Taiwan’s Betel-Nut Kiosks

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Betel-nut girls (Binlang Xi Shi/????) are a unique part of Taiwan culture. They sit in brightly-decorated glass booths wearing skimpy outfits, and sell cigarettes, drinks and betel-nut to passing drivers. It’s a controversial trade but not actually illegal.

The question of whether the girls are exploited is open to debate – certainly their own perception is mostly that they are doing a job like any other, and the less they choose to wear, the more they sell.

The main roads are filled with around 60,000 such phone booth-style kiosks; they’re so much a part of the nation’s identity that they’re actually featured on old tourist guides. The women who operate the stalls are usually from poorer families, but according to news reports, the job pays more than housekeeping, waiting tables and other conventional jobs.

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