One thing living in Germany taught me was the ease with which one can overestimate how necessary some goods are to a happy life. Doing without a freezer or oven for 6 months proved but a negligible inconvenience, for instance, and certainly far less of one than I would have thought beforehand. This lesson has given me reason to wonder what I therefore consider truly essential and what I could do without. Here's what the Pew Research Center says Americans think on the matter:
The large percentage drops are probably explained by the recession, but many of the items seem far more sensitive to location than to financial circumstance. A car was not a necessity for me in Germany but is in South Carolina. Double ditto for air conditioning. Some things I find inexplicable: is a microwave really so sensitive to income? Why is a phone tethered to a wall considered more necessary than a mobile phone? How great is having a TV without cable?
I lived in three places in Germany with differing amenities, but here's the minimum of what I had:
- Landline phone
- clothes dryer
- home air conditioning
- TV set
- Home computer
- Cell phone
- High-speed internet (I did have it free at my office two minutes away)
- Cable or satellite TV
- Flatscreen TV
If were answering about South Carolina, I'd add car, AC, and internet and remove iPod. If I were answering about Rwanda--well, ask me again in a few weeks.
HT: Felix Salmon