This is one of the things that struck me the most when I arrived in US almost ten years ago. Consumerism. Being raised in a former communistic country meant we had to get by with little. There was just enough food so we were not hungry (though I remember times when food was scarce) and certainly it was not sold in nice attractive packaging. Quite contrary, we were buying our cheese or ham wrapped in brown paper and if I wanted to have sourkraut I had to bring my own jar with me (there was almost no waste, no plastic bags or such and everything was recycled). I remember I had nice toys and clothes but everyone else seemed to have similar things more or less and there was no big difference between kids at school. Well, we didn’t have any commercials on TV either, not until close to the fall of communism that is, somewhere around 1996.
So how does this compare to what I found here… Little by little I discovered how different is mentality of Americans from Europeans. Americans shop because they like to shop, just because they can and enjoy it. Average European shops for something that she needs and it usually is a thing that will last a lifetime. I was taught to look for quality items that will serve me well and I won’t need to keep replacing them. Same goes for fashion, I was buying things that would be classic and match my existing wardrobe and would not go out of style in a year or so. Here it is different. Americans are known to donate their last year’s collection of clothes to a charity so they can purchase a brand new set of clothes for a current season.
I was shocked quite a few times when I visited various friends who also had babies like me. First of all, I wasn’t even able to enter the room that was filled with toys of all kinds, toys that make sounds, toys that blink or whatever else, and the best of all, the baby wasn’t even mobile yet. At that time I had my toddler who was able to play with me all day using a few very basic toys. I was flabbergasted and not sure if maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was depriving my daughter of some essential right, a right to own as many toys as there are in a store aisle. Then I discovered how many outfits those babies owned. (No wonder their parents are able to resell their babies clothes later, they don’t get a chance to be stained and ruined). I was feeling kind of stupid and unsophisticated when I compared my daughter’s wardrobe with theirs. I was a horrible mother, I was forcing my kid to wear over and over the same clothes. I literally had two sets of pajamas for her and if one was dirty the other one she slept it, that was that simple. I knew she would outgrew them fast so I didn’t think I had to heavily invest in pajamas in size 2T for example. How horrid I felt when I saw a full trunk of pajamas in my friend’s house for their little girl. But I believe I am an inreperable idiot as I haven’t learnt from them and continue to deny my child a right to have more than two pajamas at all.
I found out many other interesting things that still fill me with wonder. When I arrived in US, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was first invited to someone’s house. The house looked like a museum to me. Everything was in perfect order, the house was huge with beautiful furnishings and immaculate accessories and designer touches throughout. Well, at first I thought it was just one of a kind experience but upon seeing more Dallas homes I came to believe it was a norm. Then I understood one thing, Texas weather doesn’t have much to offer so you have to make out as much as you can from your house. Instead living outdoors and enjoying the nature Texan women would have to spend their time indoors and the natural result of that was an interest in decorating and accessorizing their home.
That being said, I certainly became more materialistic and I can understand the thrill a good shopping trip can offer. Shopaholism is very contagious ;-). I also believe the life in my own old country has changed and has been definitely influenced by western countries including US. As far as I know the plastic grocery bags are common and so is the flood of violence in media. In no way I am trying to say Europe is better than US because, as you can see I love it here :-).