I wade myself into the not so crowded market, casting my eyes at the “new-arrival” dresses and jackets through the window. Huddled in my heavy jackets, warmers, gloves, caps alone, I neither find the determination nor interest to go through the “ordeal” alone. Yes, shopping, the word that never fails to uplift a girl in her worst of moods, now seems tiring and difficult.
Someone who feels that shopping abroad is classy, straight out of Fashion TV designs and better than India is surely living in a fool’s paradise. Most of my friends who happen to get all green eyed at my frilly dresses, flamboyant jackets and classy jeans don’t know that they are result of excessive shop hunting, running amok in the rain, snow and freezing in minus degrees from one shop to another. To top it all, it included fighting the urge to buy the otherwise expensive jackets or dresses while waiting ardently for the season sale to set in. In short, shopping abroad is not as fun as it appears to be. While I can hardly complain much, it varies hugely compared to when you shopped back home.
While you start to think that this can be a trivial topic, think again. For my last year abroad, has not exactly been a joy ride as far as shopping is concerned. Sounds familiar? Read on,
1) Lack of company for the ‘damsel in distress’
Nothing is compared to a helpful friend tagging along with you to shop together. Especially during those times when you have to shop for an office party, date or an anniversary gift, your girlfriends are always at your rescue. One reason shopping is no more fun is the absence of some real good friends who were always at my beck and call when the damsel in distress needed help.
2) Difficult to get the right ‘sizes’
Unlike India where my height and body type is considered to be fairly okay and fit, here I feel like anorexic. Majority of the clothes, shoes and accessories of various brands here are huge, loose and ill-fitted when I wear them, even if at times they are of the small or extra small size. The dresses and long jackets that somehow are in vogue are meant for tall statured girls. I get to wear the smallest possible sizes in shoes too and to my embarrassment, I need to take a peek at the kids section sometimes.
3) Weather blues
The weather appears to be quite a spoilsport whenever you plan shopping. Especially the winters here are fierce, rainy, and windy and snow-laden. Clearly the beautiful and large malls attract you to come and visit them, but the mere thought of being clad with heavy jackets, scarves, mufflers, boots and storming into the malls make you feel you are trapped under the weight. The feeling of heavy shopping bags wading through the cold is so uninviting. The dark clouds, no-sun for days and the massive snow do not help you in gathering up enough motivation to shop abroad.
4) Chores at home
Yes, you heard me right. We do not have the luxury of the bais and servants of the world to take care of our dinner or lunch for next day. Nor can we afford to not clean our house, vacuum it, and wash the toilet and utensils before we head for shopping. Our minds would be constantly occupied by the chores back home that would need our attention much more than this shopping.
5) Where are all the colors?
Depending upon the kind of country you live in, the patterns and colors vary. Here in Scandinavia, especially Sweden, you see mostly blacks, whites and greys – basic colors. It may be because of the extreme cold weather, but the sense of style is classic, not flowery or much vibrant. Although it is elegant but sometimes you miss the dash of colors in your wardrobe.
6) Culture and language barriers
The culture and language have an important role to play when shopping abroad. The shops here mostly are franchisees and not privately owned. I once liked a dress at 5:55 pm, picked it and rushed to the counter only to find out to my dismay that the shop closes at 6 pm and she told me to come back tomorrow. Unlike India where the shops open for long hours and the shopkeepers run some exceptions, here it is no such thing. Also, in a non-English country, everything ranging from discounts to announcements would be in that particular language and you need to know it.
7) What’s shopping without some bargaining?
You don’t enjoy the haggling and screaming your lungs out for couple of bucks here. Neither do we enjoy the smug look on our faces when we feel satisfied of saving a couple of hundreds on a latest acquisition. That feeling is something else.
8) Sale fail
This is more or less the same as back home but sale abroad means lesser and lesser options in terms of size and preference. Sales are just misleading abroad. Sometimes if you are lucky, you might get something good, otherwise it is the same old story.
9) Shopping accompaniments
In India, shopping day means a perfect outing day. With chores to be taken care of at home, you book a movie, and plan the evening shopping and usually get something worthy too. You too get to eat tasty street food, do street shopping and visit shops that open for longer hours. Yes you can grab a burger or cookie while you are hungry here but can it replace the paani puris on the road, samosas and the kachoris at the stalls or the elaichi chai at the tapris? We know the answers.
10) The ‘disillusionment’ post shopping
Even after the absence of all of the above or the presence of them, you still manage to get some amount of happiness after shopping, your feelings are short-lived. Either what you thought of won’t be exactly the same as you presumed when you bought it or it didn’t suit your body type. This happens especially when you shop online.
Finally, while still giving the benefit of doubt to shopping abroad, I can proclaim safely that it is not bad, it is different. In India, shopping meant to me hang out with friends, trouble the poor shopkeeper through bargaining, hogging the street food, getting your perfect size, roaming in autos and bikes, extra service, hassle free without having to worry about bad weather or chores at home. Here shopping means staring at mannequins, wondering if that particular style would look good on you as it does on your foreign friend, checking the weather forecast for the day, completing your chores on time and starting early as the shops close early. The satisfaction is there, but pure bliss? Diminishing.
Somewhere in midst of the culture gap, you figure it out midway.