It’s not that I really desired to own a water bottle in the shape of a giant red pencil, it just kind of happened… And my brightly chequered pencil case was the least garish or sweetly girly thing I could find. One of my favourite things to do in a foreign country is explore the unfamiliar aisles of a local supermarket, and our on-campus student stores certainly provide much rich fodder for contemplation. Unusual snacks aside, doing a spot of shopping for everyday use items today was a challenge. I physically could not prevent myself from wrinkling my nose in distaste at the prospect of having to actually buy some of the stuff.
Let me explain. I am someone of simple tastes, even by western standards. My favourite colour to wear is black (which is not even a colour), I like neutral tones and I generally avoid patterned things or anything too frilly, fussy or colourful. Yet fussy, frilly and colourful is more or less what everything is over here. There is a serious Asia-wide penchant for cute things (think Hello Kitty), and this invades even the most mundane of household items. Clothes shopping is draining for the sheer effort of finding something that is not adorned with some picture, garish ornamentation, or strange English. Even just buying a plain mug is nigh on impossible; there will be something or other printed on it.
I was obliged to buy a patterned pencil case, though a plain one would have been preferable, and after spending an unreasonable time staring at water bottles, I finally plumped for the one shaped like a pencil, for its practical qualities naturally, rather than its… interesting form. Of course when I use the word “weird” I am imposing my own western tastes and perspective on another culture’s. It is simply a matter of difference in partiality, and I find myself increasingly purchasing things I would not normally in England; though out of sheer necessity, rather than delight at their design. An alarming proportion of my possessions are now bright pink.
Admittedly my school notebooks all have some picture or pattern (and sometimes funny Engrish), though simpler designs were available. Back home I would never buy a notebook emblazoned with a picture of Tower Bridge, the Union Jack and the word ENGLAND on the front, but I saw it and couldn’t resist; there was something ironic yet oddly comforting in it. I’m actually starting to have fun. I also bought a, ah… a brown bin printed with a metallic gold fake Louis Vuitton style pattern. And I kind of like it – but in an ironic way, of course!
Sometimes, you just have to go with it.