Bigger is Better, part 1

This is one of the seemingly deeply ingrained cultural norms of the US that I had (and at times have) the hardest time to understand in the sense of really getting it: Americans love big things! Bigger is better, pretty much always.

The examples are countless but most obvious to me in three things: cars, houses, and portions.

Bigger is better, especially with cars, pic: carnationcanada.com

Let’s talk about cars today: in Europe people drive cars that wouldn’t even be called cars here they are so small.  In fact they are frequently referred to as “shoeboxes”.  Here you pretty much have to own an SUV or a minivan in addition to your “sedan” , especially if you have children (or even one child).  The correlation between being pregnant and buying a minivan is pretty much perfect.  These cars are considered better, safer, more reliable, and more comfortable, more convenient (“when baby Jayden is 8 I want to be able to get his whole soccer team in the car to drive them to practice”) when in fact they are neither – they are just bigger.

Same with trucks.  I can see why somebody working in construction or a gardener would need such a vehicle.  But why does every other family guy who trims the trees once a year and needs to dispose of the twigs needs to own a Ford F-250?

For a long time I struggled to understand why people choose to buy these vehicles, when study after study shows them to have safety issues, be overpriced for what they are, and to be gas guzzling monsters to boot.   I missed the point, people buy them because they are big, the rest is just justification along the lines of:

“I could go off-roading with that car, I don’t, but it is good to know that I could, if I ever wanted.”

“As a parent I want the best for my child and that’s why I need a minivan to drive Amelia to piano class.”

“When our parents come to visit for Thanksgiving we want to be able to fit everybody in one car.”

“A guy always has something to haul around, that’s why I need a big truck.”

Deep down I still don’t get it.

I still don’t understand why size is a value unto itself.  I have, however, learned that that’s the way it is and stopped getting into useless discussions about off-roading, hauling stuff, the non-existent causal relationship between being a good parent and owning a minivan, and the relative cost of renting a larger car for a week when the parents are around versus buying one and paying for it all year.

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