The mall in Brazil has a different function than the mall in the US does. Of course in the US there are folks who like to go to the mall to just "hang out". But in my experience most people go to the mall with the purpose of buying something, maybe getting a snack and then leaving. The social experience of walking around, seeing and being seen, is left mostly to adolescents who like to use the mall as a place to check each other out. Adults and families don't really use the mall in this way.
Here in Brazil, at least in Salvador, the mall serves an important social function. It's a place where people can go, in security, to walk around, hang out, socialize and as an added bonus buy something that they might need. But it appears that the primary purpose of the mall is not to consume or buy, but to offer a safe place to socialize.
In the mall people can walk around wearing fancy clothes, watches and jewelry without fear of mugging like there is on the street here. They can talk on their expensive cell phones without having to look over their shoulder to see if there is a thief close by, waiting to run and snatch the phone from their hand. It offers peace of mind not found on the street. This is why on the weekend the mall is totally packed with people.
When you go to the mall here, it's a place where people are checking you out to see what you are wearing and what you look like. Most people get all dressed up and made up to go to the mall. You can't just go in your casual wear like we do in the US (well you can, but you get a lot of weird looks!). It's a full on event and you have to be ready for it.
Another thing is the word for "the mall" in Portuguese: "Shopping". It's often difficult for Brazilians learning English to fully incorporate into their second language that in English shopping is a verb, and not a mall. Many folks, even advanced English speakers here will still say, "I'm going to the shopping" when they really want to say, "I'm going to the mall".
So the next time you run over to the mall to get some new socks, think about these differences as you are waiting in line in your pajama bottoms to pay, excited by the thought of getting the hell out of there as quickly as possible! It's a different experience.