28 June 2011

The Convenience of Being American

You often hear, when they go to the US for the first time, or return after being away for a while, people talk about the overabundance of American life.  So much food, such big houses, so much obesity, such huge stores.  And they're right, but what I notice is the abundance of convenience in the US.  Friends here often tell me that life is better in the US, but I always disagree because I don't think life is better there; it's just easier.

I'm getting a lot less comfortable with that convenience as time goes on.  It's expensive, it's energy-consuming, and it's large self-centered.  We complain about accidentally vacuuming up Legos, about not being able to use the kitchen while we're remodeling it, about have it take 3 minutes for the water in the shower to heat up.  We complain about 10 gallons of gas costing an hour or two of work, or paying the bills online, or having your food budget take 15% of your salary.  Or we don't like paying a day's worth of work to heat our houses to 72 degrees for the month, or two days' work to cool it in the summer. 

I think a little perspective would help.  Owning a decent vacuum, or even a stripped-down kitchen, or a water heater is a luxury.  10 gallons of gas costs at least 2 days of work in many parts of the world, paying the bills takes all day and physical trips to at least three different places, and food takes at least half your salary.  Many people have to pay a month's salary just to keep their homes at a livable temperature in the winter, and they certainly don't have air conditioners. 

But when the all the perspective you're getting comes from your American neighbors, you're probably going to miss some important points.  You forget or never learn what life really is like for the typical inhabitant of this planet.


  1. This is so true, Amira. And the things we give up for our convenience are often subtle, but they are real. I have had many conversations with Italians about why we eat such gross/unhealthy food in America. And it all comes down to convenience. (Yes, I know there are more consequential things than food. But in Italy food is symbolic of all of them.)

  2. I completely agree.

  3. I think everyone should spend some time in the "developing" world. It completely changes your perspective on life--and it's not so far away from the way our grandparents/great-grandparents lived. My family spent several years in Latin America, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Nicaragua--and I remember the shock of walking through an American shopping mall. It felt WRONG.

  4. Convenience food is the perfect example, Sarah.

    And to the other Sarah, I also wish more Americans had the chance to live in a place that wasn't much like the US. I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon though.

    Thanks for stopping by.