Catalans Abroad

Asian magic

Oriol Ferrerons Manich Oriol is a quality control engineer who went to live in Taipei in 2012

Why did you leave Catalonia?

Actually, it was a combination of different reasons. My wife is Taiwanese, and we decided to get married, but some of her relatives were struggling with health issues, so she wanted to move back. Also about that time, she was offered a job in Taipei. I had been working as a Quality, Environmental, and Safety manager for a couple of years, but the company where I was was hit by the crisis and I was laid off. I tried to find a new job in Catalonia, but without luck. So, we decided to move.

Why did you choose Taipei?

As I said, it's my wife's hometown, and also the biggest city in Taiwan, where most opportunities are.

How long have you lived there?

Since August 2012, about four and a half years.

Are you happy with the job opportunities you found in your adoptive country?

It was very hard to find a job here. I worked as a freelance agent representing Catalan and Spanish companies that wanted to sell their products in Taiwan then part-time work as an English teacher. In June 2016, I found work as a QESH manager again. The problem is the language, as the percentage of fluent English speakers in Taiwan is about as low as the Spanish average.

What do you think is the best thing about living in Taipei?

I'd say that the handiest thing is the enormous amount of convenience stores open 24 hours a day, but that could also be true for other major Asian cities. The Taipei metro (MRT) is really good and clean (even the bathrooms), and taxis are really cheap. There is a wide range of food quality, but you can get good food from any Asian country at a reasonable price.

And the highlights for any brief visit for the first time?

The Taipei 101 skyscraper in the Xinyi district is the most visited spot, but there's the Palace Museum, in Shilin. And if you spend the day there, you can go back and visit the Shilin night market.

And if visitors have more time or make a return visit?
If you enjoy hiking,the Taroko gorge, or Yangminshan, north of Taipei, with its restaurants and hot springs. What do you miss most from home? Family and friends. Even with videoconference and mobile calls, it's hard being apart, and not being able to just go out and drink something with friends. I met people here, but they're mostly foreigners from other countries, so I still have to use a language different than my own. Do you plan to go back to Catalonia? Yes. My wife and I agreed to go back by the time our oldest daughter would have to start high school. Elementary school in Taiwan is all right, but high school in Taiwan is insanely competitive and high-pressure, and we feel our two kids would benefit from an education in Barcelona. After doing the elementary school in Chinese, they should have enough base to master the most complicated of the four languages they learn.

Some suggestions

Can you recommend a place to have lunch with friends?

Any of the Din Tai Fung restaurants (but I'm partial to the one under Taipei 101). Failing that, The Sweet Dinasty, very close to Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT (blue line), Exit 2.

Where would you have a special dinner for two?

Depends on how special. The problem with good, high-end restaurants in Taipei is that they're very crowded, so having an intimate dinner can be difficult if the next table is less than a metre away. If you want a really special dinner but you don't care so much about luxury, I'd say one of the tea houses in Maokong mountain, but you should go early and get a table in one of the terraces overlooking Taipei. If you're lucky and the day is clear, the views at night are astounding.

When is the best time of year to plan a visit?

I'd say either in early spring or late autumn. Summer is hot and very humid, and winter is often cloudy and rainy in northern Taiwan.

What is the best kept secret about the area?

I probably haven't found it yet. Even after more than four years, I keep finding out new things about the island I didn't know about. Just last year, I found out that there's an aboriginal village that has ancient trees more than a thousand years old, that makes for a nice weekend trip. Every time we go hiking, we see new species we didn't know about, biodiversity in the island is astounding, and any people who love fauna and flora could probably spend years in the field and still want to keep going out.

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