Photo Credit: Edison Tours
Oh the joys and struggles of living abroad!
Even in the idyllic Taiwan, there are moments when the stranger in a foreign land cannot help but need something familiar. The timing and manifestation of this need is different for everyone but we all experience it to some extent.
For some it comes in the first week alongside the panicked worry of “how much longer do I have to do this?” For others this yearning for the familiar doesn’t set in until the end of the first or second month; sometimes without the person even knowing it. Nonetheless, most of us foreigners, waiguoren (外国人), adoah (阿啄仔), all need a touch stone, a reset, and a safe harbor in which to reprovision and shelter ourselves against the crazy and wonderful adventure of living and traveling abroad.
For certain expats this harbor is something as simple as a phone call home. For others it comes in the form of a cringeworthy action or holiday movie on Netflix. The type of movie you wouldn’t stand to watch in your home country, but after being surrounded by so much difference you simply need an hour of the mundane, cliché, or even jingoistic idiosyncrasies of the familiar.
For other foreigners abroad the need for home comes in the form of food. Many expats have been known to walk miles just for a slice of pizza or a plate of eggs benedict. One of the benefits of living in Taiwan is that there is such a presence and influence of western food. It is not hard to find a restaurant with a foreign cuisine of your choosing and it can be incredibly cathartic for expats to find that taste of home.
“I celebrate myself and sing myself” writes Walt Whitman. “And what I assume you shall assume.” For the expat there are times when we need to celebrate ourselves and to eat that which we know; that which if we are lucky, might transport us momentarily across space and time.
For other expats, the craving for the familiar results in the desire to cook. Which brings them to the crux of the problem, where to buy the ingredients they need?
There is a humorous story about a group of Americans in mainland China who once tried to host a spaghetti and meatballs party. They made an ingredients list and decided to buy ground beef from the local market nearby to save money. But between overestimating their Mandarin skills and forgetting that China operates in kilograms, they found themselves with 5 kgs rather than lbs of ground beef. They had their party but ended up eating meatloaf for the next two weeks.
There are a wealth of stories out there about foreigner purchasing faux pas in foreign countries. It is almost a tale as old as time. However, with a little bit of help and knowing where to look, sometimes things can go a little easier. In this edition of our blog we have collected a list of grocery stores in Taipei that supply foreign foods and ingredients. If you are looking for a taste of the familiar but don’t know where to begin check out our list below.
In the end, we all find our own ways to manage the joys and challenges of living abroad. The important thing is to keep in mind and celebrate how far you have come and how much you have accomplished. It is an achievement to simply be here. It is okay if you aren’t yet fluent in Mandarin or achieving all that you thought you would be. It is okay too if you find yourself simply in need of a break and a homecooked meal. We’ve all been there.
Some expats think about PX Marts like oversized 711’s but generally there is quite the selection in these stores. PX Mart is the largest supermarket chain in Taiwan and has thousands of locations around the country. It is where many Taiwanese shop and oftentimes will have a number of western products. If you are looking for something specific or highly specialized you might not find it here, but it could be a very good first stop.
Yes Costco is in Taiwan too and you should be able to use your US card if you are hailing from the States. It has much of what you would expect in the US and more. Beware however, most of the Costcos in Taipei are out of the way and might be best to get to via a taxi or a car. If you are looking to take the MRT, the one in Beitou is off the red line.
Location: No. 117, Lide Rd, Beitou District, Taipei City, 112
One can find most western food products here. Although it might not be as inexpensive as the local vegetable or fruit markets, there is can be some great produce in Taipei’s carrefour’s as well. Carrefour is located all across the city with some of the larger ones being out in Neihu.
Neihu Location: No. 88號, Minshan St, Neihu District, Taipei City, 114
If you are looking for a store with a large foreign food selection that is also centrally located, Jason’s Market Place is a good bet. It has reasonable prices and oftentimes a fairly good selection. There are multiple locations, but a popular one is in Datong just across the road from Taipei Main Station.
Location: 103, Taipei City, Datong District, Section 1, Chengde Rd, 1號B3
City Super is a Hong Kong bases brand that has experience catering to the western pallet. If you are looking for something specialized or obscure, they are a very good first stop. Even if they don’t have something in stock, they may be able to order it or point you in the direction of where else to look. The Fuxing Store in Da’an is a great one.
Location: 106, Taipei City, Da’an District, Section 3, Zhongxiao E Rd, 300號, Far Eastern SOGO Taipei Fuxing Store, B3
There are three different Ikea Grocery Stores located around the periphery of Taipei. The easiest to get to on a subway line is often the one in the Xinzhuang district: IKEA 瑞典食品超市. Generally lots of Swedish and European products. Many expats comment on the quality of the frozen fish.
Location: No. 1號, Zhongzheng Rd, Xinzhuang District, New Taipei City, 242
A very fun place to eat or get a meal. Also has a wonderful deli and fresh produce. A little pricy but worth it. Many expats go for their cheese.
Location: No. 18號, Alley 2, Lane 410, Minzu E Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, 10491