Monday 24 July 2017

Honesty and family time are the upturns of the recession

Carissa Casey

Nobody would suggest that lengthening dole queues, home repossessions or the return of emigration are anything to cheer about. The recession has caused a large amount of distress to a great many people.

But it's also interesting to note how less money has changed our attitudes, often for the better.

A few years ago, bump into a casual acquaintance and the conversation was usually a list of various holidays and spending sprees. Now, the first thing most people ask is "how's work?".

And it isn't meant as an excuse to detail how brilliantly they are doing. It's usually out of genuine concern.

Aoife Sadlier, head of qualitative research at Lansdowne Market Research, has noticed a clear shift in attitudes when she talks to groups of consumers.

"I wouldn't say anyone is particularly enjoying the downturn but people seem relieved not to have to keep up with neighbours anymore."

Honesty is back in fashion. It's now acceptable to say "I can't afford that", whereas a few years ago such a statement would likely have made you a social freak.

And bargain hunting is back. "Two or three years ago, the more upmarket consumers we spoke to would have mortified to say they shopped in Lidl or Aldi." Family life is also benefiting, it would appear. According to Rita O'Reilly of Parentline, parents are spending far more time with their kids.

"Because people aren't out shopping so much or carting their kids around to various activities, families are spending more time together and that's a very positive development."

Children are also now learning valuable life lessons such as the importance of delaying gratification.

"In the boom years we tended to give our kids whatever they wanted when they wanted. Now that's changed.

The trend towards home-cooking is also benefiting family life, according to O'Reilly. "I think families are eating together more often and that really helps strengthen bonds."

Ms Sadlier agrees that home-cooking is back.

She also claims that a lack of money hasn't killed romance in the country. Because couples can't afford to eat out so often many turn a night at home into a special occasion.

The flip-side to this is that eating out has become something to be enjoyed as a special treat.

Sadly about two men in every eight or nine that Ms Sadlier has spoken to are unemployed. But some have remarked on the positive side of being able to spend more time with their kids. Sister Stan, founder of Focus Point, the homeless charity, believes that the financial crisis has forced us all to re-think our values and attitudes.

"We talk about values now where I don't think we really did in the boom years. "

There's no ignoring the misery caused, but the Celtic Tiger didn't entirely rob us of common sense.

Irish Independent

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