Do you have a clear sense of your personal style? And does it change, depending on the country you live in? I have lived in more than 7 countries, and looking back on living in all those places, I would say that the place you live in always has an effect on your style. Now that I write about style and fashion all the time, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on how different my style was in each country I lived in. I will highlight a few.

The Netherlands (Amsterdam, Nijmegen)

I was born and raised in The Netherlands. The Dutch are known to be direct but relaxed people, who do not like to show off their possessions too much. Society is very much based on equality and millionaires could just as easily own a simple car, rather than a big Mercedes. This is also reflected in the way they dress. Big brands are certainly not the norm in The Netherlands and when I lived there last (about 13 years ago) many of the major brands did not have shops in Amsterdam. One saying in the Dutch language is “Act normal – That’s crazy enough”. That is how I used to dress there. Reasonably safe, comfortable and a bit fashionable.

Style tends to be characterised by:

  • Comfortable clothing, jeans and jumpers are very common.
  • Layers. Due to the unpredictable climate, the Dutch like to dress with lots of layers. Tunics over trousers, cardigans, and lots of jackets are very common.
  • Practical accessories. Many Dutch women carry very practical bags like little back packs. Easy to take on our bikes.
  • It’s not about the brands. The Dutch don’t care so much about brands. We want reliable clothing at good prices that are practical yet fashionable.

Italy (Bologna)

My time in Bologna, italy was too short (only 5 months) but in those months I really got a taste for Italy and fell in love with the country. In Italy fashion is hugely important. All major brands are represented in each city and dressing well is of utmost importance there. My experience is that you always pick up the vibe from the local style scene, so in Italy that certainly meant shopping! My style was a lot more fashionable and tailored here than in The Netherlands.

Characteristics of Italian style:

  • Tailored clothing of high quality.
  • Fur is seen everywhere in winter.
  • You dress to be seen. One of my favorite customs in Italy was to join the crowds on Sunday afternoon walking at incredibly low speed in the high streets. All the shops were closed, people were just doing the ’rounds’ and the sole purpose was to watch others and be seen.
  • The lastest fashion trends are meticulously followed and high quality items are favored.

Japan (Yokohama / Tokyo)

In Japan major brands are hugely important. I lived in Yokohama which is close to Tokyo, and shopping is important here (there are lots of shops too!) but one of the most important things for every Japanese woman is to own at least 1 Louis Vuitton designer bag. Literally everyone has them, from the wealthy to the relatively lower incomes. Brands are seen as status symbols, so to be part of accepted society, you’ve got to have it. My style was dressy and fashionable here, although I did not succumb to buying a Louis Vuitton bag.

Style characteristics:

  • Designer brands (especially Gucci and Louis Vuitton) are very important,
  • Quirky street style from the young.
  • Latest trends are followed.

Australia (Sydney)

I spent 7 years in Sydney, Australia. And what you may have heard of the relaxed ozzy lifestyle is true. Everything tends to be more laid back here and that is certainly reflected in what people wear. You will see very few women in high fashion here. Instead dressing comfortably is taken to a new level. Of course there are always the exceptions and there are a few trendy shops, but on the whole, casual relaxed dressing prevails. I know I wore lots of t-shirts and baggy trousers during that time! Characteristics of Australian style:

  • Lots of shorts or three quarter pants for both men and women.
  • Sneakers, comfortable shoes.
  • Not much focus on brands or designer handbags.

China (Shanghai)

This city has grown tremendously over the last couple of years and that is reflected in its shops as well. Lots of new shopping malls and all major brands are represented. The Chinese like to buy the brands once they are a bit more well-off, although it is not as important as in Japan. Many Chinese are still finding their sense of style and the traditional dress qipao is still very much part of the culture and seen a lot. In China you can really let your imagination run wild. I had some custom boots made, as well as coats, skirts and other garments. They were all fashionable with a little asian flavour.

Characteristics of chinese style:

  • Nice combination of western and asian influences with lots of silk available everywhere.
  • Creative. Many make their own clothes or have them tailored.
  • Fake brands are everywhere in China, so you never really know if someone’s Gucci bag is real or not.

Singapore

I have now lived in Singapore for more than 5 years. With my Dutch influence and 7 years in Australia, it became clear pretty quickly that I had to up my game a little in Singapore. I was still carrying my comfy leather backpacks to parties and wore my comfortable shoes. In Singapore people are pretty laid-back in terms of clothing during the daytime (although at work dressing is very traditonal and formal) but they really dress up for parties. I have learned to dress more ladylike here, got some good hand bags and acquired some wonderful shoes with heels!

Characteristics of Singapore style:

  • Fashion is important.
  • Showing of your wealth with possesions and clothes is common.
  • All the brands are represented here multiple times, but good independent boutiques are harder to find.
  • Formal work attire with suits and dresses.

This sums up my style journey across the countries. Although some key elements of my style have remained the same (minimal, a bit of fun, asymmetry; fashionable but comfortable) I have found that you always adapt your style at least a bit in each country. Dressing and style is very much influenced by your environment, and you tend to go with the vibe in each country.

Did you live in a different country? And did you notice a change with your style?

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