was too tired (from working). I was like this guy:
Here, work is just something I do for money. It doesn’t play a big a part in my life, but it pays for a big part of my life. Because of the low cost of living, I have a lot of extra money after expenses .
I’ve found, that this extra amount of time (and money) has freed me to actually start living and doing things that I enjoy doing. I’ve had the opportunity to pick up surfing, Chinese lessons and soon drumming. I go to the beach every day, and relax at a coffee shop every evening. Now I’m all:
With this kind of setup, it’s an easy life on the island. Having so much extra money, and time allows people to concentrate on doing things they love. And then life becomes about living not just living for the weekend.