When overseas friends were in Taipei recently for Lunar New Year, I found myself in a familiar position. Sitting around coffee tables or on bar stools, we were deep in conversation about the age-old topic of moving back to Taiwan.
Those talks inspired me to put together a quick questionnaire so I could go beyond my own circles. I wanted to know — do other overseas Taiwanese have plans to move back as I had a few years ago? Why or why not?
Before I get into the results, there’s a distinction to be made between this and other polls about expat-friendliness or discussions about how to attract foreign professionals. This is about overseas Taiwanese. In other words, people who already know Taiwan, were born or grew up in Taiwan, and have strong family ties to Taiwan. Hence, the Taiwanese boomerang.
The questionnaire was live on SurveyMonkey for two days and received 78 responses from a broad mix of friends, acquaintances and random strangers around the world.
Here’s the breakdown of respondents:
Age: Most of the respondents are in their 30s (51 out of 78)
Relationship with Taiwan: Most of the respondents were either born in Taiwan, or grew up in Taiwan (66 out of 78)
Relationship status was evenly mixed: Single (19), in a relationship (13), married or committed partnership (19), married with kids (25), divorced (2)
Highest level of education: Graduated from college (36), has a Master’s degree (28), has an MBA (8), has a PhD (2)
Current location: USA (54), Elsewhere in Asia including Hong Kong, China, Singapore etc. (8), Europe & Scandinavia (7), Australia & New Zealand (6), Canada (3)
Now the responses:
Q1. Do you see yourself moving back to Taiwan?
Only 30% of respondents saw themselves moving back to Taiwan. While 70% answered no, more than half of the respondents were at least open to the idea.
Q2. What would make you move back to Taiwan?
This was a “select all that apply” question. Unsurprisingly, the top answer related to family.
- Want to be closer to family or need to take care of family (49 votes)
- I just love Taiwan (30)
- Want to explore a career or job opportunities (17)
- Want to leave current city/country (14)
- Want to raise children in Taiwan (11)
- 3 respondents mentioned retirement
- 2 respondents mentioned wanting to find a spouse/partner
- 2 respondents mentioned food, convenience and relaxed lifestyle
- Also mentions of cheaper healthcare, “fleeing Trump’s Amerikkka”, obtaining nationality for dual citizenship
Q3. What makes you feel anxious or nervous about moving back to Taiwan?
This was another “select all that apply” question. Also unsurprisingly, the top answer related to Taiwan’s uncompetitive job market.
- Lack of career opportunities in Taiwan, or salaries are too low (64 votes)
- Pollution or other environmental reasons (30)
- I don’t want my kids to grow up in Taiwan (13)
- My spouse/partner/children don’t want to live in Taiwan (11)
- Communication or language issues (9)
- “Not fitting in with local culture”
- “Hate the weather…I seriously can’t survive the humid heat”
- “Lack of global mindset”
- “Traditional Taiwanese values in terms of marriage and family relationships”
- “LGBT rights are not protected”
- “Ridiculous real estate pricing”
- “The media”
- “Not a fan of Taiwan’s hypercapitalism”
- “Culture of Taiwan is changing too much, perhaps too much economic influence from China”
- “Corrupt politicians and old-fashioned society values. Those are the biggest issues that I don’t want to move back and raise my kids in Taiwan.”
- “People are nice but racist and annoying and always use culture as excuse why can’t they be better humans in simple situations.” [Editor’s note: whoa!]
Q4. How happy are you about the idea of moving back to Taiwan?
People are conflicted. They’re understandably torn between being closer to family and sacrificing career and networking opportunities. This was true for me as well.
Q5. What specifically are you happy or excited about?
Direct comments included…
- “I love Taiwan and the culture and the people. I’d love my children to grow up knowing their heritage and the language.”
- “I love the quality of life in Taiwan and visit often. I would love to reconnect, but not sure how to move my business/career back to Taiwan after 30+ years living abroad in the US, Japan, and Europe. Also, my partner would have a lot of trouble adjusting. If same-sex-marriage passed and allowed for visa sponsorship of foreign spouses, that would help things a lot.”
- “I’m not moving “back” per se but have always wanted to live there — just unsure of job opportunities for my field/passion and don’t speak business-proficient Mandarin. Otherwise, I think I’d be there in a heartbeat because what’s not to love — people, food, great cities combined with nature at your doorstep, cleanliness, safety, it’s NOT China, etc. Granted, I haven’t done enough research to know what it’s like to live there, and living is obviously different than visiting as a tourist!”
- “I grew up in Taiwan until I was 16, so there are things (food, scenery, traditional Chinese culture) that I really love and miss. My husband and kids don’t know much about these, so I’d love for them to learn more. On the other hand, there are other things about Taiwan that I don’t like and don’t see myself living there in the long term. Some of my personal beliefs and lifestyle have departed from the traditional Chinese ways, (for example, upbringing of children). I can foresee living in Taiwan being a bit frustrating because of this.”
- “I love the food in Taiwan but the lifestyle and culture is completely different from the States.”
- “Being close to my family and kids could have more time stay with grandparents.”
- “Being close to the family, raising my kids in Taiwan, food, people, going to the country that I love, giving back to the community.”
- “I like to travel in Taiwan, but I don’t like the idea of living there.”
- “I don’t have plans to move back but I think it’s a great place to live — but compared to NYC it’s more homogenous and has less work opportunities.”
- “Taipei has a very high standard of living. The public transportation system is fantastic. I love the food.”
- “New experiences, good food, sustainable lifestyle, proximity to other parts of Asia.”
- “It’s a great place to be, as long as living standard can be sorted out.”
- “To feel less guilty about being so far from my parents, happy to get back to the food, the convenience, the technology, be closer to my family…”
- “Can finally return to a sense of belonging, feeling of having friends and family, feel equal with others, no language barriers, no racial discrimination.”
So what do you think?
If you’re an overseas Taiwanese and didn’t answer the survey, would you move back? Or if you’re an overseas Taiwanese who has already moved back, what’s your experience been like?
Would love to hear your thoughts.
Illustration by Liang Gen