A foreigner's experience of buying clothes in China

By Nkemek-nti Umoren
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail ChinAfrica, May 26, 2021
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My earliest memories of settling in China upon arrival are related to shopping for clothes. Before leaving home, my mother packed my bags with thick, warm clothing, given that China's weather wasn't as warm compared to Nigeria's. But in October when I got here, the weather was warmer than my outfits were suitable for, and there was a need for change.

My first shopping experience was a trip to Wanda Plaza, which was a few minutes by taxi from my school, Nanchang University, located in Jiangxi Province in east China. Accompanied by friends, I visited each clothing store within the mall. For the first time, I was introduced to Chinese brands like HLA, Anta Sports, etc.

After scanning through the shelves and trying clothes at a variety of stores, I purchased a few items suitable for my new environment. Each clothing store had its own style. The pieces were modern, minimalist and comfy, in contrast to my country where our fashion sense tends to be glamorous and corporate and we dress for the occasion.

I shopped for a t-shirt, jeans, and hoodies. I paid in cash but there were other forms of payment method like WeChat Pay or Alipay, which at the time, I had no idea of.

I've had many other in-store shopping experiences aside from shopping at the mall. I once accompanied a friend to the local Changling Market in Nanchang. After entering the market, I was drawn in by a clothing store. It had a similar feeling to the stores we have in Nigeria that we consider "boutiques." Compared to my first shopping experience in the mall, clothes of different styles and designs in this store were in the same price range, and I could bargain with the seller on how much I wanted to pay for an outfit. Shopping in stores like this was a lot cheaper.

Well, until I discovered Taobao and Pinduoduo!

I've considered Taobao to be a one-stop shop for all online purchases. Online shopping has become my way for buying clothes. Although there are many benefits of online shopping, it has its challenges too, ranging from the language barrier to finding the right size. There were situations when the M size turned out to be too tight and the L size too loose.

I vividly remember the struggle I had finding an XXL size dress online for a female friend, after we had decided to exchange gifts to celebrate the New Year. On Taobao and Pinduoduo, most outfits I could find didn't have the XXL size and the ones that had didn't match her style. I had a similar experience when trying to purchase a pair of size 42 women's shoes. This is one of my frustrations when shopping online, because most of the clothes are designed for the sizes and body type of the Chinese people rather than foreigners.

I've slowly adapted and found ways to shop online, paying heed to reviews and size charts which differ from those of my country. Through recommendations and search, online shopping has helped me discover new brands, shopping bargains, and discounts during shopping festivals like double eleven.

Another fun activity I've learnt since being here is "window shopping." When a friend mentioned window shopping to me for the first time, I was left clueless. She explained that it means browsing through items to add to a wish list that may never be bought. That's fun and I have done it in a couple of stores, looking through clothing items I may like but have no intention of buying.

Alongside adapting to the lifestyle in China, I've also been greatly influenced by the way Chinese people dress. I regard the daily clothing style of Chinese people to be casual and comfortable, with a touch of chic to it. Social media, street style and clothing brands have deciding influence on what is trendy and what piece of clothing I choose to buy. 

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