Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Going back home III

"Now you are going to have to start working hard again...The UK is not so cheap...Can't live on a beach."

When you go back home it seems there was a universal lack of acceptance of Taiwan's economic situation. Even after i gave my friends the long lecture about the fact that Taiwan wasn't Thailand they would still give me that look that said, You don't have to bullshit me mate.

If they weren't asking me how i paid for my flight back, then they would be saying how jealous they were of me dropping out, opting for a beach lifestyle. Either that or the old one about me buying all my girlfriends or them being mail order brides.

Taiwan doesn't have a standard of living as high as the west or Japan, but they are not far off. A quick look at average salary puts them at 16000US a year, about half of the US or UK - you have to bear in mind that China or Thailand is near 3000US a year. But the key thing is that you have to look at the MacDonalds Index done by the Economist, a bit of a joke name it has a serious purpose: compare prices for the same things on a country by country basis to see how much your salary is worth - The idea is not to just compare the price of food because obviously it is cheaper in poorer countries but also poorer quality, but to see what your salary can purchase, what it is actually worth to you. Anyway, once adjusted in this way Taiwan moves up to nearer 25000 US a year making a salary in Taiwan only say 20% less than a western one.

There are a number of examples that stand out clearly: the underground train system is brand new and has won the best mass transport system in the world award for the last four years or so, yet it is a quarter of the price of the London one. Income tax is only 6%. There is no council tax. Taxis are about the same price as a bus in London. In short, while my salary is less than if i was in England it feels like I have more disposable income.

But it is not just about the disposable income. Taiwan feels like it has money compared to many places because it makes things and unemployment is extremely low; the average Taiwanese can afford to take international holidays and spend a year abroad studying English.

The one that always gets my friends shaking their head in disbelief is that Taiwan has to import low wage labor from the Thailand or Phillipines: maids, carers, and construction workers.

Anyway, enough of the rant. Just be prepared to hear this one - and for nobody to accept it when you explain...

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