Sleeping At Taiwan’s Eslite Bookstore
Before I went to Taiwan for the first time, a friend of mine told me that if I ever wanted to date a classy, clever and pretty girl I should visit Eslite Bookstore in Taipei. It was not until I arrived on the island that I realised what he was talking about.
Eslite stands out for its stylish design, wide range of English and Chinese books, and its customer-oriented service. Many people spend hours there reading books, sitting on chairs and armchairs, and even on the floor. The staff will leave you alone, no matter whether you buy something or not. Basically, Eslite is half public library half bookstore.
Some Eslite branches are open 24-hours and have their own cafes and tea houses. They have turned into actual entertainment centres for people who like to read, need to read, or pretend to like to read. There are all kinds of customers: you see families, couples, groups of friends, people who are absorbed in a book and those who stroll around leisurely and, most importantly, there are well-dressed, fancy people who seem as much interested in observing others and socialising, as they are in reading.
Eslite’s customer-friendly atmosphere indeed makes you feel like at home. So much so that some people even treat it as their own bedroom.
A few days ago, pictures of three women sleeping on the floor of an Eslite store went viral. According to local reports, at around 5-6 a.m. they were lying on the wooden floor of a store in Taipei. One of them even used clothes to cover her eyes.
Many netizens criticised the three women’s behaviour. One netizen wrote, “There are many people like that in mainland China, they go to IKEA and won’t leave. But I didn’t think there were this kind of people in Taiwan, as well.”
China’s IKEA hit the headlines because of Chinese shoppers’ habit of staying in the store for hours and even falling asleep on beds and sofas. As an IKEA manager explained to journalist Duncan Hewitt,
On Saturdays there are people sitting in all the sofas and the easy chairs; they have their own tea, their biscuits, their newspaper, and . . . yeah, they’re having a picnic! … And one thing I have never seen before – we had a guy sleeping in a bed for an hour, and when he woke up he explained that he just wanted to test the bed … I think people see us not so much as a shop, perhaps more as an exhibition of modern European lifestyle (quoted in: Duncan Hewitt: Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China, 2010).
But while such behavior seems widespread in China, in Taiwan this appears to be an isolated incident.