Thursday, September 13, 2007

I paid what it cost, and it cost too much.

My dear husband is having a galactic meltdown of all his beloved electronics doo dahs. He's spent the last week or so hunched over the keyboard in the living room in a rat's nest of cords and wires muttering under his breath. So, I haven't had loads of computer access lately.

In an effort to do damage control, Eric paid another visit to Hua Xiang Bei, the giant electronics mall (man paradise). Lucky for me, just across the street is Nu Ren Shi jie (lady paradise! It translates literally to "women's world". That's one thing that is both refreshing and irritating about Chinese culture, there is no mincing of words when it comes to talking about what men and women should be interested in.) So he went his way, and I went mine.

"Women's World" is packed with clothes and copy handbags, shoes, and knick-knacks for the home. I only managed to buy some towels and a dress because haggling is not really my top talent. There are many reasons why I am terrible at it.

1)There is a language barrier to contend with.
2) I have no idea how much the item should cost, so don't know how egregiously I"m being over quoted.
3) I can't even come close to masquerading as a local, I look like a walking dollar sign and my American accent is no help. If I could pretend I was Polish, I might have a tiny chance.
4) I have no real practice with negotiations, and tend to get flustered and aggravated. Its all profoundly amusing to the Chinese shop keepers and I usually come away exhausted and of fresh resolve to never again attempt a shopping trip without one of my Chinese friends.

Inevitably, one of my Chinese friends sees my new dress and says "How Much?" I usually lie, but they still laugh at how much more I paid then I should have. (Imagine their mirth if I told them the truth!) This is definitely one of the worst parts of being an expat in the developing world. It was the same in Uganda and Kenya. Next time HuYi asks "How much?" I think I'll just say "I paid what it cost."

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