Country Overview

 

Taiwan is an easy place for Americans to live and work. Americans are liked and America is respected. Scholars and students uniformly remark on the friendliness of Taiwanese.

While Mandarin is especially useful, effective, and recommended, grantees can survive and even thrive without it. English instruction is mandated from grade 3, and the goal is a bi-lingual citizenry. However, usage is more limited than might be expected. Most professionals in higher education and healthcare speak English very well, and the largest portion have been trained overseas (mostly in the U.S.).

Taiwan boasts top-100 global universities or academic departments, and almost all of the 160+ universities have state-of-the-art facilities. Taiwan Scholars are first rate, and some of the best Chinese archives are at Taiwanese institutions. Taiwan also provides a fascinating window on China, and is the modern home of much traditional Chinese culture, still active in daily life.

Classrooms down to elementary schools are usually fully connected with PPT, DVD, CD, MP 2-3-4, and Internet capabilities. Broadband access is universal with 98+% of households online. Cell phones are readily available, as is free Wi-Fi at numerous hot spots around the island including most 24/7 stores (you can also pay parking charges, pay all bills like electric or credit card, receive shipments from online catalogue purchases, fax, etc. at these multi-function locations).

All grantees receive free medical insurance coverage when in Taiwan, paid for by FSE. Coverage usually involves minimum co-pay, very good service, and excellent quality. Former grantees often chose to do elective procedures while in Taiwan, before returning to the U.S. The National Health Insurance coverage is effective during the grant period, taking effect, approximately after arrival, 1 month for grantees and 4 months for dependents.

Housing is the grantees responsibility. Lecturers usually receive free host institution housing, and researchers receive a housing supplement. Hosts and FSE may be able to help direct people to off-campus housing, depending on circumstances.

Dependents’ education is covered by FSE, and available in English in four schools in Taipei, two in Hsinchu, two in Taichung, and two in Kaohsiung. The grades vary from K-9 to K-12. If feasible, bilingual or local schools are highly recommended for both family cultural immersion and student enrichment. Many grantees take the latter option and FSE can suggest alternatives.
  
Food is an important social medium for interaction, the cuisine is exceptional, and sharing meals is a national ritual. Wonderful native Taiwanese and Hakka cooking plus the talents of the 13 aboriginal groups are the base. In the 1949 retreat to Taiwan, mainlanders from all provinces brought their cuisines and chefs. The Japanese occupation from 1895-1945 was relatively benign, and Taiwan is a tourist destination from Japan; hence, excellent Japanese food is readily available. Finally, the last 30 years brought every conceivable global style and, given the demanding local palettes, these are also excellent. Distinctively, the night markets and street vendors offer some of the best tastes and values. For convenience, fast-food chains are numerous (including standard American varieties) and corner 24/7 stores are everywhere.

Public transportation everywhere is good to adequate, and is excellent in Taipei. Bicycles and especially scooters are ubiquitous, but can be dangerous. Traffic aside, Taiwan is also a safe place, and violent crime is relatively unknown. The primary problem over the years was occasional petty crime, with bicycles a prime target.

The chilly damp at winter’s depth and the hot humidity at summer’s height require adaptation. Mandarin’s tonality is difficult for American’s, and Chinese characters can make adventures out of traveling, shopping, and eating for the linguistically challenged. However, instruction is readily available, inexpensive, and recommended.

For American’s, adjusting to an indirect communications style and often labyrinthine bureaucracies requires patience, but is a rewarding cultural achievement. Taiwan is 1/3 the size of Ohio, and 70% is sparsely populated (but beautiful) mountains. Hence population is dense and social distance is narrower than in the U.S. Adjusting to density is also an achievement. Given Taiwan’s remarkable attractiveness, these minor issues simply flavor the experience.

If Taiwan were in the European Union, it would be the 7th largest country by population and an economic powerhouse. As an Asian Tiger, it is a thriving economy, ranked among the top twenty in most global categories. Established as the Republic of China in 1911 on the mainland and moved to Taiwan in 1949 after defeat in the Chinese civil war, Taiwan is now a flourishing democracy. These economic and political miracles are enhanced by rapid technological advancement, a healthcare revolution, and a vibrant media landscape.

Furthermore, research grantees may be permitted to spend up to one-fifth their grant period in mainland China to engage in scholarly activities related to their project. Teachers are not normally permitted to travel while classes are in session. All grantees are allowed no more than 14 days outside of country on personal travel.

FSE normally provides a set of cultural enrichment and support activities for all grantees. Usually these include
- Arrival and departure travel arrangements for grantees and families
   including airport pick-up and drop-off
- Two-day in-country orientation in September
- Welcome reception
- Thanksgiving celebration
- Midyear Conference and Cultural Enrichment Events (3 days)
- Yearend, “Beautiful Memories” party
- Regular facilitation services including payment of stipends and other benefit
- Support service for grantees and families when needed or appropriate

 
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