As schools and businesses in the United States shuttered to prevent the spread of COVID-19 last year, some Californians looked abroad to find a new home. For Taiwanese-Americans like Welly Yang, choosing to move his family to Taiwan just made sense. “We really thought it was important for the kids to attend school in person, experience their cultural roots, and quite honestly, so that we could all live a normal life surrounded by other human beings,” Yang told Ralph Jennings of the Los Angeles Times. “Taiwan controlled its coronavirus caseload nearly a year ago by inspecting inbound flights, quarantining all arrivals and tracing the contacts of anyone with COVID-19. Taiwan has reported just under 1,000 cases and 10 deaths since the start of the worldwide pandemic.”
The “de facto” Taiwanese consulate in Los Angeles “issued 858 Taiwan passports last year compared with 219 in 2019,” writes Jennings. Some Taiwanese Americans who traveled to Taiwan in January 2020 to observe the Lunar New Year just stayed abroad. “Relatives who live here offer the transplants a valuable head start to learn about the island that their parents left decades ago when Taiwan was poorer and more politically volatile.” With the economy largely open, jobs and business partners are easy to find.
The transition can be rocky, too. Many Taiwanese Americans experience culture shock after having been away from the culture for decades, and their English-speaking children “adapt slowly to local schools if they’re not fluent in Mandarin.” Occasionally, “conflicts manifest between Taiwanese who have never lived abroad and returnees” who “complain that too many transactions depend on personal relationships.”
Despite having to make some major adjustments, returnees like YouTube co-founder Steve Chen find that “the rewards outweigh the challenges.” In Taiwan, he said, his family could “continue our lives as we knew it.”