Since it’s so hard to shop for clothes here, I always make it a point to stock up on anything I’d need when I’m in the states. Most of the time I only make it home in December, which makes for some tricky shopping – you know, life in the tropics isn’t conducive to the clothes for sale in December in Philadelphia!
It’s been three summers now since I was home for end of summer sales, and even though I didn’t hit any blow-out clearances, I got some amazing prices on a few new pieces of clothing while I was in Florida last weekend. And thanks to my mom and my aunt, amazing prices turned into free for me since they paid for some of my loot. (Thank you!)
We have department stores here. There’s a good variety of food, toys, housewares, even clothes (see my last post about clothes, though). And even though there are some “super” stores here, it is completely overwhelming for me to go into a Wal-mart. Even Target is extreme. Sometimes the regular supermarket gives me anxiety.
Living in a homogenous society leaves very homogenous shopping. All students use composition style notebooks, so to find a spiral bound is almost impossible. Short skirts are stylish, so a long skirt may be sold at a chic boutique (until they catch on here that long skirts are back in style and so classy and cute, not to mention comfortable). Everyone eats rice every day, but try to find a box of cous-cous and you’re likely to go crazy searching. The worst are shoes. Thank God that flats made their comeback or we’d all be in hooker heels still. Women even wear stilettos and open-toe high heels to work. I like my feet to be comfortable; I can do heels, but plastic heels with platforms are a little not my style.
I think that’s what makes stores like Wal-mart so much for me. You mean I can get white rice, brown rice, cous-cous, wild rice, basmati, and rice-a-roni all in the same aisle for relatively economic prices? And I can choose my own size of clothes instead of squeezing into something too small because that’s all they have? And I can choose between a spiral-bound notebook, a composition book and loose-leaf paper for my binder? And on top of all of that, there is a craft section with more than flower arranging? Things to do with my kids that don’t cost me an arm and a leg? AMAZING!
Some of my friends think I spend too much time in the store when I’m at home, but really, it’s hard to make choices when you have so many. And it’s fun to be able to spend a dollar on something that would normally cost me ten! (Did you know that a small jar of off-brand peanut butter can cost me up to twelve US dollars depending on what the stock in the store is like?)
Appreciate your stores, friends! You never know how great they are (even the horrible, union-less, slave-labor driven wal-mart… ha.) until you don’t have them!
Disclaimer: I don’t hate Wal-mart. In fact, I love it. I think it’s hilarious how Americans go nuts over Wal-mart not having unions and treating their employees poorly because they are American employees. If you really knew how 99% of your merchandise from any store is produced and what the non-american employees are paid in union-less environments, you’d not shop anywhere. I am friends with the general manager of a company here who currently has a contract with Ralph Lauren Formal Wear. A RL suit can cost upwards of 1,500 US dollars. The tailor who makes it gets paid about $200 a month to work 44 hours or more a week in a factory with no air conditioning and poor ventilation. Timberland has factories here, too, and they pay their employees the minimum wage (about $200 a month) for all those wonderful clothes and boots that retail for so much more than that. What I’m saying is don’t bash Wal-mart if you’re not bashing all companies who follow the same practices just because Wal-mart employs Americans poorly. You can’t pick and choose – like it’s not okay to treat Americans poorly in the workplace, but by all means treat those Dominicans/Mexicans/Guatemalans/Philippinos/Chinese poorly as long as I get my stuff CHEAP!