Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An Experience Observing Shopping in Handan, Hebei

I'll share a light story about an experience that like the previous post about the couple in Liuzhou provided me an opportunity to observe shopping behavior in China. Far from Liuzhou, this experience took place in Handan, Hebei province (see here for the more than 1000 mile drive between the two). I don't expect it to necessarily inspire any ideas related to technology on its own, but it will help provide some additional color and context for a few upcoming posts.

While in Handan last year in November, I stopped by yet another mobile phone store to see their selection and talk with some of the staff:

four young ladies at mobile phone store
Assistants in their work uniforms and one of their friends at a mobile phone store.

After a lengthy discussion, one of them offered to show me around the city on their day off. I accepted the unexpected invitation, and the next day met her and two of her friends:

In short, they didn't have much of a plan for sightseeing, but they were thrilled to discover I'd be happy to go shopping with them. By "go shopping" I mean follow them around as they shop. I had no personal desire to go shopping myself, but I knew the opportunity to observe them could provide some useful insights.

The first shopping center they visited was here:

large shopping center

It was a large building full of small individually-owned clothing stores, such as this one which was owned by an acquaintance of theirs:

In upcoming posts I'll share more about the environments of similar shopping centers. But one detail about this particular shopping center is worth sharing now since it connects with the previous post. As in Liuzhou, Lady Gaga made an appearance, this time in the name of one of the stores:

small clothing store with the name Lady Gage on its window

After an afternoon of shopping, I asked them to pick one of their favorite places to have dinner since I was interested to know what type of restaurant they would consider "special". For example, when I presented this choice to a shop assistant in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province she excitedly chose KFC.

However, this time KFC was not the choice. Instead, they chose a restaurant well known in Handan for this favorite dish of theirs:

bowl of spicy duck heads

It's probably not clear from the photo, so I'll help out and identify that as a big pot of spicy duck heads. Thanks to some previous experiences with coworkers at Microsoft China I was prepared to tackle such a delicacy. Still, I couldn't have predicted that munching on a bunch of duck heads would be the way we'd close out the day.

In upcoming posts, I'll focus in on several items of interest two me regarding shopping in China that could have an impact on the design of technology. I think for now I have fulfilled my quota on posts regarding Lady Gaga and duck heads.


  1. Wow that dish looks pretty good actually but I like most anything spicy. I also like the more formal look of the salespeople in uniform. I miss some of that in America these days, though I appreciate the fact that the relaxation of dress codes may actually engender MORE comfort, therefore a happier employee. Interesting. W.C.C.

  2. Yes, I enjoy spicy dishes as well. For what it's worth, I've heard some workers in China express the desire for their company to adopt work uniforms.