A few obvious things stood out as I crossed Canada after nearly two years abroad. One was the rampant consumerism that is part of North American life - you forget this, having simply grown up in it. There were a few moments where I was actually confused by all the choice and products before my eyes.
In Amsterdam, as in a Parisian market or Spanish supermercado, you might have a choice of say 3-4 kinds of peanut butter. Not so in Canada or the States, where your choice of 10 brands and 3 varieties of each brand is arrayed for your convenience.
I walked into a Shoppers Drug Mart in Vancouver, on the hunt for insoles. I was confronted with this:
It took me about 10 minutes to decide to go with my final choice, most of which was spent weighing the benefits of gel, air pillos, sport models and barefoot (this one seems like a bit of a scam, when you think about it).
Barry Schwartz wrote a book on the over-choice-filled, over-consumption world that is much of the West, and how it actually reduces happiness: The Paradox of Choice, where he posits that some choice is much better than none, but too much is a recipe for misery.
If you don't have time to read the book, check out his TED talk. Actively limiting some choices and being content with what you have are great nuggets to take away from it. That is, if you choose to.
So one effect of being away for a while is being perfectly ok with just a couple kinds of peanut butter (the Fair Trade brand makes a beauty) and a basic insole, which is nice.
I'm not sure if Europe's reduced selection is due simply to space constraints or a concerted effort to simplify life. But it works.
Incendio, a fantastic pizzeria and Italian restaurant with the best focaccia bread ever, located in Gastown