Convenient stores are a way of life here. You can do anything at a 7/11. You can pay you pay your bills, send mail, do laundry, and certainly buy groceries. There are four major quick shops: 7/11s, OK Marts, Hi-Lifes and Family Marts. Otherwise, there are a plethora of privately owned mom and pop shops.
If you’ve looked at any guidebook, you’ll almost certainly have come across this odd factoid about Taiwan, but it’s nothing compared to actually walking past 6 or more of these little shops on your short jaunt to work. Of the four convenient giants there are over 9,000 shops around the island. Including a modest 1,000 smaller family-owned shops, that’s about 1 store for every 2,500 people. They are such a big part of the culture that they are noted on a lot of tourist maps. It doesn’t seem like much, but wait till you see it for yourself.
These places aren’t just for quick in and out shopping like at home, a lot of them have seating and bathrooms, decent (it’s a relative decent) food. People hang out at these shops. Instead of going to a café or a bar after work, people flock to the Hi-life. When you tell your friend “I’ll meet you at the 7/11, by the night market,” you have to specify which one, because there are three.
The convenience store culture is really something here. There is a 7/11 down the block from us and I love it, there’s also a ma and pa shop right here, too. Depending on what time it is and what I want, I have to pick the best store. Sometimes I just want to say hi to the 7/11 girls because they always get a good laugh from me (even though it’s an extra half a block).
I love my neighborhood shops, and I love that I can go two blocks in any direction and find a taxi stand, a toilet, a trashcan, some lunch, a coffee, a beer or just a willing person to point me in the right direction when I’m lost (it happens all too often). Anytime, anyplace; that’s convenience.