When I arrived to China I was quite prepared with winter clothes but obviously as the weeks passed by the weather got warmer and I was getting bored of the same outfits…time to hit the shops！ But clothes shopping is not all so straight forward in China as I’ve found out.
The good thing about shopping in markets, 台东 for example, is that you can get really good bargains if you haggle with the stallholders over the price, especially if you buy more than one item. However sometimes because I’m a foreigner, the price starts much higher than it should do. In some cases I’ve known a skirt should cost 30快 max but the starting price was 100. So haggling it down to 30 takes a while and you have to go through the whole palava of saying you’re a student so have no money, then telling them you’ve seen it somewhere else for cheaper, then you have to pretend to walk away with your back turned until they shout a reasonable price at you. Only then can you go back and buy the skirt, it takes determination if you don’t want to be ripped off.
Many clothes in the market are one size fits all, sometimes they fit me fine but often they’re a little small for my dimensions. When shopping in the market there’s often no chance to try it on so I get home only to find it doesn’t fit! This has happened twice to me as my thighs and bum are bigger than Chinese girls’. I couldn’t exactly take it back so once I paid another lady 50p to fix a pair of shorts and another time I gave the skirt away to one of my skinny Thai friends.
You’d think shopping in actual shops would be less hassle but not necessarily. Every time you walk into a Chinese shop or a mini shop in a department store or even walk past a shop there’s a lady at the door saying 欢迎光临 (welcome patron) to you. Sometimes they shout it right in your face and I don’t know if you’re meant to reply to them or just to gracefully accept being welcomed into their shop.
When you get inside the sales assistants will come over and try to help you, you say you’re just looking but they will still hover around you or follow you around the shop. Do they think I’m going to steal something or do they want to be right there in case I have a question? It’s annoying and sometimes I feel really uncomfortable.
Then if you do have a question – do you have this shoe in sizes 39 and 40? for example they will look at my feet and say woaaaah are your feet really that big? Yes they are…don’t answer my question with a question please. This lady told me to try on the one in my hand (a size 37） just to check because the 37 might fit me…surprise surprise it didn’t, that is why I asked for a 39 and a 40.
When she came back with the shoes, the assistant kneeled down in front of me and insisted on doing the buckles up for me. It was totally unnecessary and I told her not to but she was straight in there doing the buckle for me, poor girl. When I stood up I was showered with compliments – they look so beautiful, the colour is great for your skin, they look very comfortable, those shoes really are amazing, you’re so beautiful, I really like your eyes. I felt like screaming shut up and let me find a mirror to see the shoes!
This is also a problem with shopping in China, the shop assistants put you off and are clearly only interested in the sale. They forget to tell you that the strap doesn’t fit too well, that after a week the colour fades and that they’re not actually real leather. I feel that in the UK assistants will do as you ask them, bring you the size you want and that’s it, whereas in Spain the service doesn’t exist at all. There is no need to flatter the customer with compliments just to get a sale.
Then there’s the confusing prices…in China the discount is backwards, so if a label says 90 discount, you pay 90% of the price, so 10% off in total.
The label probably says in small character print somewhere that the price has already been discounted but if I see a 80快 top that says 80 discount I think wow, 20% off but the 20% will have already been taken off.
Because there a lot of people in China, the changing room queues are also always really long, making shopping a bit of a 麻烦. It doesn’t stop me from shopping though!