One of our first priorities for starting an actual life in Taiwan was to find somewhere to live. We were very fortunate in that our school manager spearheaded this process for us, and had a list of potential apartments ready for us, covering a range of sizes, prices and features.
As we mentioned before, Taiwan does not have a strong home cooking culture, so while we had initially hoped to find an apartment with a kitchen, we soon realised that we would have to be more flexible. It’s not that apartments with kitchens don’t exist. In fact the first apartment we visited came with a basic kitchen area (a built in two-ring hob, a sink and counter space for more appliances), but was very much lacking in many of our other requirements, like space to walk around the bed, and a wardrobe, and actual windows. While this apartment was only NT$5000 pm, we weren’t willing to compromise on living space and daylight, and an apartment with both a kitchen and living space was over NT$10 000 pm. The apartment we chose costs NT$6000 pm, for what is essentially a bachelor flat. It came partially furnished, with a bed, a desk, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers, a small fridge and a thumping great flat-screen TV, and has a balcony which doesn’t offer the most scenic view, but gives a bit of extra space which we intend to turn into a small garden. The bathroom is very basic, but Taiwanese people seem to value functionality above all else in terms of bathroom decor, and this does, at least, make it easy to clean!
All of the buildings we looked at had individual electricity meters for each apartment, and a monthly electricity bill is added to the rent, which covered water and internet. However, our building offers a subsidised rate for electricity, which we were very keen on as the 40-plus degree heat makes the airconditioner pretty much essential. The building also has its own laundry room and rubbish room, which are huge perks and not as common as you might expect. The washing machines cost NT$20 per load, which is slightly cheaper than visiting a laundromat, and the rubbish room means we don’t have to chase after the refuse truck ourselves (more on that later).
We are currently working on adding useful things like hooks, bedside tables and shelves, and we intend to buy a few small appliances so that we can occasionally cook for ourselves. Fortunately, we have found an “everything shop” which is an absolute treasure trove of reasonably priced household items, often items which you didn’t even know you needed until you saw them. This has been an absolute blessing, and our frequent visits have made us very popular with the owners, who have even tried to sell us baby toys as part of our settling in process.
P.S. Although we were lucky enough to have someone to help us find an apartment, there are a number of websites aimed at foreigners in Taiwan, which can be very useful, such as Tealit, Century 21, and ExpatAds.