Why Asians Use Lots Of Plastic Bags

“Here’s your change and receipt,” said the Woolies cashier.

I pocketed the slips of paper and stood still. She pushed the two boxes of Shapes biscuits and one packet of Freddo Frogs on the counter towards me. I waited. Where’s a plastic bag to carry my things in?

Paper bags seemingly aren't that popular in Asia. Plastic bags still are | Weekly Photo Challenge: Object. Photo: Mabel Kwong

Paper bags seemingly aren’t that popular in Asia. Plastic bags still are | Weekly Photo Challenge: Object. Photo: Mabel Kwong

That was what happened on one of my first Melbourne shopping trips when I moved back here. After a decade living in Singapore and Malaysia, I was so used to cashiers automatically plonking my groceries in plastic bags without me asking – I thought the same applied Down Under.

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Hi, I’m Asian. I’m Paying In Full And By Cash

I always pay for my purchases upfront. When I shop for my groceries and chocolates, I pay for them in full. When I buy something slightly more extravagant such as a bag, chair or laptop, I also pay in full. Upfront.

I thought everyone paid in full for what they bought – with the exception of very expensive things such as houses, cars and boats – until I moved back to Melbourne. Paying by installments is popular and heavily in-your-face promoted by countless of places from supermarkets to hardware stores here in Australia.

Electronics store in Melbourne's city offers generous installment agreement payment plans. Photo: Mabel Kwong

Electronics store in Melbourne’s city offers generous installment agreement payment plans. Photo: Mabel Kwong

When I pass what I want to buy to the cashier at Target, I always get asked if I want a “lay by”. That is, I always get asked if I want the departmental store to keep my “purchases” for me, purchases that usually cost no more than $100, until I paid for them in full by installments. While growing up in Singapore and Malaysia for a decade, I was never ever asked if I wanted to pay in chunks when buying clothes, food and furniture.

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