Saturday, September 27, 2008

Shopping for Clothes in Vietnam


I had dinner with an Italian expat. He teaches English at night and works on his business during the day. He's trying to get some Italian investors to come to Vietnam.

I was impressed when he ordered food. The waiter managed to understand the sounds made by the Italian's stiff tongue.

I like how foreigners are opened to making new friends. A new friend is a new resource. He gave me the HR contact for a school. I could become an substitute English teacher, but I'm not inspired. I'd rather tutor or teach swim lessons and my internship is full time. I could request part time, but this is very important to me.


After dinner I wandered the streets. All shops were opened.

"Labor is cheap and Vietnamese people like to be served..." stated my cousin.

In all clothing stores customers get approached, "what are you looking for?"
"I'm just looking around" the girl stared at the clothes I scanned. She stood one foot from my body. It's like every customer gets their own little servant girl.
"We have a lot of colors for that shirt" I nodded
Back in 2006, I hated it. I felt like they were watching me and I couldn't shop comfortably. But now I embrace the service.

I grabbed a shirt and put it against my body.
"That's very cute"
"thanks, could you fold this and put it away?" I handed the girl the shirt to distract her so that she doesn't say anything else.
she pulled out a shirt and said, "this one is REALLY CUTE!"
And then I walked out of the store.

I did this to 6 different clothing stores.
Same thing over and over. They greet me, suggest something and I always end with: THAT'S UGLY! And walk out of the store without buying anything chuckling to myself. And they are. the things they pick out are really disgusting.

Sometimes, I find a girl that I like. They ask me none shopping questions like "where are you from?" I end up flirting with them. This one girl said my Vietnamese was cute. And I ended up buying a shirt from her. HAH!

Aw, they said my Vietnamese was cute. TAKE MY MONEY!

At the end of the night I got three shirts: two giraffe shirts and a shirt for Mony. Aw.
I realized that if I like it, I should buy it right away because I may not be able to find it again.
It was so ugly and 3 dollars... I HAD TO BUY IT!

My Analysis
Real stores: I went into a Converse store and they had American prices. It looked like a converse store.

Fake stores: A couple of stores sold American Eagle, Hollister, AH-BuH-Cuh-Bi and Fitch. Everything was at least 6 dollars, no more than 10. They looked/felt real, but who knows.

And there's something wrong with these tags!

It was even dark like Hollister!

Vietnamese Brand Stores: Vietnamese clothing lines were also 6-10 dollars. The brands were alien to me, but the are common: NinoMax, Blue Exchange, Viet Thy, Sea are a couple of the big name brands that are scattered around the city. The rest are re-salers of other brands.

This is "Sea. I asked them if I could take pictures.. in English and the girl fumbled with her words so I took a snapshap shot and ran. If anyone stopped me, I would sad, I asked!

And then of course the market. (Think flee market. Where there are no price tags or dressing rooms, just piles of neatly folded clothes.) Each merchandiser gets about 5x5 feet of space, maybe more. From there, they stack it high! It is here that you have to bargain and the prices always double; triple if you don't look Vietnamese. Fuck that, I'm tired of bargaining even though I have yet to do it. Bargaining seems to be a tourist thing now. How exciting for them right? Locals know better. They too are tired of that shit.
Bras and Underwear anyone? If there was an Earthquake, people would be burried under merchandise.

But as more stores with price tags pop up, bargaining seems to be dying out... at the same time, it's a treasured custom, at least to foreigners.


There is no ONE place to shop. This is hard to explain. Think about your local downtown. Downtown Campbell, downtown Willow Glen, downtown Berkeley, Palo Alto. All those cute mom and pop shops that everyone loves. Yeah. Okay, now COVER the entire city with those shops and you have Saigon. I fuck you not.

If you live facing the street, you have a shop, otherwise you live in an alley. If you're not an entrepreneur, you rent out your space. I can start from my cousin's house and walk to the airport for 5 hours and do endless shopping/eating. It's ridiculous, they have EVERYTHING.

Seriously EVERYTHING, it's just a manner of looking. If you were to do a YELP for Saigon.. yeah there would be 203472380423048723807 entries.

But there is some organization. Some streets specialize in certain things. These are the streets I saw:
-Korean/Japanese Food (touristy area)
-LCD Screens

Why would you chose one store over another. Because you know the owner and can get a good price.

1 comment:

dannie said...

please don't wear that giraffe shirt again <3 =]