Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chinese culture

After our cold morning, we decided temporarily ignore the Chinese culture putdoors and spend our afternoon indoors shopping(!). We went to YaShow an enormous indoor marketplace. I thought I would like to get a nice qipao (one of those Chinese silk dresses with a Mandarin collar) and YaShow we were told was a sure bet place to get one.

It was extremely intimidating. Think of a 6 floor home depot filled with hundreds upon hundreds of stalls, all manned by extremely aggressive vendors. I quickly learned some unpleasant things. First, for a standard Chinese women I am huge. Ki-Ki, my sister, who is a size 2, was forced to wear a large; and when the saleswoman looked at my waist she said, "tai da!" which I'm pretty sure means "too big." She brought me an extra large and looked doubtful.

However, I did manage to squeeze into something...and then the games began. In China, haggling is an art form like no other. And as I was obviously a non-native (if my size didn't give it away, my completely incoherent Chinese did), I was an easy target for a swindle.

Luckily, our traveling companion Jen is not only better at Chinese but no fool either. When the saleswoman gave a price 3 times a normal price, Jen told us to walk away. We were stopped by the saleswoman who than offered another price, maybe 10 dollars less. We (uh, Jen) counter offered 1/3 of the price. Offer, counteroffer, offer, and then Jen told us to walk away again. This went on for two hours. Really. It was exhausting. I don't know how Chinese people actually buy anything. Perhaps that is how they keep from being so materialistic, one has to really work at purchasing. Anyway, we finally got it to a "decent" price and won the respect of the salesperson but after I calculated the savings in my head, I realized it might've been worth it just to pay the extra money so we could leave after 5 minutes instead.

But, looking back, as an experience in real Chinese culture, I suppose it was worth it.

(the outfit Ki-Ki bought... or won, depending on how you look at it)


Anna Alter said...

Can't wait to see your new clothes! I cant believe you would ever wear an xlarge, crazy!!

Libby Koponen said...

Yes, NO WAY are you large!!! You look great and I, too, can't wait to see you in your new clothes. I hope you get lots made, too.

Does everyone haggle over the food prices, too, or only more expensive things?

And can you get someone to tell you how to make that breakfast crepe and then write it down for me? If everyone is so slim I'm sure it is less fattening than the Vietnamese ones I've finally learned how to make.

Austin Huang said...

I guess we now know what it'd be like if A&F took over a country...

pearl said...

i had to laugh about the haggling - i would have paid the original, inflated price and walked away. I am a wimp... and too shy to haggle.