10 Terrible Business Ideas in Taiwan

Understanding a market is like understanding another person. It takes time, and if you try to rush everything, you might regret it like that one Tinder date that turned into something you’d rather forget.

The Taiwanese market has a lot of its own kinks, and if you want to be successful, here are some business ideas you’d best avoid.

#1 Making anti-LGBTQ statements on your Facebook page

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Nothing says classy like making anti-LGBTQ statuses on your gym Facebook page. I’m not one to tell somebody what their opinion should be, but the least you can do is to keep your personal opinion and your business separate. This gym owner came out (ha!) as a homophobe after same-sex marriage legislation passed in Taiwan, and said that their gym is “free from gay sex that you find at many gyms in Taiwan.”

If that wasn’t a hard enough nail in their coffin, they also added that “Your kids are 100% safe inside these walls and they always will be.”

Nothing like confusing people in the LGBTQ community with pedophiles. You stay classy Formosa Fitness.

#2 Mayonnaise Milk Tea

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You can find quite a few weird milk tea options around the world, from matcha cheese cream milk tea, sweet potato milk tea, to a McDonald’s milk tea float. Hell, I’ve had seafood and a butterbeer milk tea, there’s no end to the flavors available!

But, If I were to make the most undrinkable milk tea, it would have to be a mayonnaise milk tea. Might sell well with the foreign community in Taiwan though.

#3 Rechao with no beer

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No beer at rechao is like going to a theme park and not going on any of the rides. Sure, it’s nice to be there and everyone is enjoying themselves, but you’re not really doing what you want to do the most.

True story, me and 20 other foreigners were once threatened to have the police called on us because we drank so much Taiwan beer at a rechao that the owner freaked out. He might’ve thought we wouldn’t pay, or maybe he was afraid of seeing 20 foreigners drinking. Either way, he lost our business forever by being somewhat xenophobic.

#4 Cafes with a time limit

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The customer is always right, except when they don’t get in the way of other customers. This is the case when it comes to cafes in Taiwan.

I’ve talked to cafe and bar owners, and they all agree, not being able to tell customers to leave after buying a medium latte and sipping it for 2 hours costs a lot of customers.

Still, they also remarked that if you ask someone to buy something or leave, they will likely not come back, and leave a pretty negative review.

Either way, if you decide to open a cafe or bar, be ready to deal with customers that will stay for hours after spending little to nothing.

#5 Not having long lines of customers

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In Shilin Night Marketing, there a Michelin starred stand that sells sausages with sticky rice. You usually need to wait in line for about 20 minutes before being able to order your sausages, and from the looks of it, that’s a tasty sausage.

I tried it, and to be very honest, I thought it was kinda okay. Tasty, but nothing spectacular after waiting 20 minutes for it. With that said, not having long lines of customers doesn’t help you to sell in Taiwan. Hell, even Chunghwa Telecom decided to give people a deal of NT$499 unlimited 4G plans and the lines for the offer went around blocks.

With that said, they created a lot of awareness of their services, and this is what sells in Taiwan. Don’t have long lines? Get some!

#6 Fake tan products

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My country, Ireland, has the second highest market for fake tan products in the world. My mother told my sister to get a fake tan just to avoid being bullied. Well, now that I’m in Taiwan, the opposite is true.

Whitening creams, umbrellas, and people wearing masks in the sun are what I see. If you decide to sell fake tan products in Taiwan, good luck to you!

#7 PChome 48h

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What can I say, PChome 24 does a great job at being able to deliver in 24 hours. With that said, I’d be happy with 48 hours if they did something with their mess of a website. It’s information overload.

#8 Beard stylist

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When it comes to good hear haircuts and beard trims, the Craftsmanship Barber Shop does a pretty great job. However, if you were to set yourself a part by being a beard stylist in Taipei, you’re really not going to have a lot of customers!

#9 Swimming lessons

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I’ve heard quite a few takes on why most Taiwanese people can’t swim. Some say it’s because the KMT warned people against going to the seaside. They were worried about Taiwanese and Chinese working together I suppose. Also, there are other reasons like ghosts and bad spirits residing next to the seaside.

For whatever reason it might be, most Taiwanese don’t know how to swim, and if you’re looking to set up a business to give swimming lessons, that might not be the best idea!

#10 Opening a bar or cafe without understanding the stress

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This last entry on this list comes from friends that have bars and cafes. Essentially, don’t open your own establishment with a romantic view of what being a cafe or bar owner is like.

The truth is, customers can be nice, but there are a lot of crazy people, particularly if you’re catering to mostly expats.

With that comes a lot of stress and maintenance, both on a physical and mental level. I would advise against opening a bar or cafe if you’ve at least never worked as bar staff or as a waiter or waitress. Just because you’re in Taiwan doesn’t make it easier.

Tomás Swinburne

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