As I’m out here in Kleve, Germany, stuffing my face with 6 cheeses, choice of crusty rolls, and a variety of cold cuts, I do realize that I’ll get sick of this awesome complementary breakfast buffet at the hotel before the week-long training course comes to an end. Cold cuts are hard to come by in Taiwan; and while it’s possible to get different cheeses at stuck-up import supermarkets, a sandwich is at best vegetarian without the meat. Suffice to say that cheeses and cold cuts are not part of my regular diet in Taiwan, so I welcome this change. And I welcome the choice, though I do hope that the hotel would change it up, otherwise facing the same buffet everyday amounts to no choice.
And not having choice is what annoys me when I’m out of the office. I spend on average 3.5 days outside the office visiting customers. When I know I’m gonna be in the office, I often bring lunch from home. No such luxury is available when I’m visiting customers, usually at universities. My lunch choice is thus limited to usually about 4 or 5 shops in the school food court. Now I know you expats would love to have 3 USD lunches consisting of Taiwanese delicacies, but it’s a whole different story if your choices are limited. Think about it this way: nerds get off memorizing the never-ending digits of pi, not repeating decimals.
And don’t let that price tag fool you. We don’t make slave-like salaries in Taiwan because cost-of-living is proportionately low. Things don’t cost cheaper in Taiwan despite our getting paid like the sweat-shop kids; real estate is ridonculously expensive. I’ve long held the position that food only costs less in Taiwan because they’re crappier. Sure we have Taco Tuesday prices every single day, but no sane man would eat Tacos every day, risking his health unless he is trying to make his way into the Guinness Book of World Records. Well guess what? That sort of health-conscious cuisine is exactly what I have for lunch when I’m out, and it doesn’t even taste good. It makes me angry – Lewis Black angry – that when I look around the food court for potential lunch, all I’m seeing are clotted arteries, hypertension, kidney stones, liver failure and colon cancer with a shot of dissolved plasticizers. Yum. I look forward to the day when my lunch is not a risk factor for chronic ailments. Until then, I shall cherish every chance I get at eating healthy or otherwise delicious food.