[Wanderlust Tips November issue] Some travelers get to know a place through its museums and monuments, others through its scenic landscapes or traditional cuisine. But for globetrotters who love to shop, there’s no truer way to experience a place than by haggling with merchants in a bazaar, browsing the handcrafted wares of local artisans or sampling designer duds at the poshest boutique in town.
1. TRAN THI NGOC HUYEN – SALES STAFF, HANOI – I OFTEN SPEND TIME SHOPPING WHILE TRAVELLING
It can be said that I devote my life to travelling because it is when I can be myself, indulge in cultural exploration and experiences. In addition, shopping is what I always spend time on during my trips. Besides rewarding myself with favourite items from a new land, I often try to find exotic souvenirs for my family and friends.
Among the many countries I have travelled to, I love the time I spent shopping in Thailand the most. Known as the “tourism country”, Thailand astonished me with trading culture. Locals here are really friendly because professional service is their first priority. Friendly smiles and hearty handshakes make customers feel comfortable. When shopping in Thailand, you only need to spend more than THB1,000 per invoice in order to get a tax refund, get tax refund at the airport.
When buying things in a foreign country, the biggest difficulty many visitors encounter is communication. People often use English to exchange information; however, not many locals can speak English, so sometimes it is really difficult to understand each other. In addition, you should bring more money than your expected expenditure as you may spend more than what you have planned.
2. TRAN DOAN DAT – FREELANCE MODEL, HCMC – EXPLORE THE SHOPPING PARADISE IN SINGAPORE
If you are a shopping devotee, you should definitely visit Singapore. Many items such as perfumes, clothes, shoes in Singapore are often 30-50% cheaper than those sold in Vietnam, while the quality is still good.
My journey of exploring the “shopping paradise” in Singapore started in Little India area. Here, they sell embroideries, gems, handbags, oils and natural perfumes, which feature Indian cultures. Then I visited Haji Lane; it is home to many shops which offer a wide variety of good quality items sold at reasonable prices. This street is full of products which originate from China and Korea. I also found unique customized items designed by young fashion designers from Singapore. Orchard Road is well known for countless luxury stores from clothes, cosmetics products, to electronics and furniture.
While going shopping, do not forget to carefully check items and bargain before buying. There are some places that sell products for original prices, but there are also some stores where you can negotiate to get a better deal. In addition, you should also ask the staff about the store’s discount policy, especially during the discount season as each store offers a variety of incentive programs.
3. PHAM KHANH LINH – OVERSEAS STUDENT, UK – A RELIABLE AND FRIENDLY SHOPPING EXPERIENCE IN THE UK
In the UK, I feel a sense of calmness; sometimes the pace of life is so slow and really different from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. People here highly value the queue culture; you can easily see a long queue of people waiting in front of a restaurant, a dressing room, waiting for payment or for the bus. Nobody seems to rush. People in the UK also value personal time. Shops, restaurants, and shopping malls here often close very early. At about 7pm, streets become very quiet because only few places are still open at that time. On the weekends, most of the stores close early or do not open on those days. Therefore, if you want to go sightseeing or shopping, it is recommended to arrange your itinerary accordingly.
In the UK, there are many kinds of products that range from affordable to luxury brands so you can easily find the products that fit your budget. The attitude of British staff and services are really good as well. When visiting a store, you can browse products without being accompanied by staff. If you have any question, the staff will promptly respond to you. And it is noteworthy that after purchasing a product, and it is has not yet been used or is still in good condition (often called sale-able), you are welcome to return the product for a full cash refund. Regarding the quality of the products, there is nothing to complain about because the products in the UK are judged according to European standards, and excellent quality is strictly guaranteed.
4. HOANG TRINH – OVERSEAS STUDENT, GERMANY – SHOPPING EXPERIENCE IN GERMANY
As an overseas student studying in Germany, I have the opportunity to experience an interesting life in a country that has a completely different culture from Vietnam. Regarding the culture of shopping and consuming, in Germany, there are a variety of stores that meet the demand of any buyer.
In Germany, you can find pharmacy stores called “Drogerie markt”, in which Dm and Rossmann brands are the most famous. People can visit these stores to buy cosmetics and home appliances at affordable prices. While the Dm chain usually sells a lot of products at slightly lower prices than those at Rossmann, Rossmann often launches discount programs every two weeks. And if you want to buy products of luxury cosmetics brands, you should go to the Douglas chain stores, which have branches in most of German cities or in major shopping centers such as Kaufhof and Karstadt.
If you are a fashion devotee, then shopping malls which are home to many brands from affordable to luxury products are places you should not miss. Besides discount days such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and shopping week, at the end of the season, the largest discount program offers discounts of up to 70%. What impresses me is that though these items are sold at discounted prices, they still look very nice and good; there are rarely faulty products here.