Less is more

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We have all heard that phrase, right? At least most of us understand the idea behind it, I think. To me, less is more refers to consumerism and how by acquiring fewer material things, we can improve our lives by focusing on the things that’ll have a lasting impact on our lives. Things like talking to people we care about, spending time together (without electronic distractions), acquiring new experiences, reading, exercising, learning, thinking, etc.

The idea of less is more can also be taken to a different level, for example, the obvious difference in the size of material possessions between North America and the rest of the world. My family and I just returned from a one-month trip to Europe. We spread our days between Portugal, Spain, and Italy. Three different countries that, while having some similarities, are very different culturally. Yet, these countries share similarities, the things that make them to us Westerns, European countries.

Let’s start with the elevators. If you live in America and haven’t visited Europe yet, getting on a regular elevator in any European country will be an experience – there are always exceptions. Elevators in Europe are tiny and, in many cases, very old. But, again, there are exceptions. You can visit a modern hotel or any building and see a very nice and spacious elevator. However, elevators in older buildings aren’t just old, they are tiny. It looks to me that having such small elevators makes you think twice before using them, and for us, the stairs are almost always a better choice – less is more.

What about cars? Cars are tiny in European countries too! Even the delivery trucks and those used to transport goods around the country are much smaller when compared to their American counterparts. The bulk of cars is a combination of very compact vehicles and wagons. There is also a vast number of motorcycles, mainly scooters like Vespas. Since most cars transiting the roads are small, the roads and streets are much smaller as well. If you drive a large SUV or pickup truck, you’d have difficulty navigating the streets of Florence, Italy. And don’t even think about parking on the street with such a large car! Less is more.

UPS “truck” in San Sebastián, Spain

Let’s talk about coffee and coffee cups now, one of my favorite topics. In Europe, less is more is a literal truth when it comes to coffee. Espressos are tiny and highly concentrated coffee drinks. We all know what expressos are, but let’s be honest, most Americans don’t think of espresso when thinking about drinking coffee. Most of our caffeinated drinks come in huge cups, and the amount of liquid is substantial compared to the same coffee drink in Europe. Have you seen the size of the cup when you order a latte in the United States? It’s huge. Ask for a cappuccino or latte in Europe, and you’ll get a much smaller cup of coffee – even americanos are served in what you would call a tiny cup in America – less is more in this example as well.

“Large” Cappuccino

Should we talk about breakfast? I think that most of us know that the so-called American breakfast is the biggest of all! Or at least one of the most fulfilling ones. Breakfast in Spain? A cafe con leche and a piece of bread or a slice of tortilla española (a portion of an egg omelet). Italy? Espresso, maybe juice, and a pastry. The United States? Eggs, potatoes, bacon or sausage, pancakes, etc. You get the point.

So is less more? When it comes to what we consume, the answer is yes. Less enjoyment is not more enjoyment, or less happiness is not more happiness. So my focus is to do and buy less unless it is something that brings me joy and good long-lasting memories. The one-month trip to Europe might seem like too much. Still, I know that spending so much time outside our country and our daily tasks create long-lasting memories and exposure to other cultures, ways of thinking, and ways of doing things for both my family and me. It enriches our lives.

Have an excellent Friday!

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