How well-equipped is this city for those raising infants/toddlers? Specifically, are there public places to change diapers, maintained playgrounds, etc?
Taipei is not the easiest city for those with small children. Sidewalks for strollers, especially downtown, can be few and far between. Many buildings have steps up to the lobby even if there is an elevator, and often public restrooms are not equipped with diaper-changing facilities. However, Japanese department stores - such as Mitsukoshi, Sogo and Takashimaya – offer comfort and convenience. They offer full-fledged rest stations with toilets, baby changing tables and diaper disposal. Other, newer department stores will sometimes have changing tables.
On the other hand, a great deal of care is given to parks and playgrounds. Larger parks are dotted around the city and are usually accessible by car and have parking. Many neighborhoods in the city are also built around a central park-like area that will have some trees, benches, a table or two and some kind of play equipment. They are not usually very large, but they do offer a change of scenery.
They are swept on a regular basis, and most are well-used by the neighborhood's children.
Where can I get a list of reliable childcare providers/nannies?
Word of mouth is the best way to find reliable child care. Full-time, live-in amahs (nannies) are one option, though there are a number of requirements that must be met by your family before you can hire someone from overseas. This is not a cheap option anymore as the Taiwan government has an extra tax on top of salary, though the cost is likely still less than what you would pay at home.
The Community Services Center tries to keep an amah registry updated, which may offer some possibilities.
Discuss any safety issues for children in this city.
The absence of sidewalks in many places means all children must learn the importance of road safety quickly. The absence of English means that if you are separated from your child, the time it takes to be reunited may be longer. The upside is that abduction is a very rare concern in Taipei. Any local person who may be with your child will be trying to find you.
What are the most popular kid-friendly attractions in the area?
Leo Foo Village, Taipei Sea World and the Mucha Zoo are the three largest parks. All are located some distance from the city. Some interesting museums are the Chang Chuen Cotton Paper Art Center, the Chinese Culture and Movie Center and the Miniatures Museum of Taiwan.
What are the most popular activities for kids after school or on weekends?
Music, dance and sports lessons are all possible through the TYPA or sometimes through private teachers. Members of the American Club will often spend a great deal of their leisure time there.
What's it like to be a teenager in this city? Are there any particular challenges I should be aware of as a parent?
While driving and after-school jobs are two of the things that make being a teenager bearable in many Western countries, neither is possible in Taipei.
Sometimes older students can tutor or babysit for pocket money, but regular employment, such as sales in a store or waiting in a restaurant, is not permitted.
New drivers will have a hard time navigating Taipei traffic, and there is often no parking for a second car. If your child had these privileges at home, be aware that losing them may cause some stress.
Discuss what your child's allowance might be, and be clear about what things it is supposed to cover - snacks, clothes, public transportation, etc.
Socially, older children may face the same temptations offered anywhere. There is a great deal of surplus spending money and normal levels of peer pressure. Be prepared for this possibility, and make sure you and your spouse or partner have a united view on how any difficulties should be handled.
Are there any organizations/social groups in the area that cater exclusively to young people ages 12-17?
Unfortunately, no. Most activities for children of any age are provided through the schools. The German school has published a booklet called Taipei for Teens, which has information on activities teens may want to participate in.
I want my child to get the most out of our stay in this country. Are there any specific opportunities to teach young people about the local culture?
The schools believe acculturation is important, and most classes will incorporate the major Chinese festivals into the learning curriculum and provide opportunities to learn the language. With some festivals, such as the Dragon Boat Festival with its Dragon Boat races, there are opportunities for the whole family to get out and enjoy a day together. A fun and educational time can be had by all!
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