by Tuukka Kaikkonen
Since it’s already been a good 10 months since I first arrived here in here, it’s about time I wrote about the things I’ve found most exciting and challenging about everyday life here in Taiwan and Taichung in particular. This time I’ll talk about some of the things I’ve found most impressive, while in the next post I’ll discuss some of the challenges one might encounter here.
So, let’s start off with some positive impressions. One thing that never ceases to impress me about Taiwan is how affordable and convenient everyday life can be here.
In comparison to northern Europe, Taiwan in general is an eminently affordable place to live. According to my entirely subjective observations, price tags on many consumer goods and services in Taiwan’s cities are often down to two thirds or even half of that in major European cities of the same size.
For example, in Taichung, 70 NTD (roughly 2 Euros) can buy you a hearty lunch. A one-way coach journey between Taichung and Taipei will set you back by about 250 NTD – that’s less than 7 Euros for traveling one-third of the way through the island!
Of course, prices do vary within cities and across Taiwan, and living costs in Taipei will be higher than in Taichung, which again will be pricier than, say, Taitung. However, in general it’s safe to say that it doesn’t take a fortune to enjoy a decent quality of life in Taiwan – a boon for students and travellers from high-income countries, and a perk you’ll get to enjoy every day during your stay here.
Not only is Taiwan affordable, it’s also one of those places that have made convenience sort of a national creed. This is most evident in the ever-present convenience stores that provide access to snacks, basic amenities and a wide range of services round the clock, 365 days a year (also during typhoons).
Convenience stores are a sure sign that you’re near civilization, and you need to be pretty far out in the remote wilderness before there’s no sign of the familiar colours and cheerful tunes of convenience stores that greet visitors on most street corners.
For a northern European, another way in which Taiwanese convenience culture manifests itself is the sheer number of snack stands, beverage shops, and restaurants that line most if not all streets. A lot has been written about the fantastic range of foods that Taiwan has to offer, and this doesn’t need to be repeated here.
Aside from how excellent the food is, the thing I’m impressed with is simply just how plentiful the opportunities are to sample new foods at prices and convenience that one just doesn’t encounter in northern Europe. Even the most unassuming shops can provide true culinary surprises, and browsing for the best hidden gems is like a game with unusually tasty rewards.
For me, eating out used to be a rare exception, but since coming to Taiwan, it’s become part of my daily life and something I’ll definitely miss once the time comes to move elsewhere.
Taiwan’s convenience doesn’t end here, and I could go on listing other ways in which it manifests itself, from the accessibility of health services to ubiquitous scooter repair shops (if riding is your thing). But instead, I just invite you to come over and have a look for yourself.
Of course, convenience does have its downsides too, and like everywhere else, in Taiwan there are things that leave room for improvement. They are an important part life as well, and something I’ll touch on in the next post. Until then, please have a look at the other posts in this blog and don’t hesitate to leave a comment I you feel like it!