Living in Taiwan: 4 Lessons Learned While Raising a Child Abroad

May 20, 2015
Living in Taiwan: 4 Lessons Learned While Raising a Child Abroad

Today is Mother’s Day. I’m sitting in my apartment here in Taiwan eating breakfast with my family. My four-year-old son is sitting beside me, eating his feast of oranges, yogurt, chocolate muffins, and grape juice. Outside beyond our balcony door, it’s a warm day with fog swirling around our mountaintop community. My son turned to me and said, “Mommy, we live in Asia.”

“Yes, that’s right,” I answer.

“Just like the Koreans,” he said, holding up one of his Tobots, a transforming robot toy from Korea. Then, he grabbed me and my husband and whisked us off to play with Transformers and building blocks.

Before I’m a teacher or a writer, I am a mother. More importantly, I am a mother who made the decision to raise my child in another country. Already, the amazing (and frustrating) experience of working and living abroad has been enriched by this wonderful little boy.

We have lived in Taiwan for five years, and we believe we have made the best choice for our family by growing up here together. We’ve learned many things while raising our son in Taiwan, and I want to share some of them here:

Living in Taiwan: 4 Lessons Learned While Raising a Child Abroad.

Living in Taiwan: 4 Things I’ve Learned While Raising a Child Abroad

1. It Takes a Community

We have been blessed to live in a wonderful community. Not only is it in a beautiful location, but it is safe, clean, and the perfect place to raise our child. There are plenty of parks and safe areas to walk and play. Even better, we have met families with young children who have been playmates for our son. I have become friends with the mothers, and these sweethearts have embraced me and answered my questions as I’ve stumbled through young motherhood.

Some of the mothers speak some English, but I have enjoyed pushing myself to follow along in Chinese. These women have given me a cleaning lady, doctor and dentist recommendations, places to go shopping and have fun, and a fantastic babysitter. These people have been nothing but supportive to us over the last five years.

2. My Son Thrives

I can’t express properly how it thrills me to watch my son grow up in this environment. From the moment he was born, he was surrounded by Taiwanese and Chinese culture. He had a babysitter who took care of him while I worked, and she welcomed him like her own child. She had a son the same age as mine, and they are like brothers. Her family exposed him to Mandarin Chinese.

Now, at age four, my son is bilingual. He speaks English with us at home, but at school and out in the world, he speaks Chinese. Every time I watch him speak Chinese to other kids, to his doctor, to random people, my heart just fills with pride. Every time I watch him enjoy the food, music, education, and entertainment of his adopted culture, it inspires me to do more of the same.

3. We Travel the World

One of the great joys of being an expat is that we can travel back to our home country to visit. However, it’s not easy. We have family in two different states, so we try to divide our time as equally as possible. It’s a long trek from Taipei to the east coast of the U.S., especially with a young child. However, we have come up with our own ways to have a fun, relaxing flight.

We have learned to pack light. We also have had members of our families come to visit us in Taiwan. Finally, now that our son is getting older, we are getting more excited with the idea of traveling with him to areas around Taiwan and beyond.

Living in Taiwan: 4 Things I’ve Learned While Raising a Child Abroad.

4. I Don’t Understand…and That’s Okay

It’s not easy raising our kid in another country. I can’t read food labels, notes from my son’s school, or some instructions for putting a toy together because they are printed in Chinese. My limitations with the Chinese language make it hard for me to ask for help.

In addition, there is isolation: for all of my friends, I am the only Western woman in my community. It’s also not easy to contact my mother, family members, or friends back in the States. Finally, our son’s future education is something we think about a lot. Will our son continue in the Chinese schools, or should we put him in an international school? Should we continue living in Taiwan, or move elsewhere? Should we return to the U.S.?

What issues will our son have to contend with as long as we live abroad? Will it further enrich him (and us), or will it have the opposite effect?

We deal with the questions and challenges that parents have to contend with all over the world. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that the love we have for our children is universal. We may have different childrearing beliefs and cultures, but we are still parents who want the best for our children.

We chose to raise our child abroad, and give him the gift of knowing a larger world. As he is learning and exploring his world, my husband and I are doing the same thing with him.

Plus, I have to admit, the bragging rights are pretty sweet!

Living in Taiwan: 4 Things I've Learned While Raising a Child Abroad
Whitney’s son enjoying life in Asia.

Living in Taiwan: 4 Things I’ve Learned While Raising a Child Abroad

Related Reading

Top Reasons to Visit Taiwan
On White Privilege in Taiwan
Throwing Out the Rule Book: Getting Lost in Taiwan
Finding My Voice Through My Writers’ Group in Taiwan
Understanding Taiwanese Identity: A Conversation with Dr. Pei-Ju Mona Wu
The Ultimate 48 Hour Taipei Itinerary

Have you traveled to Taiwan with your family? What were your impressions? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Living in Taiwan: 4 Things I’ve Learned While Raising a Child Abroad top photo credits: unsplash.

About Whitney Zahar

Whitney Zahar is a writer, a teacher and a student librarian. She’s been actively involved in the arts scene for as long as she can remember. She and her globetrotting family are pulling out of Taiwan soon and are looking forward to more adventures.

3 thoughts on “Living in Taiwan: 4 Lessons Learned While Raising a Child Abroad

  1. Melissa Granados
    September 20, 2017

    Hi Ladies, Did either of you move to Taiwan? I really enjoyed reading this. We are considering moving back to Taiwan with our 3 yo twins. How is teaching in Taiwan now? Do you use the scooter to get your child around?? Thanks!!!!

  2. Rose
    August 8, 2016

    I am 21 years old, expecting a baby. I have been thinking of moving, I need a new start, far away. I have been thinking of Taiwan. Any advice.

  3. Katy
    May 1, 2016

    Really enjoyed this post. My husband and I taught English in Tainan a few years ago and now live back in the uk with our one year old. Currently trying to decide whether it would be feasible to move back there for a couple of years with her. Lots to consider!

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