Let’s Go to the Mall

The first time I ever heard those words was in 1977, a few years after Cumberland Mall opened its doors in Atlanta. At 1 million square feet and some change it was the largest mall in Georgia at the time and quickly becoming a favorite hangout for teenagers like me.

“Let’s go to the mall” was the mantra of American teenagers living in the ‘burbs for several decades. But with the advent of the internet, the American adolescent love affair with malls appears to have been supplanted by online shopping and Snapchat.

Fast forward several decades since I first heard those words, and I find myself in Istanbul on a rainy Sunday afternoon when my husband suggests “Let’s go to the mall.”

We Googled to find the largest mall in Istanbul — Cevahir — and headed out with our umbrellas.


At 4.5 million square feet, Cevahir is one of the largest malls in the world. In addition to more than 300 stores and 48 restaurants, the mall features a 12-theater cinema plex, a bowling alley and a roller coaster. The teen-age me would have been in mall heaven.


Every time I walk through a mall in another country I am reminded of how small the world is in the 21st Century. While there are some cultural differences in merchandise, the mall experience is essentially the same. Same type of marketing, retail floor layout, and ambience. Fashion merchandise is remarkably similar wherever you are.


It’s not uncommon to hear American music playing in restaurants or stores. And of course, a trip to the cinema plex will feature perhaps America’s greatest cultural export – Hollywood.

Just think about that for a few minutes. People worldwide experience America via what Hollywood churns out. What’s the last flick you saw and what kind of impression do you think it made on someone watching it in Turkey?

This afternoon, John and I had the choice between Fast and Furious 7 and The Pyramid. We opted for the latter and suffered through a script and plot so pathetic, it seemed more befitting of the Sci-fi Channel than an international film release.

Watching a bad movie in a mall theater made us a little homesick for American food, so we stopped by the Burger House to enjoy the quintessential American meal — cheeseburger, fries and a Coke.

I greedily chomped on my burger (which was quite good) and realized the only significant difference between Cevahir and Cumberland Malls was the language being spoken around me.

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