7-11 s are EVERYWHERE in Taiwan. Even with the high population density, I have often wondered how they manage to make a go of it. It’s not uncommon to look down the street and see two or even three 7-11 signs on the same road. In the bigger cities, I have even seen two 7-11 s almost across from each other.
Unlike back home, 7-11 s in Taiwan are more than just a convenience store. They seem to be an integral part of life here, for foreigners as well as Taiwanese. In fact, when I first got here, I may have starved if it wasn’t for my friendly, neighbourhood 7-11. For the first few weeks, before I was more acquainted with the town, I survived on food from 7-11. Most foreigners living in a small town will be able to attest to this. They have familiar things like sandwiches, salads, burgers etc. Also chips, chocolate bars, pop and other artery clogging delicacies that I was used to. And of course, beer:
It might sound pretty ghetto, but there have been evenings where the locals may have glimpsed a crowd of 10 or so foreigners sitting outside a 7-11 drinking beer and having a good time. In the early days, I did participate in such soirees but those days are gone.
Now I drink beer and have a good time indoors.
Since 7-11 s are 24 hrs here, the supply of beer comes in handy for nights of debauchery. I have stumbled over to the nearest store quite a few times with other foreigners that I met in order to get more “fuel” for late night conversations about topics ranging from culture shock to discussing the “virtues” of Taiwanese ladies that we met.
In addition to beer, 7-11 has a wide variety of non alcoholic beverages. These include teas, fruit juices, fruit teas, jelly filled concoctions of beans, cold coffees and everything in between. I have tried asparagus milk (which is disgusting) and a black fungus drink (which, despite the name, is quite good). One thing that I’m not so fond of is the Taiwanese tendency to put jelly or little tapioca balls in everything. I know it’s my own fault for not being able to read the label, but there is nothing worse than taking a huge gulp of delicious pineapple juice after an exhausting game of tennis and being assaulted by little pieces of solid floaties.
Ok, maybe there are worse things, but you get my point.
Every 7-11 has this somewhere in the store:
This is a collection of mushrooms, tofu, fish balls, sometimes meatballs and other unknown but edible items. You can buy them individually, or put them in a soup. While it doesn’t look too appetizing to the western eye, it’s delicious. Took me a while to build up the courage to try it but I’m glad I finally did. I could finally get off my diet of sandwiches and salads. And here is something familiar:
Good ole hot dogs with different kinds of cheeses in them. While not a huge part of my diet, when I get a hankering for mushed up animal parts, I do indulge every once in a while.
Besides food and drinks, here are a few more of the many services 7-11 s have to offer:
Payment of utility bills (water, gas, electricity, phone…etc).
Photo development and printing digital images.
Payment of parking tickets.
Payment of scooter insurance.
Entrance exam booklets for colleges.
Cellphone and wireless internet services called 7 mobile.
One final thing to mention is the greeting when you walk in and out of a 7 (as they are called here). It sounds a lot like “Good morning!!” The frst few times, I actually thought it was “Good morning”. How nice of these people to make me feel comfortable by speaking English. But I was confused when I went there at night and heard the same thing. Finally (it took me WAY too long) I figured out that they were saying “Huānyíng”, which is the approximate equivalent of “Welcome”.
I guess 7-11 s in Taiwan also provide basic Chinese lessons.