1 August 2016

Agne Šerpytyté - Expat in Taiwan

Agne Šerpytyté - Expat in Taiwan

We’ve had the chance to talk to Agne Šerpytyté, a Lithuanian expat in her mid-twenties who moved to the capital of Taiwan, Taipei alone.

Ms. Šerpytyté first went to Taiwan to study Chinese and is now back to pursue the language. In the one year there, she has found an online marketing job and her own social circle. With welcoming locals, structured governance, and an abundance of activities to do, her only complaint about the country is the overpopulation.

However, Ms. Šerpytyté warned about the weather in Taipei, “Summers are just hellish hot and it gets very cold in winter. Most people tell me ‘how can you get cold, you are from a cold country’. It is true Lithuania has temperatures below freezing point for the most of winter, but our apartments are heated, so it is never cold at home. It is also not humid, so the cold does not get into your bones like it does in Taipei.”

She now writes about Asian films on her blog in her free time. Read more about her experiences as an expat in Taiwan, in her full interview below.

 

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: Lithuania.

 

Q: What made you move out of your home country?

A: Sense of adventure, mostly. I loved Asia since the first time I have been there and I loved Taiwan the most.

 

Q: Where are you living now?

A: Taipei, Taiwan.

 

Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I had a chance to study Chinese here for six months and always wanted to come back since then. I wanted to continue studying Chinese as well as to enjoy this country more.

 

Q: How long have you been living in Taiwan?

A: Since I came back the second time, it has been about a year.

 

Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in Taiwan?

A: Figuring out food for myself, I guess. I am on eating healthy side and what you can buy in supermarkets here is different than in West, so had to figure out a lot. Especially as a lot of items that are common in my country, like milk products and potatoes, are expensive and rare here.

 

Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance was particularly difficult in Taiwan? What was your experience with these?

A: Once you find a company that would employ you, it is very easy. They have an English-speaking phone number (0800024111) where they give all information about Visa and ARC (Alien Residency Certificate) process. In government organisations, if you have all documents ready, process is quick and very efficient. I would say that Taiwan is a very friendly country for expats.

 

Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Taiwan? How did you manage to find a social circle there?

A: As a long time traveller, it is easy for me to find people to socialise with. There are many meeting groups you can find through Couchsurfing.org or Meetup.com - on any topic from food to coding and outdoors. I had friends from before as well. Taiwanese are very friendly to foreigners, so I have around 50/50 local and international friends.

 

Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: Taipei in Taiwan has endless discoveries. It is a small island but has so much to offer. If you are an outdoors person, arts person, foodie, culture geek and/or startup owner, this country can offer you something.

 

Q: How does the cost of living in Taiwan compare to your home?

A: Slightly more expensive, but much more to choose from.

  • How much is a cup of coffee?

Depending if you have a take-away or sit-in cafe. Take-away can be 2-3USD, but in cafes it can go up 8-10 USD. In Taipei, rent is very costly.

  • How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

Can be as low as 2-6 USD.

  • How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

Can go up to 50 USD per person and more. Mid-range restaurants is around 10-15USD per meal.

  • How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

Depend on wine, of course, and I don’t smoke so I don’t know.

Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Wonderful, friendly, generous, humble, courteous people. It is absolute pleasure to live in such a society.

 

Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in your host country?

A: Positives are its safety, liveliness, abundance of choice and very pleasant environment to live in. Negatives? Well, there are negative nuances, as with everywhere. Most noticeable is that there is A LOT of people – it is difficult "get away", especially on weekends, as it is always crowded. But, they have very good crowd management here, and people do follow the rules, so it’s still amazingly efficient considering the number of people.

 

Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I use Skype. Also, there are some Lithuanian people living in Taipei as well.

 

Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Maybe.

Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: That's a difficult question… Taiwan is super friendly country, so my experiences have been very pleasant. I guess, for me, the most challenging part here is the summer and winter in Taipei. Summers are just hellish hot and it gets very cold in winter.

Most people tell me ‘how can you get cold, you are from a cold country’. It is true Lithuania has temperatures below freezing point for the most of winter, but our apartments are heated, so it is never cold at home. It is also not humid, so the cold does not get into your bones like it does in Taipei. Thus, I find Taiwan winter much harder to bear than in Lithuania, especially if rain goes on non-stop for a week! You want to bang your head against the wall then. However, these are just minor inconveniences compared to whole wonderful Taiwan experience.

Q: What tips can you give other expats living in that country?

A: It is not easy to find a job if you are

1) Not a native English speaker, or if you are a native but do not want to work as English teacher.

2) If you do not speak any Chinese.

Try to find a job in advance if you are planning to stay here longer. If you want to check out Taiwan, most countries can come here for three months with a visa-exempt and then prolong your stay many times by flying out to somewhere close (Hong Kong, Japan, Philippines etc.) and coming back.

 

Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about your host country?

A: Yes, I am big on outdoors:

https://hikingtaiwan.wordpress.com/

https://bikehiketaipei.wordpress.com/

 

I also own a blog where I write about various Asian films, including Taiwanese:

http://theasiancinemablog.com/