What are the items that I should bring with me because they’re not available (or are too expensive) where I am going?
There are very few things that are completely unavailable, edible or otherwise. However, variety may be lacking. If there is any item that you use often, bring it. Replacing it will be expensive. Some examples are bakeware (bring the glass, as the non-stick tends to rust), craft tools (materials are generally available) and books outside of general interest.
Will anyone have particular trouble finding clothes that fit?
Generally, if any of the below apply to you, you might have a challenge.
- Women over 5 feet 8 or 9 inches (175 cm) tall
- Women over 150 pounds (68kg)
- Women with shoe sizes over 8.5 US (40.5 Eur)
- Men over 6 feet (183 cm) tall
- Men over 190 pounds (86kg)
- Men with shoe sizes over 10 US (44.5 Eur)
Keep in mind that you can still find international brands in Taipei. However, these items will probably be expensive.
What grocery stores do expats in your city shop at?
Welcome Supermarket is a Hong Kong chain that is also popular in Taiwan. In addition, you'll find Carrefour, Geant (both French), Tesco (British) and Costco (American). All department stores have a food shop of some kind. Some cater more to Western tastes than others.
Where can other household items (such as cleaning materials and home furnishings) be found?
Cleaning products are available in all grocery stores, as well as in the B&Q (a British do-it-yourself store) and at Costco. However, to be able to purchase goods in Costco, first you need to become a member by paying a fee. Then you will obtain the Costco membership card allowing you to enter the stores.
Furnishings for western tastes are less common; IKEA is a staple. There are import furniture stores (where you pay a premium) and local stores that are cheaper, although the quality is sometimes not the best.
It is generally advised that you bring your own furniture unless you plan to rent a furnished apartment (available most commonly in the lower budget ranges - 2,000USD per month or less).
What are factors that might affect my shopping habits in this country/city?
Not being able to speak basic Mandarin may limit your shopping to grocery stores, rather than having the option of shopping at the local markets. That said, if you are happy with the "point and nod" method, the market sellers generally are too!
Space in your home may also be limited, so you may find yourself shopping more often and for less, making convenience to food shopping locations more important than it might otherwise be. Deep freezers are next to unheard of, though if you do have the space, they can be purchased.
If you generally pay for purchases by check, you will need to adjust to carrying cash. Credit cards are fairly widely accepted however, so that may be a good alternative.
Taiwan is a great place for picking up interesting items. If you see something you really like, buy it.
Chances are you won't ever see it again. After a while, you will learn what a good purchase is.
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