I rarely meet a mall I don't like. And I rarely meet a mall where I can't manage to find something fabulous to buy. And few things are more exciting to me than coming home with bags full of goodies and announcing to my husband how much money I just saved! (He is always more interested in how much I spent, but, seriously, I love sales and when my savings outweigh my spending, well that is one heck of a good day! No matter what my hubby might tell you!)
So anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I like shopping. A lot. I like malls. A lot. And for as long as I can remember, I've been this way. But I might have stumbled upon a group of people who enjoy malls even more than me. Ah, yes, the Brasilians! (I should clarify and say especially in Belo Horizonte, since this is where I live and where I make these observations!)
Here's the scene from a day early in our stay here in BH: It's a beautiful sunny Sunday at 1:00 pm. Eric and I assume the mall is open since three floors of the hugamongous (you like that word? Isn't it great that I'm teaching English here!?! hehe) parking garage are quite full! We park and walk in. The mall is quite large, 2 stories tall, and has stores of all sorts. The corridors on both floors are packed full of people. We make our way near the food court - there's barely an empty seat to be found. Groups of people are hanging out eating and drinking beer. Kids are playing on the indoor playground. All the women are dressed to the nine's with high heels, fabulous purses, and colorful jewelry. It is a happening place for sure! But all the stores are closed. Seriously. The mall is packed, and not one store is open. Oh well sure, at 2:00 on Sunday afternoon the stores will open up and some people will wander in and out shopping, but most people aren't here for the shopping. They're here to walk around, socialize, drink, and, assumably, enjoy the rare air-conditioned space. You can repeat this scene even on weeknights when the stores close at 10:00 but at midnight people are still hanging out at the mall.
For a long time we were befuddled by this habit. I mean, even men seemed to flock to the malls (which is not something you see a whole lot of in the US, unless they are being dragged around by their wife or girlfriend, or unless it is two days before Christmas and they decided to start doing some shopping. Am I over-generalizing and portraying stereotypes here? My apologies, but . . .) This city has a whole bunch of malls too! And on any given day there are a lot of people at all of them who may or may not be shopping at all.
Belo Horizonte is not without places to go and socialize. There are countless restaurants, bars, botecos, etc. But one of our friends explained to us, "Oh sure, when I was younger I liked to go hang out at botecos, but now that I am older (he is in his low 30's) the mall is a great place for my wife and me to go, meet some friends, have some drinks..."
I'm not complaining. I am highly supportive of anything that involves going to a mall. Going without any desire to shop or at least window-shop is a totally new concept to me though. And a habit that highly intrigues me!