Wednesday, July 05, 2006

McMansion - The American Dream House.

The Americans may all be in the pursuit of happiness, but what is certain is that they are all in the pursuit of a bigger home. In fact, American English has a slang - and somewhat pejorative - word for it - the McMansion.

The average American house size now stands at 2,349 square feet (218 sq meters) and has more than doubled since the 1950s. (NPR)

By comparison, in 2000 the average French house size was 927.85 square feet (86.2 m²) - a rise from the 731.9 square feet or 68 m2 in 1970) (source here in French)

So yes, there may be some confusion here between happiness and material possession. There may be more to it than the "mere pursuit of happiness". Some say it is a sign of the atomizing of the American family:
"Each person not only has his or her own television -- each person has his or her own bathroom. Some of these houses are literally designed with three playrooms for two children. This way, the family members rarely have to interact. And the notion of compromise is simply out one of the very many windows these houses sport." says a professor of landscape history at Harvard University
Other analysts have also seen this trend accelerate after 9/11 and consider it as part of the increasing fortress mentality. In any case it is in line with the American culture of excess - excess in food, sizes, houses, cars, etc.... For Europeans, those excesses are both fascinating and repulsive.

What is certain is that a 2,349 sq. ft house requires a lot of energy for heating or air-conditioning. No wonder Americans need so much oil. How much further can it go? how much bigger can houses be? How much bigger can people be? It seems indeed that this "pursuit" is self-defeating and that this aspect of the American culture is leading the American people to wall in the long-term.


At 17:29, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only the American house is getting bigger, the American is also driving bigger cars. The SUVs, big trucks are popular choices for barbie doll/porn star look alike soccer moms, and redneck/rapper wannabe Nascar dads. Perhaps the main reason is that the American is getting fatter, more obese. Frankly despite of being an American myself, I think in general the Americans are very repulsive. They prefer quantity over quality, image over substance, live to eat instead of eat to live, live to work instead of work to live. The excesses (in foods, sizes, houses, cars....) put heavy demand on the financial budget. Everyone is spending and catching with the Jones instead of saving and living comfortable within their own mean. Thus most people are in debts, have little of saving, work lot of overtime or more than one jobs, spend very little time on quality personal time (it's not the so called "good time" that many chubby/beefy/obnoxious Americans often brag about). If you travel to any national parks here in the United States, don't be surprised to see lot of foreigners. And if you talk to them, you will discover that they have lot more vacation than an average American, travel lot of places, and seen more America than many American themselves. I actually know several people from the work place who have never been further than West of the Missouri river. Naturally, they are very conservative, self-proclaimed Republican/Fundamental Christians. However just by observing their living style, one has to wonder if they're really Christians because they violate most of the real Christian qualities. Yet nowaday the whole country is very much the same. Everyone is bragging about American dream, but no one knows exactly what American dream is. If the American dreams are the McMansions; the SUVs; the high paid but unstable jobs with little vacation, no pension, little health insurance, lot of overtimes; the constant chanting (and over using) the word "freedom" despite of many laws/rules/restrictions, government control; and the government that run by corrupt, greedy, self serving, party over country royalty policians then they are not my American dreams. Perhaps it's just me, but I don't have any dreams in this current society.


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