Wednesday, April 8, 2015

House culture

A man’s (or a woman’s) house is his castle, or so they say.  It can also be his status symbol, social hall or just dormitory, all depending on the individual person and group culture.

The original expression in English means that the owner of the house may design and decorate the house as s/he pleases, of course as long it does not violate any housing codes or block any views of the neighbors.  This medieval law also allows you to refuse access to any person that you choose, especially salespersons, to the point of being able to shoot intruders in some countries and circumstances. Even the police technically have to attain a warrant to enter a house.  All that is missing is a moat.

In many countries, such as the United States and Israel, it is your statement of income.  Whether you have one bedroom or fifteen does matter in the eyes of society. It determines your social circle and basically announces your tax bracket.  Regardless of the formal price and currency, only the rich can afford a large estate with gardens and pools while only the poor stay in government housing projects, with the possible exception of the few remaining communist countries such as North Korean, where there is basically equality in poverty.

In the Mediterranean and other regions, the house is your social center.  Families and friends generally gather at their houses, not at restaurants.  In these places, houses and apartments are fairly big while restaurants are expensive relative to income.  For example, many Israeli families get together on Friday or Saturday nights around a nice meal, sun flower seeds and tea to share time together. The atmosphere and cost are truly family-friendly, better than any restaurant.

By contrast, in Paris and other large cities, where apartments are small, dark and expensive, the preferred meeting place is restaurants.  Likewise, in many parts of the United States, it is common for people not to invite people over as a matter of principle, as if your house was your castle against the world.  In this case, the house is a place to eat, sleep and watch television.  What counts is the noise level outside, distance from public transportation, available parking and proximity to shopping.  Granted, all those feature can cost quite a fortune in a city like New York, but still, the aesthetics of the location are much less important. The house is more a less an inflated dorm room, minus roommate.

So, your home is what you make of it or others make of it. Do not take it for granted.

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