I’m not really one for shopping – browsing, yes, but actual shopping, no. I hate the pressure to find something that I need, I don’t like parting with much money, and I’m fussy. Clothes-wise, shoes are always the most frequent thing to be needed as I seem to wear them to tatters in no time. They are also the most frustrating thing to buy…
Before I came to Taiwan, I read a lot of blogs from women here saying how difficult they find shoe shopping here because the sizes aren’t large enough for the Western woman. The first few times I ventured out to buy shoes in Taiwan, I had quite demoralising experiences where in broken Chinese and broken English I was informed that my feet are too big. Strange, I thought, because I’m only a women’s size 5 and there are definitely Taiwanese women who are size 5 – though admittedly I can’t work out shoe size by sight. Luke seems to reckon a size 5 is probably the average here and it’s just the stock that sells out quickest, with mistranslation over my ‘big feet.’
However, back in the winter I bought boots no problem (costing NT $650, £12), the past two times I’ve looked for shoes have resulted in swift success! Being pretty tight when buying clothes, I consolidated my search to LuoDong night market – the thing about markets in Taiwan is that pretty much all over the country, the night markets are selling the same clothes etc just at different prices and with varying levels of stock (i.e. different sizes, colours in store). You can walk from one store to another and they might have your size in the exact same pair of shoes you liked in the first shop but were out of stock.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided my converse were officially destroyed and starting to destroy my feet: I needed a pair of uber comfortable shoes for walking in. Though I couldn’t find a reasonably priced pair of walking boots (as the reasonably priced places seem to think only men need hiking shoes, not women), I settled on the most comfortable triple sole padded pair of trainers I’ve ever had, which I did post on our blog in the excitement of my first shoe success in Taiwan – but it took me four different stores to find that success! Luckily, I have terrible fashion taste so am more than happy to be wearing sunshine yellow shoes (costing NT $1200, approx. £20).
This morning, I went through the night market not so much in search of but ever-needing a better pair of shoes to be wearing when I teach Kindy. At work we need to wear indoor shoes and I’m still wearing a pair of undesirable black women’s crocs that the previous teacher left behind at work. I’d complimented two of the Taiwanese co-teachers at work on their gorgeous dark yellow plimsoll-like shoes adorned with small union jacks on the back, and then I saw they were in the night market in various different colours. I ambled into the store, expecting to have a woman shake her head at me – nope, your feet are too big. But she went off into the backroom and lo-and-behold my new shoes! (costing NT $347, approx. £7).
So it’s really not so difficult to get shoes for the average Western woman here, certainly not if your shoe size is under a UK size 6. It just means a bit of shop-trawling and not allowing yourself to be disheartened in the face of shoe adversity.