About Me



Anthropological Study on Pacific Mall

November 3, 2003

Anthropologist conduct field studies to learn and understand the culture and the behaviour of different people.  Studying people in different settings can give anthropologists a unique perspective about their subject’s culture.   As part of my anthropology study I decided to conduct a small scaled field study at Pacific Mall in order to observe and make conclusions on the patterns and the behaviour of the people who use that mall.

Pacific Mall is located at a busy intersection on the northern edge of Toronto.  It is one of the largest Chinese indoor malls in North America.  It is a shopping attraction that incorporates a traditionally styled market, and has 400 stores selling a variety of retail goods, herbs, spices, foods, and entertainment.   I choose this place because I have been told that it is a unique and interesting shopping experience. 

I visited the place for the first time on Sunday October 25 at 3:00 PM in order to conduct my field study.  My study lasted around two hour.  I conducted my observations by roaming around the mall as a typical shopper would.

The outside architecture of the mall is unique.  It has a distinctive architecture that incorporates red bricked walls and huge glass windows.  Inside the shops were laid out in a grid pattern.  The columns and rows of shops were separated by “streets”.  The widths of “streets” were smaller than those typically found, and made the place appear more crowed, and made it feel like a flea market.  The physical size of the each shop was small, with average dimensions of approximately thirty feet by thirty feet.  All of the shops appeared to be individually owned as opposed to franchises like Zeller or Radio Shack.  Most of the stores were selling fashion and jewellery items, typical of most malls.  However, unlike other malls, there were numerous stores selling Health foods, herbs, automotive accessorise, hobby items, electronics, and cell phones.  The overwhelming majority of the people in the mall were oriental or Chinese and all of the stores seemed to reflect that.  All the stores signs had both Chinese and English lettering, and the products they carried definitely seemed catered to them.  For example, jewellery stores displayed a lot of green jade jewellery, and the food court had various Chinese delicacies.

Estimating the amount of people in the shopping mall was difficult since there were multiple entries and exits, and the people were moving from store to store in a random fashion.  But as a ball park figure I would estimate there were around a thousand people.  Of theses people there were a fairly even mix of males and females.  There was a variety of age groups including teenagers, young adults, middle aged and seniors.  The teenagers and the young adults seem to be present in a larger proportion followed by the middle aged and the seniors.   I believe the time and day I conducted my study is related to the proportions of the groups.  If it were a weekday morning I believe I would have seen more seniors, few middle aged people, and a very few young adults and teenagers.  This is because the latter part would usually be at school or work.  On a weeknight I would expect to see more middle aged people, and young adults, but I doubt I will see many teenagers.   This is because the adult are out of work but the younger crowds will have school the following day.

There was further grouping among the teenagers.  There were a few teenagers assembled in groups with more than ten individuals.  These groups did not seem interested in shopping.  They were simply passing time by talking, joking and bonding with each other.  These groups were generally loud in their interaction, and most of the individuals in these groups were male.  There were also smaller groups of adolescents with three to five individuals. The compositions of the individuals in these groups were also differed.  Some were mixed, some were entirely male, and the others entirely female.  Many of the individuals in the group would be dressed in the similar styles.  Some groups would be dressed casually and conservatively while others would be dressed a bit more eccentrically. For instance in some male groups, individuals will try to imitate rap singers, by wearing baseball caps, bandannas, and large shiny jewellery. This illustrates grouping by common interests.  In the female groups, the females were well dress, accessorised, and most of them had makeup.  Within these groups talking was quieter, especially among the female groups, compared to the larger male groups.  It was also observed that in the all male groups, the individuals would be separated by a greater distance than in the all female groups.

There were fair share of two-person groups in the mall.  The composition of this group varied by age, sex and bonding.  The romantically involved couples would closely walk together or hold hands.  The couples that show their affection publicly were the adolescences and the young adults.  All the single sex couples seem only bonded by friendship.  In the all male groups, the individuals would be separated by a greater distance, and converse more loudly than in all female groups.  There were a fair number of apparent family groups, with young children.  In the family group the parents would usually be walking together and the kids in front or on to the sides.  Among the family groups there was an observable parent/child role division.  This was evident because of the age and physical difference.

The only other division of role that I was able to observe was that of store employees and their customers.  This was apparent only because of the employee would be inside the store and behind displays. The appearance of the employee and customers were similar.  All of them were Chinese and were dressed similarly to anyone else in the mall.

In general the people in the mall seemed to be relaxed.  This was judged by the way people were leisurely walking about.  Furthermore, it was apparent that people in groups were enjoying themselves because of their all their chitchat and laughter.

 If I were an anthropologist from Mars I would be a bit surprised to see such a large gathering of one ethnic group in a city with many cultures.  I would consider the mall more than a place to purchase items.  I would consider it as a gathering place where people go to leisurely pass time, and to be with people who share the same culture and values.  As an anthropologist from Mars I would be able to determine the interests and the tastes of the Chinese community by the types of goods that were being sold, such as clothes, cell phones, electronics, anime, music, food, and herbal products.  I would also take note of how people associate themselves into groups based on age and common interests.  I would support my argument of common interest by the similar style of clothing individuals in groups wore.  I would also conclude that teenagers and young adult’s cloth and accessorise themselves to reflect their personality and their interests.  For example some would dress like pop stars or sports stars to indicate their interests.

 This research assignment taught me to be open minded about other cultures.  Because I am Sri Lankan, I considered the food Chinese people ate, the clothes they wore, and their interests they had were unusual.  However while conducting this research I realize that I was being ethnocentric with this issue, and realized that if I were Chinese I would consider those things to be perfectly normal.

From what I studied in class I would consider my study to be sociocultural anthropological study, because I studied human behaviour in a contemporary culture.  I would also consider some of my conclusions to be culturally bonds, since they are based on assumption and the values of my own culture.