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Dr Mike J Smith
Kingston University

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China: Shopping Experiences

Fri, 25 Aug 2006

Had some time to go around a couple of shopping malls today and, again, an interesting experience. Supermarkets are very much like they are here, except with some local differences. There is a wide range of differing fresh foods, dried foods (whole fish!) and Chinese medicine. Department stores are strangely near enough identical to the UK, as were the prices. WHilst some CHinese clearly must shop here the prices are very high in comparison to salaries. Again interesting to see how pervasive (invasive?) western culture is and, in particular, how shopping is very popular here.

Walking around the streets, it again struck me how clean and tidy they were. And the absence of graffiti was in stark contrast to most western cities. Yet many parts of the Wuhan city look (and feel) rundown. There are many new buildings, the cities are very tidy and clean, yet there doesn't appear to be any kind of maintenance programme for buildings. They just, well, fall apart. I still can't quite put my finger on it though because China is far from the stereotypical scenes westerners envisage for place like Vietnam or Indonesia.

We also wandered around a mobile phone "market". There were literally 50 or so stalls just selling mobiles, something that I haven't seen before. The Chinese really do love their phones and whilst not all of them have them, they really do seem to be joined at the hip. Whilst in Europe we would never dream (well most of us in polite company!) of taking a call during a lecture or meeting, it is standard fare here. The phone comes first. It is quite disconcerting during meetings and very frustrating when students wander out to take calls. And of course everyone talks on their phone whilst driving. If we think the West is dominated by the moblie then in China it moves to another level.

One final footnote, it is noticeable that many Chinese (in Wuhan anyway) wander around the streets with umbrellas. In summer I assumed this was to keep the sun (heat) off, however it is primarily the women who use them. I gather this is to try to keep them as white as possible. It really is quite amusing that cultural standards (peer pressure?) dictates that western women are as dark as possible, whilst eastern (Chinese) women prefer the opposite. Is there a middle ground somewhere that everyone is aiming for?!!

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