Written by Elissa DeTellis, (George Washington University), Student Correspondent for CET Taiwan, Fall 2022
The longer I have been in Taiwan the more fascinated I have become with convenience store culture. Convenience stores are of course a snacker’s dream, but they are so much more than that. In my pursuit to understand them deeper I interviewed classmates and asked them to share their thoughts on convenience stores as well as what their favorite snacks are.
Taiwan is second in the world for convenience store density with one store for every 2,065 consumers. Because of this it is very common to see two convenience stores right next to each other.
Something that has been really fun is that not only do I get to try Taiwanese snacks, but I also have greater access to other Asian snacks that I either wouldn’t have in the U.S. or would be more expensive. One of my favorite things I’ve gotten to try is the Korean banana milk that I’ve seen in so many Korean dramas. It tasted like banana laffy taffy and for me that is the greatest compliment I could ever give.
Pictured here is my roommate trying a new ice cream. I love this photo because I think it shows just some of the fun that me and my classmates have experienced getting to try a hoard of new snacks with flavors and brands that I’ve never seen before. For example, there are these frappes in the freezer section that come in a couple flavors like oreo or
lemon winter melon. I was curious about them, and when I first picked one out it was frozen solid, but I still thought it would be a nice thing to kind of let melt and pick at with a spoon. Little did I know that the cashier would put it in the microwave and defrost it a bit until it turned into a perfect slushy frappe.
Something one of my classmates pointed out is the variety of flavors of chips available in Taiwan. Here my classmate is eating chicken broth flavored chips, but some other flavors are seaweed, beef noodle soup, and even strawberry flavored chips.
All of the classmates I talked to came to Taiwan at the end of August and because of this they are still learning the joys of the convenience store. For example, I asked them how many times a week they go to a convenience store and many of them replied that they went a lot, maybe even five times a week. I used to feel a little embarrassed that in one week I might go 8-10 times, but my Taiwanese boss told me that going to the convenience store twice a day is actually not weird at all.
Onigiri!!! It is almost impossible to talk about convenience stores without someone bringing up onigiri. In short they are absolutely delicious Japanese rice balls filled with salmon, spicy pork, or a variety of other fillings and wrapped in nori. They make such a quick, but satisfying meal or snack when you are on the go. I’ve even brought one with me when I went hiking and it absolutely hit the spot.
Looking for something sweet to go with your morning coffee? Don’t worry, convenience stores have got you covered, with a whole shelf full of all kinds of breads and pastries. Pictured here is a waffle with a custard cream.
Something that I keep coming back to is this feeling that convenience stores are a hub. You go there for snacks, to pick up your packages, pay your utility bill, get money from the ATM, but it’s also just where you go. I’m always amazed at how often my neighborhood convenience store’s tables are all full. There are old people talking, dogs lounging on the tile floor, and high schoolers enjoying hanging out together with an afternoon snack. You
don’t even have to buy anything to sit at their tables so it’s an incredibly accessible space for people to gather.
I had a great time talking to my classmates and getting to hear what they think about convenience stores. I’m excited to continue learning about how convenience store culture impacts Taiwan and hopefully try all the snacks on my list before I leave.