Expat Living – An Interview Series
Another week, another ex-pat “living the dream” abroad! Meet Matt, a fellow Canuck and the third person to be interviewed in my Expat Living series.
Matt is an adventure travel writer and photographer living in Taiwan.
Where are you from?
Cranbrook, British Columbia.
Where are you living now? How long have you been there?
I now live in Tainan, Taiwan. I’ve been living there for about six years.
Have you lived anywhere else? Do you plan to stay in your current location or move somewhere else in the future?
I lived in a village on a volcano in Guatemala once for about 8 months. That was pretty awesome.
I will live in Taiwan for a while longer, but will probably move someplace else eventually.
What’s your story? What made you decide to take the big leap and leave home?
I was working as a tree planter saving money to go travel when I met a guy whose girlfriend was teaching English in Taiwan. He said that teaching paid very well and it was easy to save money there.
Three days later he left to join his girlfriend in Taiwan. Before leaving he gave me his email and invited me to come visit. Six months later I did. I planned to stay for a year, but I liked it too much to leave.
Do you ever miss home? What do you do to cope?
For the first several years I didn’t really miss home much. I was too excited to finally be living abroad.
I still don’t miss Canada, per se, but I do miss my family. My sister just got married and will be having children one of these days. Growing up my aunts and uncles were a big part of my life, and I would really like to be a part of my nieces’ and nephews’ lives.
How do you blend in and be accepted by locals?
I can’t blend in. Most people in Taiwan are either of Chinese or Taiwanese aboriginal descent, and I’m a tall white guy.
It’s not hard to be accepted by Taiwanese though. Taiwanese are some of the kindest and warm-hearted people that I’ve ever met. They will make anybody feel welcome.
How do you stay in contact with loved ones?
Facebook, of course. But the best way is video chat on Skype. It’s the next best thing to being there.
Did you have to learn a new language? If yes, what? How did you go about learning the language and how long did it take you to become fluent?
I’ve been studying Mandarin Chinese for about six years. Most of the time I would just study with a private tutor for one or two hours each week.
Chinese is very hard and I’m far from fluent. When I speak in Chinese I probably sound like a dyslexic seven year old.
What has been the most shocking thing you learned about the local culture?
That they eat pigs brains.
There was a hole in the wall restaurant near my house. It was actually pretty much somebody’s living room where they served food, but it was always busy so one day I went there to eat. I asked what they had in Chinese, but didn’t recognize the names of any of the dishes, so I just ordered one at random. It turned out to be a bowl of grey broth with grey mealy chunks of meat in it. I was barely able to choke it down.
Later I told my students about the place and they told me that they had heard of it. The restaurant was well-known for making great pig’s brain.
What is your number one tip about how to live life as an ex-pat?
Don’t get angry. Relax.
What do you love most about living abroad?
What don’t I love?
Driving down palm tree lined roads.
Living near a tropical beach.
Shopping in old Chinese markets.
Seeing people to tai-chi in the park every morning at 6 am.
The list goes on and on.
What has been your best experience to date in your new home?
My best experience included drinking large amounts of whiskey and sitting naked in a pool of burning water with several friends.
No, I’m not kidding. It happened.
Did you make the move solo? Or are you with a spouse or significant other, other members of your family, or friend(s)?
I was with my girlfriend at the time. But she didn’t like Taiwan as much as I, and she left.
What do you do work wise? Did you have a job before you arrived or did you look for work when you got there? If you didn’t have a job, how did (or do) you land work?
I found a job as an English teacher there. In my spare time I worked on writing, and now I write full-time.
Visit Matt’s blog to read about his worldwide travels and view his amazing photos.
Use of Images