Illustration: Xia Qing/GT
For my upcoming vacation, I already have a long list of shopping requests from my friends and relatives back home in India, from Chinese-brand smartphones to clothes and spices.
As it always happens, as soon as I tell my mom I am coming home, half the country gets this news. More than the crowded flights to India at unearthly hours, it is the products that I always need to buy from China that scare me.
I love shopping, but only for myself. Bringing home gifts is still more interesting because it is always a pleasant surprise for others. However, hunting for something that my friends have asked me to buy is a pain.
They assume that China is dirt cheap compared to other countries, or even India.
There was a time when Chinese consumer goods were cheaper. However, that is not the case any longer.
When I first came to China, one Chinese yuan was equivalent to six or seven Indian rupees. Now the ratio is 1:10.
There is no point in buying things from China and taking them to India.
One time a relative asked me to buy saffron from China for cooking Indian dishes, so I asked a Chinese colleague to get me some saffron from Inner Mongolia.
Just a tiny pinch of saffron cost me 500 yuan ($74).
My relative disappointedly told me I should have a big heart and bring more quantity.
I learned my lesson.
Now I buy more quantity of it in India and tell them it is from China.
They feel happy and so does my wallet.
The most common demand is for clothes. However, clothes are no longer as cheap as in the past, even in places like Yashow Market in Chaoyang district, which is known in expat communities for its low prices. The only thing I do now is ask locals to buy some goods for me online, which are ostensibly cheaper than an open market.
One year I took Chinese-made umbrellas and the next year it was Chinese green tea.
I even took Chinese snacks and candies, but everyone cursed me more than being thankful because they did not like the taste.
My Chinese friends who work for international companies tell me they take empty suitcases on their business trips to some European countries to bring back household consumer goods.
They say these goods are cheaper abroad and of better quality.
Now everything is available everywhere, but some people expect foreign goods for free.
So my dear country folks if you are listening, China is different now. The quality of goods has been improved and people are paying more for a good life these days.
Big cities like Beijing and Shanghai are even more expensive.
Except for Chinese noodles, everything is more expensive here.
And I am sure you don't want me to bring Chinese noodles back home!
This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.