10 differences between Taiwanese and American grocery stores

Animator and filmmaker Henry Sorren explains 10 ways Taiwanese grocery stores differ from American ones

Screen capture of chicken feet from vlog "Taiwan vs. USA Grocery Stores."

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Henry Sorren, 22, an animator and filmmaker from Flagstaff, Arizona, recently started a daily vlog (video blog) about his experiences in Taiwan and his latest post is about the differences between grocery stores in Taiwan and the United States.  

When asked about his motivation for creating his daily vlogs, Sorren, who has lived in Taiwan for three years, said, "I was trying to figure out a way to combine my animation with my life here in Taiwan. I also wanted to show Americans what life is like here, and show Taiwanese what my perspective is."

In his latest vlog titled "Taiwan vs USA Grocery Stores," Sorren lists 10 things he found were different about grocery stores in Taiwan as opposed to the US, using video of a PX Mart (全联福利中心), a popular grocery chain in Taiwan, as an example:

1. Toilet paper in square packages instead of rolls

Rolls of toilet paper are a rare sight, instead they are sold in square packages and serve both as toilet paper and Kleenex. About 45 percent of Taipei citizens still do not flush toilet paper down the toilet, despite education campaigns by Taiwan's EPA.

2. Slim soda selection

Taiwanese have less of a penchant for carbonated drinks than Americans, thus it's limited to 4 main types: Coke, Sprite, Fanta and Sarsparilla. However, there is a wide variety of sweetened tea drinks unique to Taiwan.

3. Hot porridge instead of cereal

Whereas in the US an entire aisle is dedicated to cereal, in Taiwan only a handful of pricey cereals can be found. As Traditional Chinese Medicine adherents believe that cold fluids are bad for the body, people in Taiwan prefer to start their day with hot porridge and or soy milk. 

4. Reams of ramen

In the video, Sorren is astonished to find 11 shelves fully stocked with ramen and noodles. A mind-boggling array of flavors of ramen can be found in Taiwanese stores, ranging from beef to cheese, and from other countries such as Korea. And yes, they have stinky tofu ramen, which is often packaged with mala sauce and duck blood. 

5. Fewer choices of alcohol, more Asian fare and flavored beers

With 47 percent of Taiwanese having the Asian Flush, alcohol is less prevalent in stores. Nevertheless, strong spirits can be found including Taiwanese kaoliang liquor, Korean soju, and Japanese sake. Locally produced Taiwan Beer is ubiquitous and it lately has started coming in a variety of sweet flavors, including the grape flavor which Sorren described as tasting like "grape soda."

The good news is the drinking age in Taiwan is only 18, woo-hoo! 

6. Exotic potato chips and dried seafood

Potato chips can been found, though the flavors are often different with wasabi, seaweed, Sichuan pepper, and Thai pepper chicken. Sorren notes that Taiwanese prefer to eat dried squid or fish rather than chips when drinking alcohol.

7. Dearth of coffee, but tea abounds

Despite the preponderance of cafes in Taipei, Sorren laments that the coffee selection is mainly limited to instant coffee rather than ground. Despite the inroads coffee has made into Taiwan, it is still a nation of tea drinkers with a large variety of tea leaves and packaged tea drinks available. 

8. Smaller size of stores

With a population of 23 million crammed onto an island the size of Maryland that is covered with jagged mountains, land is at a premium. So it is no wonder that the size of stores in Taiwan are much smaller than in the US. 

9. No fresh baked bread

A big cultural difference between Taiwan and the US is that rice is the staple food, rather than bread. Freshly baked bread is mainly restricted to bakeries, and what bread there is in grocery stores is usually prepackaged in small servings. However, small street corner bakeries have become more prevalent in recent years. 

10. Mystery meat like chicken feet

Sorren observes that the meat section is one of the most dramatically different sections, which contains a lot of unusual meats that are unlikely to be found in a typical American store. One of the more shocking items for Westerners is chicken feet, which in Chinese have the colorful name Phoenix Claws (鳯爪). Sorren admits, "I've never actually tried it yet, and I'm a bit afraid to."

To see more of Sorren's vlogs visit his YouTube channel or his Facebook page