I remember the first time they built a mall in Sofia. We had already been living there for some 4 years and survived nicely without that modern, western convenience. With the mall came Burger King, H&M, and then one happy pre-Thanksgiving Day, Starbucks!
I also remember the day we spent in Budapest on our way to Busingen Germany from Sofia. Was it 1999? Or the early 2000′s? Budapest had opened one of its very first malls and the lines were ridiculous! How could I have imagined that some ten years later, I would call this very city my home?
Today, I’m meeting a friend at one of Budapest’s many malls. We are taking our daughters for lunch at Vapianos, a great Italian restaurant. I have been in our little suburb of Diosd teaching all week, so I’m thrilled to be in the city, thrilled to be with my girls and with a friend, thrilled to eat great Italian food. But, I am ever aware that the world in the Mall is not a real representation of the world to which I am called.
The economic downturn has hit Hungarians in the stomach. Many struggle to make their paycheck stretch and yet the habits of the West that were introduced more than a decade ago mean that families are deeply in debt. The great excitement of that first, Western mall also introduced the yoke of credit and it weighs heavily.
As I chat and eat and enjoy my day in the city, I’ll be taking photos to post later.