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A Change of Style



Shortly after discovering how to get around Tianjin, the company that I worked for introduced  a dress code which required all the male workers to wear a collared shirt. This gave me the opportunity to learn how to buy clothes as well as practice some small talk conversations. I needed to learn simple expressions such as, ‘I would like’, ‘where are’, ‘bigger and smaller’ as well as learning the names of items of clothing such as socks, shoes, T-shirts and trousers.

First of all, I needed to find a shopping mall that had a variety of clothing. I consulted with the girls who I worked with, as they were all enthusiastically keen shoppers, and from this  I discovered that there were many malls and shops on a street called, ‘bin jiang dao’ (婊ㄦ睙閬).This is just off Tianjin’s main road, ‘nan jing lu’ (鍗椾含璺) in ‘ying kou dao’ (钀ュ彛閬). I realised that carrying around the han zi for ‘bin jiang dao’ was particularly useful as you can show it to a passers by, or look out for the road signs, which display both pinyin and Chinese characters.

So I began to stroll around ‘bin jiang dao’, simply walking into shops and asking whether or not certain clothing was available. I know that I mentioned I was looking for collared shirts, but if these weren’t available, I would still ask if they had any trousers or T-shirts. This allowed me both to practice my Chinese and see the selection of clothing that was available within this city.

When asking if the shop had a particular type of clothing available, I initially said, ‘ni you niu zai ku/ti xu shan/chen shan/lv you xie’(浣犳湁鐗涗粩瑁/T-鎭よ~/琛~/鏃呮父闉) – do you have jeans/t-shirt/shirt/trainers? I later discovered that I could say, ‘type of clothing’ zai na (鍦ㄥ摢)? Where are the: ‘type of clothing’?

In England, I am a ‘medium’ with regards to the size of my shirts. But I quickly discovered that in China, the sizes are generally smaller than in England, and can differ from store to store. Taking both medium and large sized shirts to the changing rooms to see which one would fit easily solved this problem, but I still,needed to know how to ask for a medium and/or large. I started by saying, ‘xiao de, zhong de or da de’ (small, medium or large), something I would normally say when buying a coffee. This isn’t grammatically correct as the Chinese language has many ‘countable’ nouns, although I found that using the previous three terms isn’t a problem at all. If in doubt, use your hands to explain differences in size, as that has helped me quite a bit! However, if you are curious to learn the ‘countable’ nouns, please take a look at the following: A pair of jeans, yi tiao niu zai ku (涓鏉$墰浠旇¥) Two T-shirts, liang jian ti xu shan(涓や欢T-鎭よ~),Three shirts, san jian chen shan (涓変欢琛~), A pair of trainers, yi shuang lv you xie (涓鍙屾梾娓搁瀷).

So this now gave me enough Chinese to roam around stores and ask any assistants whether or not they had the clothes that I was looking for. If you have a spare hour or two on your day off work, then it can be an enjoyable experience spending the time to wander around shops, asking for clothing and discovering if you actually are a ‘medium’!

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