One thing I’ve noticed while living with Paraguayan families is that they have few things. That’s not to say they don’t have anything—the families I’ve lived with have TVs (yes, plural), stereos, toys, and fashion items like purses and watches. But, they don’t have things in excess. Paraguayans use the things they have until they are completely worn out, and then they use them for something else.
Despite having little, Paraguayans share almost everything and aren’t afraid to use things just because they might get dirty or break. For example, one of my host brothers has a bike. It’s a bike that’s too big for him and has parts from different bikes, but it runs just fine. He rides that bike whenever he can. And his sister rides it, and two of his neighboring cousins ride it because they don’t have a bike, and his other siblings and cousins ride it sometimes. They all zoom around, up and down, the little dirt paths that connect our houses. Sometimes the seat has to be raised, but most of the time it is pushed down as far as it can go. No one worries that the bike is going to break—they just enjoy what they are getting out of it now.
The same goes for food. When a little kid, or adult, or anyone really, has something yummy they almost always share it if they are eating it in front of other people. I’ve passed candy bars and cookies back and forth with my eight-year-old sister. If you don’t want to share, you don’t eat around other people.
Everything here seems to be shared. Siblings share beds, cousins share party shoes, and neighbors share garden tools. Why does everyone family need their own ladder when someone in the vicinity already has one?
When someone in the family gets something new they pass it around so everyone can look at it. Things that individuals get still add, somehow, to the enjoyment of the whole family or group.
Having only what you need and sharing everything is very different than my experience in the US. In the US we focus on being independent and being individuals, so the idea of sharing is second thought. It may not seem like a big difference, but it is.