I’ve been trying to learn some Mandarin during our stay here. Since the only lessons I’ve gone through so far center on shopping vocabulary and expressions, I feel like I should be able to get along fairly well while shopping. Sadly, that is not the case.
When I purchase something, I arrive at the cashier armed with the phrases: “I want this one”, “how much does this cost”, and “thank you.” Unfortunately, it’s rare that it’s that simple. Most of the time, the cashier will look at me and ask a question while ringing me up. I usually don’t understand a single word of what was asked. After seeing my anxious and confused expression, he or she will simply hand me my receipt as if the question really wasn’t that important to begin with. I’ve learned that some of those questions are, “would you like to buy a bag for your purchase,” “do you have a membership card,” “do you have a frequent customer card,” and “do you need the company numbers” (something needed for tax purposes).
Of course, buying my favorite thing here, a pearl milk tea, is especially complicated. My first time ordering one was greeted with a barrage of questions, most of which I didn’t understand at all. After several visits, lots of gesturing, and tutorials from Mike and Shu-Fern, at least now I can answer all of them. “Fresh milk (instead of evaporated milk), small pearls, cold drink, medium cup, half the sugar, regular ice.” Whew!
I don’t really go out shopping for clothes over here because if I can fit anything at all it has to be XL (the largest they offer), and even then if it has long sleeves or pant legs it is often still too short. I know there has to be a population of Chinese women that are bigger than me – where do they buy their clothes? The other day I walked by a clothing store with a sales rack outside. My mom pulled a pair of pants off the rack that were a steal – $6 (US). And they were long! I was so excited, but when I went into the store to try them on, I was told you cannot try on their sale items. Huh? I was super glad my mom was there because I would not have understood that by myself (and still don’t understand the logic). I sadly put the pants back on the rack because the pants were labeled S and really, the odds were not good that my waist would actually fit.
Oh, and I completely avoid looking at shoes. When I ask for a pair that would fit me the sales people just point at my size 9 feet and laugh.