Doctors in Taiwan came up today in todays podcast which made me think to write down what to expect if you ever visit Taiwan and have an unfortunate incident and need to see one.

English or Chinese? 

A lot of doctors here in Taiwan do have a grasp of English. 

I have met many who studied in America, Canada, UK and Australia so have a good understanding of the language. 

I have, however, have met many who do not understand English. If, like me, your medical Chinese is not amazing, it’s sometimes quite difficult to communicate. 

It’s best to write down your symptoms on a piece of paper or on your phone and have them translated, Google or by a native friend before you go just in case. 

Bedside Manner

Ok, here’s the interesting part. Because of legal action the doctors here must tell you the worst possible thing you could have so that in case you do have it and they didn’t tell you, they could get sued.

So for a few examples. 

When Kairi (our daughter) was about 1 years old we went to see the doctor for a checkup as you do. And the doctor (GP) said it sounds like she has a heart murmur. 

Heart murmurs are actually quite common in small children and usually (in most cases) disappears as the heart grows along with the chest.

Of course, the GP did not say this is the case. He sent us straight to the hospital. 

My wife and I start getting worried. Obviously.

Nothing has been explained other than our child might have a heart murmur, and at that stage we didn’t really know what it was. 


Myself and my wife arrived at hospital. Our own hearts now nervously knocking at our own chests. 

We saw a heart specialist who then used a stethoscope to listen to Kairi’s heart. He made several ‘doctor noises’. Then stood up without smiling and said, we must perform more tests. 

“Would you mind explaining why?” I asked. 

“I am worried this is an Atrial Septal Defect” the doctor replied. Then walked off to do more ‘doctor stuff’. This was all in Mandarin. 

Now, what’s the first thing, as a parent you do when a doctor tell you that your first born might have a thing you haven’t heard of before? 

You Google it! 

And low and behold, he was worried that our little one had a HOLE IN HER HEART. 

Now both mine and my wife’s pant were full. This was now upsetting. Imaginations run wild with this kind of news. and you tend to think the worst in these situations. 

Kairi went off for several examinations (we accompanied). The awaited the results. This was two hours. Then we got a piece of paper in an envelope with the results. 

She did have a hear murmur but luckily no hole. Great news all round. Very full underwear. 

My Own Experience

Recently I went to the doctors here in Taiwan with an ongoing stomach issue. 

First it was GERD. Esophageal reflux. 

Upon seeing a specialist, he told me that it could be Whipple’s disease, a very rare disease but something that (if left untreated) could kill me within five years. That was not an easy one to sleep on. 

I decided to go to a local digestive clinic for some comfort regarding my apparent possible death sentence. The doctor there told me that Whipple’s is a very rare disease. But then the following conversation took place…

“OK, that’s good, so its very unlikely I have that then?” I said. 

“Yes, but as you are getting on to forty now you should definitely do the biopsy check” said the doctor. 

“oh for sure, I will. I want to get the bottom (pun intended) of this. But I am only 34 so not quite 40 yet” I said through smiles under my mask. 

“Oh no, I have 2 patients, ones 34 and the other is 32 and they both have stage 4 terminal colon cancer. So it could also be that” the doctor replied. 

Again, the pants filled. 

Looking for Comfort?

In England, the doctors I have seen have usually told me to go away and get over it. Or have reassured me that its very unlikely to be something serious and that they will do some tests to clear a few things up and then treat the symptoms. 

In Taiwan the doctors tell you the worst thing it can be then do the tests. Perhaps its just my experiences. 

Even having a Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccination after arriving in Taiwan several years ago, the nurse said in Chinese “this is really going to hurt”. 

The vaccination in the UK…

Nurse: You going anywhere nice then?

Tom: heading off to Taiwan actually we are going to…

Nurse: Stab with needle

Tom: ouch. 

Nurse: All done. Have a nice time. 

If you are looking for comfort here about your condition, you are not going to get it here. You are going to have to live with a bunch of anxiety until several tests have been carried out. 

Of course anything simple or straightforward you will get the diagnosis and medication straight away. The system here is very efficient. 

At least if they tell me I have something horrible and I don’t the relief will be better. 

One Hundred Pills

If you do have any kind of condition, do not expect to go to the pharmacy and get one pill a day for three days until the symptoms clear up.

The doctor will give you one pill per symptom. So if you have headache, runny nose, sore throat and a cough, expect 4 different pills. And not some Lemsip (this is what my UK doctor would have told me to do). 

Expect to get several pills of different shapes and sizes, with non descript effects and explanations. The nurse giving you the medication will tell you when to take them, but that’s all the information you are getting.

You wont get them in the original sealed package either, they are delivered in small paper bags, where all the pills exist together. You just rip open the bag and swallow the myriad of medication. 

The prescription bag does have the names of the drugs on there, mainly in English, which is good because you can give them a good old Google. 

I blindly took some medication a few months ago which made my hand shake uncontrollably. My wife thought I was having some kind of attack. It was scary until I Googled it and found that it was a side effect of one of the medication I was taking. 

Perhaps It’s Me

Perhaps it’s just me, perhaps its just my experiences so far. Maybe I have had bad luck with very straight forward and over cautious doctors. They do like to err on the side of caution here when it comes to diagnosis. 

I don’t really blame the doctors here in Taiwan for that. Better to be safe than sorry. I just don’t like the anxiety. 

Any questions about this, you let me know. Happy to help. 😀 


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