While the range of certain products (international name brands of apparel and electronics, mostly) available in China leaves something to be desired, the selection of other consumer goods (particular toiletries, namely) at the supermarket is startlingly—ridiculously—vast. Toilet paper? Toothpaste? You're bombarded for choice. But nowhere is this selection more overwhelmingly wide than in the so-called "women's hygiene" department.
It's an awkward situation: You're struggling to figure out just which bundle of joy you should be buying, but your fumbling with the feminine products signals to supermarket staff that you need their suggestions, leading to an entirely embarrassing episode likely ending up in your choosing at random the wrong pack or aborting the mission altogether and refusing to leave your flat for a week.
To help you (or your boyfriend, husband, father, etc.) avoid such scenarios, we've put together a down-and-dirty guide to picking out your perfect pack of pads in just a couple minutes with minimal to no Chinese-language skills so you can be in, out, and on your merry, menstruating way.
Six Steps to Sanitary Pad Sanity
1.Scan. Use your peripheral vision to give the whole shelf a casual, non-committal once-over. At this point you're looking for two vital pieces of information:
a. A sun or moon. If you're looking for overnight action or otherwise have need for industrial-strength absorbency, choose the one with the moon. For all other occasions, the sun should suit you.
b.A number indicating cm or mm. Heavy bleeders, bask in the jumbo-pad heaven that are Chinese supermarkets: Pads up to 350mm long are widely available; some brands even carry 400mm. That's more or less long enough to cover the bulk of your britches, or beyond if you're inclined to bear undersized underwear. The length should be advertised rather loudly on the front of the package, often right next to another number—how many are in the package (followed by the measure word for pads, 片 piàn). From that number and by the size of the package you can deduce the relative thickness of each pad.
2. When you locate one that has the right combination of symbols and numbers, take it off the shelf.
3. Turn the package around until you locate a small chart. This will likely be on the top or the back.
4. The chart will give you an at-a-glance comparison of the maker's various models: daytime/overnight; cotton/dry weave top layer; and a diagram depicting the pad's shape and length.
5. Most manufacturers seem to offer both the "soft cotton" (棉柔 miánróu) and "dry weave" (网面 wǎngmiàn) top layer varieties, and most pad users seem to have a strong preference for one over the other, so choose wisely.
6. Do any cost comparisons and make your final selection.
Warm and Tingly Extras
• Most of the pads tend to be unscented, but deodorized versions are also available. The ABC brand carries a "minty fresh" sanitary napkin that leaves you (or rather, your crotch) feeling—supposedly—fresh and tingly.
• Panty liners and "feminine wipes" are also usually available next to the pads.
• You're likely familiar with some of the manufacturers, although the brand names cater to the local market so you might not recognize them immediately. Kimberly-Clark, the makers of Kotex, sells the 舒而美瞬吸蓝 and 高洁丝 brands. Stayfree sells its products under the name 娇爽. Proctor & Gamble, the makers of Always, sells the Whisper (护舒宝) brand. Japanese Unicharm's 苏菲 (Sofy) brand is also popular.
• The formal way to say "menstruation" in Chinese is 月经 (yuèjīng), but common slang refers to it as the "big aunt." In case you feel the need to announce the arrival of your period to your Chinese-speaking friends, you can say "大姨妈来了!" ("dàyímā láile!")
Finally, if all of this gets your panties in a knot, there are, of course, other options: OB tampons, available in several absorbencies at most supermarkets, including Hongqi, Huhui, Watson's, and Wowo stores, or making your own environment-, body-, and budget-friendly reusable cloth pads out of flannel, available in a wide range of prints at most cloth stores or at the Lotus Wholesale Market for RMB10 to 20 a meter.
This article was originally published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 26 ("How to 3.0").