Monday, July 15, 2013

Shirley in Taiwan [2]

During my stay in Taipei, I have noticed the significant role of 24-hour convenient stores in the daily lives of the Taiwanese people. It is common to find a convenient store, 7-11 or Family Mart on every block and street intersection. In fact, it is surprising to not find a convenient store in your 360-degree view at any give time! These stores are deeply embedded in the Taiwanese way of life and reflects bits and pieces of the local culture. For instance, I have observed that many young Taiwanese working professionals rush in to buy their morning coffee (or soy milk) and sandwich before work...I later find myself falling into a similar pattern before my 8am Chinese class. During these hot summer afternoons, I commonly see school children coming in and sticking their heads in the refrigerators to cool down a little bit.

Taiwanese 24-hour convenient stores are luxurious; 7-11s in the US may have nachos and pizzas but the ones in Taiwan serve lobster salad sandwich and Japanese onigiri rice balls.  Additionally, they also have sweet potatoes grilling on hot stones, fresh tea eggs and steamy hot buns 24-hours long. Here are a pictures to prove so! (p.s. There is only one hot dog left on the grill because I took 3 before taking a picture...)

There are also hundreds of different types of beverages from teas and coffees to very interesting mixes. It is common to see 'Western-type' beverages like probiotic yogurt drinks and sport drinks to local favorites: papaya/watermelon milk, grass jelly and aiyu jelly drinks. From the wide selection of bottled teas, I have observed that many teas are advertised as Japanese this and that tea, which is consistent with the common notion that the Japanese knows their tea best! Others are advertised as mountain-high Chinese Oolong or cold-dripped tea and the occasional British milk tea. On the other hand, most coffees are marketed as European. 

 Another surprising aspect of Taiwanese 24-hour convenient stores is that you can pay your bills at the counter, from electric bills to your water bills, you can pay up whenever you like at your nearest convenient store. I also believe that you can ask your nearest convenient store to help send your packages and receive them for you too, but I'm unsure how this all works. However, I know that in almost all convenient stores, you can pay a small fee to print, photocopy, scan and fax documents. They even have a touchscreen monitor with different types of USB plug sizes to match your personal device. This is absolutely amazing and very convenient, especially for someone like me where buying a printer/scanner is not a good short term investment.
Multi-purpose printer/scanner/fax machine in my nearby Family Mart.

I am just amazed at the wide range of food and beverages as well as services offered by convenient stores in Taiwan. I have observed bits and pieces of the local culture and way of life from my nearest convenient store.Also, not only are they open 24-hours but they are also nicely air-conditioned too! If you come to Taiwan, make sure you visit your nearest convenient store and see for yourself.

Shirley Hsieh, M.A. International Trade and Investment Policy 2015,
Sigur Center 2013 Chinese Language Fellow, 
National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan.

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