Are we really the most materialistic?

Discussion in 'Community' started by matt459, Aug 8, 2005.

  1. matt459 macrumors member

    I haven't really discussed it anywhere beside the thread about school starting, but I'm going to be an exchange student (yes, that thread from long long ago, I did it!!). I'll be living in Germany with a host family for about 5 months. I've been hearing a lot lately that Americans are the most materialistic people out there, and I've been wondering, is this true? The company that is placing me strongly suggests that we take as little as possible. I'll have no problem with the clothes, as the limit is one 44 pound bag, but I'm not so sure about the electronics. I really want to take my iBook, and my camera (just got a sony T-1, for it's size). I guess my question is, would my computer and camera make me look like "just another rich American". I've already decided against taking my phone, so any help would be appreciated. Also, any other things I should take, that I "can't live without"?


    Oh yeah, I'll be living in Birkenfeld, anyone familiar with it?
  2. Lacero macrumors 604


    Jan 20, 2005
    I think our materialism stems from our isolationist society. We remain apart from our communities, in such a way that we think our needs can be fulfilled by collecting shoes or buying the latest high-tech toys.

    Want to know how separated we are from our communities? Do you know the names of all your neighbors in your block or apartment complex?
  3. mikemodena macrumors 6502a


    May 30, 2005
    I would suggest doing without the camera.. it will make you look like a tourist, but I say bring the iBook because you'll need it for school and keeping a journal, correct?
  4. gwuMACaddict macrumors 68040


    Apr 21, 2003
    washington dc

    i say bring a camera to document your travels

    and no, we (assuming you mean americans) are not the *most* materialistic. some people are, some people aren't. it's like that everywhere.
  5. devilot Moderator emeritus


    May 1, 2005
    I disagree, you're gonna go around the world and take no pictures?! What a waste of a once in a lifetime experience; bring the camera so that you can document your stay.
  6. munkle macrumors 68030


    Aug 7, 2004
    On a jet plane
    Take whatever you want, just don't flaunt it. And definitely take the camera, you're going to want to record your experiences.

    If you're worried about what you're host family might think, surely how you behave over the five months is going to matter more than what you carry in your bag.

    I wouldn't sweat it. And it's not like europeans don't own computers/ipods/cameras/tv's etc etc! It's more about how you behave.
  7. xsedrinam macrumors 601


    Oct 21, 2004
    Take the camera.
    Take lots of pictures of beautiful Bertchesgaden.
    If you feel like a tourist, look to your left and to your right.
    There will be several others staring through their camera lens, taking pictures too. They will be tourists. They will not be all "Americans". You should go unnoticed :cool:
    Hope you have a great experience!
  8. matt459 thread starter macrumors member

    I think i'll take my camera, just not everywhere I go (school, the store, etc...) And yes, I would most likely keep a journal with my iBook, so that is not so much an issue for me. If anyone know from personal experience, or even by living there, is it true that Germans wear the same outfit multiple days in a row? I understand that everyone is different, but as a mildly general statement, are some Germans as materialistic as well?

    Lacero, I'm not sure if you were asking a question or just posing an idea, but I am familiar with "most" of my neighbors. That may be because I live in a quiet area, but I understand where you're comming from. Most Americans don't even see their neighbors, let alone build a relationship with them.
  9. grapes911 Moderator emeritus


    Jul 28, 2003
    Citizens Bank Park
    A picture is worth a thousand words. Why write about what you can visually capture? And by the way, he will be a tourist.
  10. Thomas Veil macrumors 68020

    Thomas Veil

    Feb 14, 2004
    OBJECTIVE reality
    If we're not the most materialistic, we're certainly near the top.

    The Japanese love their gadgets even more than we do, but somehow they also seem to be able to hold onto their civility and their moral standards. We could learn some lessons from them.
  11. obeygiant macrumors 68040


    Jan 14, 2002
    totally cool
    i dont think we are THAT materialistic. There are pleanty of people here with there values in the right place. I just think was a rap of being materialistic because we are a capitalistic society
  12. devilot Moderator emeritus


    May 1, 2005
    Um, I know Americans who wear the same outfit... Ok, every human being is an individual-- there will be some Americans who are more materialistic than some Germans. There will also be some Germans who are more materialistic than some Americans. Likewise, a person's preference for what they wear is as varied.
  13. ToastCabbit macrumors member

    Feb 21, 2004
    Centre College
    Hey, matt459,
    I also was an exchange student living with a host family for a number of months. Granted, I lived in Japan so the culture is completely different than Germany's, but the other posters are right. Take your camera=invaluable. As for the laptop, I would research to see if you'll have regular computer access with your university or host family (my host family sure didn't have net access!). And you'll probably want some music, right? My iPod was my buddy and pal during the bike rides to school.

    And will you have any cellphone at all? For the Japanese culture it was crucial I had one, so the university hooked me up with one. Besides that, while being lost and such is a "great learning experience" there might be times you'll want, or even need, a phone. Is it possible to rent cellphones in Europe? Might want to research that, since I'm sure your phone will get outrageous charges placed on it for being out-of-country if you take it.

    What other travelers probably haven't told you is that unless you're a computer freak who must have their comp with them for purposes of connectivity, don't take it. I took my powerbook because I wanted to guarantee I would have somewhere to store my photos and because the way I run my blog, I needed my own files and software and FTP client and crap. :) Before you go figure out what you truly need to take. Minimize and streamline. Get a free blog that's easy to maintain, email your photos home in a weekly email for storage and sharing, etc. I risked taking my $1800 computer to Japan because I knew it was a safe country, but where will your computer be going? Transporting it to school with me turned out to be an incredible hassle, so think about that, too. Do you have a proper laptop bag, for example?

    And finally while I do think Americans are very materialistic, which leads to more materialism, which leads to more materialism, etc. I feel fairly confident you were told to bring as few items as possible because IT'S A PAIN IN THE RUMP TO TRANSPORT ALL OF IT. You'll invariably acquire more stuff in Germany (clothes, gifts from friends and host family, souvenirs) so plan for that, too. Just be able to live out of your suitcase.

    Hope this helps and you'll have one of the most rewarding trips of your life! :D
  14. matt459 thread starter macrumors member

    Thanks everyone for you replies. It has given me a lot to think about in the next few weeks. Toastcabbit: with you're powerbook with you, did you feel better or worse being able to communicate with family/friends in a cheap, "available" manner? I've gotten mixed opnions about this as well. Some say it's nice, and you don't have to waste the family's phone, or run the bill up. But also, I hear it can really add to the homesickness. Also, how long were you on the computer at one time. At home, 2 or 3 hours is nothing, but in another country I would imagine that's not the case. Thanks again
  15. ToastCabbit macrumors member

    Feb 21, 2004
    Centre College
  16. Applespider macrumors G4


    Jan 20, 2004
    looking through rose-tinted spectacles...
    Take your iBook and your camera - your host family may be more surprised if you don't! My German friends, particularly around Frankfurt and Düsseldorf, tend to be very up to date with technology. They had digital cameras long before I did - and I've had mine for 5 years or so. You may not see as many Macs around though. The penetration in Europe isn't as high as in the US.

    And you'll likely be astonished by how much and in what ways they use cell phones or handys as they call them compared to the US; you're more likely to look out of place without a handy than with a camera/laptop. If yours is a tri-band GSM phone, it might be worth taking and getting a cheap pay-as-you-go simcard when you arrive so you can make local calls there cheaply.
  17. matt459 thread starter macrumors member


    The reason I wasn't going to take my phone, was because from what I heard, It would be difficult to set up. I have a motorola v551, and to my knowledge, it would work just fine. The only problem is, how much does it cost to set up, and is it easy to do? Through vodafone, or t-mobile I'm guessing? And for international calls, would a land line be better, or could my phone be used for that too, with this pay as you go simcard. This doesn't mean I'll definitly take my phone, I've just always been curious as to how your system of phones and services work over in Europe.
  18. ToastCabbit macrumors member

    Feb 21, 2004
    Centre College
    I mostly kept my PB at home because I had a 30 minute bike ride each way. :) But the times I did take my comp to school I was in a computer lab where everyone else was doing their own thing. Also, nobody would have been so impolite as to stare at me. I frankly have no idea if it was considered weird I had my own laptop. And because of my schedule I was never able to be on there for more than like 2 hours. It's better to go have a real life while abroad than to have a digital one, that's for sure.

    And don't forget with computery things like AIM or emails there'll be a time difference, not to mention a lot of your friends at home won't care as much as you think they will. It's just too hard to explain to them what's going on in your life. I certainly did use my cellphone to call my parents and closest friends, especially around Christmas/New Year's. The contact with home was more of a soothing balm than an...uh irritant to homesickness.
  19. Applespider macrumors G4


    Jan 20, 2004
    looking through rose-tinted spectacles...
    It may depend on whether your phone is locked to your current network or not. If not, then it's a case of getting a PAYG simcard when you arrive - probably for around 10€ or so - which will have a German number and will be for a specific network (Vodaphone, E-plus, T-mobile or O2 most likely).

    You'll add credit to that - by buying cards for your chosen network and sending a text with the credit code to top up your phone. I wouldn't bother for a couple of weeks but if you're going to be there a while, it will be useful to keep in touch with new friends and arrange details for meeting up etc. In Europe, you generally don't pay for calls or texts received which may be different from what you're used to.

    If your phone doesn't work out there, or is locked, your German hosts may have a spare lying around the house. In Europe, it's pretty common to change your phone every year or so, and many houses have a couple of spares lying around (bizarre as that sounds!)

    I wouldn't use it for international calls. What you'll probably find when you get there, are companies which specialise in cheap international calls - in the UK, you can get 2p a minute to the US. From what I understand reading the Tube signs, you can open an account with them and put some cash on credit with them. Then you use a prefix before your US number and the cost of the call is deducted from your balance. I have colleagues who use this to call back to South Africa and NZ so it seems above board.

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