Getting Personal When Buying Condoms at Watson’s China

At Watson’s in China, a little personal shopping got too personal when I decided to stock up on condoms. (photo by Calvin Teo from

“Your Personal Store.” That’s the tagline for Watson’s, the most popular pharmacy/drugstore shop in Asia and my go-to in China for so many health and beauty items I need. But after my experience this summer, I began to wonder if Watson’s wasn’t becoming “Your A Little Too Personal Store.”

Last summer, I lived mostly with my in-laws and visited Hangzhou or Shanghai only a few times. For me, that meant no Watson’s conveniently just around the corner or a short bus, subway or taxi ride away. So when I saw a Watson’s, I would sometimes kick into “storage mode.” That meant buying some extra peppermint hand wipes, another bottle of Johnson’s Baby Wash (for my sensitive skin), and, say, some more Durex condoms.

I’m a married woman, and yes, I wanted to replenish my condom stash. I sure couldn’t do it in my Chinese husband’s rural village, which probably sold those dodgy ones with what always looked like adult movie stills printed on the package. On this day in question, I still stayed with him in his rented room in Shanghai for a few more days, we’d have a few weeks or so together at the end of the summer before returning to the US, and what we didn’t use, we could always take home. Yes, condoms would definitely come in handy.

But I’d have to go alone on this one. “It’s easier for you,” John said. “They expect foreigners to buy these things.”

I couldn’t deny the truth in what he said — that many Chinese believed foreigners, especially foreign women, were so much more “open” about sex. Sure, I liked sleeping with my husband, and wasn’t afraid to say so. But that didn’t make me some foreign Jezebel ready to screw on the spot. Besides, I couldn’t hide in China — people noticed me everywhere as a foreigner, and that meant they might even notice my purchase even more.

“But people will stare at me, it will be so embarrassing,” I said.

He flashed me one of those “go-get-’em” smiles, and said, “You have self-efficacy, you can do this.” Then he patted me on the shoulder. That was all his way of saying, there’s no way in hell I will buy the condoms. Continue reading “Getting Personal When Buying Condoms at Watson’s China”