Shopping is a cultural phenomenon if there ever was one. It is in the shopping behaviors that habits and typicalities of people are brought forward. What do they buy, where and how?
Sometimes I have to say it is striking how super markets or stores or malls, especially the newer built ones, look the same everywhere, no matter the state or country or region. And it is indeed a fact that real stators for mall properties as well as mall construction companies are growing faster and faster and thus broadening their geographic specters and becoming more and more international. So it really is no strange coincidence that a lot of the shops and malls look and feel the same. Sometimes with a local touch. A spice that is most likely part of the strategic plan of the mother mall company.
But the real local touch I would say comes from how the shopping takes place. At what time do people go shopping, which type of shops are the more frequented, and where do people actually spend their bucks?
A clear difference here in Portugal is that the shopping is late. Which is really about time and timings I guess, which people here have absolutely no relation to. So the shopping is late. On New Years Eve last year, a shop I visited was full over the brim with people New Years dinner shopping at seven at night. They did not look like they were actually late for something, they did not seem to be in a hurry, they had a coffee, they bought things that needed long preparation time. They were simply not stressed out. In Sweden, New Years Eve preferably starts earlier than other dinners since you want to be finished with food and ready for champagne at midnight. So pre-drink is early early. And starting to get dressed is even earlier. And shopping is before that. Well, in honesty, nothing is really bought on New Years Eve itself in Sweden, and if it is, it is a mishap. A big difference being of course, that in Portugal you can actually buy what you want to drink on New Years Eve in the food store, on New Years Eve itself. Not the case in Sweden.
Another difference is where the action is. People here seem very interested in food. Any grocery or super market here is nearly always full, or at least has a solid amount of people in them. Meanwhile, clothing stores echo with emptiness and along with the fact that music often seems to be a forgotten mood bringer, they can be on the verge of sad really. Some chain clothes stores seem to open up in shopping centers simply to have a name presence. Or maybe it is in the mall contract that is the same all over the world that they have to be part. You win some you lose some. I don’t know, but I do know that the one area except for the super market area that is vivid and alive, that is the food court. This is where virtually everybody who on any given occasion visits a Portuguese mall will set their foot. This is where people seem to thrive and enjoy. This is where they go to spend their money.
Could this be the sign of culture, or at least the state of affairs? That this basic need, the one of being fed, is what brings people here together and the one thing that there is always and always has to be, money left for?