The US or Emrica as the United States is known for many of us here in India stirs up different images for different people. The initial images of the Statue of Liberty, Niagara Falls and the White House have faded. Now for many of us the US has become a place to have different experiences, many times while visiting family and friends, and to extend one of our quintessential pastimes, shopping.

No trip to the US is complete without trips to the mall to buy and return goods, trips to the dollar store to buy gifts for the loved ones back home and let’s not forget trips to the our very own Indian stores for dry fruit and saffron purchases.

Good deals appeal to all our senses. This capitalistic country has taught the rest of the world marketing and selling skills with sales appeals to the bargain hunting devices. 25%-50% off, up to 70% off, buy one, get one free, buy 2 get one free, rebates, freebies are just the beginning. Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Valentines Day have been emulated by the world over by opportunistic corporates.

Liberalization has made nearly everything available in India, the keyword being nearly. Yes there are western clothes and Italian spices and excellent perfumes available now, the wide variety of choice is what is missing. We can go to a Nike or Addidas store and buy sneakers and track pants but what are the choices. In Sears, a department store, there are 17 types of Nike sneaker models and several types track pants. This is in a department store, in a sports store the numbers are much higher.

Then there is a question of price. In India, we have to pay a higher rate for quality. Last year’s model of a popular sneaker brand costs much more here. The same pair is outdated in the US and available at almost half the price in the majority of stores! In the US, there are bargains for just about everything and this is why the US is the number one shopping destination in the world.

People from all over the world, including the Europeans, Australians, the Chinese all think that the best goods are available at the best price in America. Stores such as TJMaxx and Marshalls sell designer clothes for one third the price. Walmart and Target sell almost everything you need to live at rock bottom prices. The US has been a consumerist society for nearly a century and the supply demand chain has been created by creative marketers forming in turn a healthy flow of goods. In other words, Americans have been shopping for more things for a much longer time than the rest of the world. When the times get tough the rich go shopping.

Online shopping has made bargain hunting a science with plenty of sites to compare prices as well as goods. Knowledge is power and now world over shoppers have become armed with the power of knowing where to buy the best goods at the best prices. So to those grandparents who have traveled to the US and are stuck at home babysitting, there are great deals online.

With shopping comes stuffing, better known as packing. The weight limit for bags used to be 32 kgs for trans atlantic travel but a few years ago one bright airline executive decided to reduce the weight to 22 kgs or 50lbs. The porters and baggage handlers no longer needed physical therapy to tackle their occupational hazard, at least less frequently, and soon enough all the international carriers followed suit.

When the weight limit was larger, the bag size was larger as well. The largest possible suitcase on the market was needed and was stuffed to capacity with gifts and corelle dishware for the home. With the decrease in weight limit, those large bags have ample room and all shopping is done with weight in mind. After all, 50 pounds is not much, especially if you have a 20 pound bag of almonds.

There are a few things you get in the US that is not available in India. There is a delightful dry fruit called cranberries. The real fruit is sour but the dried version is sweet and tangy and tastes great in salads or just eaten plain. I also love bagels and jalepeno cream cheese from a local bagel shop in Boston, the city I frequent most often. When I bring back a dozen they are devoured within 2 days by the family.

Returning to shopping in India has its charms. You can get things cheaper, albeit the quality is lacking, but who needs great quality $10 rubber slippers anyway?

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