“No shopping malls”

I was reading an article in Salon.com about a reporter visiting South Africa for the World Cup, and found this description of Soweto:

Old photos of Soweto show tracts of tiny, rectangular, one-story brick dwellings with bald lawns of worn-down grass. The government built successive developments of identical houses; if you said the name of your neighborhood, it would be easy to guess the layout of your home. There was rarely electricity or indoor plumbing; there were few parks, few streetlights, no shopping malls.

With that last sentence, I knew the author was American. It’s the expectation of shopping malls that gives it away.

The oldest true shopping mall in Lisboa opened in 1985. So an “old photo” of Lisboa would show no shopping malls, just like Soweto. I suspect old photos of most European, Latin American and Asian cities would show a lack of shopping malls, because malls are an American export.

I live in a much smaller city than either Lisboa or Soweto, having a population of around 21,000 people — but I came here from an even smaller American city, population 10,000. Yet that American city had more streetlights, more traffic signals, and several strip malls. I’m happy to say my adoptive home has no strip malls whatsoever, and we have to drive quite a way to access a shopping mall. May it stay thus for many years to come.

About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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4 Responses to “No shopping malls”

  1. Ana_ñ says:

    What interesting observation!
    Even if globalization is changing the world very fast, fortunately, there is still great variety. Not shopping malls, but large department stores are quite “old” in big European cities (as in Manhattan). In my city, although shopping malls don’t have much success in downtown, where people like being and doing window-shopping in the street, they are spreading in less central districts and in new suburbs.
    I assume that you are talking about the typical American shopping mall, but you can use a little imagination: without the parking lot, air conditioning and movie theater, and changing merchandise and clients, what is a shopping mall if not a bazaar? 🙂

  2. Kugai says:

    Malls exist here, but they’re not as common as they would be in the U.S.

    Here we have one main Mall, Queensgate, and even though it went through a major renovation a couple of years back, it still would be considered a baby compared to some of the Malls that exist in the U.S. The next nearest is about an hours drive away from me, and that would be about the same size as the one here.

    I think the biggest Mall here in NZ is up in Auckland, and that would be approaching something most American’s are familiar with. But then, Auckland is our biggest city.

  3. Kugai says:

    Malls have their downside too.

    For instance, our local Mall has a McCardboard and an Subway,but can you get Brekkie from them? Oh no – they aren’t ALLOWED to open before 09:00.

    Mall sets the hours.

    And two outlets for two corporations that could buy and sell the Mall’s owners before breakfast (and twice on Sunday) meekly accept this.

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