Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Satisfied With Less

It's amazing, isn't it. I grew up in a house that had 3 bedrooms and sprawling land space. I had a backyard, a swingset, and trees. I knew of houses that had 4, 5, or even 6 bedrooms. There were mansions, and redone kitchens. There was crystal, silver, and leather. Curtains abounded, and carpets occupied every inch of the floor.

And, I moved here. To a three bedroom apartment, and nothing else. Small kitchen, a porch, and a view that just about knocks the socks off of anyone that sees it. I don't have carpets, or draperies. I like shopping at a supermarket that doesn't have 10 varieties of ketchup.
How can this be?

How can I go from a 2 1/2 acre home to a 120 meter apartment and still be happy?
Surprisingly, I can. I don't have to own the latest clothing, or have my American peanut butter to be happy. (Alright, I confess- I succumb to Heinz Ketchup. But what can I do against such temptation?) My house doesn't have to be a house to be a home. Shockingly, I hope that one day I'll have kids, and they'll share a room. Yep, more than 2 in a room. Hey, I know the mentality that says a kid can't be normal without his/her own room, but somehow, it works here. Most families I know have 2 bedroooms for the kids- one for the boys, and one for the girls. (Depending on the amount of different genders, of course.)

I think when someone moves to Israel, they become satisfied with less. Everyone owns an apartment, and very few have houses. So therefore, apartment life became acceptable. And in apartment life, having 4-6 bedrooms becomes impractical. So therefore, having only 3 bedrooms became decent. And because Israeli stone tends to accumulate dust everywhere, Israelis adapted to having no carpets and 'sponja'ing (kind of like mopping but with a stick and towel) their floors every two days. (Yes, Israelis are insanely clean. Insanely. But it's so nice having a shiny floor every week.) A friend called to ask me where to buy a vacumn. I gave her the information, and hung up, but I was surprised. Why? Because almost no one has a vacumn here. It's one of those things that are not part of standard, or lesser life, but rather a luxury. Imagine- a vacumn cleaner is a luxury. Shocking- no?

So can one be satisfied with less? I think so. And it helps with the 'keeping up with the Joneses' problem. And eventually, it doesn't become catagorized as less- but rather standard, and anything beyond that is considered 'more'. It's a nice way to live.


Lon said...

It's the air... the air does it. But everyone has something - Heinz ketchup, Hellman's mayonnaise...

nmf #7 said...

Avira D'Eretz Yisroel- that's an interesting thought!
Everyone does have 'something'- but not like the 'somethings' they used to have living back in Chutz L'Aaretz. Big difference between buying Hellman's mayonnaise due to the fact that Israeli mayonnaise is watery, and redoing the flooring in your house from wood to carpet every 2 years.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. I agree - it doesn't take a house to make it a home. It seems like Israeli mindset of space is similar to Europe's.

Small space doesn't bother me at all, I just crave a lot of land (from neighbors!)

nmf #7 said...

KT- thanks for the comment!
Query-what did you mean you crave land?
It sounds a bit like the Israeli mentality-they don't seem to care how much room there is now, but rather, how much room is there for 'expansion'!

Anonymous said...

Well, let's just say I'd love to take a nice long walk in a woodsy backyard....

Scraps said...

It's true - when everyone has "less", "less" becomes "normal". The people who do not get used to less either move back to America or have their lavish (American-style) lifestyles supported by their parents, cuz goodness knows no one else can afford it!

nmf #7 said...

KT- Ahh, get it now. Thanks.

Scraps- thanks for the comment-and very true. Although, with the economy in America the way it is, those 'rich' Americans can't live forever on their parents' money, so more and more are heading home. Rental prices are supposed to drop soon, due to everyone packing out.
Now the question remains- can we change 'less' to 'normal' in the US? If it can be done here, it could be done there, and many would benefit.

Randomizing Sequencer said...

Interesting point but I don't think you can say that it's the Israeli mentality. It's mostly Yerushalayim that's got the teeny apartments with everyone crammed in. I live in Bet Shemesh and people here have nice 3 floor houses or big apartments. It's more the sacrificing for Torah mentality of the people that live that way - which is shared by kollel families in America as well.

nmf #7 said...

Randomizing- thanks for the comment!
But I know families in Beit Shemesh, and until they could/can afford the cottage, or the 3 floor house- they are definitely living in a small apartment. Maybe not as small as some of the Yerushalyim 60 mtr. ones, but small none the less.
Kiryat Sefer/Modiin- maybe bigger. But have you been to Ofakim, Yavneh, or some of the other places outside of Beit Shemesh recently? They also have small places. And all of them are smaller than the US. Sorry. They just are.
And unfortunately, Kollel families in the US do not always live on the same standard. Sorry. I have yet to see a kollel family in America live on the same standard as some of the kollel families here.

nmf #7 said...

Wait- I take back my last statement. I do know of one kollel family in the US who does live on the same standard.
But the fact is- I only know of one.

Randomizing Sequencer said...

The whole standard of living in Israel is less than in America. That's just a fact. People make less and so they can spend less. But in relative terms, the difference between the lifestyles of the kollel families in Israel and the kollel families in America is pretty much the same when viewed in cotext. So I still think that the 'being satisfied with less' mentality is pretty much a universal kollel concept. I think most other people, if they could afford it, would have more. Maybe not as much as New Yorkers but that's an entirely different story. ;)

nmf #7 said...

Randomizing- good points.

But the point of this post was not that if they could afford more, they would take advantage of it.
It's that the norm in society here in Israel is less than America. And as such, it became normal. Not perceived as less persay, but normal. It's not being satisfied with less, but being satisfied with what is normal.

And you really see that the lifestyle between Kollel families in the US and Israel are the same??
(Taking into account the higher paying jobs.)

I believe the whole standard is different. Despite the more money made, there is more money spent. Israelis don't seem to use credit cards as much as Americans, and they don't go out to eat as often. These are just some examples of how a Kollel family lifestyle here is very different than there. And even those who are not Kollel families live on a different standard.