In China, shoppers are rarely left to wander the shop without help. With larger stores, one or two employees typically stand at the entrance, encouraging passers-by to enter the store. These employees might have noisemakers, signs, or even clown costumes, and if they even see your eyes move in the direction of the store, they’ll start talking to you. Once inside these larger stores, an employee will often follow you around to tend to your needs. Briant and I have learned to be very careful about gesturing towards items or looking at something too long—if they notice you’re giving something particular attention, they’ll get it off the shelf for you or usher you towards a fitting room. Clothing shopping is particularly interesting with these attendants, as they’ll pull things off the shelf that they think might look good on you and they’ll suggest that you try it on. Although smaller stores and market stalls don’t have the same kind of man-power as their larger counterparts, the owners are often as keenly aware of you as those large-store attendants. If they don’t immediately get up to follow you around their store, they’re at least watching you—I know because it seems that anytime I pick up an item or point it out to Briant, the owner comes over to begin their sales pitch. For a quiet, keep-to-myself kind of shopper like me, China is a very different experience.
On another note, many of the shopping areas I’ve seen sport rides and play areas—and I’m not just talking about a claw machine and a miniature slide. Almost every mall we’ve ever seen has a large area, lit up like a fair, devoted to play. These areas might have carousels, swinging pirate ships, or other moderately sized amusement park rides. Many of these areas also offer small electronic cars, or miniature mech-warriors that you can climb inside and move about—I’ve even seen a big inflatable pool with mini paddle-boats. A climbing wall, ropes course, or bungee trampoline are other attractions that I’ve seen in these play zones. Malls aren’t the only ones offering fun and games outside the stores. Convenience stores and even small clothing stores usually have one or two insanely lit electric children’s rides—and they see plenty of use! I’ve wondered if these play areas are meant to make up for a lack of parks and outdoor areas for kids to play.