Buying decent undies when overseas is one issue many expat gals grapple with. It falls under one of the ‘lesser challenges of expat life’ and yet the struggle is real. It’s often a top of the list shopping item when heading home on home leave. In parts of the Far East you might be met with “Sorry madame, we don’t have extra big size for you”. In more remote places or less developed places the things you want simply aren’t available or maybe they are, but the prices are eye watering because they are imported.
We lived in Istanbul before moving to Johannesburg and there were a number of weekly local markets called Pazaris. These were places where locals (and expats) would go to buy spices, beach towels, table linen, cheap t-shirts for the kids and underwear (okay, this is probably not where expats would buy their underwear, but we’d enjoy haggling for some of the other items).
I noticed quite quickly that the stalls, selling bras and knickers, were almost always manned…by men.
Generally the bras were stacked cups pointing upwards or fetchingly pegged out on view above the stall.
It seemed ironic that in a society where many women dress conservatively, often partially or even totally covered, buying a bra necessitates a women holding a pointy Barbarella number up to her chest in front of a male stranger to guesstimate the size she needs.
And the battle cry of the bra man? He temps ladies to buy his wares by calling ‘ikizlere takke’, which means ‘hats for twins.’
More recently I spotted these spongey bootylicious knickers in Downtown Jo’burg. As you can see, my shopping companion couldn’t resist a cheeky squeeze.
I didn’t buy my hats for twins from the pazar and I really don’t need padded knickers. Plenty of natural padding thank you. To be fair, both Istanbul and Johannesburg have plenty of shopping malls with quite an array of international brands so underwear shopping is far from the biggest challenge expats face. However, shopping in a glossy mall is not how the majority of locals shop and it’s eye opening to see how they do.
Do you have an undercover underwear shopping story from anywhere else in the world?