Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Learning to Consume

It strikes me that Jamaicans who migrate looking for a better life, do indeed get one, relative to what they left behind.

However, they also get something else -- a new and abiding hunger for more.

Returning to the U.S. after being away for a couple of years has opened my eyes to how much the message is transmitted in North America in the form of unrelenting advertising: "you don't have enough, you need more, and here is the more you need."

During my last trip to the U.S. I had the ongoing experience of being "sold to," using a combination of fear, greed and other base emotions.  The themes were everywhere I looked, from television to newspapers to billboards.

I never noticed the message when I lived there, but now that I live abroad and outside of that world, it stands out.

What is sad is that people in the U.S. seem to have developed a tough exterior in which they distrust all advertising and sales pitches with a sense of cynical "realism."  Each person sees the other as an economic target to sell something to, using whatever means necessary.

Here in Jamaica, things are just very different, and I have yet to receive my first Jamaican-based telemarketing call, piece of junk mail or email spam.

When a Jamaican moves abroad, they are subject to that same, new frame of mind.  They learn the cynicism that comes with repeatedly being "sold."  They come to want the best DVD player, more DVD's, the very latest films and the flat screen TV to watch it all on.  When they left Jamaica they were content being one of the few people they knew with any kind of DVD player.

The new consumer thinking gets into their heads, and they find that if they wait for the right sale, they can get what they want.  However, they also get something else they didn't plan on getting -- US Consumer tastes, a desire for more and a deep cynicism about marketing.

Coming back to Jamaica has meant a freedom from that hard edge and it's a solid benefit.  Hopefully, that's one thing that won't change.

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