Cash in your credibility
TO shop, but where to shop, that is the question. It seems a simple enough choice which would be dictated by your bank balance. But in Hong Kong, shopping more than most cities defines status. Reality rarely enters into the equation, as anyone who has ever attempted to stand still outside the Sogo complex in Causeway Bay would know.
There, people who must have been genetically programmed to shop descend to the place from MTRs, buses, trams and taxis and exist first to mill, and secondly to shop.
Based on that experience it would be reasonable to claim that a) people in Hong Kong have more T-shirts, caps and jeans than they ever need, and b) that they spend more time in search of the ultimate garment than anyone in the world.
As an inveterate young shopper explained this week: ''It's in our blood. I call up my friends and say: 'Lets go shopping.' We look for bargains. For styles. Just window shop. '' So where lately, is it socially correct to shop? It's tricky. The scene changes fast but some general rules apply.
First, never be seen shopping in Central after 5pm. The sample shops of Wellington Street, and their sub-designer siblings on the fringes of Lan Kwai Fong must attract the committed trendies but rarely out of office hours, Central, Landmark and Queen's Road does not count.
Second, only admit to being in Pacific Place, Taikooshing, the New World Plaza, the Ocean Centre and Sha Tin's shopping complexes, if you are in a group, on the way to eat and/drink, or with the family.
Marks & Spencer might be acceptable if you are a westerner, and therefore BIG, as is Esprit for the environmentally hip. But please, make no major purchases at any mass-market boutiques like G2000 or Theme. They may provide staples for your wardrobe but only at sales time.
Third, avoid like the plague the length of Nathan Road from Salisbury Road to Jordan, its immediate street environs, the miserable East Tsim Sha Tsui precinct and passe places like Queensway at Admiralty.
Only fools, tourists and people in need of replacing their disintegrating silk shirts go there, and under duress. You could ask: ''Who needs one more silk tank top or fake designer T-shirt?'' Nobody of course, but can a Hong Kong shopper be trusted to be sensible and say no.
Fourth, obey the genetic programme and gravitate to the nearest very large and confusing Japanese department store. It does not matter that you only buy a notepad or a birthday card. At least you've got the carry bag. It has a long life ahead of it carrying around your lunch so it should be quality.
Fifth, if you have the energy go to Wan Chai's Spring Garden Lane and the Jordan markets. But do not waste your time at Stanley, (except for the shop up the alley with Country Road samples) or in Granville Road, TST, unless you know the two shops that count (phone us for the Chinese names).
Sixth, certainly buy some of the most over-priced designer clothes in the world, but please get it right where you spend. Ridiculous purchases for clothes you will never wear out must be made in the upper level reaches of The Landmark in Central, PacificPlace and the new Times Square in Causeway Bay.
In Kowloon, the millionairess's rows are at ground level in the Regent Hotel Arcades and the three floors in the Peninsula Hotel complex.
The duty free stores used to be good for throwing away money but the Japanese, have been forced by economic circumstances to stay home this year.
Seventh, I just happen to know a really terrific little shop in North Point that sells 501s for $79 . . .