Cultural Comparisons Through the Uniform Lens of Malls

Entering a mall is kind of like entering some international portal—everything is glassy store fronts with linoleum flooring, there are couples walking too slow you’ll get stuck behind, and the food court will have some butchered version of the usual varied cuisines. Today I had a mediocre burrito that dripped on my clean pants and then sat and watched terribly-dressed and self-absorbed teens. I could have been anywhere. (incase you can’t tell, I looove malls, oh yes)

There are a few things that stood out to me though. For one, having a giant grocery store (a WalMart-esque one like Carrefour) connected to the mall is unquestioned. Also, how much you spend on things in the mall slightly decreases how much you have to pay for parking, so you save your receipts. Also, in the food court you can order beer.

Another more cultural thing I noticed was guys being closer with each other, and even a teenager holding hands with what looked like his dad! This would of course be the epitome of uncool in the U.S., where men feel the need to add the disclaimer “no homo” when expressing affection for each other, but here it is quite normal. Combined with people that seem to have minimal inhibitions about personal space and are generally more people-y, the slightly stronger local flavor of homophobia interestingly frees straight men to be closer with each other—because the idea of them being gay is near-inconveivable, so they must just be good friends, no disclaimers required. I’ve heard about this in other places too, but I still dream that maybe there are places that have moved past both “super-homophobic” and “we’ll-tolerate-it-but-don’t-accuse-me-of-it” to “everyone-is-awesome-do-what-you-want.” I could probably go on forever (especially if we go into the super gendered dress code) and it’s certainly not as bad here as some places (there was a sizable pride), but Colombia still failed to approve gay marriage last Tuesday so that’s that.

Then I found something also unlikely to be found in the U.S.:

I spied this waiting in a checkout line and thought, “ok, my Spanish is very minimal, but I am pretty sure that candy is called ‘Kiss from a Negro Woman.'” I suppose this is more bizarre than actually racist, but whaaaat. The candy is just s’mores: marshmallow on top of a graham cracker covered in chocolate. It reminds me of how Brazil nuts used to be called “nigger toes.” Not appropriate anymore.

Well then, surprising little deviations from an otherwise indistinguishable mall. You like that scholarly title? I think I have too much free time on my hands.


About syd

I like beats & beets
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