One of the first things that you need to know when you arrive in China is how to shop. How to find the things you are looking for without losing your mind is important. And this post is dedicated to enlightening the typical American. There are no “big box stores”. Sure, there is a place called “Wal-Mart” and yes, it may even be owned by Wal-Mart Corp., but don’t get excited. It doesn’t have anything in there that you will want. [this is similar to Wal-Mart in America – it looks promising, but don’t get excited. It holds very little of what you need or want…] There are no Target stores here either, which is a bummer because I LOVE Target. Shanghai has an IKEA and that is awesome. And yes, the IKEA is packed day and night just like it is in America. There is no Macy’s, Dillards, JCPenneys or large department stores. What you have here are little shops for each specific brand – the Addidas store, the Lancome store, the Clarins store, the Levi’s store, the New Balance store, etc…With that being said, you can find almost any brand named item you may need here in Shanghai – for a price! Remember, it will be considered a foreign import. Taxed to the gills on top of designer prices. This stuff is NOT cheap. If you want cheap, you must go to what we call the “fake market” where you are supposed to bargain, bargain bargain. This is where I have heard the saying “Lady, you crazy. Come on” in perfect English while I was “bargaining”. What they do have are huge shopping malls. But don’t picture urban sprawl, picture skyscraper. A typical mall is 9 stories high, plus a basement and hopefully that basement hooks into a metro line stop. Today I went to Joy City Mall (Metro Line 8, Qufu Lu stop). Its in Zhabei district which is where I live.
This doesn’t really look like a mall, does it? It seems like a nightclub or a strange office building. But no, this is it. Its full of little shops. Namely, H&M, Uniqlo, Levi’s, etc…plus many other little Chinese shops. There is a food court, but mostly Chinese food. (and not the Chinese food you get in America either – its different) and a Subway Sandwich Shop. Food is also located on the top floors of any mall. As well as any movie theaters. They are always at the top of the mall too. Who knew, right? And Starbucks will usually be located on the street level entrance. You can find Starbucks all over Shanghai. Its not rare at all. Neither is McDonalds (which you can get delivered to you 24 hours a day for 8 RMB delivery fee plus the cost of food). Another thing that you must get used to is that you can buy beauty products at a place called Watsons drug store or the grocery store. But any types of medicine other than Ibuprofen and some other small items MUST be purchased at a pharmacy.
Remember, think specialized stores. Each store has its specialty. I remember when we first got to Shanghai and a fellow on-boarder from New York City was looking for first aid bandages – large sized and gauze, etc. We just couldn’t find it anywhere. We would look at this grocery store and that grocery store, and Watsons. We just didn’t even think to look at a pharmacy. But that’s where it was. Duh. You can find your contact solution here though. Where? Where else? – the glasses/contact store. Think specialty stores. Need something for your eyes? Well, its at the “eye store”.
Also, don’t forget that any personal hair care products – shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, hair spray, make up (bring your cheap make-up – expensive make-up is easy to find!), deodorant (especially deodorant – Chinese don’t use it), medicine (nose spray, Benadryl, Advil), perfume, etc…BRING WITH YOU! Don’t expect to come to China and find the same things you love back home. And if you do, be prepared to pay way more for those items because they will now be foreign imports here and they cost twice as much.
Also, if you wear over a size C cup, bring your bras!! If you wear over a size 8, bring your shoes!!! You especially need your shoes! Size 8 and smaller – the world is your oyster when it comes to shoes. Anything bigger, forget about it. You are looking at having to purchase men’s shoes. I will post more on shoes later (its a big deal to me here since I wear a ladies size 10!)
All Disney employees arrive in Shanghai to get trained and processed. We all stay at the JinJiang Inn at Zhongshan Park and Cloud 9 Mall. Make friends with Zhongshan Park area. Do not hate it. Explore Cloud 9 Mall. There is a Carrefour (a french grocery store loaded with Chinese stuff and some Western stuff) a movie theater at the very top of that mall, food places (both Western and Chinese), H&M, a cool bar down the street called JoJos and easy access to Line 2 attractions (the Bund, Nanjing Lu Pedestrian Shopping street, Jing’An Temple, and nightlife galore). I have a saying when it comes to China…
“Everything is here, you just can’t see it.”
Keep looking. Its like looking at a Monet, close up its a big ol’ mess. But from far away it looks perfect. At first when you get here, you will have Monet eyes…however, slowly it starts to clear and you can see the beauty of the place you have come to. Just keep looking and you will find it.