Thursday, August 16, 2012

Culture Clash


I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to live abroad. Having an understanding of other cultures hasn’t made me less of an American, but it has allowed me to accept that maybe all things American aren’t the best (gasp!). I can objectively look at my own culture and think something is “the best” or “the worst” based on more than 1 point of view.

I live in the mid-western United States, but spent 5 years between ages 16-21 living abroad. And while many people would look at me and guess there is nothing different about me from any other American, I often find myself in the middle of culture clashes.

For example, it annoys me how little Americans walk. If Americans leave their houses, it seems they always leave by car. It annoys me that Americans are constantly giving their kids “kid food” rather that training them to eat healthily and to enjoy foods like vegetables and fish. It annoys me how excessive people think they need to be in terms of house size. I know someone who has a family of 4 and just bought a nearly 4,000 square foot home! 1,000 square feet per person is ridiculous! You see? Culture clash.

I am much less outspoken about these things than I used to be, but one culture clash has raised its head again.

My husband’s car has a ton of miles on it, especially for a car of such  quality. We haven’t had any major issues with the car yet, but I feel like we are on the edge of a giant money pit when things start to go wrong. We can sell the car for something decent right now and not have to deal with the issues that will be coming up shortly. So we have decided to sell it.

In the meantime, we are gathering our savings and will buy a nice safe car outright with no debt. I have a 4 door Honda Civic which I am very happy with, so we have thought about buying another Civic. They are good quality cars, safe, and get good gas quality. We also have no children.

When I told my family friend this recently, she said “you should get a CR-V or other SUV instead”. I replied “those are nice cars, but they are more expensive and get worse gas mileage. I don’t want our gas expenditure to increase, but to decrease”. And she said “but what if you have kids?!? Babies come with so much stuff! How will that fit in a Civic?” When I explained that should the Lord bless us with children, I could fit at least 2, maybe 3, kids in a Civic, you would have thought I suggested something obscene.

Really? How is it that a baby which weighs less than a sack of potatoes warrants a car that costs thousands of dollars more, has tons of extra, mostly unused seats, uses tons more gas, and has a giant trunk so I can lug around everything in our home all in the name of “convenience”?

This is another one of those culture clash things.

I have vivid memories of my Brazilian host parents lugging both of themselves, me, and three of their daughters in a tiny Volkswagen Golf without air conditioning. (and yes, we all had seat belts, and they had plenty of money to buy a bigger car if they wanted to). I am the youngest of 4 kids, and our family car growing up was a large sedan, a Crown Victoria. When I got older, I usually sat in the front middle between my parents, and my 3 siblings sat in the back. My friends from around the world came to visit for my wedding and were SHOCKED by the size of American vehicles, especially those giant SUVs with 1 or 2 people riding in them.

Hey, I understand that a nice mini van is more convenient if you have more than 2 kids, but it seems like such a waste when people in North American buy twice the car that they need for the sake of convenience. Not only do they throw away so much of the money God has given them, they use up twice the resources God has blessed this world with.

Now, I’m not a tree hugger, and I’m not environment crazy, but I think we are to be responsible with the resources God has given us. So I recycle whenever I can, nearly always buy used, keep my A/C temperature very high in the summer and my heat very low in the winter, and I am conscious about the gas mileage my car gets.

Remember those good old days when Sacagawea explored the American frontier with her baby strapped to her back? No bouncers, diaper bags, strollers, pack and plays, and other baby contraptions that have become the normal fillers of every mini-van?

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Sigh.

4 comments:

  1. I am so with you on the car thing! Unfortunately, the ideal didn't work for us. We HAD to buy a big car when we had #3. I had had an old Toyota Camry but all 3 kiddos wouldn't fit in the back. It came down to 3 inches and 3 pounds. There are laws with car seats and weight limits and such. One my kids was 3 pounds too light for a kinda of seat that would have have worked. We tried combinations of 7 different seats before we admitted it wasn't gonna happen. MAJOR BUMMER. But I was not going to sacrifice their safety (or be illegal!) and not use the correct seat. ah well. I hope it works out for you! I hear that civics can be wider than the old camrys!

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    1. I can completely understand that, especially with how strict car seat laws have become in the last few years (which is a good thing). I definitely can see how more than 2 kids would be a struggle in a smaller car.

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  2. It's a small thing, but people often ask me where my diaper bag is. I'm able fit 5 diapers, wipes, a few snacks, a couple small books, a little toy, and even a sleeper in my purse. (And my purse is big, but not HUGE.)
    In our culture (I'm not American but Canadian) babies = stuff, stuff, stuff. My family regularly brings us oversized toys, finally I had to explain that they deserve all the space they have to run around, play and explore. (We're definitely not anti-toys just anti-consumerism and clutter.)

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  3. You can put 3 kids in a civic. :) even w/ 3 car seats. When the time comes, they make slimmer ones that are still top of the line for safety, like the sunshine kids radian. And since you don't like land yacht vehicles, you will prob prefer a more compact stroller to go in your trunk!

    The only problem I can see will be if you shop at Costco....

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I love to fellowship with others and hear what they have to say. I would ask, however, that you be mindful of what you write and try to be uplifting and respectful. Thank you for sharing!