Finding your feet in Taipei

2015/10/19 10:45:00
(Photo: Monica Mizzi)

(Photo: Monica Mizzi)

Moving from the comforts of your home town to a major city like Taipei is a daunting task, even for seasoned expats. One of the most formidable challenges newly arrived foreigners face is saying goodbye to a steady support network of friends, family and colleagues, and starting afresh.

Fortunately, there are a plethora of interest groups, events and organizations that will help you find your feet in Taipei. Focus Taiwan outlines a selection of the most useful and popular to check out.

●Language exchange groups

Language exchange is one of the most fruitful activities to not only add a fun kick to your Mandarin efforts, but also help you make new local and expat friends.

On Facebook you will find quite a few language exchange groups, but with 37,000 members, Language Exchange in Taipei is the most frequented group for finding language exchange partners and asking language-related questions.

Mandarin-English language exchanges make up the bulk of requests. However, other language requests occasionally make an appearance. The group also runs bustling language exchange event at Brass Monkey every Sunday where you can practice Mandarin with locals, and throughout the week events are organized to engage you in a third (or fourth!) language. Visit the Facebook Group for more details.

●Sports

Some would argue that there's no better way to make friends than participating in sports. Seek out your local community sports center for a cost effective and diverse selection of sports under the one roof.

Daan and Xinyi sports centers are the biggest in Taipei, and between them have all the popular sports facilities plus swimming pools, bouldering rooms, yoga and pilates studios and even an indoor jacuzzi.

For the dancers, capoeira fans and for those interested in inexpensive community classes, visit your local "Community College" (the term used here for community activity centers) for more information.

In public spaces like Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall early in the morning you can catch locals practicing Tai Chi and Kung Fu. Some other interesting opportunities to consider include outdoor yoga classes from Peace Street Yoga and the enormous group bike riding events organized by Critical Mass Taiwan.

●Student focused finds

If you're studying at a university in Taipei, you should consider looking into the student-specific initiatives available to you.

Universities in Taipei are plentiful with sports, dance and special interest clubs, and in most cases membership is open to foreign students attending the institution -- even language school students. Search your university's website for a full listing and make contact with any that catch your eye to connect with similarly-minded fellow students.

Some overseas universities have alumni organizations set up here in Taipei, so further inquire to not miss out on meetups and other helpful services. You can also look up the Foreign Students in Taiwan Facebook group to keep in the know about student life and events.

●Creative events

Red Room is an innovative, creative space where artists and audience alike are encouraged to share their written, spoken, musical and artistic talents. Known for being an open and positive community, attending an event is a unique way to connect with other inspired minds.

Some smaller bars occasionally organize entertaining events to draw the crowds in, so check with your local haunts for the latest happenings.

Some highlights include Sappho's jazz, improv and storytelling events, Brown Sugar's incredible jazz performances and Live Comedy Club’s stand up nights.

●Counseling services

As anyone who has tried accessing counseling support in a foreign country can attest to, it can often be a confusing and frustrating process tracking down a suitable service.

Fortunately The Community Center offers a counseling program with a strong and diverse team of professional counselors, consultants and interns.

The Center connects you to an intake worker, and does its best to accommodate specific counseling requests, and preferred appointment times". The fee for the service is on a sliding scale based on monthly household income, and referrals can also be made for further psychiatric care as necessary. For more information visit: http://www.communitycenter.org.tw/counseling/

●Foreigner hangouts

Bars frequented by foreigners are a fantastic way to meet other expats in a chilled, social setting. With a soundtrack of lively chatter, it's easy to strike up a conversation at the hip and cozy Revolver bar once you join the crowd spilling out onto the sidewalk.

Revolver also runs an impressive number of events like live band nights, cinema screenings and life drawing. Another event-packed bar to check out is Carnegie's Taipei.

On event nights you can expect the place to get seriously crowded as you bump shoulders with expats and locals alike to enjoy live music, after parties and theme nights.

The aforementioned Brass Monkey regularly screens major international sports matches for you to cheer and jeer over a couple of pints with other sports fanatics. If you swing by on Thursday you will catch International Student Night, where each week at this free event a fresh lineup of brave individuals share everything from side-projects, unique ideas, quirky tricks and art pieces.

●Foreign trade offices

It may seem an unlikely place for the average foreigner to make contact with, but foreign trade offices and chambers of commerce organize countless events that are beneficial for foreigners looking to expand their business and job prospects.

Networking nights for professionals, career planning events, luncheons, seminars and talks on cross-cultural issues -- attending an event can help you boost your professional presence in Taipei and shine some light on your career-related queries and interests.

Another little-known but great service provided by the French Chamber of Commerce is an online job directory. To find out more information, Google "Trade offices, Taipei" and "Chamber of Commerce, Taipei".

●Volunteering

If you have got some spare time and want to give back, why not volunteer for a worthy cause?

There are many organizations who would appreciate some extra hands on board to help. The type of volunteering you can become involved with depends on each organization, but many welcome all sets of skills.

Not only does volunteering allow you to make a positive contribution to society, it provides you with the opportunity to gain or enhance your skills.

There are hundreds of local and international charities to choose from, so do some research and find a cause that sparks your interest. Some current volunteering opportunities are listed on http://www.charity-charities.org/volunteering/Taiwan-volunteers/Taipei.html

●Online forums

Joining an online forum is an entertaining way to feel instantly connected with a community of thousands of people from all across Taiwan.

Think up a witty username and head to the Taiwan-specific forums, Forumosa.com and Taiwanease.com. These ginormous forums are organized into extensive lists of categories to ensure that whatever your query or interest, there’s a place to help you find the answer.

Those wanting a more intimate forum experience should head to the Taiwan subreddit Reddit.com/r/Taiwan to find a more tight-knit hub of individuals sharing their knowledge and experiences about everything Taiwan related.

Although not a forum, tealit.com is another useful resource for foreigners looking to find work, housing, language exchanges and second-hand goods.

●Facebook groups

If you want to keep up to date with the latest events and news in Taipei there are a handful of foreigner interest groups on Facebook which post all the latest happenings.

Foreigners in Taiwan regularly updates about interesting activities and events staged around town. More specific groups you may like to visit are English Teacher in Taipei, Foreign Actors/Comedians in Taiwan and Foreigner Models, Actors and Dancers Living in Taiwan.

●Meetup groups

Meetup.com is the world’s largest network of local groups, and Taipei's chapter boasts a variety of groups which meet regularly to gather like-minded individuals.

A diverse set of interests and demographics are represented with social gatherings, networking events, tech meetups, sports sessions, food and drink get-togethers and language exchanges amongst the most popular themes.

The Taiwan Adventure Group is a good place to start your Meetup obsession -- their alfresco events encourage you to explore parts of Taiwan you may not have heard of, or have not had the time to see yet. It's best to take a look for yourself and discover the opportunities to broaden your mind, get your heart beating and stomach rumbling with your new best friends.

Most events are either free or a couple of hundred of new Taiwan dollars, so take the plunge and join in on the fun.

●Couch surfing
Couchsurfing.com has become an incredibly popular site in recent years to meet people from all around the world.

Although used primarily by those looking for a couch to crash on for the night, what you may not realize is that you can also use it to connect with other people residing in Taipei.

In the "discussions" section you can seek advice from locals or contact people looking for some new friends to join them for a day out, a drink or a language exchange.

●Internations

InterNations.com is the largest international community for people who live and work abroad. The Taipei chapter is very active and every week a handful of dining, night life, culture or sporting events are organized.

Although the majority of events require a paid membership, once a month a meet-and-greet event is open to anyone who signs up for a free membership.

These meetups tend to have a slightly professional air to them so attending is a great opportunity to network. Even if you just want to make new friends, fresh faces are warmly welcomed.

●Toastmasters

Keen to improve your speech delivery skills, gain confidence and engage with locals all at the same time? Joining a Toast Masters group might be right up your alley.

There are a surprisingly large number of English, Mandarin and other language clubs at different times and locations so you have got no excuse not to try it out. For more information, a list of clubs in Taipei can be found on: http://www.toastmasters.org.tw/d67web/en/index.htm

(By Monica Mizzi)
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