Have you dreamed of living abroad?

Many Americans have, especially after taking a gap year (or years). Then they find themselves caught up in a “normal” life of career, family, minivan, mortgage, and…maybe some malaise too.

If your dream still lives within you, we have a suggestion for you: move to Taiwan.

This small Asian country of 23 million residents has a great reputation among expatriates and recently garnered top honors in a survey of more than 12,000 expatriates worldwide. It’s rated the #1 destination for the third year in a row. The survey measured expatriates’ feelings about their quality of life in regard to a few criteria, and Taiwan shined in many and was solid in all.

Here’s how Taiwan ranked among 59 nations:

  • Overall: #1
  • Quality of life: #1
  • Working abroad: #1
  • Cost of living: #6
  • Personal finance: #11
  • Ease of settling in: #13

Subcategories under the main categories above include the quality of health care, which 96% of expats rate positively, and friendliness, where Taiwan comes in first. Those are great numbers, but let’s add the human element to the story.

People who move to Taiwan are the happiest of all people surveyed—more than 12,000—regarding their overall quality of life, and their work life. The cost of living is low compared to other countries, and personal finance and ease of settling is also good—much better than average. Most of you will have plenty more questions, of course, so let’s take a look at other key factors.

Where Will I Live?

Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, is not the only place to live, but it is the most popular for expats. Other options are available, as well:

  • Xinyi is young and vibrant, a truly modern expression of city life.
  • Shida/Guting/Gonguan contain the universities and a cosmopolitan feel. These areas provide an eclectic mix of citizens and foreigners.
  • Songshan and Dahzi are quieter and popular with families.
  • Neihu has a multinational flair, along with shopping, luxury high-rise apartments, and green spaces.
  • Da’an is popular with families and has many markets, restaurants, and parks.
  • Danshui is farther out from the Taipei, at the end of the metro rail line. With a small-town feel and Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s also popular with families, but is a longer commute to the city for work.

What’s the Food Like?

Taiwan’s cuisine is an innovative mixture of semi-traditional dishes from hundreds of years of colonizers from mainland China, Japan, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Beef-noodle soup is a staple, as are pickled vegetables and bento boxes.

What About Schools?

You’ll have options, including public schools, which are regarded as rigorous, and where your kids will have to speak Mandarin. International schools are another option, though they’re few in number and may have limited space.

Where Will I Work?

If you’re moving there with your current employer, you’re all set. Your company will handle much of your paperwork, permits, and other processes. Most expats work in education, manufacturing and engineering, and marketing and communications. Just follow the process laid out here.

How Do I Get Permission to Settle?

This step seems pretty low-key compared to many places. Get a resident visa in advance of your trip. Be sure to register at the National Immigration Agency within 15 days of your arrival to get your Alien Resident certificate.

Be aware of other details, such as a health certificate. Your passport must also be valid for the six months following your arrival. Make sure you contact the Bureau of Consular Affairs if you have any questions.

Steve Hansen