Before expat families register for an online Ayi training course, I always approach the subject of shopping. Often they tell me to find it easier to do the shopping themselves because their Ayi does not really know how to shop, that she shops only for fresh products like fruits and vegetables, or she sometimes even categorically refuses to be in charge of shopping.
Have you once put yourself in your Ayi’s shoes and tried to understand why?
There are some very simple reasons for resistance.
First, make sure that this is not a practical issue:
– Perhaps she considers that she has enough work or that it is not her job. Or she thinks you have enough time to handle it. This is quite possible. One of my students told me one day, “But why does not she do the shopping? She does not work after all … ”
– If shopping means walking or cycling and carrying heavy bags, that is understandable. A little help from a driver might resolve the issue.
But in most cases, this is a matter of apprehension.
Your Ayi is afraid of making a mistake and coming back with the wrong products. Buying fruits and vegetables is not rocket science, but buying meat, fish, or imported products can be a real headache. Here are the reasons:
– You will have noticed that we do not necessarily eat the same meats. Pork and chicken are part of their everyday life. We appreciate beef and lamb; meat they eat little or very little. Moreover the way of cutting meats is often different.
– Your Ayi is not comfortable in a supermarket of imported goods. She is lost in the different aisles, and doesn’t know the brands. She cannot decode the labels. Do you remember the first time you set foot in Carrefour? I remember it as if it were yesterday, what a stress. Yet it was 10 years ago!
– Alternatively, she might be lost with all the different brands and will not know which brand to choose if the one you use in general is out of stock.
– She will naturally buy cheap, local products with Chinese inscriptions that she can understand. The prices of imported products are so disconnected from her level of income that she doesn’t want to spend astronomical sums. Let me give you an example. Imported fresh mozzarella costs between RMB 30 and RMB 90 per package! The price is one to three times her hourly salary and the equivalent of a meal for a family in a local restaurant.
– Finally, she might be confused with all the different brands and product varieties. How can she find Emmental or Cheddar sold in squares for hamburgers, shredded in a bag, or in bloc.
As you can see, there are good reasons for not wanting to go shopping.
So how do you overcome these hurdles?
You can simply tell yourself that your Ayi will be in charge of fresh products. On your side, online supermarkets like Epermarket.com in Shanghai or Carrefour have many imported products but also fresh products like meat. So why complicate your life with forcing your Ayi to shop?
Otherwise this is what I always advise. You can start by going to the supermarket together. Explain her how it is organized, where to find the products, what brands you like, and give her choices. Spend a moment in the meat department to explain the pieces you like. Show her where the expiration dates are and other important points of shopping.
Another important point: reassure her. Tell her that if she is wrong, it is not dramatic. You will always be able to consume the product or bring it back.
Finally, the prices of imported products can make it uncomfortable for her and you too! So explain why it is so expensive, what the difference is compared to a similar Chinese product and why you are willing to spend that sum.
Try these techniques and tell me about it!
Olivia is from South of France and is a food lover with an eye for nutrition. When she arrived in China she felt the need to iron out everyday kitchen problems so decided to teach her wonderful Ayi about balanced meals by introducing her to Western food culture. “Cuisine mei wenti” Academy was born out of this need. Later in 2014, as she became a busy mum, she realized how cooking varied food for her little girl was important. Follow her on wechat: guinebaultolivia, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign up for her newsletter on www.cuisinemeiwenti.com/blog, where this article originally appeared. Also take note, her online classes for ayis are now available.