Got a great query from reader Alison about being a snob or just having standards, and it is such a good question, it deserved a post!
WHAT IS A SNOB EXACTLY?
So if I am reading that correctly, it means you are enamoured with the idea of wealth and social position and would rather hang out with those of ‘the proper class’ than to give everyone equal treatment.
A good example of snobbery would be people who let’s say refuse to go to some Tim Horton’s coffee shop or McDonald’s coffee shop because it’s seen as “lower class”, and not for people who are superior; they’re the kind of people who only go to Starbucks for their coffee any nowhere else, and if you mention to them: Hey let’s hit a Timmie’s or a McDo* on the way back, they turn their nose up at the idea of being caught in such a coffee shop.
*Here in Québec and in France, they call McDonald’s – McDo – pronounced “Meck-doh” instead of Mickey-D’s.
In that example above, it is taking only the social status of the coffee chain into consideration and refusing to set foot or be seen there.
Where the distinction gets blurry is if you (like me) don’t go to those places to eat because the food is not that good for you, being heavily processed with additives.
(As a side note, a Starbucks egg and bacon sandwich seems to be better for you than a McDonald’s egg and ham McMuffin but I will say that I think the McDonald’s one is way tastier and my preferred choice between the two because the egg isn’t all mushy and scrambled into a yellow block, and it is cooked the way I like it, with the whites still showing & solid, but I digress.)
Or, you just think that everything you do and have is better than anyone else, except for, of course, The Royal Family or the Uber Rich Folks because they would be your pinnacle of perfection.
THERE MAY BE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SNOBBERY
I want to also point out that we are snobs, all of us, in various ways. We all live our lives in the manner we think is the best for us, and as a result with our bias, we are a little snobbish.
I myself, could be considered a huge snob for food (I think the politically correct term these days is “foodie”), but am actually not averse to going to McDo for an Egg & Ham McMuffin (if the mood strikes me which hasn’t happened in a while because I haven’t been willing to feel a bit crappy physically after eating it but now I am really craving one.. THANKS YOU GUYS!!).
I also care deeply nowadays about eating less meat (note I said LESS not to cut it out altogether) to lessen the impact on my body and the environment*.
(*Did you know that they use the most amount of water – more than what the people living there use – in California where droughts are common to grow alfalfa sprouts which they use as animal feed in other countries so we can eat meat? This entire TED talk on the Finite resources we have is really illuminating).
But for other things? Don’t care.
Fancy home décor with the most expensive sound systems, or special furniture that is trendy right now, sending my kid to private daycares that cost $100 a day (REALLY!) just so I can say that my child is privileged, owning the latest, most expensive luxury vehicle, and a myriad of other things, does nothing for me.
On the topic of daycare, I happen to be around people who send their kids to said luxury daycare, and when I was thinking of putting Baby Bun into daycare, they asked me which one, and I said: Oh, the cheapest one possible.
That really took some of them back.
You could see the shock in some of their faces, as though it is just not done in my neighbourhood to admit that I don’t want to spend a ton of money on my precious snowflake and to also hint that I may not have the means to do so.
No one talks about not having any money because it is seen as embarrassing and shameful to admit it; something very pervasive in our culture.
When they tried to tell me proudly that they sent their kids to the fanciest daycare available on the island, I said politely: They do sound very nice indeed. … and sent my child to the cheapest one we could find that met our core values – namely, cloth diapering and they would allow us to pack a homemade organic lunch for him to eat.
SO IS IT REALLY SNOBBERY?
Is it really snobbery to demand quality in areas that you care about?
This is where we all tend to get confused about what is being a snob, what is just a core value of standards you want to hold on to and demanding quality in the things you buy for your body and for yourself.
I don’t care about a fancy, exclusive daycare that costs $100 day because it is not a core value to me to spend as much as I can on a service that is not really any better than a cheaper daycare.
I care about eating the best food I can, but within limits — I buy organic wherever I can, I buy as much as I can avoiding plastic and only buying glass, etc, and I am willing to spend on it.
After a while, I started to realized that with honey for instance, I could taste the difference between the supermarket honey in a plastic bottle and a fancier one for four times the price in a glass bottle.
You’d be amazed at the fact that you can taste the plastic in the honey, and/or the lack of complexity in its flavours, which I never believed would have been true before I tried it.
Refining my tastes because I have the means and resources to do so (more money), doesn’t mean I have become a snob.
I am not forcing anyone to buy this fancier honey, and I’d be thrilled if I could find a cheaper substitute that would give me the same complex flavours of wildflowers and sunshine in a honey.
Most importantly, I am not making anyone feel bad about not eating this fancy honey. Want to eat supermarket honey, and don’t care because you love it and it tastes GREAT? Then all the power to you!
Frankly, it is only on this blog I am a little more honest / transparent about what goes on in my head than I would otherwise be in real life to others, but trust me, I’d never lecture anyone in real life on honey unless they asked me very specifically: So what’s the difference between the honey in a plastic jar here at the local supermarket versus one that is imported? I don’t get it.
..but they’d never find out I am eating that fancy honey from my bragging about it, or refusing to eat “lower quality” honey and saying: “I only eat independently grown honey made in the moonlight by bees educated from the best universities in the world and managed by royal fairies“.
THE DIFFERENCE IS IN BRAGGING OR SHOWING OFF
It’s your attitude towards it.
Do you go around braying that your child goes to a fancy daycare and it’s the best even though it’s costing you an arm and a leg that you can’t really afford to do without?
Do you refuse to wear secondhand clothing (even designer) because you’re a baller who can only wear brand new items once and then toss them to the plebs at Goodwill because it is now “used” and worn once by you which is more than enough?
Do you refuse offers of food because it isn’t made with organic this-and-that?
Do you go around saying: I refuse to buy this shirt because I’m too good to wear $1 t-shirts and can ONLY let $100 shirts touch my body?
Then you’re not a snob. You just care about where you spend your money.
As long as you’re open to new ideas (very hard), new experiences (equally difficult) and accepting of people and their views of all walks of life (the easiest of all), then you can’t possibly be a snob.
You can still hold what you believe to be your true values and not waver from them if you don’t want to (vegan, not vegan, is it all a hoax?), as long as you’re willing to hear other sides of the story.
In my youth you could not have told me in a million years I would ever consider and want to eat more vegan / vegetarian meals for instance. I was a full-out meat eating snob, and now, I’ve done a drastic 180 to having majorly reconsidered my youthful (think pre-teen) views).
Good quality meat that is well raised, why not? Otherwise, why not try and make the most of the vegetables and find less-meaty options for most of the time?
CAN YOU BE A NON-SNOB AND OWN FEWER, QUALITY ITEMS?
Yeah. They call that being Frugal. 😉
Buying less stuff in general is a known fact that it is better for the environment because it means less things are being made, transported, and then discarded onto a landfill to sit there for 100+ years as it is not biodegradable.
Buying fewer items, and making sure you buy quality items (which is not necessarily correlated to the price tag, as we all know), and/or made ethically or locally as it supports your beliefs, is a good thing.
It’s not that I am unwilling to step foot into a mainstream store like Zara, H&M, Forever 21, etc.. and I REFUSE to be seen buying “lower class” clothing. It is more that I am refusing to buy cheap crap that will break or pill after 2 wears (what a waste), and I want my dollars to go farther for longer.
If those places made higher quality items that will last, with organic cotton and/or ethically, then WHY NOT? It is more that they don’t have such practices in place as they cannot continue churn out $10 clothing items or $1 flip flops and make a profit, so I opt to keep my dollars in my pocket for better items.
It’s not like I will only let designer labels drape my body no matter what, it is that what I want to wear on my body has to be in line with my changing values, which include buying less and of a higher quality but not necessarily only plastered with designer logos all over the place.
Heck, I own a suit from Jacob that was Made in Canada I bought in high school when I was starting business school and knowing I would need it for presentations & interviews, and I STILL wear it to this day, 10+ years later.
Am I ashamed or snobbish about it not being Armani, Stella McCartney, or any other fancy suit label? Did I snip out the tags so that no one would know?
No. It works, it does its job, it fits and I like it. Its quality has lasted a long time for what I paid for it.
I would want to encourage everyone to think about what they buy before they buy it, but I’m not going to be militant about it (at least I hope I am not).
It is surprising how much you put back on the shelf or rack if you have a good hard think on it, and I truly think it is an exercise everyone should do, at least once in their life, even if they don’t stick to it.
I’m starting to try and incorporate that into my life and to do the same with every purchase, by asking if my dollars are really well spend on this item and if it would improve my life, which has greatly helped my wallet and my outlook on life.
Do I think it’s a better, easier way of life for most folks? Yes.
But am I forcing it down everyone’s throats, going around preaching and bragging about how much ____ and _____ I am and feel? No. At least I hope not.
I am not a maximalist, as clearly evidenced by my home tour, but I can respect it when someone *cough*my mother*cough* wants to spend hundreds of dollars on kitchen gadgets because it makes her happy and she enjoys knowing she has the stuff to whip up a delicate consommé, creamy smoothie or bake tiny little muffins any time she dang well wants to.
I’m not going to lecture her on it. I might just mention: “Hey, instead of buying something new, how about making some smoothies with that nice machine of yours instead? Or that great bread maker you have — you could use that instead of buying a new _____!”
If she insists she needs it, and wants it, then *shrug*…. it’s her money, she isn’t in debt, she isn’t neglecting the basics of life, and saves her money, so why not?
DO YOU BUY NICER ITEMS AS YOUR INCOME GOES UP?
It’s a known fact that lifestyle inflation exists. Heck, I’m a prime example.
I was a girl who when I was $60,000 in debt, instead of buying new pants that would fit my slimmer body, I was using a belt to hold them up and stapling the hems instead of buying hemming tape for quick tailoring jobs because I was THAT OBSESSED about not spending money.
I just kept repeating Must get out of debt. Must get out of debt. and it all went to my debt instead of on things. I re-evaluated and refused to buy anything except weekly train tickets to see my then-boyfriend (now partner).
ALL THE LOLS.
I am a spending machine ever since I started making more money and cleared my debt as I once saved a net of $250,000+ in a year.
I can’t even believe my spending has ballooned to over $50,000 a year ever.
I know why it has done so, it’s because I felt justified in spending that money because I did so much good with it, such as buying my house in cash, and to have invested it wisely and lazily to be able to live (more or less) off it, while making about $1000 a month on the side to handle expenses.
Of course my lifestyle went up in relation to my income.
Once my income dropped however, I also know how to pull back because I’ve done it before; it’s a bit like riding a bicycle.. you just never forget how to do it.