Oil and Sugar

Culture, Taiwan

No, this isn’t a post about the Middle East, but rather about the small ways in which something as simple as buying gas can be quite a different experience here in Taiwan than in the states.

For one thing, every station here is full service. I say full service” but they won’t actually do anything useful like clean your windows or check your oil, as they do at full service gas stations in New Jersey. Still, you don’t need to get out of your car to get filled up.

The second big difference is that you always get free gifts when you buy gas. Usually these are in the form of either water bottles or tissues, but lately some stations offer a choice of toothpaste, dishwashing detergent, and other household items. In Hualian there are a few gas stations owned by the local sugar factory, and there you always get bags of free sugar. Now, I don’t trust the bottled water they give you, I certainly don’t need boxes and boxes of free tissues, and we never cook with sugar, but it is hard to say no, so I often end up with tons of this stuff sitting in my car.

The gas station owned by the local sugar company is run by a very jolly family. Jolly is an understatement. As Shashwati put it, they practically elbow you in the ribs.” Last time the father grabbed his round teenage daughters who work for him and asked me how they could possibly be his daughters since they were so fat. I suggested that his belly wasn’t so small either, and that nearly brought him to his knees with laughter. They gave us two packs of sugar.

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