What image does the word swimwear bring to your mind? For me it is the image of beautiful girls wearing colourful (and pretty small) bikinis. But if the word Chinese is accompaning the word swimwear, the image conjured in my imagination is completely different.
Have you ever seen a Chinese swimsuit? If you live in China the answer is probably yes.
The swimming trunks for men are of the shorts kind, but very tight. Usually there are only two available colours: black and dark blue. It’s in the women’s swimsuit department that the designers let their imagination fly: impossible patterns, gaudy flowers, frills, fake pearls, golden ornaments… and much more cloth than the bikinis I am used to see in the Spanish beaches. When getting into the water, most Chinese women choose not to show too much, so swimsuits here usually come with short pants or a skirt, and the cleavage line is pretty high. In many bikinis the top part is long enough to cover from shoulders to hips.
I have something to confess: I own one of those swimsuits.
How did I end up owning this horrible thing? Of course there’s a story behind it! A few years ago, right after I moved to Suzhou, I had to go visit a supplier in Jiangxi province with one of the Spanish engineers. The supplier’s factory was located in Jiujiang city and there was only one flight from Shanghai, so we had to leave one day in advance and spend the night in Jiujiang. The following day we went to visit the factory. It took less time than expected: as it often happens, the pictures that the supplier had in their website were fake. They showed a shiny and ample plant, and what we saw was a small dirty place with just a couple of workers. They didn’t even have a toilet: when I asked the owner where the toilet was, he asked me if I wanted to pee or poo. A little bit puzzled, as I had never had a man I hardly knew asking me if I wanted to take a shit before, I replied that “just pee”. He then proceeded to show me the way to the chickens’ pen.
Maybe the supplier wanted to make it up for us (after all, we took a plane and spent 2 days to see a dilapidated warehouse in the middle of nowhere), or perhaps he only wanted to make sure he would receive more orders from us. Maybe the fact that we still had like 10 hours until our flight back departed also had something to do with it. The thing is, the supplier invited us to go to a hot springs. There were a lot of hot springs close to that city (Jiujiang means “nine rivers” and there were mountains all around) and he took us to one that had just opened. Everything was new and spotlessly clean and we were the only customers, so the attendants followed us the whole time offering fresh towels and hot drinks. Oh, and as I obviously didn’t pack a swimsuit, I had to get one in a shop next to the hot springs. I asked the seller: “Can I have one that doesn’t have a skirt?”, so she got me one with pants.