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How a Programmer Gets By On $16K/Yr: He Moves to Malaysia 523

Posted by timothy
from the wouldn't-be-for-everyone dept.
An anonymous reader writes "If you can make $10 and hour doing remote work, you can afford to live in Malysia. Make it $15 or $20, you can work 30 hours a week. Real money? Make it ten. This article talks about how John Hunter did it." Malaysia's not the only destination for self-motivated ex-pat programmers, of course. If you've considered doing this kind of sabbatical, or actually have, please explain in the comments the from-where-to-where details and reasons.
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How a Programmer Gets By On $16K/Yr: He Moves to Malaysia

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  • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Monday March 18, 2013 @05:32PM (#43207707) Homepage

    Who the hell works more than 30 hours per week anyway?

    • by jhoegl (638955) on Monday March 18, 2013 @05:35PM (#43207735)
      Menials and the uneducated.
      *Rich guy laugh*
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Or people who work for Electronic Arts.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I know it was a joke, but generally I would find the opposite is true. highly educated and rich tend to actually work far beyond normal working hours. If I worked only 30 hours a week it means I was very sick or took a few days holiday. I would expect the average working week for most people I work with (all highly paid and highly educated) would be a minimum of 50+ hours. most probably higher.
        • by Luckyo (1726890) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:22PM (#43208183)

          That's those who hope to make it rich. Those who actually are rich AND smart delegate and "work" by browsing the internet or go golfing to "foster customer relations". Which can sometimes be hard work, but most of the time amounts to similar effort as average man's leisure. Of course, they often get the extra stress of "I have a lot, how do I not lose it" so their position is not necessarily an enviable one.

          Can't blame them for it either, that's what I would do in their position.

    • by serialband (447336) on Monday March 18, 2013 @05:36PM (#43207757)

      People who do physical labor will work that much. Some people with 2 jobs work more.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Gordonjcp (186804)

        My job is split about 50/50 between sitting in front of a computer designing complicated radio systems, and the manual labour involved in hauling all the kit up to the roofs of very tall buildings and putting it together. It's still only about 30 hours a week.

        • You're not doing the kind of manual labor I was refering to. The type of jobs I refer to regularly top 35 hours a week for a measly hourly wage. Some of these people work 2nd jobs to make ends meet.

          If you work at a computer, you're working a desk job, which in your case is half the time, which means you have access to a way to look busy without doing much work. (slashdot.)

      • by SpaceMonkies (2868125) on Monday March 18, 2013 @09:19PM (#43209821)
        If you can make $15/hr remotely, I'd suggest Montenegro. Find a place near the sea, you got it made. You might have to work at getting a really great broadband deal, but there are some to be had. If you're single, the women there are beautiful and have sexy accents, you've got the sea and off-season the tourists go away and you can really enjoy the good life. You're a short hop from shopping in Italy, skiing in the Alps and you're still not in the EU (yet). Learn to play tuba in a Balkan horn band. Drink lots of coffee and slivovitza. Go out in your backyard and pick fresh figs for breakfast. Even if swimming in crystal-blue seas is not your idea of fun, you can set yourself down in a sidewalk cafe and watch one Mila Jovovic after another walk by. And there's none of the snobbiness of Western Europe.
    • Entrepreneurs!

    • by isorox (205688)

      Who the hell works more than 30 hours per week anyway?

      Depends. Does "work time" include "slashdot time"?

    • When I had a job in industrial manufacturing before attending college, I would regularly work up to 100 hours a week.

      Of course, I was a teenager fresh out of high school, enjoying the 18/hr straight time + time-and-a-half for overtime + double time for holidays.

      Damn, but those were some bitchin' summers!

      • These days... Well, I'm here for 40 hours, what more do you fuckers want from me? Actual productivity?

        Meh, I'll leave that for the newbs who still have some ambition left to beat out of them.

    • For the record, I'm head IT manager at a small-ish company (100 ppl, 6 servers, 40 desktops) for 25 hours a week for 19k/yr with no benefits in the US and the rest of the day I operate my own retail and computer repair store. It's quite awesome and I tend to catch less exotic diseases here than in Malaysia.
      • by HornWumpus (783565) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:34PM (#43208299)

        Your problem is you don't know what you are worth. I expect you're living in a small town and the employer thinks you have few options. However, they also have few options.

        All you need is to reduce your desperation level and all the power in that relationship comes to you. Get another contract or two. Make the effort. Offer rates similar to the one your giving now if you have to. Then let them stew, just turn down their change and let entropy take over. They will be back, on their knees. You should be charging them $50/hour or more.

      • by ModernGeek (601932) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:19PM (#43208777) Homepage
        You should quit buying into the propaganda put into place by popular media that every place in the world that isn't the United States is some sort of shit hole that is full of disease and famine. You'll find that the rest of the world is quite nice.
      • by jrumney (197329) on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:41PM (#43209501) Homepage

        It's quite awesome and I tend to catch less exotic diseases here than in Malaysia.

        From the UK recent travel health advisories:

        Malaysia

        1 November 2012
        Sarcocystosis in travellers to Malaysia

        USA

        16 January 2013
        Seasonal influenza – advice for travellers
        23 November 2012
        West Nile virus: advice for travellers to USA, Europe and neighbouring countries - update
        5 October 2012
        West Nile virus: advice for travellers to USA, Europe and neighbouring countries
  • by serialband (447336) on Monday March 18, 2013 @05:35PM (#43207727)

    I don't see a link for an article.

    • Knock yourself out. [techtarget.com]
    • Re:What article (Score:5, Informative)

      by ph1ll (587130) <ph1ll1phenry.yahoo@com> on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:13PM (#43208111)

      ... and I can't find a country called Malysia (please note, editors: it's Malaysia).

      I know Malaysia well (even though I live in the UK). I first went there in '97 and married a Malaysian-born woman. Some observations:

      • They really like and respect white people.
      • They don't particularly like Chinese people (my wife is half Chinese so I see rampant discrimination against this large minority - about 25% of Malaysia's population - all the time).
      • The weather is great (although sometimes a little too humid).
      • Kuala Lumpur is a very advanced city that can compare to anything in the West.
      • Broadband speeds are so-so according to my cousin-in-law.
      • There appears to be a demand for good engineers (according to another cousin-in-law, a Chinese who studied IT in England). So, assuming you can get a visa, getting some interesting work shouldn't be too hard.
      • The political situation there is... interesting. But I get the impression that if you don't cause trouble you will be left alone - especially if you are white.

      HTH

      • Re:What article (Score:5, Interesting)

        by tlhIngan (30335) <<ten.frow> <ta> <todhsals>> on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:28PM (#43208243)

        I know Malaysia well (even though I live in the UK). I first went there in '97 and married a Malaysian-born woman. Some observations:
          They really like and respect white people.
        They don't particularly like Chinese people (my wife is half Chinese so I see rampant discrimination against this large minority - about 25% of Malaysia's population - all the time).
        The weather is great (although sometimes a little too humid).
        Kuala Lumpur is a very advanced city that can compare to anything in the West.
        Broadband speeds are so-so according to my cousin-in-law.
        There appears to be a demand for good engineers (according to another cousin-in-law, a Chinese who studied IT in England). So, assuming you can get a visa, getting some interesting work shouldn't be too hard.
        The political situation there is... interesting. But I get the impression that if you don't cause trouble you will be left alone - especially if you are white.

        HTH

        The reason is that after the war or so, the first people to start running businesses and such were Chinese (most likely chased out from Singapore by the Japanese), and they got very rich doing so.

        The government exploits the fact that a lot of Malaysians are jealous of the Chinese for being successful (which happens because they worked hard at building businesses and such) , so they put up huge campaigns of national identity and such to encourage hatred of the Chinese. However, they government doesn't really do anything about it (they can't - said Chinese businesses pay a good amount of tax and employ a lot of Malays). So basically the Chinese are demonized for being successful and "exploiting" Malays

        If you're white, you're usually a tourist or an investor, so you're treated well to get at your $$$. If you're a Chinese investor with $$$, everyone eyes you like you're going to enslave them.

        The government feeds off this sentiment and basically just fans the flames. There's no real democracy (there is voting, but the opposition is usually highly discredited, or even arrested if they have a chance of winning - being a Muslim state, there are plenty of "crimes" that one can accuse the Opposition of).

        • Re:What article (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Kagato (116051) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:52PM (#43209071)

          That closes the loop on what I noticed about the Chinese in Singapore hating the Japanese. I actually witnessed a shop keeper play dumb with a Japanese trying to buy something using Engrish. Old Japanese guy stormed out in frustration. I go to buy something, no problem, he explained the other guy was Japanese.

          I don't know if I would choose Malaysia or Singapore though. Both are kind of strict countries if you run afoul of the local powers that be. Fun to visit, not so much on the living there. I'd hit up Belize. Nice locals, cheap and only 1 hour plane ride to Miami if the shit goes down.

      • As you say, the politics there are .... interesting. There seem to be a lot of laws giving Muslims preference over Christians (which might make it unsafe for me to talk about my religious values, though it beats Saudi Arabia.) They've got the anti-drug fanaticism like their neighbors in Singapore (though probably not as bad as Dubai.) They periodically talk about censoring the whole Internet, with the excuse that it's about pornography but the reality that it's about criticisms of their politicians.

        The M

  • by rk (6314) on Monday March 18, 2013 @05:35PM (#43207741) Journal

    No link in the summary, no link after the fold. Really?

  • Has /. evolved to a point where there is no A to RTF?

  • How did it get to the front page without the link?

  • Next time we might even get an article with a link. Finally an excuse not to RTFA!

    Move to country with cheap expenses while retaining job with good pay. Sounds simple, I'm sure everyone has done it, after all there can't be any complications?

  • ...and getting over $100K a year.

    But if $16K floats your boat... by all means take the job.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      I think the intent was to not take a job, i.e. the suggestion is that if you're a freelancer making low-but-nonzero money, you can just move somewhere with a low cost of living. Of course, you could also move there and get $100k+ job, but that would defeat the goal of not having a boss.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @05:57PM (#43207983)

      This. I've spent the last 10 years working in South East asia (Malaysia now, but Singapore before that for 3 years). As a white guy with any level of technical smarts you're easily earning 100+, 180 for managers. My coworkers are pleasant, cost of living is very low meaning I've been able to save quite a lot up. I don't see myself moving home so much as I do retiring.

      • That's the smart thing to do, and something often overlooked. Saving up, I mean. You can live a decent life doing IT work in the Asia / Middle East, or running a Scuba shop in some tourist trap or whatever... But does it allow you to put away enough for retirement? Especially if you want to return home sometime? (And many expats will want to, sooner or later)

        Even the big earners fall into the expat trap, finding themselves more or less stuck in a foreign place, when they find out their savings wil
  • Ubatuba, SP Brasil (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @05:44PM (#43207877)

    Graduated with my Masters in EE/CS at 23. Got a job that allowed for remote working. Saved up the required $50K to apply for a permanent resident visa as a foreign investor. Opened a shop and hired some local Brasilians to do contract programming work for US firms. Learned Portuguese and became a Brasilian citizen. Quit my job and renounced my US citizenship once I was making enough on my Brasil business. Ignored letter from IRS demanding "exit" tax.

    Now do contract work for US firm at US labor rates via sales office in the US, and the money comes to Brasil where it goes farther, and I live on a beach in a Pousada. I don't even speak English well anymore. I'm not even 40 and I could quit work today but the money is too good.

  • by BumpyCarrot (775949) on Monday March 18, 2013 @05:47PM (#43207905)
    Link removed.

    Top form, timothy.
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Monday March 18, 2013 @05:55PM (#43207973)

    If your goal is just to live cheaply, and you don't have kids, there are plenty of places in the U.S. where you can live ok on $16k/yr. I did it as a grad student. Not in the SF Bay Area, though.

    • I did something similar for a couple years, and it cost me $24k in the Bay Area. So it's more expensive, but $24k isn't a lot of money.
  • I know a place where you get a free place to stay and a meal every day. Won't cost you a cent to go there either.
  • by bhoult (132229) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:03PM (#43208027) Homepage

    I have been doing this for about three years now in the United States. Basically, bought property ($6000), built small dome to live in ($3000), went half time at work (4 hours a day doing low stress programming). I make about $17,000 a year and live pretty comfortably on that. The key is having no debts, eliminating as many recurring payments as possible (I pay about $300/mo for all utilities and phone), drive as little as possible and don't eat out much.

    I even wrote a blog about it. http://www.minimalintentions.com/search/label/Geodesic%20Dome

    My plan was that when I had all this free time I could work on my own projects (of which I have many). Unfortunately turns out that I am pretty lazy so instead I sit in a hammock and read books more... ah well... I still plan to get motivated at some point... eventually.

    (repost since I was logged out the first time)

    • by neminem (561346)

      300$ a month for utilities?! We're paying maybe a hundred, living in a normal condo in a normal city. Maybe 25-30 for electric, 10-15 for gas, 50 for phone and internet. And that's two people; I only had bills like that by myself in the middle of the summer, running the AC all the time. What crazy utilities are you paying for? (I guess there are probably other less exciting utilities, like water/trash/etc. that go into our HOA bill, but I can't imagine they come to 200 dollars a month...)

      • These are all living costs you must pay each month where you live. Some places fold in a lot of the insurance and ultilities into the HOA fee, while others pay separately.

        And I include recurring information/communication/entertment fees as utilities, e.g. landline, cable, smartphone, internet, newspaper, netflix, gaming subscriptions, etc. For some people this is their second highest monthly costs.
    • by matrim99 (123693) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:13PM (#43208117) Homepage

      The key is having no debts...

      Actually, the key is having no medical problems.

      • by Sepultura (150245)

        The secret is no ongoing medical issues. If he's like most Americans and he had a serious medical emergency come up he'd probably end up bankrupt anyway. This way he just has less to lose.

  • I often dream about living in southeast Asia, can you tell me something additional what does it take to relocate there and get an IT job?
  • China (Score:3, Interesting)

    by longk (2637033) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:20PM (#43208173)

    I've been doing this in China for the last 7 years. The good thing here is that live is very scalable. If income is low you relocate to the countryside where you get by quite decently on $100/month and 4M Internet. If income rises you move towards bigger cities where you can spend over $10.000/month and have FTTH if you must.

    And by scalability I don't just mean the living expenses. Also moving from place to place is dead easy. I arrive in a place and spend a day if not just a few hours on finding and renting a flat. I'll move in that same night or the next day and have my stuff arrive by truck a few days later.

    If you're a remotely political person or care mildly about human rights, China may not be for you. For the average person however who just wants to work the least amount possible and yet have her/his dinner cooked, house cleaned and pussy licked/dick sucked as if she/he were queen/king, it's an awesome place.

  • by tgeller (10260) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:25PM (#43208211) Homepage
    Just get the hell out of high-cost areas like Silicon Valley.

    I moved from San Francisco to small-town Ohio four years ago. I'm a freelance writer and have never met most of my clients face-to-face, so my income didn't change at all.

    But now I'm out of debt and living in a huge house I bought for $50,000 and enjoy very much. The money that used to go into such things as $6 drinks and $130 residential parking stickers now goes into travel, entertainment, and investment.

    I can't walk to eight sushi restaurants anymore. But I've found my lifestyle's improved quite a bit without having to leave my home country. And if I want to be around that many sushi restaurants, I can fly back to San Francisco whenever I want.

    Unless you really want to, why leave the country? The U.S. can be very cheap -- you just have to get away from the coasts.
    • by Stiletto (12066)

      The bad news is... You're in Ohio!

      Joking aside, whether or not you can move to a Third World State in the USA and still make a Bay Area salary is highly dependent on your employer. If I went in to work and asked my boss, "Boss, I'd like to move back to rural Pennsylvania, work remotely, and keep making the same salary!" it would take him hours to stop laughing. I suspect this is true for 99% of Bay Area employers out there.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Some people do it. It's risky though. Ie, we had a programmer who lived in rural Montana with a silicon valley salary. Ie, living the good life except for the monthly trips to the office. However if you get laid off then you're stuck trying to find someone else who will let you do that. The reason people are in silicon valley is because it's safe. If you lose a job there are plenty of companies nearby who may be interested in your skills (although too many jobs are not web stuff now). If you never bu

  • Argentina (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lexluther (529642) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:47PM (#43208431) Homepage
    About 7 years ago, I moved from California to Argentina for work. I had a degree in CS and had worked professionally as a Java dev for three years. I couldn't get any work in the US so I decided to brush up on my spanish and see if I could find a job down there.

    After arriving in Argentina, I translated my resume and started looking for work by finding the equivalent of Monster.com (bumeran.com). It took about 3 weeks, but I got interviews at both Sony and IBM. IBM wanted to send me to Canada for consulting because I spoke english :). Since that wasn't the goal, I went with Sony. Lots of the labor in these places is not actually employed by the large corporation, but by a "placement" service. This company paid me $600/month for full-time employment. I had been making around 70k in the US, but in argentina the 10x paycut was manageable. Indeed, I was making 1/2 of some of my coworkers - because I wasn't legally employed, the placement company paid me less, but paid me in cash.

    The experience was fantastic. There, 9-5 actually meant 9-5 - very limited flexibility in terms of hours and what I could work on, but it was okay, I was doing it more for the concept. The engineers were all excellent and my American education didn't either disadvantage or help -- we all were pretty up on the lastest java techniques.

    After about 4 months, I decided that this glimpse into the future was sufficient so I returned to the US to do a PhD.
  • A co-worker/long time friend (longer than we have worked together) recently became a full time remote employee as he moved his family back to where he and his wife are from to be near their extended family for child care (day care is very expensive, they figured she was working basically just to pay for day care)

    I told him...if they are going to let you go full time remote.... fuck the south, move to India! Take your big American professional, solid middle to upper middle class salary, and up and move to In

  • Balkans (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:55PM (#43208509) Homepage Journal

    If you can make $15/hr remotely, I'd suggest Montenegro. Find a place near the sea, you got it made. You might have to work at getting a really great broadband deal, but there are some to be had.

    If you're single, the women there are beautiful and have sexy accents, you've got the sea and off-season the tourists go away and you can really enjoy the good life.

    You're a short hop from shopping in Italy, skiing in the Alps and you're still not in the EU (yet). Learn to play tuba in a Balkan horn band. Drink lots of coffee and slivovitza. Go out in your backyard and pick fresh figs for breakfast.

    Even if swimming in crystal-blue seas is not your idea of fun, you can set yourself down in a sidewalk cafe and watch one Mila Jovovic after another walk by. And there's none of the snobbiness of Western Europe.

  • by brillow (917507) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:08PM (#43208661)

    Malaysia sucks. Seriously, detention without trial? Death penalty for drugs? State religion? High risk of infectious disease? Monarchy? Sex-trafficking?

    NO. THANKS.

    • Then swim over to the Philippines. No death penalty, no monarchy, but more drugs and sex with risk of infectious diseases. Mostly christian like the USA. Real fun place if you don't mind the random kidnapping and shooting, which may or may not make you feel more at home. Gun laws stricter than the US but lots of loose firearms.

  • Costa Rica & Panama (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tenebrousedge (1226584) <tenebrousedge AT gmail DOT com> on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:30PM (#43208881)

    $6k a year is doable. $16k a year would be quite pleasant. I would avoid the capital or other large cities. Actually getting a work permit or visa to either country is difficult to impossible, but I know people in both countries who have been there for decades on a tourist visa. Do note, this tends to limit your options for local employment; it's far better to work online.

    There's essentially no native culture (or cuisine) in either place, "post-colonial" about sums it up. The police are nice enough but underpaid, the laws are enforced relatively arbitrarily and generally not in favor of extranjeros. If you're running a business, [a] congratulations for getting through the bureaucracy to accomplish this, and [b] you may from time to time expect to have laws about licenses and restrictions enforced against you that your (Tico) competition does not. I'm not sure whether I can really say that corruption was common, but it's probably fair to say that people were understanding about dealing with the laws and regulations -- or avoiding that, if necessary. I don't really consider this a bad thing, but if you have the expectation that the rule of law is going to be universally or rigidly applied, you may be disappointed.

    The weather is beautiful, it's not terribly expensive to get to and from either country (at least, from the US), English is spoken by a good percentage of the population, utilities are cheap and reliable, health care is extremely affordable (medical tourism is common), internet is not that fast but widely available, and of course, knowledgeable tech workers are in high demand. In Costa Rica the beer is not good and relatively expensive, in Panama you can get two beers for $1. Computers are available, but expensive. It's probably going to be a good idea to buy in the US and work out a way to get it. I've heard both good and bad things about the mail system; I'd call it generally reliable, but the paranoid might want to find other means of receiving packages. If you end up going back and forth to the states a lot, you can make good money on the side bringing electronics back with you.

    Panama is by far the cheaper of the two countries, you would probably be able to get by on less than $6k annually. I didn't like it quite as much because, at least in the places I frequented, cocaine was both common and extremely cheap there. That's fine for those who like that sort of thing, but generally I don't think it does much good for the community. Drug laws in both countries are sparingly enforced.

    Roads are generally better in Panama; the country has a lot more money due to that whole canal thing. I can't recommend driving in Panama City, or anywhere in Costa Rica. Cars are absurdly expensive, and paradoxically people don't care about the lines on the road, the blinky things above them, the relative speed and velocity of other vehicles, or pedestrians.

    Fun Facts: there are no addresses in Costa Rica. [wsj.com] There are no roads connecting Central America with South America. [wikipedia.org]

    • Western Panama has the upland climate of Costa Rica with the better roads.. David is the provincial capital but the cooler highland cilmates of Boquete, Volcan, Cerro Punta, Bambito, etc are much nicer if the humidity bothers you. You end up with highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s pretty much year-round. Even up there you aren't that far from the beach. The main problem is that it has been pretty much discovered by expats so the prices have gone up considerably.

      Among the big advantages in Panama f
  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:56PM (#43209645) Homepage

    You don't have to go that far. Just move to a third-world state like Vermont where the cost of living is a tiny fraction of what it is in the cities. No, I'm not talking about the ritzy places like Burlington, Norwich, Montpelier and Woodstock. I'm talking the real Vermont, the other 99.9%.

    Wait, forget I ever said that. I don't want everyone moving here! :)

  • Thailand (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AndyCanfield (700565) <andycanfield@@@yandex...com> on Monday March 18, 2013 @10:20PM (#43210187) Homepage
    I've been in Thailand (& Laos) for twenty years. Now most of my work is done through the Internet, even for local companies. Living costs are low. A Company puts money into my bank, the ATM card takes it out. Work at home means long hours with lots of breaks. Rural Thailand is wonderful. I jumped ship from California in 1990 and have never regretted it. But I live a Thai lifestyle, not an American lifestyle. More information at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/72291163/index.html [dropbox.com] . Cold water baths, no air conditioning, travel by bicycle or motorcycle or bus. No (English) computer books to speak of; all technical information through the Internet. I still read the news, but don't much care what that idiot government in Washington does. Eighteen years ago I decided I'd rather die in Thailand than live in the United States. I have had seven children; my children have had five mothers. Every time I say this some lady in the crowd raises her hand and shouts "NUMBER SIX! NUMBER SIX". Two kids are in America; the other five were all born in The Land Of Smiles. Sometimes I have a little bit of money, so I can eat. Sometimes I have a lot of money; some Thai lady comes along, and goes away, and I have a little bit of money left, so I can eat. No problem, no worry, no stress.
  • Consider Taiwan (Score:4, Informative)

    by GoCats1999 (936745) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @01:36AM (#43211031)

    After living in Silicon Valley for almost 10 years, we moved to Taiwan for 4 months (just got back), while I continued working as an independent contractor for US-based companies doing custom web and iOS software development.

    In a word, it was *awesome*.

    You could definitely make a very decent living in Taiwan, especially outside of Taipei (Taipei could still work pretty well, but rent prices are significantly higher than the rest of the country.)

    Living expenses are incredibly cheap, especially for a first-world country. Bonus, If you can qualify for an ARC (Alien Resident Card), then their nationalized health care is really cheap.

    We had a beautiful (albeit on the small side) 2 BR/1 BA apartment in the heart of Kaohsiung (Taiwan's second largest city) for $400/month. Utilities at around $75/month. Wife and I both had unlimited 3G on our iPhones for $30 per month each — oh, and that *includes* UNLIMITED tethering (something you'll never get with AT&T or Verizon).

    Food in Taiwan is incredible... both in taste, as well in cost. We never cooked, always eating out every breakfast, lunch and dinner to the tune of about $15 per day total.

    Taxis can take you pretty much anywhere for about $2-$4 per trip... or you can take the subway for about $1 per ride.

    All told, we were spending about $1500 per month.

    However, despite its benefits, there are definitely some downsides. Taiwan (like most of East Asia) has notoriously poor air quality. Lack of emission control standards on vehicles make it very difficult to walk (let alone jog or work out) outside without feeling a bit nauseous. When walking around outside, you will see people wearing masks *everywhere*.

    Also, unlike other countries in East Asia with a stronger western influence, it is very difficult to get around Taiwan without being able to speak Chinese. While there are some people who do speak very basic conversational English, it's a bit more on the rare side, so trying to get around or order at restaurants can be challenging. It tends to be a bit easier in Taipei, but then, you'll end up paying more in living expenses.

    But if you are able to get through some of those challenges, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. We are already trying to figure out how and when we can get out there again!

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