Pattern Recognition

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Location: Here Of Course

I like to talk. And write poetry. I paint a little too.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Why Europeans Consume Less Than Americans?

In the New York Times today:

"The United States is now engaged in its greatest age of consumer spending - longer and more intense than the splurge after World War II (...)

No other nation possesses the same huge network of retail outlets, whose productivity is rising faster than any other sector of the economy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. No other people are as drenched in advertising and product promotion. No other country maintains so sophisticated a warehouse and distribution system, linked to consumers not only through malls but through the Internet and call centers.

"Once you get into a mall, you are confronted with a huge array of inexpensive goods, and you have driven to the mall, so you can bring a lot home in the car," said Stephen Brobeck, the Consumer Federation's executive director. "In European cities you walk to a mall, if there is one nearby, and walking, you can't carry as much home. We have more cars per capita than Japan or Europe."

I don't even HAVE a car, and believe me, carrying shopping bags walking or on a crowded subway train is no pleasure.


Blogger Rich Rosenthal II said...

Driving terrifies me, but I'm just a feak like that. I wouldn't doubt that we have more advertising. though for some reason I had thought that japan was on par with america in that area.

9:05 AM, December 06, 2004  
Blogger Aisha said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:47 PM, December 06, 2004  
Blogger Aisha said...

Gimme faaah-ve!
I only know one other man who does not drive, except my late uncle (--not late because he didn't drive, but as in now sadly deceased.)

More women are chicken about it. Bet you have a better life for not driving. Less shopping, more time to be absent-minded and more exercise. Besides, Chicago has the Loop.

2:50 PM, December 06, 2004  
Blogger petergarner said...

Well, it's not really about consumerism, but it's related. A very interesting article in the latest Maisonneuve.

3:21 AM, December 07, 2004  
Blogger Rich Rosenthal II said...

I found this rant to be prety good.

10:31 AM, December 07, 2004  
Blogger Aisha said...


Very much related -- why car commuters?

"Again, this is not unique to my city. The North American economy now depends on the free movement of cars and trucks across a vast suburbanized landscape—travel that itself depends on oceans of cheap oil. The overwhelming importance of oil began in the early part of the twentieth century when North America’s electric streetcars and intercity train services were crushed because there weren’t enough profits to be made from them. They were “too cheap,” they moved too many people too easily..."
Thanks for the link.


And yours very interesting too: mixing transport and consumerism:

"...Welcome to my broken world, my lost city. A mere twenty minute drive through this wilderness will transform you into a discount airfare craving, drugstore frequenting, lingerie buying, toothpaste pondering, hemorrhoid curing consumer with a severe addiction to Crown Royal."

Well said!


4:34 PM, December 07, 2004  
Blogger paula said...

Interesting and scarely true. In Italy, a microscopic America, it's the same. I have to confess that I, lazy one, use the car too often even when I walk would be healtier.

7:59 PM, December 07, 2004  
Blogger Aisha said...

Oh but in your town in the Veneto Province of Italy, everyone promenades under the old clock tower at noon and then walk to lunch -- and shop in real streets under the old stone arches of covered pavements...

Oh for a Proseco -- Italian Prozac :)!

9:38 PM, December 07, 2004  
Blogger Rich Rosenthal II said...

I didn't write it just ran across it while surfing shorty after reading your blog and thought it fit with what you were talking about. My rants are never that well crafted.

5:27 AM, December 09, 2004  
Blogger Aisha said...


I meant yours as in your link: blogs are all about links after all :)


12:04 AM, December 10, 2004  
Blogger Sirdar said...

I can't say this for all cities in North America but where I live (and Bravus) in Canada, being without a car would be very cumbersome. Our public transportation is nothing compared to what I hear is set up in Europe. Getting to a mall here is a long drive even though I believe we have the most malls per capita in Canada. I live outside of the city and need to drive about 40kms, or a 1/2 hour to work each morning. I know someone from the Netherlands, who has lived in Canada for over 20 years, drives about 1.5 hours one way to work and most of it on the highway. We can have very long distances between cities and towns. The Netherlands, we figured out, would fit inside Alberta 14.5 times.

Back to consumerism, we complain bitterly about the amount of taxes we pay but we usually compare ourselves to the USA where they don't pay as much taxes. Fortunately, in our province of Alberta we pay the lowest taxes in the country. However, we are also the most natural resource rich province in Canada. The province is close to being debt free and due to the price of oil our government has an $8B surplus after the budget is spent. Wages are pretty good here and housing is pretty affordable compared to many parts of the world. We have a few people from the UK who have come over here to work and they tell me how expensive it is over there compared to here. They are talking about 80p, which works out to around $1.80ish per litre Canadian for gas. We are paying around $.77 per litre. We can still afford to drive.... for now.

6:29 AM, December 10, 2004  
Blogger Aisha said...

A friend and neighbour (loosely speaking) to Bravus! Welcome :)

Yes, the distances are amazing to a European (although Norway from south to north is the length of Oslo to Italy, it still does not compare).
Explain some of the need for cars, yes.


7:32 AM, December 10, 2004  

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