America is a big country. However upon returning home from a three-week trip in the USA, I feel under the obligation to share my astonishment at the sheer scale of, […]

America is a big country. However upon returning home from a three-week trip in the USA, I feel under the obligation to share my astonishment at the sheer scale of, not only the land space itself, but EVERYTHING in the country.

I found that, from cars to fridges to soft drinks, there just seem to be no boundaries when it comes to the size of American commodities. There’s no denying that I wasn’t initially impressed by the great magnitude of everything; but as the days went by, the intensity of it began to make me to consider the dangers that this ‘bigger is better’ mentality can inflict upon a nation. Is it really good to crave bigness? Or could this in fact be the underlying cause of America’s problems today?

Definitely not mid-sized

The scale of everything in America was manifest from the start of my trip when, upon arrival, my family and I went directly to pick up the ‘mid-sized’ car that we were to rent for the duration of the holiday. As we waited for it to be brought out, I was expecting a car not dissimilar from our moderate Skoda Fabia back home- one that most Brits would class as your average ‘mid-sized’ vehicle.

I was thus taken aback when a large white SUV swung around the corner and stopped in front of us. I wasn’t complaining- what a luxury it was to drive around in such a commodious vehicle! But while cruising down the highway on the way out of New York I soon discovered that these bulky four-by-fours are in fact not a bit uncommon in the States.

This type of house is actually called a McMansion. Delightful

The size of houses also shocked me. I couldn’t believe it when, whilst we were staying in my Aunt’s seemingly standard sized family-house, she complained that her home is considered tiny in the US. But, sure enough, later on when driving through different neighbourhoods I saw for myself what she meant: the general house size was bigger than hers, and a lot larger than your average British home.

What’s more, while visiting and staying in various homes of family and friends during the trip, I noted that the domestic appliances within these homes are of a similarly vast nature. Capacious two-doored fridges are the norm, bulky Range cookers stand in most kitchens and televisions are often more like cinema screens. It dazzled me how all this affluence seemed to simply be the norm in the US. But in the back of my mind hung the question: how necessary is it all?

Supersize indeed

As well as this super-sized nature of things in the domestic sphere, I cannot refrain from mentioning just how much ‘super-sizing’ there was in America’s catering industry, most prominently in the world of fast-food. Being on the road for a considerable part of the three weeks that I spent in the US, we made various stop-offs in fastfood joints along the highway. The portion sizes were extortionate.

I was particularly taken aback by the bucket-sized cartons of fizzy drinks- while a large coke here is 500ml, it stands at almost double that across the pond at 946ml! And the fact that, despite the great quantities, the food remains at an extremely cheap price makes it all the more appealing. I mean what hungry person wouldn’t opt for a large burger, massive box of skinny fries and bucketful of coke for a mere $6?

While all this ‘bigness’ is no doubt alluring, let me now reveal the so often-undetected problems that lurk behind it. The SUV we rented burned petrol so quickly that at one point we found ourselves stranded on the side of the highway with an empty tank, showing just how damaging these huge cars so common in the US must be for the environment, let alone to drivers’ pockets.

Similarly, the large-scale domestic appliances that Americans have come to simply expect undoubtedly play a part in the widespread debt of the American population, with the average credit card debt per household currently standing at a whopping $7149. As for the mammoth portion sizes, we are all well aware of America’s obesity problem; the fact is that if people are served more, they will eat more, and when they eat more, well of course they weigh more…

So we can finally conclude that environmental damage (related to over consumption), financial debt and obesity- three of the USA’s most prevalent issues- are all in large part down to the, quite frankly, ridiculous idea that ‘bigger is better’. As long as everything continues to grow, so will America’s debt, America’s carbon footprint and America’s people themselves!