Posted on November 17, 2017
The Mall and Minimalism: China Edition
I never expected to write or talk so much about malls. When identifying with any group of people, there is group behavior. When we embrace the group, our behavior tends to mimic theirs. This can happen whether we are trying to be an individual among many or not. This has been what has happened to me as I identify as a minimalist.
Minimalism is about embracing events, people and our social interactions more than accumulating material possessions. Even before I was a minimalist, I lived a budget conscious life where I bought what I needed and only used the money that I designated for each household account. It was very helpful when it came to saving money.
I have always looked at the obvious purpose of the malls, which is to promote spending. I stayed away from them because I didn’t want to spend money unnecessarily and I hated seeing people shopping for relaxation or because they are not creative enough to find some other activity. It bothered me to see people buying things they do not want to impress people they do not know or even like. I hated malls.
Since leaving the USA,and especially since arriving here in China, my attitude towards malls are changing. I can recall many times in the last few months when the mall was a blessing to me as a single mother.
When Bean had her birthday and we were in Morocco, it was so hot. We spent the day at the zoo and had dinner with a friend. But in order to do something special for a kid who has no brothers or sisters or friends, in a foreign country, I had to do something I would not normally do. I took her to the mall!
The mall had a great big indoor game center for kids, much like ChuckECheese in the US. It also had a wider variety of food than tagine and couscous. Bean was able to play, get balloons, eat ice cream and a hot dog. It made her day.
Another time, we were spending a few days close to the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. I didn’t want to get up on the day of our flight and make the long trip to the airport. We had already been traveling to get to Paris and I wanted to rest a couple of days before we flew out again. Travel can be tiring. We checked into our budget hotel and went to look for something to eat. There was nothing anywhere we could see except factories and business parks. However, there was an airport shuttle that made stops in the area.
We decided to take the airport shuttle and to our amazement, we found a mall. The mall had everything our lodging did not, a children’s play area, a gym, a cinema, many restaurants, a supermarket to buy meals if we wanted to eat in our rooms, and more. It was a relief. Bean could be amused. I could get a break and it was all in one spot close to the inexpensive hotel.
Arriving in China and looking for familiar brands, the sheer amount of malls has been alarming. However, since we don’t need the malls to buy unneccessary stuff, we use them to find the things we do need. They are great in so many unexpected ways.
First, most malls have a western style supermarket. They may be more expensive than the chinese store, but when we are looking for familiar brands that we trust, I will pay a little more. Every western style store is similar, but some carry more things than others. One store, that will probably become my favorite, offers vitamins and nutritional supplements. I was so excited. Many foreigners order things online, but I have never liked doing that. I am glad to see things that I want in the store!! They also had brownie, cookie and cornbread mix! I would have bought them if I had a stove.
When I don’t want to eat an inexpensive meal covered in oil and red pepper from one of the neighborhood restaurants, we can find a wider variety of food at the mall. We have eaten at several curry restaurants and enjoyed them. The hotpot restaurants, where you can eat a specially made soup sitting at a table with your friends and family, was a great experience for us. Each one has a different specialty. One chops open a large green coconut and pours it into the pot, another one may roast the crawfish standing at the table before you. It keeps you curious.
At the malls in China, it is easier to find activities for children. In fact, it is common. One mall has a HUGE rock climbing wall. Another one has a trampoline play space. Yet another mall may have the cinema, the arcades and more. It is very hot in this area of China, so it is nice to escape indoors to play.
While malls may still have their downsides, I am finding it easier to find the good things about them the longer I am here and the more that I frequent them. I do not believe I will ever change my habits and take up shopping as a hobby. That is not my temperment. I will take the good, and leave the rest. Just like a good minimalist.