Unlike many expats, it wasn't love at first site with Taiwan when I arrived in 2010 as a full time Mandarin language student. I'd been living in Shanghai, so arriving in Taiwan came with me plenty of culture shock.People looked at me funny whenI was used mainland Chinese terms like 打印 for printing and 出租車 for taxi. The ugly architecture and lack of sidewalks in Taichung city where I studied made me second-guess why I'd come here at all.
But like all the best things in life, Taiwan is an acquired taste. There are no tourist traps like a giant reclining Buddha in the middle of Taipei to photograph or seedy bar streets. Taiwan is a place to take in slowly and absorb for a while. Then the eccentricities start coming out. Some of these might be the way the people always say thank you, even if you're the one being served, or the clean and orderly structure of the streets and alleys. Thenoticeablecleanliness of the MRT system, and even clean public bathrooms stocked with soft toilet paper. These things make a difference on quality of life.
If I had to summarize it in one sentence, come to Taiwan to see how 23 million people live in perfect organization and harmony huddled together on tiny piece of land. Come and see how resourceful humans can be given an island lacking many resources, that's mostly mountainous and uninhabitable. Then stay for the remixed Japanese culture that means hard work, no complaining, polite smiles, and lots of good Japanese food.
It's hard to say why I can't leave Taiwan. It is indeed limited for both career and relationship prospects. But no other Asian country can compete with the combination of cleanliness, culture, warm weather, and polite people. Once you experience Taiwan for long enough, it makes it unbearable to live anywhere else.