According to Asian sizes, I’m a bit robust. It doesn’t matter that I ran a marathon last year or that I’m currently cycling my way through Vietnam or that back home my stature is quite average. When compared to my lovely Asian counterparts, I’m just a bit bigger than they are.
I’m not a size 00, and that’s okay—until it’s time to do some serious shopping. While Asia can be a great place to stock up on inexpensive, adorable accessories, it’s not always the best place to find wardrobe essentials.
This is especially true when traveling through countries such as Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea. However, that’s not to say it’s impossible to find delightful purchases amidst the itty-bitty sizes. After calling Asia home for over two years, here are the top tricks I’ve learned:
If The Shoe Fits
There’s fabulous footwear to be had in Asia. Shoes are inexpensive (though not always good quality) and it’s not uncommon to find shoe shops on every block in some major cities. Unfortunately, they often cater to sizes below a US 10. The good news is that most of the inexpensive shoe stores carry all the same products. If one store doesn’t have your size, persevere! You might find it down the road. If you know your feet are a bit larger or wider, be sure to bring a few trusty pairs of shoes with you.
While the Asian clothing market caters to slim customers, many global brands and department stores will carry a wider range in sizes. If you typically wear higher than a US 12, this might be your best bet, though it can still be difficult to find sizes larger than US 16. Be ready to pay more for the designer names—sometimes even more than you would in your home country.
Connect With The Expat Community
If in doubt, ask the expats. They’re living and networking in the country; if anyone is going to know the shops that cater to foreign sizes, it’s them. Often Facebook and Couchsurfing are good places to search for expat groups and make connections. You might even find clothing stores owned and operated by foreigners for foreigners.
If you’ll be in one place for an extended period of time, remember that online shopping is always an option. Choose your favorite retailers from back home or look into local, plus-sized options. In Taiwan, many online retailers offer free, 24-hour shipping.
Embrace The Flow
Asian women often have few curves, which can make it especially frustrating to find clothes that accommodate the girls-on-top. Luckily, free and flowing shirts are currently quite in style. Consider buying loose-fitting tops and then customizing them with a belt. Remember traveling abroad is a great time to be bold and try new styles that might not look great in the office. Have fun and be creative with your finds!
Don’t Get Offended
It’s not uncommon for shopkeepers to make remarks such as ‘Too big’ or ‘Too fat’. Although it can certainly rub the wrong way, try not to take it personally. Often they don’t mean to be rude but are simply communicating with the only language they know. Above all else, keep a positive mindset. Remember, you’re beautiful, regardless of your shape or size!