Expat and Shopping


  • Shopping for clothes in a new country, especially if you don’t fall under the “average” size, can lead to frustrations, impractical (read: expensive, desperate) purchases, and potential poor outfit choices. When I lived in Germany in my early 20s, that was my challenge. I was a small girl, even smaller than the average Asian. My go-to shop — Esprit…Kids. Imagine my utter delight when we moved to the US and found the WIDE range of choices in everything. You can have the oddest combination of shape and size, and you can still find clothes that fit (I think?). Now in my 30s and postpartum shape (meaning, “seriously, I thought my body couldn’t get any weirder”), I am very happy to report that I don’t have to shop in the Kids department anymore.

  • In my first year as a trailing spouse (aka expat wife), I found my retail therapy in the form of online shopping. There really was no panic buying involved. It was virtual window shopping to my heart’s content. I was simply amazed by the retail systems here because there weren’t a lot of reputable online shops back in the Philippines at that time, to my limited knowledge. My interest may also be due partly by previous work experiences with clients in the retail industry. I was glad to find that the online retail landscape has changed since then. For example, recently, I found semi formal attire in different styles fit for every occasion in an online store named Zalora. I mean, I couldn’t even find enough options from physical stores back then. When I asked my friends about it, they gave positive feedback (and even promo codes). They have this ‘payment on delivery’ feature which I don’t know if available among the US online shops. I do wonder how accurate their sizing is. That has not been an issue shopping in the US because –first, they have my petite size range, and second, the exchange and return policies are just A-mazing!
  • Sending gifts to loved ones are made easier through these online shops. Before, I had to inconvenience friends in the home country to buy, wrap and send the gifts on my behalf. Then I had to manage a secure way of transferring the cash payment. Believe me, in the early 2000s, it wasn’t as easy as the online bank transfers now. Through these online shops, I am now able to send gifts directly to the intended recipients. And now I have no excuse left on why I fail to send gifts.
  • Receiving gifts from loved ones changed, too. We either don’t get anything at all until we meet again in person (guilty), or we received gifts that come in shipping boxes or Amazon packages. No pretty gift wraps, no bows, no handwritten messages. And I don’t complain because that’s how we do it, too. It’s just funny when sometimes we also get the receipt (i.e. when they forget to mark the purchase as a gift). Sometimes, we get lucky and receive gifts that came directly from them. That only happens when another friend comes to visit or comes back from a trip to the home country and offers to hand-carry the gifts for us.
  • Money can’t buy everything. Despite the availability of online shops and the accessibility of shipping companies, we still can’t buy everything from back home. And these are the nasty stuff that makes a well-adjusted expat miss home again. The ripe mangoes, the dried fish, the local magazines and movies. These are the top items according to our friends here.

I wonder how common my experiences are. Do you have similar shopping experiences as an expat?


2 thoughts on “Expat and Shopping

  1. The first time I went to buy shoes I couldn’t understand why my feet were suddenly 3 sizes bigger! I didn’t even realize that at home we use UK not US sizes! It also takes me ages to choose anything in the grocery store because I hardly recognize any brands and end up reading ALL the labels!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I kbow what you mean. I was tempted to keep a note so I can remember the conversions of my sizes. You’ll get used to it. The first trips to the grocery was overwhelming. It took me some time to get over the fact that they have one long aisle dedicated solely to breakfast cereals. 😂 (i have a feeling my baby pressed the buttons just now, for I think your comment got deleted, sorry bout that).😊



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