China probably exports more goods than any other country in the world, right? So a person living here should be in shopping heaven, right? Wrong! China is not the place to shop, and especially at Christmas time.
There are several reasons why China isn't a good shopping location. First of all, I must admit that if you go to one of the bigger cities like Beijing, or Shanghai, there is better shopping. But we living in a "second tier" city, so shopping isn't very good. One of the reasons is that people in cities like this aren't as wealthy, so are on more of a subsistence level. So if I go to the Walmart here, most of what I will find is very basic useful household items. The stores in my neighborhood have even less. For example, you can surely find the following: mops, brooms, dish detergent, toilet paper, plastic bowls and cups, pens, pencils, trash bags, etc. Now, from the list I just quoted, which of those things would you like to receive as a Christmas present?
Another reason China isn't a good shopping location is because Chinese people are. by and large, smaller in stature. My husband simply cannot buy clothing here at all. I can find an occasional sweater or t-shirt, but I wear the largest size they make, so it's not easy to find. I was able to find a winter coat here, but there is no way I could find a pair of pants. Also, my feet are large by American standards, so there is no way they are going to sell women's shoes as big as mine here. Last winter everyone told me that I needed leather shoes for the winter. (Actually, I didn't. In my opinion it really doesn't get that cold here.) So I went to the store, but couldn't find any my size. Finally I went to the men's department and bought a pair of their largest size. So buying clothing in China is pretty much not going to happen. My husband did have a suit coat made by hand, but that takes time and fittings. Anyway, so clothing is out of the question for Christmas presents.
The rest of what they have for sale is marketed for the teenagers and young college students. Much of it is anime related. The youth in China don't have much opportunity to really have a childhood, so they tend to like childish things, even in to their college years. They like stuffed animals, and dolls, and little anime toys. At 52 years old, I'm really not in to that kind of thing, so that's not really something I would buy.
So Christmas shopping this year was horrible. My husband and I walked around the mall, but simply couldn't find anything we wanted. Luckily, he had ordered a DVD player on "Tao Bao". It's an online shopping business. It's a little tricky for foreigners to use, but his co-worker helped him. He also ordered a gift for our son. So basically, he and I shared a DVD player gift for Christmas. lol I did buy him a leather bound journal. And we found a few things for the stockings.
There was one really good buy here this Christmas. We bought my son a guitar. It included a tuner, extra strings, a stand, a cover, and some other gadgets, and we only paid about $75 (U.S.) It's a really nice. We will try to take it back with us when we return to the States.
It's hard to be away from home at Christmas time. The lack of presents factor doesn't help. But I really miss driving around looking at Christmas lights, making cookie plates for my neighbors (it's so hard to get the right ingredients here) decorating the house with my nativities (I did have one small one here, but you can't buy them here.), going caroling with our church group, singing in the Christmas church choir, seeing Christmas decorations everywhere. I know everyone says that the real meaning of Christmas is the remembrance of the Savior's birth. I agree, but you know what? All of those others things are part of Christmas too. So when we go back to the U.S. to live, I'm going to really celebrate that Christmas big! :)