Globalization via my medicine cabinet

13 Jan

Before I moved to China I asked everyone I knew who had been there before what I should pack.  I got all kinds of advice – in fact that was my very first blog post on my former blog (The Shanghai Chronicle).  I took the advice seriously and pretty much packed it all (and lots more).  In my two suitcases I crammed all matter of things that were used for my first 9 months in China.

Five years on, some of that advice no longer holds.  The number of international stores in Shanghai has blossomed – from a Marks and Spencer where I can buy puff pastry and dresses that actually fit to the chain Watsons (a drugstore) which carries Cetaphil (my face wash).  More and more of what I deem to be “normal” is appearing in the shops – and I’m guessing is also purchased by Chinese customers.

One thing that I remember specifically being warned to pack was dental floss.  I was warned that Chinese people don’t care much about oral hygiene and since it was small, I should tuck it into my bag.  Each time I have gone back to the US, I have continued to purchase a roll or two because it was something just not worth researching.  Unfortunately, this time when I was back in the States, I forgot.  My dental floss ran out only a couple days after I got back.

If I asked someone to mail it to me it would probably cost more in postage than the floss itself so I started looking for alternatives.  My supermarket had some “dental floss picks” – which I bought, but was not very impressed.  I had almost given up when I was in a 7-11 by my office and saw that they had dental floss.  In a convenience store!

I bought a roll and took it home, examining the packaging and opened it up.  It was regular dental floss.  Turning the roll over, I realized that it had been made in Ireland.

The global dental floss

The global dental floss

That is a story of globalization.  Dental floss purchased by an American woman at a convenience store in Shanghai that had been made in Ireland.  It boggles the mind.

So now, I need to hope that American-style deoderant can make that same long trip!

Have you ever marveled at where the most basic of commodities comes from?


15 Responses to “Globalization via my medicine cabinet”

  1. abc in shanghai January 13, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    Yes! Like the Apple products which are made in China, technically have to “leave” the country and come back in so the govt can ensure their tax base!

    • gkm2011 January 13, 2013 at 9:48 am #

      That happened to me too – I got an iPad for my birthday (made in Chengdu) and it had to go through customs to be delivered to Shanghai. Crazy…

  2. roomaomao January 13, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    Yup, Family Mart with the dental floss! I discovered that sometime summer 2012. Awesome!

    • gkm2011 January 13, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

      Who’d have thought? I couldn’t find it in EMART or Lianhua or anywhere else, but Family Mart!

      • roomaomao January 14, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

        Thank the Japanese! (Though don’t tell the Chinese that.)

  3. expatlingo January 13, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Even when we were living in England, I couldn’t find American-style stick deodorant (everyone else in the world is apparently ok with roll-on or spray, yech!). I’m sure it’s somewhere in Hong Kong, but I stocked up over the summer in the US anyhow to avoid the problem….

    • gkm2011 January 13, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

      Similar here – I prefer the “stick style” myself and don’t necessarily want the “sports scents” with lemon or really aggressive aftershave scent. I will say though, unless it’s really hot, there aren’t aggressive odors when riding the subway or in the office which must say something about its necessity.

  4. Sam January 13, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    It’s always the little things! I actually found stick deodorant at a Rossman (convenience/drug store) in Berlin, but it does not exist anywhere in the tiny town that we live in. And we also have the same dental floss, also made in Ireland 🙂

    • gkm2011 January 13, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

      That’s funny. I wonder where else that Irish dental floss has wound up? Any other folks in the world seen it?

  5. ladyofthecakes January 13, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    Hurrraaah for globalisation! Toiletries aside, I cannot even tell you how much I miss Marks and Spencers underwear. Every Brit abroad has this problem, it’s such a cliché… but one that’s actually true!

    • gkm2011 January 13, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

      I know that when the store came to town there was much rejoicing in the expat community. It’s now a couple of years later. 🙂

      • ladyofthecakes January 13, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

        I’m so jealous! As you’ll no doubt remember, there’s a dearth of supermarkets in Toledo. Things haven’t much improved in the ten years since you’ve lived here. It’s a major drawback 😦

      • gkm2011 January 13, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

        I do remember that. I actually lived outside the city and commuted via bus each day to classes in the old city. Seems like a lifetime ago! I remember the American Store in Madrid where we would buy peanut butter and maple syrup and other yummy things. 🙂

  6. Dr. Novy Scheinfeld January 28, 2013 at 5:44 am #

    Reblogged this on the right smile.


  1. Toothbrushes and cultural differences | 中国 Jumble - April 3, 2014

    […] Unfortunately, dental hygiene is not necessarily top of mind in China (I wrote a post on dental floss and the global supply chain some time ago) and so electric toothbrushes are not yet a standard part […]

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