A good fit is hard to find
Updated: 2012-03-31 07:07
By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Although they live in the country known as a global manufacturing powerhouse, expatriates in Beijing sometimes find it difficult to purchase daily necessities.
Fifty expats polled by IjustwannaBuy.com, a group buying website, said they have problems getting organic food and clothing that fits in Beijing.
Buying a good bra in Beijing is still the biggest complaint for most women when it comes to shopping. More than half of women expats in Beijing find it hard to buy lingerie, the survey said.
Beijing expats also find it hard to locate "large-sized clothing" that fits.
Clothing markets prove popular for hunting down fashions, with more than half of expats buying their clothes in Beijing's many markets or shopping malls, the survey said.
"Beijing is a great city for getting great bargains, but our research shows there are still some essentials which are hard to find or pricey for expats in the city," said Paul Afshar, a British native who has lived in Beijing for 10 months and co-founded the group buying website.
More than half of expats surveyed shop locally for food, but have trouble finding organic foods, according to the survey.
More than half of those interviewed couldn't find the products they wanted and shopped at foreign supermarkets with imported foods, including Carrefour and April Gourmet.
"Fresh organic foods are not very available here. (The stores) do not have much choice or it's too expensive," said Marianna Cerini, an Italian freelancer in Beijing.
Jenny Lou's supermarket in the Sanlitun area of Beijing said about nine out of 10 organic foods in its store are imported and the prices are higher than local products.
Very few expats surveyed found it easy to shop for groceries online, with only 2 percent buying food online, and 14 percent buying clothes online, the survey showed.
"Many expats are not comfortable shopping online, not knowing which site to trust or not reading the language in Chinese," he said.
Expats are also concerned about the price of healthcare in Beijing, with nearly two-thirds saying it was more expensive than in their home countries.
But transportation, housing and eating out are cheaper in Beijing than at home, according to the survey.
Generally speaking, living costs for expats in China have gone up.
On average, the prices of goods and services commonly purchased by expatriates have climbed 9 percent in China in the last 12 months, according to a survey on the cost of living for expatriates by ECA International, a human resources organization.
The survey, conducted twice a year in more than 400 locations worldwide, found that Beijing is the most expensive city on the Chinese mainland, and in 35th place globally - up 20 positions from the previous survey. Shanghai is 41st.
Jeremie Vidal said the biggest difference between shopping in China and in his hometown in France is not the quality but the price.
"You can find anything in Beijing," Vidal said. "But the price of the same thing can be higher here."
When he first arrived in Beijing two years ago, a meal of dumplings only cost about 5 yuan (75 cents). Now it is much higher.
While working with a French charity organization that helps orphans in western China, Vidal said even a cup of decent coffee becomes expensive if his lower income is taken into consideration. Early this year, he had to move from his old flat shared with three other expats because the landlord tried to raise the rent.
"The lifestyles of expats and Chinese are becoming similar," said Song Yanzhi, marketing executive of Solana, a shopping center adjacent to the embassy area and expat communities in Beijing.
Shopping malls and department stores have responded to the trend. About 40 percent of Solana's retailers are international chain stores.
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