I have a question about culture for anyone and everyone out there but it needs a little background first.
A few nights ago some friends and I were sitting around having some wine and discussing how we’re all finding Zurich (all of us being new to Switzerland). The consensus was generally good though we couldn’t believe the incredible wealth the kids at my school come from. Seriously. I’ve never, in my life, even been near people this rich, let alone been responsible for them. It’s very off-putting when you stop and think about it (so I try not to).
But the interesting thing is, most of these families, you wouldn’t realize how wealthy they are just by looking at them. I mean, the fact that they live in Switzerland and send their kids to our school, they’re clearly doing well. But I’m talking families who fly to Majorca every weekend, unless the kids have a sporting event or rehearsal. And yet, not really any designer clothing or footwear. On the inside, it looks like a regular school.
So I made the comment of, “I get the feeling that 90% of Swiss are very well off but they seem to find it quite crass to be flashy about money or wave it around.”
My friend, Kate, disagreed. She said she finds it a bit ridiculous the cars that these parents drive their kids to school in. Kate wasn’t sure that Swiss people find it vulgar to be flashy about their money because “everyone in this country has a fancy car”.
Now, to be fair, Kate, though American, has lived in Myanmar (formerly Burma) the last 3 years, where there was a lot of poverty, she experienced a military coup and an enforced curfew of 9pm. So obviously there’s a lot of culture shock.
So here’s my question. If you live in a culture where “everyone has a fancy car”, is it being flashy to have a fancy car? My argument is no, because culturally it’s appropriate. But maybe that’s just me.
Also, when I say fancy car, what I mean is expensive car. I can count on one hand the number of sports cars I’ve seen (in fact I could count on two fingers). I’m talking about expensive family vehicles like shiny BMWs and Mercedes SUVs. Expensive, yes, but well-built, family vehicles.
Anyway, the discussion wasn’t what constitutes a fancy car, it was about cultural appropriateness. If you live in a place where 90% of people have expensive cars, are you being ostentatious to have an expensive car? I guess it’s all about perspective.
My Maserati does 185
I lost my license and now I can’t drive
I have a limo, I ride in the back
I lock the doors in case I’m attacked
– Life’s Been Good (Joe Walsh)