What to Pack
Generally, dress in Taiwan is about the same as in metropolitan areas of the United States, although the dress code in schools tends to be more casual.
- Casual, versatile clothes made of light, breathable material
- Taiwan's weather is generally hot and humid, but the temperature can change dramatically from day to day, and some layering staples are helpful. Western brand clothes (Levi’s, GAP, Polo, etc) will be just as expensive if not more in Taiwan than in the U.S. Local imitations can easily be found and will be far cheaper, if you choose to under-pack and buy clothes in Taiwan. In Taiwan, they sell jeans but they usually only come in longer sizes so you may need to roll them up.
- Most residents of Taiwan do not own dryers. You will not own a dryer, therefore, pack with this in mind (although, in special cases, you could go to a laundromat to use the dryer). During winter, the cold and humidity means that thick clothing can take many days to air-dry, so it is better if you have quick-drying clothes to wear in the meantime. Your clothes and shoes might get moldy, so don’t bring anything that was expensive or that you don’t want ruined.
- Clothing for teaching: The dress code at Taiwanese schools tends to be much less formal than the dress code at schools in the United States. It may be hard to believe, but most teachers at school wear jeans and a T-shirt to class. However, the level of formality can vary from school to school. Once you are assigned your schools, it is good to ask your co-teacher about the dress code and also observe what the other teachers wear to make sure you are dressing appropriately. Here are some general tips:
- Remember to bring at least one pair of closed toe shoes. Any sandal that doesn't have an ankle strap is considered a slipper here. Even if you paid a great deal of money for them, if they don't have an ankle strap, they're slippers, and not appropriate for school. Flip-flops are also not appropriate for school.
- Skirts should be knee length (this is a general rule at most schools; perhaps talk with your co-teacher(s) and observe the way other teachers dress at your school). Shirts should not be revealing and long enough so that when you write on the board you won't expose too much.
- Shorts may or may not be acceptable for teaching. Pack enough variety of shorts/pants/skirts so you’ll be prepared for a more traditional or more liberal dress code.
- It is especially true that when teaching younger grades, you will probably move around a lot and will likely end up dancing and making lots of dramatic gestures, so it's important to wear shirts long enough for all of this activity.
- Warm clothing
- Do not underestimate the cold during winter. There is very little heating in Taiwanese schools and apartment buildings. While temperatures do not drop too low, rain and moisture in the air make it feel even colder. You will often scooter to work in the morning in the rain, and end up being cold and damp for the entire day. Bring a thick waterproof jacket, warm socks, thick waterproof gloves (for scootering), and base layer clothing (for layering under pants or shirts) - this is not a joke, you won’t regret it!
- Formal wear
- Evening wear is seldom worn, except to formal dinner parties or banquets. However, it is advisable to bring at least two business formal outfits for Fulbright events throughout the year. (These items can be purchased in Taiwan, for around the same price one might acquire them for in America, so there is no absolute need to go out and buy multiple formal outfits in a hurry.)
- Rain gear
- It rains frequently in Taiwan, especially in the winter, making it a good idea to pack a rain jacket. Most scooter coats cost around $5 USD and are full-body to protect your legs while scooting.
- It is also helpful to bring pants that are more appropriate for rain. When scooting in the rain, even a full-body rain coat will not prevent the bottom of your pants from getting soaked. If you have something that dries quicker, it would be a good idea to bring it.
- If you are low on space in your luggage, rain boots might not be a necessary packing item. You can just buy rain boots or plastic covers to put over your shoes here. During the summer, when it is very hot, changing into a pair of flip flops or other sandals for walking/scooting in the rain is the best option.
- Swimsuit culture in Taiwan is generally more conservative than in the U.S. While you could still wear a bikini, most other people at the beach will be donning one-piece suits with shorts, or even long sleeve t-shirts and shorts. (Taiwanese women are scared of the sun.) For men, you'd fit right in if you packed a teeny, tiny speedo. This is not required, though, so you'll be fine in some trunks. You will be required to bring a swimming cap in any pool or hot spring, but those are purchasable here.
- Water-resistant shoes
- Shoes made out of leather or similar materials are not recommended, because they do not deal well with getting wet and can mold easily.
- If you wear between a 5 and 8 in women's shoes, you won't have any problem finding shoes here. On the other hand, if your shoe size is larger than 8, you should probably bring all the shoes you'll need for a year.
- Rain boots and/or waterproof shoes: Rain boots are helpful for scootering in the rain or walking around on particularly rainy days. Otherwise, water-resistant shoes are fine.
- If you are picky about particular hygiene products and brands, be prepared to bring your own. Although prescriptions are not required to purchase pharmaceuticals in Taiwan, they may come in handy for examiners to review your record. Also, please pack personal medication that may not be easily found in Taiwan. Additionally, mosquitoes are especially rampant during Taiwan’s summer; consider packing anti-itch crème, though these are also available in Taiwan. Lastly, the UV rays in Taiwan are very strong and most Taiwanese brand sunscreens are very watery. American brand sunscreens are available, but can be expensive. Consider bringing a few bottles of your favorite sunscreen.
- Feminine products/birth control
- Taiwan has an ample supply of sanitary napkins for women, but is significantly lacking in tampons, which are also constructed differently. It is advised that if you are particular about this to bring as many as you can. If you have a specific birth control that you are using/works well for you, it’s also suggested you bring a year’s supply. It is of course possible to get many kinds of birth control in Taiwan, but some ETAs have struggled to find specific brands, so if consistency is important/necessary for you, stocking up is advisable.
- Headache medicine
- Although Taiwan has some painkillers available, it is suggested that you bring Advil or Motrin with you as they do not sell it here. Please note: Taiwan, while not lacking in Ibuprofen type painkillers (Advil, Motrin), does have acetaminophen type painkillers, which function exactly the same as Tylenol/Excedrin/etc because they have the same active ingredient. You can get these for free with your health insurance card and a trip to the clinic.
- You will be able to find whatever vitamins/supplements you need here, but they may be more expensive than their American counterparts.
- Laptop/charging cable
- Bring necessary cords and possibly a back up power supply if you have a Dell. It would also be useful to bring a computer to AV/projector converter for Mac users since the cables don't plug in the same way here. Although Taiwan does not have a single Apple Store, there are unofficial Apple Stores from which to buy Mac products, though you may have to order something (i.e. charger) to be delivered to your store from Taipei, which can take a few days. For other computer needs, Taiwan is the perfect place to find any electronics. Note: fixing any Apple products in Taiwan is not cheap and immediate because there is no Apple store/Genius bar. There are many local stores that will fix products at a cheaper price at the risk of them not being official Apple stores. Fixing MacBooks here take a significantly longer time. If your computer ever gets wet, immediately stick it in an enclosed space with a dehumidifier for a day, otherwise your screen might start molding because you didn’t dry it out fast enough.
- The outlets in Taiwan are two-pronged, so if you have electronics that need three-prongs, you’ll need a converter/power strip. If you have electronics you need to use in the first week, make sure to bring a converter or buy one in the day-1 shopping trip. Also, it is advisable if you are bringing items like hair dryers to bring a voltage converter, or simply to purchase one when you arrive to be on the safe side. Items can short out dangerously.
- School supplies
- Taiwan has a multitude of stationary stores where you can purchase any kind of teaching materials you may need. If you have the time before you leave, scanning some picture books into Power Points may help you later in your classes. It may also be helpful to have some English stickers (from dollar stores) or stamps. Many of the local teachers also like it when the ETA’s use pictures of their hometown and families in their presentations.
- If you want to give your co-teacher or students gifts from America, consider packing small goods like key chains, magnets, or mugs from a local landmark. Even a roll of American pennies makes for a good class prize.
- Consider printing photos of family members, friends, and your home city to share with students. These pictures can be passed around classrooms and help facilitate cross-cultural exchange.
- Religious-themed holiday items
- i.e. menorahs, plastic Easter eggs, dreidels, etc.
- Board & card games
- i.e. Chutes & Ladders, Candyland, Clue, Bananagrams
- If you have one, bring a sturdy backpack or small duffel bag for weekend trips around Taiwan. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring a waterproof bag for your backpack, especially if you plan to ride a scooter or a bike to school. These items can be purchased in Taiwan, but they may not hold up as well. This is also useful if you plan on taking a winter break trip to a place where suitcases aren’t very convenient (i.e. most of SE Asia).
- Carry-on suitcase
- You might also like to have a medium-sized suitcase. This will be useful if you travel abroad during Chinese New Year break, and you can even use it for long weekend getaways within Taiwan or just for taking laundry over to a laundromat. If this makes sense to use when you’re packing, bring it; if not, you can buy one here.
- Don’t bring books unless it is necessary. Books can weigh bags down and some ETAs have incurred extra costs at the airport because of this. The Fulbright Office in Yilan has its own library, and although the bookstores in Yilan do not possess many English books, bookstores in Taipei are usually well stocked. It’s also possible to borrow English books at your local library or cultural center once you get a card. If you are a particularly avid reader, it is suggested that you purchase an e-reader before your trip and load up on e-books.
- Top sheets are not widely available in Taiwan; consequently, pack one if you so desire. Stores generally only sell fitted sheets rather than a set, so if you need both a fitted and flat sheet to sleep, bring them. Also, it can get unexpectedly cold at night in the winter. Because there is no indoor heating and blankets are relatively expensive, some previous ETAs benefited from an electric blanket. Consider bringing one with you if you are sensitive to the cold. Portable room heaters can also be purchased here if needed.
- Household items
- In terms of appliances and other household needs, apartments are mostly fully-furnished (at the very least you will have a bed, wardrobe, and desk in your bedroom). ETAs have the option of leaving some useful items in their apartment for the next ETAs. Although this is not a guarantee, things like a clothes line, hangers and even a mattress pad might already be waiting for you. Dehumidifiers, if not left behind by previous ETAs, are a strongly encouraged purchase once you’re settled in. They will help keep your clothes, shoes, and bedding dry, and generally help keep the damp out of your room/apartment.