Well, we finally finished reading about Bhutan - a poor country: can the people there really be happy? One American couple Weiner meets points out that if the Bhutanese knew what they were missing they would want what westerners have, but simply they don't know. Weiner points out that 90% of the Bhutanese who study abroad return to Bhutan which completely befuddles the Americans. He also relates a story from an ex-patriot married to a Bhutanese man. When they traveled to the United States and the husband visited a Sharper Image store for the first time. He was fascinated by all it had, but seemed to enjoy it as one might a museum. He looked at everything and marveled at what it did, but did not wish to buy any of it.
I remember learning years ago that the Amish give their young people a year to experience all that they have been denied and then are asked to decide if they want to join the Amish community, or join the "English" - 80% stay with their Amish roots.
I used to be bemused by my husband's grandparents because they bought 3 of everything (coffee makers, television sets and other appliances) they liked in case one broke and they couldn't find another one just like it. At the age of 45 I am beginning to see their point. I was completely frustated at not being able to find a land line telephone that attached to the wall and had a cord. I did finally find one, but it looks pretty chintzy.
In light of this evidence it does not appear that not knowing what we're missing makes us any happier. I think we do just like things the way we are used to them.