New Versus Old

March 14th, 2010 by | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

When I first boarded the Air France plane in 2006, I noticed that the seats were old-looking and filthy.  There were stains and tears.  This scene was a major contrast to what I’ve always seen on American planes.  The seats on American planes were normally new-looking, clean, and tear-free.

Then, when I arrived in France and stepped outside of the airport, I caught sight of many automobiles zooming on the roads.  The conditions of the automobiles were noticeably old.  The colors on the cars appeared to be fading away and less shiny.  In America, I do not see old automobiles often.

As I took a ride through the city of Paris, I saw that the architecture appear to be in Rococo style, also known as the “late Baroque style.”  There were many curvy and flowing lines in the design, and also shell-shape ornaments – all of these characteristics define the Rococo period.  Therefore, the architecture had to be built during the 18th century and yet, they were still standing perfectly well and cafes and boutiques were still operating and people were continuing to live in these buildings.  In the US, I find that old buildings are perhaps about 100 years-old are often torn down and new buildings built atop of them.

I came to conclusion that the French have a lack of sense of renewal.  When something is 20 years old, in the eyes of the French, it is new.  However, in the eyes of the Americans, it is old.  Therefore, each culture has it’s own definition of “new” and “old.”  According to my friends in France, the French in general keep their cars until the day it dies, and that means they could own their car for 15 to 20 years.

I read an interesting passage in The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille, a French-born American market researcher, about Americans’ definition of new verses old.  Apparently, American in general find old items to be boring because they’ve been stuck with that item for a long time as Rapaille stated:

“Americans, on the other hand, find perfection boring.  If something is perfect, you’re stuck with it for life, and that doesn’t sit well with most Americans.  We want a new car every three years.  We want a new television every five.  We want a new house when we have kids, and another new one when the kids grow up.”

What has been even more fascinating was that the author went into depth about why the American cars have not been lasting as long as the Japanese cars.  He stated that because Japan has such a small amount of land for a large population, they have very minimal space to dump old and inoperable items.  So, the Japanese have been having to create objects that last long enough to reduce the waste. That could be the same case for France too since the French have been known to be environmentally conservative and do everything they can to reduce waste and so, that is why they have been keeping things forever like the Japanese.  Rapaille stated that the Americans do not mind the American cars not lasting long enough because it gives them an excuse to buy a new car sooner when their car eventually breaks down:

“We want things to become obsolete, because when they do, we have the excuse we need to buy something new.  At the same time, thought, we have a simple and clear quality demand for our products: they need to work.  When we turn the keys in the ignitions of our cars, we expect them to start and to take us where we need to go.”

I just have to throw in this quote from Rapaille’s book for the sake of humor:

“My fourteen-year-old son, born and raised in this country, exemplifies this attitude.  I went shopping for antiques recently and took him with me.  We  came upon a gorgeous seventeenth-century sofa and I told him how much I liked it.  “You like that?” he said, sneering.  “Do you know how many asses have sat in that sofa?  Why don’t you get a new sofa?”

As an American, I am been guilty for buying certain new things every few years such as computers and cell phones.  It is not necessarily because I get bored of them.  It is because I want computers and cell phones with the latest technology.  For instance, the MacBook Pro that I currently have is three years old and has 100 GB of space and 2GB 667 MHZ of memory, and it still works beautifully.  However, I plan on purchasing a new one soon.  The latest MacBook Pro has a 500 GB hard drive and 4GB of memory.  As a photographer who shoots digitally in RAW file, a 24-bit RGB uncompressed image file, which is a much bigger file than JPG, I run out of space all the time on my computer and always have to move all of my stuff onto my external hard drive.  As a traveler, it is not fun to lug around my external hard drives.  Also, when I work with my photos on my computer, the system tends to slow down due to the large file size.  So, really, I should not feel guilty at all when I buy certain new products every few years because I have valid reasons.

On the other hand, I will keep furniture until the day it breaks apart.  I’ve been sleeping on the same bed and using the same desk since I was since I was six years old.  My family has been eating dinner at the same table since long before I was born.  We’ve been watching the same TV in the family room since we moved into the house in 1993, and it still works perfectly well and the picture quality is still great.

All in all, I feel that I live in both worlds.

1 Comment

March 14, 2010 at 6:36 pm

It’s the same here – we still have the same car from when I was a kid – my motobike is 12 years old and it just started failing – office room couch is ours since before my parents married.I had the same hearing aid for 10 years before I got implanted.My family’s dining table was my grandmothers from when SHE was married.And it’s still going strong.

My dad repaired their couch ( which they got when I was 4 years old ) himself.He made a special telephone for me – that was before special extra loud telephones for deaf got imported from US.

You should also probably expand on the fact that here in Europe , we try to fix things ourselves.Like that my neighbour and I replaced the funky light switch and light in my small bathroom.

On the other end – my cell phone gets changed every year when my contract is up because if it breaks I won’t be able to repair it ( lack of spare parts ).Also this year – my cell phone is still good, but I will buy a new one for convenience( full QWERTY keyboard for text messages, as I rely on them!For that feature alone I’m willing to shell some more money.).My laptop is 2 years old and still going strong , but I’m saving up for new one,bc it’s been broken 2 times and I had to fight for repair under warranty ( they wanted to repair it only if I paid them strong bucks and with the same money I cold get a new one anyway.)

So yes – it’s the best of two worlds.Also, I notice a lot of similarities with deafness + CI’s and able to speak/listen but we are deaf.

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