Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Well That's Different #8 Shoes

I buy shoes the same way that a lot of men buy shoes.
I go into the nearest shoe shop.
I say "Size ten, black, lace-ups please."
I try them on.
If they don't fit I try size eleven.
I pay.
I leave.

I don't think I have ever spent more than ten minutes buying a pair of shoes in my life.

Of course this is China.
The conversion to Chinese sizes is trivial. Size ten is size 45, ten and a half is 46 and eleven is 47. Piece of cake.

Buying them is more of a problem. With my friend Erin in tow to assist with the translations and any bargaining I set off to buy some new shoes. Baiyin is bursting at the seams with shoe shops so I thought it would be easy. I was wrong.  In England size ten isn't especially large but in China when you ask for a 45 they treat you like Bigfoot's weirder older brother. Shoe sizes here stop at 43 in almost every shop - that's a 9 to you and me. In England you might be hard-pressed to find shoes much smaller than a 9 unless you went to kids' sizes but here in China it's the biggest size they do.
In shop after shop we were met with looks of astonishment and amusement and the ubiquitous refrain of "mei you" - "don't have".
In the nineteenth shop that we tried - a branch of Red Dragonfly - the response was the same but the manager thought she knew another branch that might have something in a 45. We waited while she took a taxi to check. When she returned about twenty minutes later she had two boxes - one with a brown pair and one with black. I tried them on and they fit.
Now the style wasn't one I liked and the quality didn't look that great. They didn't seem hard-wearing and would probably fall apart in a couple of months. The price was about three times what I would be happy paying for a similar shoe in England but I handed over the money and left. It had taken us almost two hours of searching and I didn't feel like continuing.
We went for a coffee in a department store and checked a couple of other outlets as we passed just from curiosity but they too said "Mei You".

Funny, I've never considered my size ten feet to be especially big but evidently over here I am some kind of super-gigantic freak.

Maybe I'll be able to buy some in the summer when I am in Yangshou, a town that has rather more foreign residents than most. We shall see.