Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Malls and Markets: The Modern and the Old

It is really interesting to compare these opposing elements in Chinese society. Shenzhen on the whole is a pretty modern city but it does contain aspects of traditional culture and habits.

The Modern

I decided to visit this really cheap shopping district in Shenzhen. It is located pretty far from my uncle’s neighborhood so my grandmother and I had to ride the subway.

The subway system in Shenzhen is very modern and pretty high tech. I bought a token from a machine and swiped it at the gate to get into the system. Since my grandmother is a senior citizen, she was able to ride for free. There is basically one main subway line so it was very easy to navigate. At the subway stop, flat screen TVs display the minutes until the arrival of the next train. Announcements are made in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English. The trains are extremely clean and there is no eating or drinking allowed. It took about fifteen minutes to travel seven stops. I dropped my token into the slot and was able to leave the system.

The Modern

We first got off at an earlier stop to meet my friend Kiki for lunch. Since she was on her lunch break from school, we decided to grab some fast food at a Japanese ramen place. We ordered noodles and sushi. Here is my grandmother with her seafood noodles!

Then we explored the mall complex above this stop. All the stores were extremely expensive and fancy, with brands such as Louie Vuitton, Coach, Fendi, among others. Most of the shops were western brands. There was also an ice rink and a movie theater. Though I was tempted to make purchases, I knew this brand-name items are probably cheaper in the states.

The Old

Finally we arrived at the cheap shopping district. It directly contrasted with the shiny new mall we had just seen. Little shops dotted crowded aisles. Each shop was a one-room-cubicle that had a miscellaneous assortment of clothing and a tiny curtain in the corner to act as a fitting room. The prices were definitely low – most articles of clothing were around 39 Yuan, or 6 dollars. There were also many opportunities to bargain, though I sadly lack expertise in this area.

*A few notes about salespeople in China * - They are extremely helpful, to the point of being suffocating. As soon as you walk in they will greet you and then follow you around as you look at the products. They will make suggestions, ask questions, encourage you to try on clothing, give advice, provide compliments and subtly brush through clothing to show-off their wares. Sometimes they will just look at you as you sort through items. This made me slightly uncomfortable as it is very different from the U.S. where you can just tell a salesperson that “I am just looking” and they will usually leave you alone. I definitely prefer just casually browsing and not being pressured. However, I know this is just the culture here.

The Modern

Beautiful apartment buildings and condos across from my uncle’s neighborhood. They have just been constructed and are empty at the moment. I’m pretty sure they will be filled in no time.

The Old

This morning we walked to a market to buy some produce and some steamed buns for breakfast. Farmers that are probably from just outside the city come here every morning by the roadside to sell their products. They are only allowed to be there until nine in the morning because officials are concerned with the aesthetics of the city. Markets are rather crowded, dirty, and smelly.

People were selling vegetables such as eggplants, cabbage, carrots, onions, and bok choy. There were also fruits, fresh meat, street food and eggs. Usually you can find the freshest and cheapest food here.

The Modern

Cars! Shenzhen on average has a wealthier population, at least in the district that we are in. Most of the cars are western brands such as Audi, Buick, Ford, and Mercedes-Benz. They are all very shiny and new. Even I, with extremely little knowledge about cars, could tell that the cars were expensive.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Molly!! I can't wait to travel around China and see both the modern and the old. I would have picked up all those veggies on the sidewalk :)