Monday, July 11, 2011

Same Same, But Different! Part 8: Personal Grooming Products

I tried this Vaseline lotion, but I still don't look like the man on the billboard.

Anyone who has already visited Thailand knows about this. If you're in that group, you're excused for the day, but the rest of you are welcome to stick around and maybe learn something new.

We first looked at the phrase "same same, but different" back in April of last year. It's one you'll hear on your first visit, and here's another example of how things here and there are indeed the same... but different, even if only slightly this time.

Personal grooming products eat up a huge percentage of disposable income in the West; for many people, anyway. Some of us are are more vain than others, so that percentage varies.  I'm one of the least vain folks you'd ever meet, trust me.  I very rarely follow a fad, I don't buy fancy soaps or colognes and I don't make fashion statements as much as I do fashion slurs. That said, I keep myself cleaner than many, practice good oral hygiene, wear deodorant and dress respectfully for whatever the situation calls for.  

The Thai are, in general, a very clean group.  Some of that undoubtedly has been handed down through history because of the very nature of the hot, humid climate there, but  tropical hygiene really only requires basic soap and water, used while bathing regularly. It doesn't require high-cost "foo foo", as  my brother used to call it, but Americans spend billions on hair care, skin care and cosmetics.  While the Neisen ratings people said 80% of us in the US agree that regular brands of these are just as good as the fancy name brands, those still have quite a market... and it's a lot the same all around the world, including those with more disposable income in Thailand.

A night market stall displaying personal grooming products

You certainly see a lot of personal products for sale in Thailand - from the higher end label stores in the glitzy malls to stalls in the local morning markets.   The advertising for it seems to be just as prominent (and pervasive) there as it does here at home, although I wasn't entirely sure if the billboard up top was so much an ad for the Vaseline lotion as it was an idea for traffic control by way of hot air blasting.

A stall stacked high in a Pattaya morning market

Skin lightening creams are popular, as the feeling among many there is that the lighter your skin tone the higher your social ranking, but that's true in many countries, cultures and, indeed, races themselves. An African-American friend's mother used to reign in his uppity attitude by telling him "Don't you go getting all 'high tone' on me," and I'm guessing you can think of similar examples yourselves.

I'm not criticizing anyone who buys a lot of "better" name brand shampoos, cosmetics, soaps, creams or lotions at all.  Rather, take this as a repeated suggestion that you may well be able to find them for less in Thailand, so save some weight within your baggage allowance and consider stocking up.  In fact, many of the same items you buy here can be found there for noticeably less.  Try one of the cavernous Big C or Tesco-Lotus stores there, even if only just to browse a bit or pick up items you forgot back at home.

Let the Sensodyne toothpaste by the register in the photo below serve as another reminder that although you're in a foreign land, there are plenty of things that are "same-same, but different".

Toothpaste and other impulse items at the Tesco-Lotus registers

1 comment:

Sam said...

I'm on your side in the expensive-stuff-isn't-really-any-better-than-the-regular-stuff debate. Frankly I'm amazed that so many people of all persuasions get so suckered in. I have been too in the past. The whole idea that if you buy the latest blah blah blah you'll eventually have the face of Reese Witherspoon or the body of Adonis is so funny. Advertisers are just brilliant. Did you know there's even sixpack-cream? Can you imagine? No more exercise, just smear this on your belly. Awesome. Doesn't work (so I've been told - honest).

And I really LOVE doing mundane shopping in supermarkets when I'm abroad. It's one of the "magical" times you can feel part of the real, non touristy, environment.