20 August 2011


Singapore is great but there are a lot of little frustrations and funny things that just make life a little more difficult. Today some friends and I went shopping for formal wear and I was reminded how much I hate clothes shopping in Singapore.

I have not gone clothes shopping a lot but have had a few experiences in the last four months. Once an American girl is able to find clothing in the proper Asian size to fit her normal American body, it is time to hit the dressing room to see just how these ensembles will look once on the normal American body. Lucky for me, most Asian women don’t have boobs so I have a little easier time than most of my friends.

Dressing rooms are the real reason I do not like shopping. I am fine with going in and out of stores, finding something that I like and purchasing the items off the rack. But, unfortunately, I am not familiar enough with the sizes and styles to just walk out the door with something.

The lines to try on clothes can be enough to deter me from purchasing anything. If there is not a queue the size of one outside a New York City nightclub on a Friday night, I will make my way to the person in charge with my stack of prospects.

At that point, the person tells me that I may only take a certain number of items into the room with me. In my experience that number may be as low as three items, which can be aggravating. Let’s say I have three tops, two pairs of pants and a dress. I now have to figure out how I am putting these items together in order to coordinate my trial look. Once I finish with one item, I must take it off, find the dressing room monitor, switch one item for one other item and make my way back into my tiny cell. I mean room.

Dressing rooms are tiny and almost always have a curtain in lieu of a door. I am sure that more Asians have seen me naked in the last four months than all of my friends, family and doctors in the U.S. throughout my entire life.

More often than not, dressing rooms are not clean. Some have hooks, some do not. None have seats or benches. This makes it awkward. Number one, where am I going to put these clothes that I brought in here, the floor? Great. Number two, where am I to place my own clothes once they have left my body? Where am I to put my purse and my sunglasses? On the floor. Great. Now I have less space.

I do not know what it is about hangers, but dressing room monitors do not like them. Hangers are never allowed in dressing rooms. Awesome. I may not have anywhere to hang the clothes anyway.

One friend told me about an experience where she was instructed to take off her shoes prior to entering the dressing room. WHAT?! I mean, chances are, one will take off shoes in the process but why would we want to hand them over to a stranger responsible for monitoring other strangers who could steal our beautiful shoes if for some reason we wore the beautiful shoes instead of flip flops that day? Nuts.

The grocery store is another place where we often have debates with employees. I have a habit of shopping without looking at prices or units because I know I am going to end up paying for whatever I am buying anyway. This gets me into trouble because I often end up breaking the grocery store code of conduct.

You see, if I want to buy some pears, I think about how many I can eat before they spoil. Things spoil much quicker here. I also consider how long it will be before my next grocery adventure and factor that into my decision. Three sounds good, so I grab three good pears and place them in my basket.

I continue my shopping and make my way to the dreaded queue that can take longer to get through than the 500+ page book I decided to read. When I step up to my place as first in line, I proceed to unload my basket. Then it starts.

“Dees five for tree dollar.”
Crap. Here we go again.

“That’s fine, I only want three,” I tell the cashier.

“But dey five for tree dollar. You want two moh?”

What I want to say: “I just stood in this wretched line and you want me to inconvenience the six people behind me by making my way back to the fresh produce section that I call “hell” for a reason and make all of these people wait while I get two more pears that I neither want nor need just so you can enter the correct value? No thank you.”

What I always say: “No, that’s OK.”

At this point the cashier usually starts putting my three pears aside.

“No, no. I want the three pears.”

“Oh, you want two moh?”

“No, I only need three.”

“But dey are five for tree dollar.”

“Yes, I know, but I only want three. Just charge me for five. It’s OK.”

One final semi-crazy look later, I have my three pears and I am on my way.

The grocery stores here have stamps like we have gas points. These stamps are handed out to customers based on the amount of money spent. Customers are then expected to lick the stamps and place them onto a numbered sheet. Once the sheet is filled, there is a window of time when the stamps may be redeemed at the respective store for prizes like kitchen cookware.

I choose to give mine away as I typically have no need for the prizes. A few times in a row, I had older women approach me as I was at the checkout, asking if I would give them my stamps. I saw that they targeted other western-looking people.

I later learned that the time to redeem the stamps was coming to a close and these ladies became the closest thing to homeless beggers that Singapore has as they stalked people for more stamps like they were drug money. The first time, I gladly handed them over since I had no intention of using them. However, the number of aunties increased and the women got younger and they became borderline stalkers, which annoyed me, so I refused the other two times as I intended to give them to a friend.

Frustrations or funny memories? I vote both but they certainly do make me laugh.

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