Without any doubt, Taiwan is a very convenient place to live, not only because it has the highest density of strategically distributed convenience stores in the world: about 10,000 or roughly one per every 2,300 citizens.
Only after I left Taipei temporarily in February 2018 after almost 20 years, I realized how true this often repeated statement really is, especially when you end up in a service wasteland like Spain, where very few things work out the way you expected and taking a blood sample can take half a day.
7-Eleven, by far the biggest chain on the island, not only offers all grocery items that a small supermarket usually does, but also Western and Eastern snacks like hot dogs and tea eggs as well hot and cold meals and coffee to go.
Standard ATM machines allow you to withdraw New Taiwan dollars for free if it’s your bank’s or for just 0,20 cents euro if the teller belongs to another financial institution.
Microwaves are always available and probably nobody would complain if you would use them to discretely heat up yesterday’s leftovers instead of the instant noodles you just bought.
There you can pay your water, electricity, phone, credit card and even tax bills in less than half a minute, recharge your Taipei metro card, which by the way you can use in at least four other Taiwanese cities, send and receive parcels, buy Taiwan Rail tickets, print ones that you’ve already purchased online or get a refund for those you won’t be able to use, make photocopies and print or scan documents quite cheaply.
7-Eleven provides the certified trash bags with a forgery-proof hologram sold by the city governments, which are mandatory if you want to dispose of your garbage properly.
Large eat-in areas, air-conditioned in the long, hot summer, that even have free Wi-Fi and a spotless rest room invite customers to spend some time and maybe some extra money. The toilets are unlocked and at the disposal of everybody who happens to march in.
Like at most retailers, when making a purchase shoppers can regularly collect stickers to be traded in for fashionable products at a reduced cost, like Hello Kitty-themed cups.
All in all, to enjoy 7-Eleven and its competitors Family Mart, OK and Hi-Life is an experience you just won’t have in the West, although the concept originated in the United States in 1927. These great little shops give you another excuse to visit the Far East and spoil yourself!