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Medical Items, Toiletries and Health Care

Although Taiwan has many modern medical facilities and drug stores, the products may be different to the ones you feel comfortable using at home. Definitely bring enough meds that you need for at least two months, until you and your body get accustomed to your new surroundings. You should also ask for a written prescription from your doctor, if you are on any special medications. This will help the health officials here to supply you with the right medication when you need it.

Also, consider asking family to send the following in small quantities (and re-stock when you are on overseas trips);

  • Allergy medicine – you can find antihistamines here but they are usually not the non-drowsy kind.
  • Cold & cough medicines, painkillers, sinus medicines.
  • Cosmetics – there is an abundance of different kinds in Taiwan but if you have a special brand, please bring it with you, especially if you have sensitive skin.
  • Deodorants and antiperspirants are available but expensive and there are few brands to choose from – bring a few bottles of roll-on from home.
  • Vitamins – Centrum multivitamins are available but other brands are very expensive.
  • Feminine hygiene products are readily available. Sanitary napkins/pads are abundant but tampons are harder to find and don’t come in sizes above regular / medium flow. Try the drug stores and 7-11 stores.

And a couple of other notes:

  • Contact lenses are widely available everywhere and are inexpensive.
  • Laser eye-correction surgery is cheap as well, and very good quality.

Most toilet paper for home use in Taiwan is not on rolls. It comes in plastic packs or bales pre-cut into approximately 10 by 10-cm single-ply sheets. Carry a pack with you, as some public or restaurant bathrooms are not well stocked!

Sports, Gyms and Outdoor Activities:

The most popular sports in Taiwan are baseball and basketball. There are sports bars with satellite TV which do a good job of allowing ex-pats to follow their preferred sports, be it NFL, hockey, rugby, football, cricket, motor sports, golf, etc.

Those intent on maintaining the habit of regular exercise here usually join a gym. Most cities have gyms or sports facility for working out. Deals vary, depending on how long your membership agreement is and what area the gym is in.

While Taiwan doesn’t have a particularly intensive sporting culture, there are numerous opportunities for joining sports teams, both foreign and local, in Taiwan. The best ways to find a sports team are through other teachers, chat sites, sports bars and websites such as www.thismonthintaiwan.com or www.community.com.tw . Also, at most universities you will find opportunities for informal, friendly games of basketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball and other activities. If basketball is your thing, you can also pick up half-court games of 3 on 3 at most schools or parks with hoops nightly and on weekends.

In addition, Westerners here have managed to find many opportunities for softball, cycling, rugby, tennis, squash, aerobics, diving, surfing, golf, rafting, martial arts, yoga, kayaking, inline-skating and even ultimate Frisbee. Ask around and keep your eyes open for opportunities.


The city of Taipei is geographically set in a ‘bowl’ surrounded by mountains, so the city holds in the fumes from traffic, and industry. Many of the other more industrial cities also experience high levels of air pollution, usually during the summer. If you want to exercise in clean air, try getting up very early (like the Taiwanese do) to exercise in the parks before the pollution count gets too high.

If you jog or ride a bike or motorcycle, you may want to adopt the local custom of wearing a gauze facemask. They do prevent granular media from getting lodged in your nose, lungs and eyes.

To get away from the air pollution, head into the foothills of the mountains. Once you get above the ‘layer’ of the pollution, the air is much cleaner.


Water is a necessity required in copious amounts by everyone living in Taiwan. The country is very hot in the summer and it is important that you do not become dehydrated. The Taiwanese never drink water that has not been boiled or filtered. We strongly recommend that you do the same. Filtering and boiling is recommended for cooking, and bottled water for drinking.


As with all things, there is a good side and a bad side to food, so explore all the choices out there, but be selective if you have a sensitive stomach. Street food is relatively safe, and sometimes even better than that found in expensive restaurants. Fruit should always be washed, but can be eaten raw.


There are two varieties of toilet in Taiwan. Most apartments are now equipped with the Western-style ‘sit down’ toilet, but in some public places (usually older buildings) you may find a ‘squat’ toilet instead. These take some time to get used to. Squatting is, however, the most natural and ‘ergonomic’ position for bowel movement according to skitologists (that's the proper name for people who study bowel movements). Without going into indelicate detail, you face the drain cowling of the toilet, place your feet on either side of the chasm, and squat. Make sure your cuffs are not in the way and have your toilet paper ready.

It is also common not to flush toilet paper in older buildings since the plumbing may not be all that good. That’s why you will often see a trash can full of toilet paper beside the toilet.