Think about this: Taiwan has been riding the wave of technological advancements and the globalization of the modernizing planet to become a more developed and connected body with the rest of the world. The way people live today has changed drastically since the turn of the millennium, not too long ago. The typical quick list includes smartphones, computers, Internet, new medicine, better travel, and so on, but would you imagine fast food, out of all possible ideas, making a large impact?
The way of living today involves speed, efficiency, and repetition. Each of these characteristics changes the role of food for the Taiwanese. Food has to be convenient and quick like the lightning speeds of the internet. The KFC down the corner in Taipei serves up those needs to keep the day moving with a range of quick foods, from breakfast sandwiches to egg tarts to the classic fried chicken meals.
In the meantime, the younger Taiwanese, sleep later and later to pursue the nightlife fun. Many go out late at night to watch the new 3D film at the movies that begin at 10:30, or find the nightmarket and stroll through, eat, and shop while the late hours fly away. To top it off, they would sing the night away at that new karaoke club down the street because the new hit song just came out. Remember 10:00pm bedtime? I mean, 12:00am bedtime? At the wee hours, you can stroll by one of those 24 hour McDonald’s to silence that midnight hunger. Fast food and today’s way of living build on top of each other.
People still understand the fever of great tasting food, even if it is called fast food. The sensation of the new American doughnuts coming to Taiwan on the Internet and the news stir up a fever outside the Krispy Kreme store where customers are seen waiting for 4 hours in line dying to get a taste of these sweet delights. The Japanese doughnut chain Mister Donut helped expose Taiwan’s sweet tooth for their famous sweet doughnuts, but the popularity of American doughnuts like Krispy Kreme’s renowned fresh, hot glazed doughnuts keeps everyone coming back for more. Even though these two franchises sell doughnuts with completely different styles, they make sure the Taiwanese keep these sweet treats in their diets.
American fast food staples have found a way to integrate into the diets of the Taiwanese along with all the traditional foods partly because of this way of living, but what does that all mean?
Fast food is cheap, fast, and basically everywhere. If the boss has a quick 15 minute lunch break, that boss will find the Pizza Hut just as quick as a traditional rice bento box stand all without burning a hole in the wallet and the watch. More people are eating fast food joints, whether it’s from abroad or native born like the Dan Dan Burgers of Kaohsiung. The menus at these locations still hold those traditional hamburgers, but now also include unique flavors and options to attract the Taiwanese tastes. Yes, people have a growing need for them, but how is it really changing the pre-established lifestyle?
The fast food proliferation in Taiwan contributes to the ongoing surge of eating out more, seeking the fast food chain or convenience store meal rather than buying groceries and cooking and eating at home. The presence of these joints has also gotten some to seek food at all hours of the day, breaking traditions such as eating at the dinner table with one’s family. The young life now seek that fried chicken leg and don’t look back. A person’s wallet still remains intact as these foods bring cheaper alternatives to the more expensive traditional dishes, making it a consumer-saving option for many.
Fast food in Taiwan shines a different light on how people eat and what kind of role a meal takes in the day to day activities, but it has also raised the implications of its potential long term effects. Health has been an overlying issue, with increasing obesity a big worry in the community and the possible adverse effects eating fast food frequently has on the body. The culture of Taiwan’s food diversity is being stirred around as the new American fast food modify the flavors and tastes of the melting pot of different traditional and cultural foods, giving a new order of what Taiwanese food really is. Some claim that this is all one step in joining the global arena of cultures and tastes; some say this is a destruction of the rich, long lasting tradition of Taiwanese foods.
For better or for worse however, the emergence of American fast food in Taiwan deeply impacts the way everyone perceives and treats food in their lifestyle. One way or another, this is something worth thinking about.