When I traveled to China I was only allowed to take a suitcase no heavier than 21 kg with me and a hand luggage of 5 kg. For guys, no problem. For girls, “What the heck am I gonna take with me?? *completely desperate*”. For my trip to Korea last year I took half my closet – which was not a good idea because shopping there is just SO awesome: underground market here (mostly at the metro stations), street market there, shopping e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e!
So before I started my journey to China I thought deeply about what to take with me. What is really necessary? What can I buy there? I asked some of my Chinese friends, they told me that shopping is really nice and affordable in China. So I made up my mind and only packed what I really needed. I ended up with exactly 21.2 kg for my suitcase and 5.7 kg for my hand luggage (including my laptop which is exempt from the check-in’s weight restrictions). Still I had a bad feeling about it. What if I forget something? I checked my packing list at least ten times and asked friends to read it through and tell me if they thought I had forgotten anything.
Now I’ve been in Zhuhai for one and a half months and I am glad I didn’t bring more. In the underground market you can find whatever you need, to dress for whatever event; clothes, shoes, underwear, make-up, jewelry, nail polish, accessories… and much more. You can even go for a manicure and pedicure. For food, there are a lot of different restaurants, and if you dare you can get a tattoo. The best thing is, everything is so cheap. <3
So what’s the catch? Actually, there are quite a few catches. But the drawbacks depends on your body measurements etc. The worst catch I guess, is that most clothes they offer are all one size. If you are too tall you will have problems finding fitting clothes. Also often you are not allowed to try on the clothes you intend to purchase. You can only guess if they will fit and if they suit you well. Also having shoe size 40 (EU)/9 (US) or bigger as a woman it may be hard to find fitting shoes. A final catch is that you usually cannot pay by credit card in the underground or on the street market, cash is king.
The worst catch for me? Too much choice! I could spend days and hundreds of Euros in these shops. Last weekend I spent around three hours in the Zhuhai underground market – close to the Macau border. Because of my company I was forced to keep it to a minimum. I ended up with 5 new dresses, a pair of shoes, 2 trousers and just a bit less than 500 RMB poorer (58 EUR/80 USD). Yes, girls, already feeling the need to jump off your chair and come over?
In the end I will eventually have another problem, I guess… How will I ever be able to take all those clothes back home with me? Well, I did some thinking about that and my solution is: I will have to fly business class, as I’m allowed double the amount of luggage and having a comfortable seat on the plane. Sounds good to me. I could also just buy another suitcase, but … after saving so much money shopping here I think it is okay to spend some more on the flight. 😀
Oh, one more thing. Don’t forget to find yourself a suitable shopping mate. Nothing is better than spending a day in the underground together: clothes hunting, bargaining with broken Chinese-English, giggling about strange people and gossiping, sipping coffee, eating sushi, going for manicures or pedicures (or both), and afterwards going to the Spa to relax from the exhausting day to feel fresh again. Ready to enjoy the nightlife in your new clothes.
I think I need to go shopping again next weekend. Writing this blog made me hungry for more…
See you and 再见，
Gianna aka Gini aka 吉娜
What I want to write today about is the art of bargaining. In my last blog about Shanghai I told you about those huge fake markets and that you can get great stuff for a cheap price. Ultimately it ain’t that easy. To get a good quality of whatever you want to get to a good price you first need to have an eye for the good quality. But second and most importantly you will need to master the art of bargaining.
Of course you can use your bargaining tactics only with independent traders in China. On the one side these independent traders are open to bargaining which is good for you. On the other side they want to use it to their own advantage so you better never believe their first offer. These Chinese believe in what they call “The Myth of the Rich LaoWai”. It means that in their mind every foreigner that comes to them to buy something is a rich guy that they will try to get the most money from. So what can you do about that?
Don’t feel guilty!
First you need to get your mindset clear. People who bargain for the first time often feel some form of guilt inside of them. They think they do something wrong. Throw that feeling away and be ruthless and shameless instead. Remember – They will not sell to you unless they are also making profit!
Have a mental maximum price before you start to bargain and don’t push over this limit. There are plenty of stalls selling exactly the same items so if you don’t get your price in the first one… move on and try the next! In your mind you have to be clear that this is just a game for both parties involved, if the seller becomes ‘angry’ or ‘sad’ just play along.. its all part of the game! Even if you totally fall in love with the shoes or coat you just saw, do not express too much interest and point out to the flaws of the item. If there are no flaws, make some up. If you act and think in this way you have the mental edge and have already won.
The Basic Bargaining Process
After a few times of bargaining with those sellers there is a certain routine you will evolve. Basically a lot of those bargaining processes boil down the same things and there are certain patterns you can use:
When they tell you the first price you should act shocked. I pretend that I have never heard something so ridiculous before. Sometimes I will just unscrupulously laugh at them.
Then you should wait… don’t make an offer just yet, wait and they will make another offer. For this you will give them more of the same open mouthed, gasping expressions!
After you have regained your pokerface make your first VERY low counter offer. At this point the seller will act just as shocked as you and tell you this is below his buying price. Don’t believe it – it is just a trick.
If you negotiate hard now you will usually come closer and closer to your estimated price.
If not, you still have one more ace in the hole – the walkaway! You will totally resolute turn around and walk away (slowly) from the stall and in a lot of cases they will scream for you, they will run after you shouting ‘ok, ok’ grabbing for you, they will basically do anything to keep you there. And in the end they go down to your price. You win… and so do they.
So go to those markets and learn the art of bargaining. And remember – it is just a game.
As I had to pack my baggage for China it was impossible for me to take everything I need. I had to compress my whole life in only 23Kilo. But what can I leave at home? What do I really need? That leads to the main question: What can I buy here in China?
You can find nearly everything here in Zhuhai. There is the big underground market, the walking street and a lot of shopping centres, where you can buy clothes, shoes, handbags and stuff for your mobile phone and a lot of other things.
The underground market in Gongbei is located right at the boarder to Macau. It’s like a huge labyrinth – two floors and loads of corridors. One small shop is next to the other. In these shops they nearly use every centimetre to place their products. From very cheap over handmade up to “brand” clothes and handbags: every sector is available. You can find some shops for the men’s world as well, like electronics, mobile phones, DVDs, watches and outdoor equipment. However, you have to be careful – when you are a foreigner and you don’t have an idea of the prices they try to rip off your money. So you have to know that these prices aren’t fixed – you HAVE to bargain. For me it’s kind of fun, though, to walk around and bargain with these people for the price.
If you want to shop in common stores like H&M you will be disappointed. Zhuhai itself has no H&M store but we have “Only” and “Vero Moda” which are more or less the same quality-wise. If you really can’t live without H&M you can go to the three big cities next to Zhuhai: Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou. As these stores are all over the world, the prices are the same as everywhere. For more Western shops you can go to the international plaza – a huge shopping centre with Western brands. Fast food chains like McDonalds, KFC and Starbucks can also be found there.
You are also interested in the local shops? Then you can go to one of the many Shopping centres in our city and the famous pedestrian zone of Zhuhai. There you find common Chinese stores that are similar to the European H&M.
Keep in mind sizes are smaller than in Europe – so don’t be ashamed to take a bigger size. The Chinese women naturally have a smaller and tinier figure than we have.