Retail therapy – by Tabitha

30 Nov

In Vietnam, there’s not very much for us to buy. We buy food and drinks, and flowers for the house, and toiletries, and that’s about it.

We can’t fit into most clothes here, so clothes shopping is out. We don’t want to amass too many knick-knacks or household items which we’d just have to get rid of, or ship, so we don’t buy these either. The post is too unreliable, so we can’t buy online. We spend money on travel, and eating (and at the moment, the wedding), but we just don’t really buy stuff.

When we pass through a city that has malls, we try to stock up on clothes and books and shoes. While malls certainly hold more appeal to me now – through sheer novelty – than they did two years ago, it’s not very fun going shopping because you have to and buying only the things you need.

I used to be a firm believer in retail therapy. Browsing shops on King Street was a regular pastime of mine, not from a need for new things, but because I really enjoyed poking around, seeing what’s in store, and buying things I liked. Now that this option doesn’t exist, I don’t really miss it, and yet I am 100% sure that I’ll return to retail therapy with a vengeance as soon as it becomes available to me again.

This is infuriating. Buying stuff just because it’s there is the sort of mindless consumerism which I’ve always loved to loathe, but it turns out that’s exactly what I do. I always thought that because I bought mostly nice, hand-made things from local shops, that I was somehow a cut above the consumers who buy brand-name handbags and jeans so expensive they’re chained to the rack. But it’s all the same mentality: whether it’s a Hermes bag or a hand-knitted scarf, you wouldn’t buy them – you already have more than enough bags and scarves – if they weren’t dangled before your eyes by window-dressers or Esty store-owners who know exactly how to lure you in.

I don’t know what the conclusion of all this is. That I doubt I’ll change as a result of my retail-free stint in Vietnam, but will instead just be filled with self-loathing every time I buy a new skirt? I think I also need to accept that I get around Hanoi looking like a massive dag most of the time, so my fashion “needs” here are significantly less than in Australia. All I know is that when I read about Australian consumer spending, I blanch at the thought of going home.


2 Responses to “Retail therapy – by Tabitha”

  1. Beth November 30, 2011 at 4:06 am #

    I nod. Since August I’ve been trying to avoid “emotional eating” and the eating of sweet treats in general. Amazing how the impulse to eat and shop are so interconnected for me. It’s all about “treating myself”. And with a child it becomes about “me time” too – both the shopping and the treats e.g. dessert, which is currently not a happening thing in our household. “Me time”, “you’re worth it” – I roll my eyes at those expressions on the one hand, but am guilty of their related consumer connotations. Go figure.

  2. Karen November 30, 2011 at 6:45 am #

    When I return to Australia, I luxuriate in the desire for consumer items. I don’t feel this desire in Asia. It’s astonished me, the cultural specificity of marketing. I had no idea. King St has our number.

    But when I lived in Australia I was plagued by the desire to buy things I couldn’t or shouldn’t.

    The “market” experience is surely one of the pleasures of life, common to people (usually women) all over the world. That’s how I justify it anyhow.

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