Taiwan has been one of the top Asia travel destinations. The island has got rid of the label of being a "3rd world country" and is quite westernized, particularly in larger metropolitan cities such as Taipei.
Most Americans can find many American restaurant chains in Taiwan. McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Inn and Starbucks, etc. have multiple locations in Taiwan albeit with very different menu items catering to the local market. However, when it comes to supermarkets, cultural shock is a more appropriate description of the shopping experience from an American's perspective.
In a recent YouTube video, Henry Sorren, an animator and filmmaker from Flagstaff, Arizona tries to illustrate the top 10 differences between Taiwanese and American grocery stores:
- Toilet paper in square packages: Instead of rolls, toilet papers are sold in square packages and serve both as toilet paper and Kleenex tissue. Households in Taiwan of course keep separate square packages for bath room, bedroom and dinning room, etc.
- Fewer American soda selection: Taiwan has its own brand of citizens favorite soda and cold drinks. For example, Mr. Brown Coffee (伯朗咖啡), a series of canned coffee products produced by King Car Group of Taiwan has been around since 1982. The best known soft drink company in Taiwan is probably HeySong Corp (黑松股份有限公司), founded in 1925, currently has about 12 different soft drinks in the Taiwan market.
- Hot porridge instead of cereal: This is strictly a difference in taste buds and culture. Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait still prefer a warm breakfast with porridge vs. dry flakes soaked in cold milk.
- Everybody loves ramen roodles; Much more shelf space is dedicated to ramen noodles with many varieties and flavors you can imagine. Well after all, ramen noodle is a Japanese dish invented by a Chinese from Taiwan.
- Fewer choices of alcohol Americans are used to: Both Taiwan and China have many world famous wine and beer selections. More shelf space is dedicated to the local fav rather than the Western imports.
- Exotic potato chips and dried seafood: Again, taste buds and cultural difference
- Dearth of coffee beans, but tea abounds: Tea Drinking has evolved into a major art form in a lot of Asian countries. People can easily get a java fix at Startbucks or McDonald's. Coffeemaker using coffee beans or ground coffee is not a typical household appliance in Taiwan.
- Smaller size of stores: Taiwan is about 14,000-square-mile, and Texas is ~268,597 square-mile....you get the picture.
- No fresh baked bread: I don't quite get this one... It implies bread is freshly baked in the US supermarkets? I beg to differ. Taiwan has many specialty stores with bread and a variety of pastries freshly made everyday. Who would want a cold/frozen loaf of bread sitting on supermarket shelf don't know for how long?
- Mystery meat like chicken feet: Chicken feet is a popular deli in Taiwan... and China. I tried it a couple of times and personally think it tastes so-so, but I remember my mother loved it. Again, dietary and cultural difference.