Living More With Less

Is Less Really More?

Living More with Less

It’s no secret that on average, Europeans earn less money, live in smaller homes, drive smaller cars, and have much smaller wardrobes than Americans.  So, why do statistics show that Europeans are happier than we are?  Can living with less equal a higher quality of life?

This past spring, the Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD), released a list of the top ten happiest countries in the world.  Denmark, Finland, and the Netherlands won top billing, but as one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the world, it may or may not surprise you that the United States didn’t even make the list!  So, if it’s true that money really can’t buy you happiness- what the heck can?

Having lived, worked and travelled throughout Europe, I can honestly say I get it. It’s not just the romantic allure of ancient architecture and foreign accents.  It’s not just the promise of more social services or a more leisurely paced lifestyle.  There’s something else.  A simplicity, an appreciation that the people have for each other, their food, and the everyday rituals of life that Americans often overlook by racing against the clock and exchanging quality for quantity.  Without realizing it, have we as a culture reduced our quality of life in exchange for convenience? Does this “bigger, better” way of life make our lives richer or remove us further away from happiness? Success and Happiness

Now, I’m not saying that splurging on a gorgeous new dress can’t bring a smile to your lips. I’m not suggesting that you take your career less seriously or work less hours.  Nor am I saying that socialism is the answer to our American woes.  But I do believe that the European lifestyle offers us a Fab & Fru lesson in mindfulness, family, community, quality vs. quantity and a different perspective on the meaning of success and happiness.  Look at this comparison:


  • Americans typically associate success with having money and a respectable career.
  • Europeans tend to define themselves less by what they do for work, so their idea of success is not just about wealth and power but also about how much time they have to enjoy friends, family, and life’s experiences.

Quantity vs. Quality

  • Americans like things big and we like to consume!  We have big houses, big cars, giant portions of food, and lots of stuff that we never use.
  • Europeans certainly enjoy consuming.  However, they tend to live more modestly, buying less but spending more for higher quality (think Italian leather shoes!).
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4 Responses to “Living More With Less”

  1. Michelle says:

    This article was fantastic to read. I have traveled to Spain often since 1992, with my husband, who’s family is from Spain, and I can attest to the fact that food really brings families together there. We spend more time eating and visiting with family and friends than anything else when we go to Spain yearly.

    Your comment on small vs. large is so true also. Having been in Spain for a great deal of the summer this past year, I can tell you that I really wish our society was more like that. People just “get it” more there than they do here…hopefully, one day that will change, but for now, I’ll just try to create my own “Private Euro Zone” with my family and see how it goes.

  2. cbeanshop says:

    everytime my husband talks about colleagues who make more money or have more stuff I ask him about their quality of life. Do they have such an easy going work schedule where they can take time off for travel? Do they enjoy the company of their co-workers? Often times the quality of life does not match the quality of stuff they can buy. I remind him we aren’t rich, but we live beyond our dreams and yet within our means. We have more than enough “stuff”….and more importantly the time to spend with family and friends.

  3. Stella says:

    I’d definitely prefer scaling back and having more time rather than more money. If it weren’t for the necessity of health insurance, I’d happily go back to working part-time.

  4. Teresa Yi says:

    I just watched a documentary called, I.O.U.S.A, which talks about the U.S. Deficit so the timing of reading this article is pretty uncanny! It is true, after living in London for four months on a semester abroad program, that Europeans value TIME to enjoy. We do work a lot over here while Italy shuts down at noon .. literally. But I guess like everything, its that BALANCE. I love America’s drive and spirit but we also need to remember to take time out for family, friends and make the effort to stay engaged. It can be empowering!

Any Thoughts?