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Shopping for Expats in China

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: August 2013

China is a fantastic shopping destination. You can find traditional Chinese goods as well as big international brands from all over the world, especially in large cities such as Shanghai and Beijing.

China is a very big country with various traditions.  Nearly every city has their own speciality such as traditional handicrafts, antiques, souvenirs. For example, Jingdezhen is very famous for its china and Shengze is famous for its silk products. If you are going to live in the larger cities you can get lost in all the different traditional specialities.  These are not the only things you can find, along with the Chinese booming economy, many luxury brands landed in China.

Beijing for example, being a capital for six dynasties, not only has hundreds of traditional specialities including different foods, clothes, stationeries and antiques in Wangfujing Avenue and Liulichang Street. It also has many shopping malls and department stores in Xidan district and Qianmen Avenue.

There are many types of markets in the cities such as; dry seafood markets, live sea food markets, vegetable and fruit markets, flower markets, clothes markets and commodity markets. Some of these markets provide services for both wholesale and retail. For example, the well-know Yiwu Commodity Market situated in Yiwu City of Zhejiang Province. 

Night markets, mainly for commodities, are very popular in most of the cities in China. It is also a leisure activity for many Chinese. There may be several night markets in one city and most of them have been in the same location for years. Your colleagues or neighbours may be able to recommend their favourite market.

When you buy something in a market expect to barter the price, most of the time you will get a discount. It is also advised that you should have a calculator with you to work out the cost and conversion between currencies.   The calculator is also very convenient for you to bargain with the seller. Many sellers cannot speak foreign languages but they will use the calculator to show you the price, the discount and the final price. If you offer a price and the seller agrees, generally you should buy it. Furthermore, in some markets, you may not be able to exchange or return the goods you buy even if you have a receipt.  Therefore, it is recommended that you always check the goods you want to buy carefully before you pay.

If you shop in super markets, big stores, shopping malls or big department stores you would not normally encounter such problems. They will have a good exchange or return policy. 

Online shopping

Online shopping is very popular in China. Many big brands have their own websites which provide payment facilities and delivery services. Taobao, similar to Ebay, is the biggest online customer to customer and business to customer market in China. You can find nearly everything there, from commodities to houses. The website is here: https://www.taobao.com.

You also can buy what you want online from all over the world, from websites such as Amazon and Ebay.  You will need to be aware that this is a form of importation which may trigger custom duties and VAT; some items are not allowed to enter China. Therefore, before making any purchase, please check carefully here: https://www.ems.com.cn/serviceguide/e_jin_ji_wu_pin.html and https://www.ems.com.cn/serviceguide/e_you_jian_bao_guan.html.     

Shopping hours  

There is generally no restriction on business hours. Shops normally open seven days a week and typical opening hours are 8am to 10pm.



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