"We would pop out for a bit of shopping on Sunday evening", grandmother Tamtam reminisced when she visited us. Shopping-with-children took her a bit of getting used to after coming home in the mid-eighties, when she couldn't just put us to bed and head out while grandfather Tamtam did his fatherly duty at home.
It was a full decade-and-a-half before the Good Christians for the first time ever did not manage to manoever themselves into power and thus could no longer stop the advance of prolonged opening hours in the Netherlands.* I can still remember the first supermarket opening its doors past 6 pm as well as the panic waves that would roll through student houses upon discovering the empty bread sack after 5 pm on a Saturday evening. That necessitated a trek down to an out-of-town gas station** in order to get food for the morrow since everything else would be closed on Sundays. Things have changed since that time.
But even so, in the Netherlands shopping hours beyond the generally agreed upon hours of business, i.e. 9 am to 6 pm on weekdays and 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday - yes, this means generally everything closes on Sundays - have to be fought for tooth and nail. Of course, there is the very generous weekly "shop night" when shops stay until the incredibly late hour of - gasp - 9 pm. This is either a Thursday or a Friday, depending on the city.
In contrast, Singaporean shops open from 10 am to 10 pm generally (unless it's a really posh mall, then it doesn't open until 11 am). Every day of the week, including Sundays. Lately, I've been following in the footsteps of grandmother Tamtam and I don't head out until the offices close. This way, S. gets a lovely evening to himself (music! Xbox! computer! no talking!) and I get to peruse the wares leisurely, while neither of us has to chase E. down aisles or curb her enthusiasm for pulling down towering stacks of T-shirts and pushing buttons on expensively fragile hi-fi equipment.***
("She is fast", commented the current visitors, uncle D. and auntie A.)
I am usually accompanied by many Singaporeans, who enjoy nothing better than a little retail therapy after office hours and afterwards taking a bite to eat in one of the myriad of food outlets of all types and qualities available in the malls. This is the Singaporean lifestyle.
So imagine the surprise of the Cheekiemonkies clan who, while staying in Amsterdam (known throughout the Netherlands for their overly generous shopping hours - some shops open every Sunday!), when after a full day's sightseeing and an ethnic dinner they wanted to pop out for a shopping expedition... And everything was closed!
I have taken to the late hours like a fish to water (no surprise to those who know me, I think). What has tripped me up on occasion, is the lack of early hours. Even though we live above a supermarket, there is no running down for milk in the morning, as it doesn't open until 10 am. (I have to add though: it is a very fancy supermarket. Apparently other more low-cost supermarkets do open earlier and the wet market keeps to globally agreed market hours, i.e. 6 am to 11 am). And heading out in the morning to look for shoes turned into a bit of a running expedition, as the shops didn't open until 11 am and I had to pick up E. from daycare at 12.30.
I still managed to snag 3 pairs though.
But the wildest shopping experience of all to be had in Singapore is Mustafa's. It is open 24/7, it is crammed with stuff, it is the size of a housing block and it sells everything either at the same price or cheaper than anywhere else. It also sells stuff I didn't know was for sale. Or existed.
* This might not be factually correct. It is, however, true.
** Out-of-town gas stations: another thing that does not exist in Singapore, seeing as how out of town also means out of the country.
*** Amazingly, the staff's reaction to our little destructive tornado tearing through the shop generally varies from "adorable", "so cute" to "so happy, lah!"