Recently, a friend of mine suggested I write a post about things that Americans should bring with them to Taiwan.

Although I understood his perspective, it was difficult to write this post. I’ve been living abroad for two years. It took me longer to find certain things at affordable prices in Poland than it did here. By the time I got here I was already adjusted to living without certain creature comforts, and once I got adjusted it opened my eyes to a world of new comforts that I have adopted. There is just not that much that I can’t live without or can’t substitute. When you live in a developed society it’s difficult to not get your hands on whatever it is that you want. It may take some hunting around, but that  makes the joy all the sweeter when you’ve finally found something you’re craving.

Nevertheless, although you can get your hands on the things you need, you can’t always get your hands on all the things you want.

Below are a few that can be problematic.

10. Smarties, sweet tarts, and nutty bars. You can find a lot of the same candy here, but I have yet to see any of those. I love them its true, but when it comes down to it, I can live without them.

9.  Diet Pepsi. I’ve heard its around. I’ve yet to lay eyes on a single can. Coke products are all over the place, and regular Pepsi is not difficult to find either, but diet? That is an exotic drink over here reserved only for the most resourceful and the most privileged.

8. Solid Mexican food and salsa. Salsa can be found at Costco, Jason’s Market, City Super, and at the occasional Wellcome Mart. Quality salsa, on the other hand, is difficult to find. I’m still searching and I may resort to trying my hand at making some. There are a number of Mexican food restaurants around. I’ve tested out my share, but other than Chili’s, which is so expensive here I’ve only managed to go twice, they won’t measure up to what you can get in the States. I make better Mexican than these yahoos.

7. Quality pizza.  There is pizza galore around but quality pizza is a different story.  We do have Dominos pizza, which I like, but because they’re stupid bastards they can’t be bothered to have their website translated into English. Seriously, who do they think is eating most of their pizza considering they’re an American-owned brand? Jerk offs. That’s just crappy and lazy marketing in my opinion.

We also have Pizza Hut. While they are smart enough to have an English and Mandarin page, they still haven’t quite mastered making pizza. It tastes like DiGiornos. Now that I think of it, I’ve never seen that around here either, but who really craves DiGiornos anyway? To add insult to injury, their only redeeming quality-their bread sticks are not sold here at all. There are also a number of smaller foreign-owned pizza places. Mary Janes comes to mind. Owned by a couple of pot heads their pizza is good, but…it just isn’t the kind of pizza you can find in the US.

6. Bread sticks. Oh. My. God. I have NOT found ANY good bread sticks ANYWHERE in Taiwan. Some places offer some dried crust with dipping sauce and  call it garlic bread. Carrefour does sell a decent garlic bread baguette, but awesome to-die-for bread sticks, in the expected American style with pizza is not to be found.

5. Decent, strong, long-lasting deodorant. I use Ban here and it works for me, but it is also the only brand I’ve found here that works well, and I would never have touched that stuff in the States. I haven’t found Secret anywhere. Brands, such as Nivea deodorant, generally suck. They stop working after four or five hours. In a sweaty humid environment like Taiwan, that’s simply gross. Although Ban can sometimes be difficult to find,  I do occasionally locate the odd dusty stick of it in the strangest places like Family Marts or pharmacies. For whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to be very popular here and every place you would expect to find it doesn’t carry it.

4. Shoes and clothes. A lot of stores don’t carry anything past a size five or six for women. This is completely ludicrous as there are plenty of tall Taiwanese women and this is nothing short of discrimination against them and anyone else who doesn’t have disturbingly small child-like feet. I wear a size eight for crying out loud. When I do find something that fits it’s usually ugly and made for old women. I love shoes, I love shopping for shoes, hell, I love shopping in general. Not being able to readily find shoes and clothes that fit ( at 5’6 and 138 lbs I’m hardly an over-sized monster) turns shopping from the lovely adrenaline pumping, gleeful shopping spree that it should be into an annoying exercise in frustration.

Don’t even ask about underwear and bras. When I go back to the States I’m loading up.

3. Car. There are plenty of them around and not a single one belongs to me. In Taipei its less convenient to have a car than to use the public transport system. It’s difficult to find parking, it takes forever to travel anywhere because of the traffic, and they are expensive to maintain here. That being said, I seriously miss being able to pack up and go outside of the city on a whim. Traveling by train and bus can be fun, but when it comes to rain or traveling outside of Taipei its a drag. Outside of Taipei, a car or scooter is a necessity because many other cities have poor public transport systems. Sometimes buses only run once an hour.  I could get a scooter here no problem but that reeks of setting down roots, and for another year I’m not sure its worth bothering with. We’ll see. I haven’t ruled it out yet.

2.  Turkey Breast. I can’t believe I almost forgot turkey! Costco sells a frozen roast turkey, and Carrefour (the bigger ones) will sell sliced turkey at rather high prices. That’s it. It’s not in the delis or any of the typical grocery stores.  It took some serious investigative work and about six months to find even these two stores.

1. Blonde hair dye. I was worried about this when I first moved here. All the normal local places don’t carry it. However, I did find one Taiwnese store that does sell it and I’ve been good since. It’s the only place anywhere around that I’ve seen it too. It has no English name but if you’re desperate to find some, just ask. Although I am catty enough to snicker when I see some girls walking around with long grown-out dark roots, I’m not so catty as to hoard this secret location all to my selfish greedy self.

What are some of the things you can’t find in Taiwan? What are some good places to shop? I already know about the mall and Zara’s, but do you have any other suggestions?