Why Taiwan is the Best Place to Learn Mandarin Chinese

I’m sure we all agree that now Mandarin Chinese is one of the important languages in global business environment. However, many people find it very difficult to learn unless you learn it in its country of origin. If you are thinking about learning Mandarin Chinese and still deciding where to go, I hope this article can give you more to consider and help you make your choice.

I happen to be one of the lucky people who have experience living in Taiwan. I spent 2 years in Taipei learning Mandarin Chinese and going to graduate school. Before choosing Taiwan, I actually had thought of going to Mainland China. But after more careful thoughts and research, I finally decided to go to Taiwan.

These are some reasons why I chose Taiwan and never regret my decision ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. Good quality of education institutes

If you want to learn Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan with a student visa, you have to apply for a full-time study, which means: Monday to Friday at least 15 hours a week. Most institutions that offer Mandarin Chinese classes for foreign students are public or private universities that are recognised by Taiwan government. The teachers really have degree in teaching Mandarin Chinese and they are experienced. Besides the quality of teachers, most institutions also offer extra curricular activities after class. In these extra classes, you can meet even more friends from other classes and improve your listening or speaking skills, as well as get to know about Chinese culture and traditions.

I used to study Mandarin at 2 institutions in Taipei: the first was Mandarin Learning Center atย Chinese Culture Universityย and the second was Mandarin Training Center at National Taiwan Normal University. All the teachers I met in both institutions had years even decades of experience in teaching Mandarin Chinese to foreigners. They’re just professional, friendly and awesome! ๐Ÿ™‚

To give you some ideas on school’s facility in Taiwan, here’s some pictures from my uni in Taiwan. They also provide Mandarin Chinese classes for international students. Most of public universities in Taiwan have the same standard of facility.

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My uni’s open area

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Indoor swimming pool inside my uni

2. Student friendly living cost

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One of the main concerns when we want to study abroad is of course living costs. Even though Taiwan is one of the developed countries in Asia, the living cost there is much lower than in Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and Japan. Before deciding to go to Taiwan, I was comparing between living costs in China and Taiwan and I found out that student accommodation in China was actually much more expensive than in Taiwan. I was even comparing between a smaller city in China and Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, and it’s still cheaper in Taipei!

3. People are polite and friendly

Unlike people in their neighborhood countries: Mainland and Hong Kong, people in Taiwan are very friendly, even to foreigners. Taiwan was once colonized by Japan so Japanese culture has a bit of influence in there. Here are some phrases commonly used by people in Taiwan:

“Ni hao?” = Hello / how are you?

“Bu hao yisi” = Excuse me/ sorry

“Xie xie” = Thank you

4. Part time jobs for international students

JobSearch

As an international student, you are allowed to work for up to 20 hours a week.ย There are many part-time jobs available in Taiwan in various sectors. The most popular ones are: hospitality (food & beverage), foreign worker agency and English course institutes. Foreign worker agencies are popular for Southeast Asian students as they can be a translator between Southeast Asian caregivers and their Taiwanese employers. Whilst the English teaching jobs are more popular for students from western countries, especially English speaking countries. That being said, I mean that as long as you’re white, it’s pretty easy for you to get a job as an English teacher in Taiwan and you also get twice as high as the local teacher’s salary. You can find jobs through websites like tealit.

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My students in Taiwan

When I was in Taiwan, I worked in a foreign worker agency and English language school. Teaching English is not a common job for an Asian and non-native English speaker like me, but with some luck I managed to get the job.

5. Delicious and cheap local food

This is probably one of the things I loved the most in Taiwan. It seems like everything you can eat in Taiwan is delicious and cheap! When I lived in Taiwan for 2 years, I didn’t have to worry about cooking at home (since most of the rent houses don’t have kitchen anyways, lol!) and could find something to eat very easily everywhere! I usually just went to some bento takeaway restaurant for lunch and for AU$2 – 4, I could get a set of rice with 3 sides (including 1 meat/fish/chicken). There are also plenty of local breakfast cafes around any area that serves local breakfast menu. For coffee, I usually just grabbed from 7-11 or any convenient store. Yes, they do serve decent coffee in convenient stores.

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Local breakfast: egg pancake with bacon

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Coffee from 7-11

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Hot food at convenient store

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Convenient store’s ready to eat food & drink are also good!

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Night market’s food: fried chicken & luwei! *thebest*

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The famous bento box from the train station

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Various dumplings! All GOOD :p

6. Convenient and cheap public transports

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Taiwan bullet train

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MRT station in Kaohsiong

And I mean public transport across the country, not only in Taipei city. Inside Taipei or Kaohsiong city, there are MRT and buses. In other cities, there are only buses. But, if you want to travel intercity, there are intercity lines too and there is also bullet train. You can check timetables and book tickets online for intercity trains.ย It is fast, cheap and convenient to travel across the country during the weekends.

 

These are some famous tourism objects you can visit by public transports:

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Taiwan Aboriginal Village in Nantou

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Cable car for Sun Moon Lake sightseeing

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Train inside Alishan national park

ย 7. Security, safety and excellent public service quality

I would say that Taiwan is one of the safest countries in Asia. I used to hangout at the night markets very often and came home around midnight. I never felt insecure as the streets always have enough lighting and I know there are CCTV everywhere. Inside the trains and buses, there is also sticker that writes contact number for sexual harassment case.

I’m a pretty forgetful person that once I left my backpack in an intercity train. When I realised, I immediately went to see the officer in the station office and they helped me to contact the office at the next station to collect and keep my bag in their lost and found. The next day, I went to the next station and collected my bag easily.

I can actually go on and on when talking about my personal experience in Taiwan. But I think, this article should be enough to help you make your mind. If you still have anymore questions, don’t hesitate to write a comment or email me at lie.ariesa@gmail.com ๐Ÿ™‚

Cheers,

Ariesa

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Working Holiday Australia – How Much You Need on Your First Arrival

As I’ve promised earlier, I’m gonna write another post on how much budget you need to bring for working holiday in Australia. Since the living cost, especially rent fee, varies across cities, this is probably most suitable for people who want to land in Sydney as their first point of arrival. Although in the visa requirement we are all required to have AU$ 5,000 in our bank statement, many of working holiday visa makers, as far as I know, don’t actually bring that amount of money on their first arrival, including me!

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So, how much do we actually need to bring when we first come here? Hmm, before giving you the answer to that question, I think it’s best that you answer this question yourself first:

What kind of accommodation do I want to stay and where?

This is a very crucial question since accommodation will contribute to a significant (if not most) part of your first expense. Some people want to live in the city and some others don’t mind living at outer CBD area. Some people need to have a private room while some others don’t mind sharing with a few friends. It all depends on your preference and of course, your budget. Now, here’s the budget you’re looking at when you make your choice.

  1. Private room, shared bathroom – CBD area –> min. approx. $300-400 pw
  2. Room share (2 person), shared bathroom – CBD –> min. approx. $200 pp/pw (per-person/per-week)
  3. Room share (3-5 person), shared bathroom – CBD –> approx. $125 – 150 pp/pw
  4. Private room, shared bathroom – suburb –> min.approx. $200-250 pw
  5. Room share (2 person), shared bathroom – suburb –> approx $120 – 150 pp/pw
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My room in Mascot

List of CBD area: Ultimo, Darlinghurst, Central, Chippendale, Pyrmont, Surry Hills, Haymarket, Redfern, Newtown, Darlington, Glebe, Potts Point.

List of suburb areas preferred by backpackers: Mascot, Ashfield, Marrickville, Leichardt, Eastern Suburbs (Bondi, Maroubra, Coogee, Randwick, Kingsford, Kensington) .

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Residential area in Mascot

Check on Gumtree and Flatmates to browse for accommodation. Some people also find accommodation through Facebook group, including me.

So, have you made up your mind yet? Don’t forget to budget the deposit you need to give to your landlord upon moving in. It’s usually 2-4 week of rent and refundable when you move out, given you’re well-behaved, of course!

SIM Card

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Now, when you arrive in Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, you can immediately get your prepaid SIM card on the way to the exit. There are Optus and Vodafone’s counters that sell and help you activate your SIM card. I bought the Optus one for $20 (which worth $40 recharge voucher). With $20, I get a new phone number, 6GB internet data, unlimited calls & SMS to Australian phone numbers, and 90 mins international calls to selected 20 countries (the sales assistant will explain to you everything on this) for 28 days use.

First transportation to your new house

Ok, you’ve got that SIM card and now you have these big and small luggage and bags. Are you sure you can take bus or train with all these luggages? I couldn’t! So, I decided to take Uber instead. In Australia, you can only pay Uber with card (debit/credit). You don’t have your debit card yet, so it’s best to keep your old credit card active and use it in such emergency. I took Uber from the airport to my rent house in Mascot (near Rosebery) for $17. If you think you can carry all your bags and take the bus, the bus stop is not far from the arrival gate. Just ask some officers in the airport where it is. They’re very helpful.

Public transportation

OK, how about transportation budget during your first exploration days in Sydney? The transportation in Sydney quite expensive. For detailed information on Sydney transportation, check out: http://www.transportnsw.info/ย ย . They don’t charge you for the new card, just how much money you want to deposit in the card. I put $50 for my Opal card balance, which lasted for a bit less than 2 weeks. I don’t hang out everyday, so I don’t spend too much on this. But if you hang out everyday, you’re probably going to spend around $40 a week for transport.

Groceries shopping

After you put all your luggage in your room, you might want to to a little bit of groceries shopping. My first groceries shopping at Woolworths cost me about $40 for rice, veggies, fruits, Greek Yogurt, canned fish, etc. And I also did a little shopping at Daiso for some household tools. Daiso’s one price for everything in Australia is $2.80.

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My first groceries shopping in Australia

Here are some groceries’ price examples:

Rice (1kg) : start from AU$ 2

Sugar (1kg) : AU$ 1.00

Chicken egg (6pcs) : AU$ 2.99

Milk (2 Litres) – homebrand : AU$ 2.00

Pasta (500 gr.) : start from AU$ 1.00

For more info, check out Coles & Woolworths websites.

Summary

To wrap up everything I’ve mentioned above, here’s the list of expenses on your first days in Sydney (with examples on value):

  1. Accommodation : ย $800 (2 week deposit + 2 week rent)
  2. SIM card : $ 40 (for 28 days)
  3. Uber : $ 17 – 30
  4. Opal card : $ 120-150 (for 4 weeks)
  5. Groceries : $ 100 (for 4 weeks)
  6. Home supplies & tools : $ 40
  7. Meals (when you eat out) : AU$12-15 per-meal

Those add up to around AU 1,500 for the first 4 weeks of your stay in Sydney. And I believe that’s the minimum amount you will spend in your first month, because many people spend more than that. That, of course, depends on your lifestyle and how long you want to relax without working.

So, I hope this helps you plan your budget to move to Sydney and don’t hesitate to drop a comment if you have anymore questions.

Cheers,

Ariesa

Packing for Working Holiday Australia

Hey guys,

As you might have known, I’ve just moved to Sydney 3 weeks ago. In the previous post I have talked about my first impressions on Sydney, Australia. And in this post, I’d like to share some tips on what to prepare before your departure to Australia, especially if you’re coming to Sydney. I will talk about things to pack since it’s not a cheap place to live in, so you want to to be extra careful with money here. In the next post, I will talk about budget you need to prepare before your departure for Australia (especially Sydney).

What to bring and what to ditch

Many things are indeed expensive here. But, some things are not that expensive that you HAVE to bring it all the way across the continent just to save a very few dollars. Before doing all the packings I also did a little research from other working holiday visa makers, especially the Indonesian ones, just to get some ideas of the daily supplies that are expensive in Australia. But apparently, I made LOTS of mistakes. I bought and brought too many unnecessary things back in Indonesia that I couldn’t even manage to pack all of them into 30kgs baggage!

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Major packing drama

Here are some things I recommend you to bring from home and will help you survive on your first days:

1. Bed sheets –> OK, it’s probably also a good idea if you check with your landlord/housemates if these things are provided in the rent and if they are brand new. If you want to buy it here, its price is around AU$ 18 to $22 for a single-sized bed sheet. Compared to the price in Indonesia, I think it’s a bit more expensive since I can get something better in quality or bigger in size for similar or cheaper price.

2. Light blanket –> same with bed sheets, check with your landlord/housemates first if this is provided in the rent. But usually we’d rather bring our own blanket for hygiene reason. If you want to buy it here, in K-Mart and Target they sell it at around AU$ 10-12 for a fleece blanket. It’s soft and cozy enough for 18-22 degree evenings.

3. Light jacket/cardigan –> except if you come in winter. You’d want to bring your winter coat instead ๐Ÿ™‚ If you come in the summer like me, you still have to bring at least 1 jacket and 1 cardigan. The weather is usually nice and sunny in Sydney, but it also gets windy and cool sometimes.

4. Lots of casual tee shirts/tank-tops, polo-shirts, shorts and jeans –> they’re wearable almost everyday and you don’t want to spend your AU$ on just casual wears like these.

5. Sneakers, thongs/flip-flops or girly sandals/flats –> you know: for beach, city strolls, Blue Mountain hikes, etc etc…

6. Other types of clothing –> it really depends on what kind of jobs you target. If you want casual jobs in cafes/restaurants, you won’t really need them. In my case, I brought quite a lot of business attires to prepare for job interviews.

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Pillow sheet, bed sheet, fleece blanket and Taylor Swift Perfume 30mL

And here are the things I recommend you to leave out of your luggage:

  1. Toiletries –> you can easily find toiletries here and buy them cheap at Chemist stores. One of the most famous for its competitive price is Chemist Warehouse. Check out their products and price on: Chemist Warehouse website.
  2. Perfume –> there are many brands of perfume with SUPER cheap price also at Chemist Warehouse. I bought my Taylor Swift perfume for just AU$ 10 (30mL)!
  3. Detergent –> although detergent is indeed a bit expensive here, around AU$ 5-10 (compared to the price in Indonesia), some landlords already provide this and other cleaning supplies in the property. You might want to check with your housemates/landlord first.
  4. Food supplies & seasonings –> this is what Asian fellows usually like to bring to Western countries ๐Ÿ˜€ But seriously, Asian shops and restaurants are EVERYWHERE in Sydney. You can even buy our all time national favorite Indomie goreng at Coles and Woolies for $0.65 ๐Ÿ˜€
  5. Cutleries, dishwares & cooking wares –> I was about to bring these things! Don’t bother! Find them at Daiso or K-Mart IF you really have to buy them. Some landlords also provide these things in the property, so you have less things to worry about ๐Ÿ™‚

If you want to compare other things’ prices in Australian retails, check out on their websites:

Coles

Woolworths

K-Mart

Target

Hope this helps you sorting out the things you want to pack for your trip to Sydney. See you in my next post ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cheers,

Ariesa

My Taipei Itinerary Guide

Hey there!

In this post, I’d like to share the details of my travel itinerary in Taiwan from last year. In my previous post, I’ve shared ย the rough itinerary, budget and tips & tricks on transportation and food in general: read my other post. Right now I want to give a more detailed explanation on the objects we visited in each city and I’m going to start with Taipei.

Places

  1. Hair salon : well, the very first thing I did when I arrived in Taipei was indeed going to salon to get a haircut and perm. There’s no salon in Jakarta that does it as good as they do it in Taiwan. Besides, the service costs very cheap compared to most salons in Jakarta’s shopping malls. You can just walk into any salon in one of the famous night markets like Shida or Gong Guan. They usually have quite similar quality of service and price. If you’re lucky, sometimes they have special promotions too on selected service. I got my hair cut and permed for only NT$ 2,000. The curls are still in pretty shape until now (since May last year!).

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2. Taipei Zoo : ย it’s a good place to visit with the family. Plus, the entrance fee is very cheap. I think it only costs around NT$ 30 for one person. The zoo is very well-maintained and has quite a lot of species including: koala, penguin and Chinese panda.

3. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall : This is a complex of a few historical buildings. In one of the buildings, the Taiwanese tell their independence story through pictures, old clothing and car. Other buildings are used for musical or art performance, including international artist’s music concerts. The entrance is free of charge.

4. Yang Ming Shan National Park : this national park is located on the outskirts of Taipei in Shilin District. It’s a nice place to do light hiking and just enjoy the view of the mountain. As far as I recall, in the beginning of spring there’s a flower exhibition at one of the entrance. It’s very easy to go to Yang Ming Shan. Just go to Shilin night market or MRT first. Then you can find a few buses that go to Yang Ming Shan.

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Foggy mountain view

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Hiking trail

5. National Palace Museum: this one is also located in Shilin District. From Shilin Night Market, there are one or two buses going through the museum. There’s also a bus stop in front of the museum so you don’t have to walk too far to get into the palace. The palace is enormous and consists of loads and loads of artifacts from ancient China. It is told that the Chinese (mainland) people who took refuge to Taiwan brought them. If you take a guided tour or an audio-guide, you will hear many interesting stories about the Chinese history here. It costs NT$ 250 for general visitors and it’s worth every penny!

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National Palace Museum

Food!!!

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, foods are very easy to find in every corner of the city and cheap! Most of them are delicious too ๐Ÿ˜€ This is one of the many things that make me happy when living in Taipei for 2 awesome years! Here are some food we enjoyed during our stay in Taipei:

  1. Taiwanese beef noodle:

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I’m quite sure we visited one of the most famous beef noodle restaurants in Taipei. The restaurant was very crowded and we had to queue to be seated and only had a few minutes to finish our meals. There are quite a few noodle menus. I ordered the original one with spicy soup while my friend had the dry-style beef noodle (which looked like Korean Jajang Myun). Each menu cost around NT 120-150 with big chunks of meat on it! It was really good so I recommend you to try it too ๐Ÿ™‚

2. Luwei and Taiwanese crispy fried chicken

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Left: fried chicken; right: luwei

OK, the fried chicken actually has been one of my biggest guilty pleasure ever since I tried it in Taiwan! I always had it at least 1-2 a week when I lived there. It was soooo GOOOD!!! I was quite addicted to it! For me, the best fried chicken is the one sold at Shida Night Market. I think the name of the vendor was Shida Fried Chicken, it was run by an uncle and his wife. Fried chicken usually costs around NT$ 50-60. Luwei was also one of my favorite street food but I always had to share it with friends. It is a mix of vegetables with dumplings, pork meatballs, instant noodle and tofu skin. There are still other side dish to mix in Luwei, you get to pick your own mixture and let them dip all the mixture in that special soup and pour it with some ketchup. The cost of luwei varies depend on what you choose and how much you want it. Mine usually cost around NT$ 120 – NT$ 180.

3. Bento at the HSR train station

It is very famous because it’s delicious and easy to carry. I must say that actually most bentos in Taiwan are not bad if not delicious. But when you want to take Taipei HSR, it’s worth to try the bento and eat it while you wait for your train. I think it costs around NT$ 120-130 a box with choice of beef, chicken or pork.

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My bento box with pork

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Inside Taiwan HSR

 

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My friend and me on Taiwan HSR

There are actually still many kinds of good food and drinks around Taipei. Not to mention my all time favorite Ice Caramel Latte from City Cafe 7-11. It’s the BEST latte in Taiwan with the BEST price too! But I think trying lots of food in Taiwan is no guilty since most of them are good and cheap. So, try your luck and tell me what you think =)

Cheers,

Ariesa