Monday, January 7, 2013

Thoughts on that nostalgic, slower pace of life.

Once upon a time, I was pleasantly surprised, made nostalgic, and generally pleased by they way some towns in certain parts of Europe work. The ratio of small/local shops to chains was much higher than in the States. There was something pleasant, even storybook-like, for me to go to the green grocer for my vegetables and then down the street to the bakery for my bread, and to a third store for my jam and loose leaf tea. What a wonderful, slower pace of life. The people at the bakery knew my name. This filled my transience with a sense of potential community. Needless to say, I was not a mother in a two-body problem yet.

Here's my current, probably equally biased and unrealistic take on the same situation in His Town:

This town is designed for house-spouses.

  • Dear Postal Services, Why do you not regularly leave packages that do not need to be signed for on the stoop? Why do you only leave me a note telling me to pick up my package,  which may or may not be at the central post office (I should look online before making the trip), which is only open regular business hours, and Saturday mornings? I appreciate the desire for postal workers to get home to their families and lives. I have a family and a job as well. Save us all the trouble and leave it by my door next time?
  • Dear Local Business Commission, Why is the main shopping district closed by 6 pm? By the time I pick up my kid from daycare and feed him dinner, the opportunity to transfer money from my bank account to yours has passed. Instead, I spend a lot more money on your on-line competitors, only to face the problem above.
  • Dear ... I'm actually not sure who... , Why are the washing machines in this country so small? In such a wet climate, why is it standard for private houses not to have driers? This means that we have to do small loads of laundry thrice a week instead of once. During winter, the heating units in our house are constantly covered with a layer of drying clothes. I recognize that this is similar to the setting my father-in-law probably had growing up, but I had hoped that the standards for households had improved over the last 60 years.
  • Dear Local Small Business Owners, Why do you not have hours on Sunday, or after 6 pm? Again, I understand that you have families you would like to get home to, but so do I, as well as a job. Whenever I am forced to choose between you and the outing we have planned with our family, the outing, and Amazon, win.
  • Dear Local Restaurants, Why do many of you close by 4:30 pm? If I want to have a healthy, interesting meal with my family on a day we have taken off to catch a matinee with my toddler, I would hope to catch an early dinner in town somewhere that is not a bar? p.s. If you care to share, I am really curious what your business model is, and who your target market is with hours from 10am -4 pm Monday through Saturday.


As always, advice and insight from those who have been living in this part of the world longer is welcome.


  1. It's certainly not comparable to your situation, but we have a huge amount of small shops here, that I have never seen open until I had vacations for the first time. Means: not open before 9am not open after 5pm and not open on the weekends. My guess is that the owners just don't do it for the money, but they always wanted to have their own little shop.

  2. I've wondered that as well. However, unless these people are rich enough to pay rent, taxes and utilities on these stores for the pleasure of having their own shops, that theory doesn't make sense. His Town is not a rich community. There's a large bedroom community for Large City, but much of the town is working class. My suspicion is, actually, that much of the town is working class with stay at home wives. Between them and the students venturing into town on a day with few lectures, the businesses stay afloat. We are not the target audience. More's the pity.

  3. "Having" a stay at home wive sounds very convenient - maybe its a market niche. That would solve our post-office-people-just-leave-notes problem as well.

  4. I'm being unfair here. Judging from my small, biased sample size of personal experience, it does not seem to be the norm in His Town to have a wife who stays at home 7 days a week. However, it is very common for women, especially after having children, to go back to work for only a few days a week.

  5. In some European countries, the opening hours for shops are defined by the law (so the shop owners don't have the freedom to open their shops on e.g. Sunday afternoons) and in some cases these laws are based on traditional lifestyles, influcenced among other things by religion (e.g. not working on Sundays in Catholic countries). Some countries even had recent referendums to change this, but in most cases, such referendums failed based on urban/rural divide, due to the much more traditional voters from rural areas.