Bold move from Singapore to Taiwan


Derek and Joy are Hong Kong Chinese and hold Canadian citizenship. They have 2 sons that were born in Singapore, the eldest is 9 years old and the youngest is 6. After the successful application for Taiwan’s Gold Card Visa in 2022, with 10 suitcases to their name, they moved to Taipei. Derek and Joy are currently taking a temporary career break and focusing on living their best life and being present for their children.

Joy, how well has the family adapted to living in Taipei?


We converted to Singapore citizenship in 2020 to give our son’s an identity and a sense of belonging. Starting from kindergarten they have sung the Singapore national anthem each morning. Holding Hong Kong passports meant very little to the children, they couldn’t relate as they have never lived there. All they know is that they live and breathe Singapore, this is the culture that they have been brought up in.Both boys have adapted pretty well. We haven’t moved very far in the region, therefore family and friends in Hong Kong and Singapore have frequently come out to visit us. We joke that we have seen more of our friends from Singapore whilst living in Taipei as compared to when we were in Singapore. 


The locals are very welcoming and friendly and we are enjoying the slower pace of life here. After just 1 year we feel we have a much deeper connection with the boys’ and really feel present with them. The 10 years of working in Singapore felt very auto pilot and uninspiring and it has been a breath of fresh air to make this move. Since we are raising young children, we are very grateful that this country is extremely safe. Taiwan also has a robust and affordable healthcare system as well as a lower cost of living. 

We are an active family and enjoy the outdoors and here it is an adventure paradise. It’s a great country to help foster passion for fitness at an early age and raise children in a way where exercise summons excitement. We have recently hiked up Mount Hehuan which is a 3,416-metre-high mountain in Central Taiwan.


Being a multi-lingual family, which language is taking priority?


It was one of the major draws for moving to Taiwan so that the children could learn Mandarin. Both are fully immersed in Mandarin at school and at home we use the one-parent-one-language method (I speak English and husband speaks Cantonese). English has become a second language and taken a back seat temporarily, but we will eventually relocate back to Canada therefore it’s not an issue. We make sure that the boys’ are getting exposure through English language books to keep that enthusiasm and curiosity there.


Our eldest’s Chinese writing comprehension is equivalent to Primary 1, whereas his spoken Mandarin complexity is much more sophisticated. We are happy with the progress he is making and our expectations aren’t as high for his writing because our priority at the moment is for the children to be fluent in speaking and listening.


The youngest has taken the new language like a fish in water, his Mandarin is much stronger, to the point where he now speaks Cantonese with a Mandarin accent! It seems that he is now thinking in Mandarin too and where he can’t say the word in Cantonese, he will use Mandarin.


Providing the children with this full immersive way to learn Mandarin is probably one of the best gifts we can give them. Being fluent in another language can open up more opportunities and we really like that they are much closer to their roots. The day that the boys’ both start to converse in Mandarin to each other, it’s our success marker that they are very confident and comfortable with the language.

School Life In Taiwan


The eldest goes to a private school which is attended by mainly Taiwanese students, therefore it has provided him with a meaningful cultural exchange by integrating with the local community. We really appreciate a smaller class size as that can positively impact student well-being and promote a sense of belonging and community. Our son feels connected to his peers and teachers so he is very happy with his school life.


The current tuition cost includes catering and school trips and is half of what we were paying for International school in Singapore. One of the aspects we like about the school is the classroom duties that the students carry out; cleaning their space and being responsible for serving lunch. This helps build student’s sociability and independence, very much like the schools in Japan.


His school encourages support of Taiwanese agriculture and promotes that whole foods are the best foundation for optimal health. The lunch offered to students uses locally produced ingredients which means they eat seasonal produce ensuring they get the freshest food and nutrition. This is very much aligned with Taiwan’s sustainable development. We really like that both boys are exposed to a variety of food and it brings us peace of mind that they’re getting a healthy and balanced meal at school.


Derek, what extracurricular activities and/ or tuition classes do the children attend?


The boys attend basketball class on the weekend. I am a huge fan of the sport and since I am not working, I have the time to coach a small team that my eldest is in. The opportunity to be able to do this is priceless and has really strengthened the parent-child relationship.


We have not enrolled the boys in any tuition classes. They are both doing well at school and we do not see the need for it. I did observe that my eldest was behind in maths when we were in Singapore so he uses an app (Khan Academy) to sharpen his skills. He has continued to use the app and he enjoys learning through it. Outsourcing this is the best decision as it has relieved me of stress and conflict of trying to teach him myself.


I like to use daily life situations and turn them into teachable moments for the boys. I believe this way I can nurture family values and also cultivate lifelong learning. I encourage curiosity as that drives their innate desire to learn which makes every experience and social interaction engaging and helps them gain a deeper understanding of the world around them.



Are there any other educational tools you use?

I have started to explore Chat GPT with my eldest. This A.I. technology will pave the way for how he will be learning, especially from Secondary school onwards. It is playing an increasingly significant role and will become an even larger part of our world and I want to establish a safe space where we can get to know this technology and understand its limitations and risks.


I believe that this is potentially a great source of information for kids. Children can learn critical thinking, practice communication skills and can spark curiosity within them. With my guidance it is very important that I instill responsible and ethical use. 

I think everyone is dying to ask what it's like for both of you to be a stay at home parent.

It might sound rosy, but we struggled initially. We had a domestic helper when we were living in Singapore and it is not the norm to have live-in hired help here in Taiwan. For us, it was just a case of defining boundaries and sharing chores. Cooking really isn’t my forte, therefore Derek is in charge of that department. We’ve had our fair share of disputes and it’s really about communicating and listening that will help let go of any resentment with this shift. It is vital for us to respect each other’s space and also maintain our independence. As much as we are taking a break, we are using this time to explore other avenues of work.


Writer's Notes

Derek and Joy are great role models for their boys and are leading the way for equal parenting. They both have this great sense of adventure and this is something that cannot be taught, the boys will emulate this spirit which will help mould their personality. Curiosity is a word that cropped up many times during the conversation and this empowerment helps build persistence in children – the need to know why and how. I really love that the boys get to see gender equality reflected in their home, that a primary caregiver or household responsibilities isn’t just down to females. Derek and Joy are fostering a fair and inclusive society by promoting respect and challenging stereotypes.


December 2023