The 7-Elevens in Taiwan Are a Necessity - Not a Convenience
My wife and I recently spent a month in Taiwan. I gave some lectures at the University and helped to co-teach a course titled Biodiversity, Agriculture and Culture of Taiwan. We had never been to Taiwan before, so we were not completely sure what to expect about finding the basic necessities of life: coffee, beer, Twizzlers. Within hours of arriving, we were told not to worry about any of this — just go to any 7-Eleven convenience store.
We found the 7-Eleven nearest our hotel room, and that was not difficult. With nearly 5,000 stores in this small country, we came to realize that in the capital, Taipei, there must be a 7-Eleven every couple of blocks. In fact, several times we saw 7-Elevens on opposite corners of the same intersection. That’s right, two stores immediately across the street from one another. Was my mind deceiving me, was I seeing double, had I entered some parallel universe without knowing it? Could the coffee be better in one of the stores than in the other? Were Twizzlers the same price in each? Too many stores, not enough time!
Every morning, I literally skipped to OUR 7-Eleven, bought two American-style coffees (which I learned to order in Mandarin), a couple of hard-boiled eggs that were prepared in a bath of salty tea water (delicious) and, voila, breakfast was ready. After a while, the clerks recognized me (not difficult to remember a white-haired gringo in a Taiwanese convenience store), so they began drawing my coffee before I even placed my order.
But these “convenience” stores, which are spotless, attractive, and nicely lit, offer much more than my necessities of life. You can take your dirty laundry to a 7-Eleven in Taiwan, they send it out, and you return to pick it up. You can order items from Amazon.com and have them delivered to your local 7-Eleven, where you retrieve them. This apparently saves the delivery person from trying to locate your apartment among the sea of apartments in Taipei, and from solving the problem of where to leave the item when you are not at home. You can pay traffic tickets there and, believe it or not, you can pay your federal income tax there if it is not above a certain amount. These stores are also a social gathering place in the evening; all seats are taken and it is standing room only after dark. What more they offer, I’m not sure. Maybe you can find a wife or husband through the place rather than spending time with an online matchmaking service. The possibilities are limitless.Continued on the next page