One of the many skills I’ve learned here is to be able to avoid shopping at all costs. This is relatively easy, I can’t buy clothing in China – I’m too big for them to stock anything in my size. In fact it’s embarrassing for me and for the sales staff, while they insist that a 34 inch waist is the biggest size possible (if it only it were) and that a UK size 10 is the largest shoe in the world. There are no real English language book stores, no video game stores, no record shops (which stock my kind of music), no DVD stores (except for pirates and if you’re going to break the law you might as well download right?) and so on.
Supermarkets hold almost no stock of any products you’d recognize as “food”, even basics such as bread (always way too sweet and often stale to boot) and crisps (which come in hideous flavours – such as cucumber and rotten fish) aren’t what you want. Thankfully someone has recognized this problem in Shenzhen and there’s an online ordering service which will deliver Western staples to your door, so I don’t even have to shop for groceries.
The big shopping center for the locals is a place called Dong Men, a place that my friends and I avoid at all costs, though once a year I let my wife drag me round clothes stores there (for her, not me) and brave the twenty million people who inhabit this gleeful market of tat and theft. It’s an awful experience for someone as conscious of personal space as a middle aged British guy and my non-stop whining ensures that my wife doesn’t push for a repeat on a regular basis.
The annoying flipside of this is that I have to do all my shopping in Hong Kong which often means a massive queue at the border which can take hours to navigate on bad days. The crush of the train into Kowloon, and then fighting my way through millions of people to buy a pair of jeans before heading back to Shenzhen. This means that impulse purchases are a thing of yesterday for me, I now buy all my clothes in Marks and Spencer in Sha Tin because it’s the only place I can guarantee that stocks things in my size.
So don’t ask me about shopping, I just don’t do it anymore.