Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shops of the World

As you may know from some of my previous posts and if you follow me on Twitter, I've spent the last 18 months living in France, Germany and Spain. Tomorrow morning at a disgusting and frankly unspeakable hour I shall be lugging my suitcase, my hand luggage and myself off the airport and back home via Paris Charles de Gaulle (for my sins). But before I trundle back home for a while I thought I'd give you a quick run down on the shopping experiences I've had during my time as a European.

So starting with my first: France.
I had a rough time in France, I was stuck in the midst of educational strikes at one of the most militant universities in France, and the riot police had to be sent in to remove protesters after 5 months of strikes, blocages and vandalism. The other thing you should know about FR is that it is a VERY expensive place to live.

So... 2 Euro Shops. Everywhere else you'll find £ shops, or Euro Shops, but in France it's 2 euro shops. They're great for odds and ends, things you don't need to be of high quality or lasting, or home items. This isn't fashion related I know, but worth knowing.

Bershka, a Spanish shop operates in France- a great place to find something basic, or something to set apart your jeans. My favourite studded vest top came from Bershka in FR- 12 Euro.

You'll also find New Look in FR. However it may pain you to purchase things there, because like a lot of British shops in Europe, the Euro mark up is horrific!

So moving on. Germany. Despite the Wall coming down 20 years ago, there are still differences between East and West. I've visited former Western cities before on several occasions, and they tend to be large, cosmopolitan, filled with a variety of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. They feel warm, inviting and thriving. I lived in former East Germany for 5 months, about as far East as you get without being in the Czech Republic in fact. The cities feel different. Disjointed, a mash of beautiful ancient architecture and ugly concrete blocks that take you back. The choice seems to be more limited, and the cities have  a harsher feel to them. They also have thriving artistic, musical and dramatic cultures. I LOVED it. By far my favourite place despite it being -18 degrees for most of December and January and not having central heating in my flat. There again what did I expect for 120 Euro per month all in?

DE is a reasonably priced place to live. Cheaper than UK, and if you're a student your money will go a long way. Shopping is however a little limited. H&M seem to have a massive hold on the market out there. Good news- cheap, good selection as there's likely to be 3+ in any one city, the shops have GREAT heating! Bad news- someone else is often likely to be wearing the same thing, there are only so many times in one month you can trawl the shops and hope there's something new in, if their sizing isn't great for you (I struggle with getting my top half to fit their clothes) you're stuffed. Other discoveries.... there weren't any of note really. Zara seem to do well there, although their prices can be a bit steep and there are a couple of low priced shops specific to DE. Maybe I'm spoilt by having Primark to enjoy at home, but I found the choices in those cheaper shops limiting, boring, and not exactly up to the minute fashion.

I'm hoping to head back to DE soon. In particular Berlin. I lived near Berlin and visited, but felt I maybe only scratched the surface of what was there. Maybe the capital will provide me with more to say at a later stage?

So last, but not least. Spain.

They say we Brits have the best high street in the world, and certainly the most unique. Whilst I wouldn't say that's inaccurate, Spain has a lot to offer. In fact Spain is very present on our own high street. Primark is a Spanish company, as are Zara, Mango and Bershka.

The nicest thing about shopping in Spain has been a combination of high street shops which are affordable and offer plenty of choice. Competition can be a wonderful thing. My two favourites are Blanco and Stradivarius.

Blanco seems to be a favourite amongst 16-20 year olds here. For me this was majorly off-putting. I already look younger than my (almost) 21 years, I don't need further help, but upon wandering in, I realised with a bit of a poke about there were some bargains to be had. Blanco seems to have great sales. I still haven't quite cracked the logic on when they have them, but they're great. Lots of items, lots of sizes, great prizes and not just the stuff that reminds you of something your Gran might wear. One of my new favourite dresses came from there (pictures to follow I promise, but my camera cable is packed already!!!) it's checked, lightweight and a great summer find. It was also half price at 10 Euro. Score. Blanco also have a great selection of flat shoes. I live in flats, so it was heaven for me. They may not last that well, but they're cheap, cheerful and generally colourful!

Stradivarius. Violins right? Wrong. Well here in Spain anyway. Expect to pay a little more at Stradivarius than at Blanco, but still within my student budget. The shop has a cohesive feel to it with clothing organised into sections by trend, and everything seems to work together really well. They're bang onto current trends, but with a range of styles to suit everyone. I can't wait to bring out my latest buy from Stradivarius, although I'm saving it's first outing for my birthday. The floral dress is made of gorgeous cotton, and even more gorgeous is the pixelated floral print covering it. I am so excited to wear it!

So there you have it. Mapping Europe with the high street. I'd love to hear about anybody else's experiences shopping in Europe, finds, places to note, and places to look for, fill me in!

Hasta Luego, and hopefully on terra England with all my luggage!

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