This series features digital nomads in Taipei. Who are they? What brought them here?
Meet Eric Bowitz, a Digital Marketer specializing in SEO who's from a small town in Wisconsin, USA.
Why did you choose to come to Taipei?
I came to Taipei on a scholarship from the Ministry of Education probably about 5 years ago. Since I suck at language learning I took a job with a startup after the scholarship ended to allow myself to continue learning Chinese at my own pace while also dipping my feet into SEO.
What do you love and hate about Taipei?
Honestly, I hate that nobody ever has anything negative to say about Taiwan even though there are plenty of places for improvement, just like any major city. I think people coddle Taiwan a bit because you can't help feel for them being such an international underdog. Coddling never pushes any one person or people to improve though, so I'll be brutally honest in answering this question as that's how I'd want a Taiwanese to evaluate America.
Overall, I have a lot of love for Taiwan, the land is diverse and gorgeous, it's dynamic, has wonderful universal healthcare, I could go on forever. I've lived here so long it feels like a second home. People are generally a little timid but usually kind hearted. There is food is around every corner, and while not always nutritious, is usually pretty delicious. The subway system is superb, it's a big whisky drinking island so the selection and prices of single malts is insane, and there's an equally thriving coffee subculture throughout Taipei.
However, like every country, there are some real serious issues that if addressed, could drastically improve the quality of life for everyone. This includes property speculation, lack of traffic law enforcement, and overly strict regulations on hiring foreign workers. Address these things and Taiwan could easily overtake Singapore as the tiny island to beat in Asia.
Do you think Taipei is a good city for Digital Nomads?
Overall, I'd say it's "alright" for digital nomads. There seem to be much better places if bang-for-your-buck is what you seek and why places like Chiang Mai are so popular right? On the other hand, the quality of living in Taipei is a bit above what you find in most SE Asian countries and it's definitely an interesting and convenient place to live. Internet is fast, there is an abundance of cafes and a very small but enthusiastic startup/entrepreneur scene taking root here.
How does it compare to your last destination?
Well my last destination was Wisconsin, so I guess it stacks up pretty good. In terms of being able to bootstrap something, Taiwan wins out just based off cheaper total living costs and the abundance of cheap skilled labor. In terms of quality of life, I have to admit, Wisconsin is a wonderful place to spend time, fish, hike, eat big portions of meat etc however the winters suck big time. Taiwan has tropical like beaches in the south, mountains along the center and a bustling metropolis in the north. Overall a toss up I suppose.
How is the tech/nomad/startup culture here?
To be honest it's come a long way in the last 5 years. It's still tiny, and very localized. Taiwan is kind of like a little "Chinese" Madagascar, isolated from much of the world unfortunately, so much of the startup stuff is locally focused, so for Americans/Europeans, unless your Mandarin is fluent, it's kind of inclusive. Still, people are friendly and I've been a part of a couple multinational teams here in Taipei, so I know the culture exists and I also know the government is trying to boost this growth through different investment projects.
Additionally, if you can partner with a local, or build your language skills up enough, there is a MASSIVE supply of very dedicated, highly skilled programmers/developers, designers and engineers to help you grow a business for insanely cheap costs. Average salary out of college for these professions is between $1,500-$2,000 USD/Month, so if you can manage people, you could build a pretty lucrative operation out of Taiwan.
In summary, Taiwan is a very interesting place, with a unique mix of Chinese, Japanese and American influences and a population eager to share all that is good about their island so if you're reading this and in the area, head on over and have a beer (or 5) with me! Seriously, if you're part of the digital nomad scene in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, wherever, it's only a short flight away.
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