What shopping in India has taught me

Sophia Alfaro - India


January 31, 2019

Patience: it takes time to find the “perfect” sari, have a custom blouse
stitched for it, finding matching jewelry and a petticoat that will work.

Stamina: I spent over 10 hours one day walking and shopping the busy
streets of the city of Pune, India, with my host family. I’m proud to say I
kept strong for all of it, and never lost my temper.

Persistence: keep bargaining that price down, sis. Fight for what you
believe in!

Knowing when enough is enough and moving onto the next: Okay, so the vender
won’t budge. And anything over 100 rupis kind of hurts my soul (that’s
close to $1.50, so I’m just being stingy at this point). That means it’s
time to say “sorry, no thank you”, and go to the next stand or make the
executive decision to not buy what you wanted.

How to talk with facial expressions and hand movements: body language is a
common language we all know. If I scrunch my face inward and purse my lips
to the jewelry, kurta, auto, or fruit vala (seller) they know I’m not about
the price they gave me. Let’s try that again, shall we? How’s bis (20)
rupis less… Maybe…? 🙂

Distinguishing the difference between a necessity over a want: do I really
need to buy food right now, or should I wait to get back home and eat my
host mother’s just-as-equally and also a lot-more-healthy home cooking?

Do I really need to buy clothes when I already have a closet full of them?

Do I need another set of earrings? (This is always a yes. I do).

Honesty: as a business-oriented person, I don’t have the most trust in the
street sellers because there is no price tag on their products, so they can
tell me whatever price they want. If I were in their position, I would try
to ask the most of me. Start big and eventually get to the number I was
hoping to sell it at, anyways. But here they give me the same number they
give to any other person. They’re genuine and truthful. I find myself
having to rarely bargain, because it’s already so low. I also spend most of
my money on food.. which has a tag that I can’t really argue with.

How my background and culture can be summed up by one word; consumerism:

When I first arrived to India, I wanted to buy EVERYTHING. All of the
clothes, jewelry, books, food, etc, etc. Now I find myself turned off by
shopping. I have more than I need, and am continuously trying to use it all
up so that when I get home I’m not carrying a ton of weight with me. I also
made the mistake of buying a ton of things for my trip that I either never
used or could have gotten here. Lesson learned.

How to get souvenirs for friends: buy items in bulk, that way everyone will
end up with something. If you see things that remind you of someone you
love, though… get it for them! It’s a beautiful and thoughtful gesture to
show your love for them.

Value: spending money on (inexpensive) food and amazing experiences is so
much better than on items!

Self-discipline: walking away from something you desperately want is tough.
But it’s how you build character! When I fell ill, I couldn’t eat street
food for a while. Seeing all the options for food on the daily was so
disheartening, but made me more strong-willed! Likewise, not buying those
super cute earrings that were only 20 rupis over 100, makes me stick to my
standard and realize I didn’t need them anyways. I would be equally as
happy by my ability to walk away as I would be if I had bought them, minus
the guilt!

Sophia Alfaro