(Mitigating Culture Shock with Food… with Joseph W from Taipei)

I’ve heard several people tell me that they never go to McDonalds at home, but when they’re visiting another country they make a point of having a meal there. It’s to see if there’s any unique and country-specific items on the menu, and also just to find out if it tastes the same (somehow it always does). I suppose also a trip to McDonalds can be a way to mitigate homesickness. 

Taipei is well-known especially throughout Asia as a culinary wonderland. Most Asian tourists to the city go primarily for the food – for Chinese breakfast at Yong He Dou Jiang, for xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung, for gua bao at one of the city’s tantalising night markets, and for a bubble tea in the place where it was invented. But even with all this amazingness, there comes a point when a Western dude just wants a burger and chips – you can’t eat Chinese food every day, can you?! And even though Taipei has the best coffee in Asia, there’s something guiltily comforting about the familiarity of a Starbucks.

Sometime during the seventh day of Taipei Shoot Week was when I cracked. Two things happened. The first was that Roman, my assistant for Taipei, left to head back to Berlin early… so I didn’t feel the pressure to be “cool” and “adventurous" anymore. With no one there to judge me, I could swap Taiwanese fried chicken for the Kentucky variety. The second thing was that Joseph W invited me to stay over at his place for a couple of nights since he was going to Paris. So I’d be totally alone to indulge.

The first thing I did at Joseph’s place, a beautiful apartment with great views over the city, was to find British comedies on his Netflix. Then I popped out to 7-11 to get fresh milk so I could English up my tea. And next I went to McDonalds for McNuggets and a pineapple pie (they also had a sort of "surf and turf” burger with one beef patty on top of a fried salmon fillet… but that was beyond my adventure levels). 

Once back at Joseph’s I brewed a cuppa, cued up a marathon of “The IT Crowd”, and had my Western pig out. It genuinely was comforting. The funny thing was however that the very day I got back home to London, I was desperate to have Chinese food for dinner. And the very next day, I used a recipe I found online to make homemade shui jian bao, which I’d tried in a Taipei night market. So here I was, a few days after being homesick for England in Taiwan, being homesick for Taiwan in England.

See more of Joseph W and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (05) Taipei


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