Our apartment in Nairobi is steps away from a mall, and we’ve been shopping frequently, mostly because we keep realizing that we forgot something on our last shopping trip. I get a kick out of going to the mall because it’s both so similar and so different from malls in the U.S.
Here are the quirky similarities:
- The mall is a hideously ugly, bunker-esque building, which is surrounded by a chaotic parking lot.
- There is a food court with Italian, Chinese, and Indian food.
- There is a chain coffee shop, featuring your usual assortment of people camped out with oversized coffees and laptops.
- There is a natural food store, where one can buy such staples as Tom’s of Maine toothpaste (what!) and organic whole wheat pasta.
Here are the quirky differences:
- A security guard scans your body with a metal detector wand whenever you enter the mall. Even when the metal detector beeps in angry alert, the guard waves you into the mall.
- The butcher, the green grocer (fruits and veggies) and the regular grocery store are three different stores
- At the grocery store, refrigerated milk comes in two strengths: whole milk and whole plus milk (that’s right, it’s whole milk with extra fat added to it!)
- The escalators only go up. You have to take the stairs to get down.
- There are no pushy sales people crowing at you from those stalls that populate the middle of the hallway in most malls. (I’m talking about those stalls that are always selling hair extensions, remote-controlled helicopters, or pillow pets.) Our mall here doesn’t have them! (And thank goodness for that, if one more person tries to sell me overpriced hand lotion while I avoid eye contact and shimmy along the very edge of the mall hallway, I will go insane.) Instead of those stalls, this mall has folding card tables where people sell cheap African handicrafts. Or eyeglasses. And they don’t harass you.