Consumer choice and home culture

I’ve been feeling very home-sick lately, maybe because of all of the election news and because the holidays are coming up soon. Everyone in the United States is going through similar things: Halloween, election, Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah…knowing that I’m missing out is frustrating and lonely. This morning I reached an all-time low since I’ve been here and decided I needed to do something differently. So I went to Starbucks and ordered a grande chai tea latte. Then I went to the Hair Shop and looked at shampoos, and I found the brand that I use at home. Something about these two events made me feel better. Something about ordering the drink I like at a known establishment with comforting aromas instead of drinking coffee at the school cafeteria and something about finding the shampoo I like instead of using some harsh shampoo of an unknown brand from the Drogerie Markt was comforting. Was it just the consumerism that did it? Some would argue that purchasing anything provides a temporary high. I’d like to think not. For instance, the other day when I spent 7 Euros on a “döner teller”, a giant platter of meat, lettuce, and french fries, because the guy at the döner kebab place refused to make me a “döner” without bread (Me: “But I’m allergic to wheat. Can you just put it on a plate?” Guy: “We don’t have that”), there was no high. And when the stern worker at the Photo Shop told me that printing wallet-sized photos was not possible unless I wanted to pay 1 Euro each to make passport photos, it was not an upper. I think that today’s satisfaction had more to do with consumer choice. Consumer choice is empowering; lack of it makes one feel doomed to accept whatever is in supply. Hmm….doom is a good description of what I’ve felt lately. Consumer choice is (I know anti-consumerists are cringing) a form of self-care, because let’s face it, some products are better or better-suited to one’s needs than others. I’m a brunette, but using John Frieda’s Brilliant Brunette leaves my hair far from brilliant. My hair is screaming for a gentler, moisturizing shampoo. And now that I found one, compared it to the other shampoo, compared the costs, and made a decision; I feel like I’ve done myself a favor. It’s like going to the butcher and the baker and the farmers’ market to hand-pick each of your foods instead of buying them at the local grocery chain. The effort it takes to make the right choice fosters a sense of self-respect and self-love. Why is this important for me now? Because I feel limited, limited to cafeteria food and a few restaurants that use spices, limited to the few people I know here, limited to my room on these cold, dark, rainy evenings. But having a choice in what I buy for myself–even if it’s just whole milk in my chai tea latte–makes me feel not so limited and a little closer to home.


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