7-Elevens in America: How do they measure up with Taiwan’s?

Yours truly, reporting from the field, at a 7-Eleven in Tucson, Arizona.
“So far in America, I’ve visited a 7-Eleven, a Circle K, and the AM-PM store. There is also a ‘QT’ store now, which is a novelty to this observer….”

Trista di Genova, The Wild East / Comedy

The 7-Eleven is a much revered institution in Taiwan. They literally live on every corner, sometimes even face each other across the street. In Taiwan, everybody loves the convenience of the closest 7-Eleven. Most people new to the island will pretty much live off the amazingly bodacious fare at the ‘Seven’, as it’s affectionately called by locals, at least until the foreign people figure out how to do more than point at what they’d like to eat.

At a Taiwanese 7-Eleven, you can buy so many delicious dishes – there’s chicken curry, beef noodle soup, cold noodle dishes, a huge array of instant noodles, of course, since they were invented there; then there’s the fresh brewed Guatamalan coffee, and pumpkin seeds, broad bean snacks, all kinds of stuff; there’s squid jerkey but no beef jerky.

Then there are the weird things that we come to love, like sushi rolls, tea eggs (hard-boiled eggs stewed in spices!) and tienbula – a Taiwanese spin on the Japanese word for ‘tempura’, but it’s way different. ‘Tienbula’ is vegetables like corn or mushrooms, or meat (or pig blood cake, if you wish!), possibly wrapped in tofu stuff, steeped in a savoury broth….

One of our fattier, less convenient and more intimidating American cousins. Photo: TdG
But I get ahead of myself.

When I got off the plane in Tucson, Arizona, after being away for several years the first thing I wanted to do was to check out a 7-Eleven store. I couldn’t wait to demand of the cashier there, “Where are the tea eggs?!!!” I absolutely knew they wouldn’t have them… but I could only plant the seed in their mind that TEA EGGS EXIST, and hopefully they’re coming our way, someday soon!

So far in America, I’ve visited a “7-O’, Circle K, and the AM-PM store. There is also a ‘QT’ store now, which is a novelty to this observer.

The AM-PM was the first stop after the airport, and it was quite incredible to see the coffee spread, with all those free little half-and-half creamers, although they’re basically just oil, emulsifier and no dairy whatsoever. In Taiwan, they don’t have flavored creamers, only the ordinary ones.

Then there was the soft drinks, a whole bank of sugary sodas…and then, like a mirage, there was horchata, on tap!!!! I couldn’t believe it, my favorite Mexican drink is at the convenience stores in America! So happy!!!!!!!!! It was the most exciting thing I’ve seen so far in Tucson, Arizona.

You could get a massive 24-oz. hardy plastic cup full of it. Must have a TON of sugar, but it was a good thing to check out once every 5-10 years!

Steel the one.
There was beer, of course. Uniquely American stuff like Steel Reserve, the strongest beer around, from Texas. I saw many types of burritos, really fattening frozen starchy stuff with a ton of cheese and meat, pizzas, fried food, numerous types of beef jerky. Flavored waters, and prodigious amounts of dodgy ‘sports’ drinks. I just learned that Americans get at least one-third of their daily superdose of sugar from these sugary soft drinks.

About the only thing both 7-Elevens share in common are the hot dogs, and a lot of the potato chips. In America there’s a much more extensive range of candy bars, chocolates, beef jerky of course; and even quite an array of different sunflower seeds – spicy flavor and so on!

Everything seems really expensive in the US now, except for maybe the 99-cent sunflower seeds, with the wonderful slogan, “Eat. Spit. Be happy.” There was a box on the counter asking customers to purchase these seeds for our Americans, currently fighting in the Middle East. I felt bad for them, since sunflower seeds might seem kind of an anticlimactic thing to buy them, instead of say, bringing them home as has been promised for years now… but at least there is some reminder of how our brethren are still fighting ‘over there’.

Speaking of the Middle East, gas prices in America have shot up recently, more than $1.50 just since Christmas. In America, they usually have a gas station connected to the 7-Eleven. I didn’t really see any place to hang out at these convenience stores, like we have in Taiwan, where there’s usually a bank of seats or tables, basically a rest area.

Finally, I noted that my Taiwan ATM card didn’t work, even though it has a ‘visa’ on it! I don’t get that – how is Taiwan able to be one of the world’s super-economic powers if you can’t transfer money into or out of the ‘country’? Maybe we can blame China for that!

And now that I’ve satiated my curiosity about our American 7-Eleven cousins, I can go back to Taiwan!

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