Coming from a western country, I am aware that our salaries are much higher than the majority of places in the world, but so is the cost of living and also the price of many products such as electronics and clothing. Travelling to Asia was a real eye-opener for me on the difference in prices for many things. Public transport, for example in the Philippines, was unbelievably cheap (albeit inefficient) where a ride on a local jeepney (a type of cramped minibus) set me back just 15 cents. However, it was in the clothing stores where I was most amazed. Huge malls with clothing and material likely from China, were in abundance. Seeing curtains that would cost almost USD $100, were available for under $10, and that was even before you start negotiating!
I will be frank, a lot of the clothing available was either not great quality, or they were counterfeit and the difference in quality was noticeable. However, from a woman’s perspective, the variety of clothing on offer was a dream. Women, in some cases with clothes, are less conscious about brands than men. Wearing an unbranded dress would usually be okay with a woman, while a man purchasing an unbranded jeans or shirt, especially in a brand conscious western country, would be less likely. Now this is not always the case, but is often true. The result is many more women are found shopping in these malls and markets than men.
Haggling is widely accepted in most Asian countries, in a way that might cause offence in western countries. On the contrary it is usually expected, and that is why many merchants start their prices high, in the expectation that the customer will battle to bring it down. It is almost seen as a sport! In one instance I was offered a raincoat for near enough $80. The same raincoat in a US store wouldn’t even set me back $50, and I was able to get it down $18 – still lamenting the fact I couldn’t get it down to $15!
While shopping may be fun and fruitful, you should always bear in mind that the quality might actually match the price further down the line. You shouldn’t expect many types of clothing such as dresses, or electronics such as charger cables, to last as long as they would if you bought them from a reputable store, but as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”. I purchased a USB memory stick with an unbelievable amount of storage for a rock bottom price, only to find out later I had been scammed and it had been formatted to say it had a certain amount of storage, when in fact it couldn’t have been further from the truth. This undoubtedly caused me to become cautious and suspicious when offered anything by market vendors.
Asia is an amazing place to spend hours or even days shopping. There are literally gems to be found everywhere, but I recommend you exercise caution, and it never hurt anyone to do a bit of research before heading out to shop.