I was chatting with the new girl at work – as you do, make people feel welcome – she was showing me her fake Uggs she bought on a China website and it opened the flood gate to my realities of China.
The hard cold truth: Everything is fake.I left China in the state of a total mind fuck.What the hell is this world we live in?
I wouldn’t say I was in the best place in my life moving there. I literally just sprung myself out of a period of heavy narcotic use and propelled myself into a full on detox in a foreign country – not a good idea. They allured me with a large arrival bonus – that Disney English. I arrived in China two weeks before Christmas – stung out, broke and totally unsure about what I was getting myself into. I just needed money.
I was pretty sure China was going to be like the rest of Asia, I had already taught in Japan and Korea – China couldn’t be all the different, right? The problem I had was I was fresh out of a hippie-commune-anti-consumerist-we-accept-everybody job and I started working for a company that didn’t celebrate difference. I started working for a company that celebrated my whiteness by allowing parents to select teachers based on their appearance. I literally had no idea what to even do with that. If you haven’t had the experience of teaching in Asia you wouldn’t know this – but for a blonde haired, blued eyed English speaking woman – it is fairly easy to get a job. If you know me in person – you would know I am also strikingly white (because I am photo sensitive to the sun [basically I am allergic to the sun] and can’t be exposed without getting hives – something I actually learned while teaching in Italy). Basically what I am saying is there is an assumption made by schools in Asia that the more Western you look, the better you must speak/teach English (I know I don’t need to say this but just to be on the safe side – THIS IS NOT MY PERSONAL OPINION.)
Starting with Disney didn’t feel right from the beginning. I was so comfortable in Korea but China – it was a different beast. Every where I went it seems like there were expensive cars next to horse and buggies. The dichotomy of rich versus poor was so hard to accept. I mean, I was dirt poor – but I was treated with richness. It seems to me that every time I tried to do something, buy something, find my way – it was always a battle of getting ripped off because I was white. It was such a mind fuck.
It wasn’t long in China before I realized that everything was fake. You could get knock offs of anything you wanted – clothing, booze, purses, cars, headphones – you name it, there is a copy of it. With all the textiles in the world farmed out to China it is no wonder that the people making the real version of something and selling it in North America make a second version and sell it in China. I owned so many pairs of fake TOMS I wasn’t sure if the ones you bought in North America were real or the ones I bought in China.
And, that my friends was the mind fuck. I couldn’t tell the difference. I didn’t know. I mean I had Tom Ford Sunglasses that I got in the glasses mart in China get looked over by an optometrist in Canada. He claimed they were the real deal. I told him I bought them at the fake market. This nonsense made me question my consumer habits. What had I been buying all these years. Was it real or fake?
Long after China I struggle with this conundrum. I had kind of finally put it to bed when my co-working showed up with the fake Uggs and it took me back to Shanghai and all the Uggs people wore and how fucking expensive they were in the first place but how may fakes were around. I mean the mark up on the textile industry is insane – maybe we should be buying fake. What the hell are we even supporting?
Is imitation the sincerity form of flattery? How do you feel about fake merchandise?