The Walker-Coxes and their economy

The Walker-Coxes 2

Part of the Walker-Cox family

 

The way in which the media and the surrounding rumors presented English people to me was as it follows: either dreamy and talented (it seems that the majority of the “great” classical literature read by the some people have British origins); selfish and avaricious (some unhappy divorces in a close relative’s family due to such behavior) or rude and arrogant, “particularly in London”[1].

I hardly believed any of my group’s prejudices, even though I experienced them all. English people seemed more reserved and judgmental than my Romanian pals. But who was I to put the label on them? Hardly did I get to know them apart from saying “Hi” or “Thank you!” in the airport or in the market. Generalizations and stereotypes seem to do more harm than good, as Professor of Liberal Arts, Education and Philosophy, Lawrence Blum[2], says. Were such beliefs contributing to the stereotypical image of the English? Some think about it, but the same author states that “it is implausible to think that cultural stereotypes arise from an aggregation of individual stereotypes”. I could not disagree more.

Clarification had to be done and what else was there to do than experience a more complex interaction than the simple greeting? With a strong desire of challenging my friend’s beliefs, I booked an airplane ticket and two train tickets after calling a friend and that was pretty much it.

Living with an English family for a weekend is not a big deal, but it was the best cure to dismantle and to fix my thoughts. The Walker-Coxes, a 10-member-family living in Droitwich Spa, near Worcester, were more than welcoming and made me feel at home from the first moments. Though they did not particularly invest in the aesthetics of their home, I had a place to sleep and tasty homemade food to enjoy.

What surprised me the most was their unwillingness to receive money for the accommodation and food that they offered me during my stay. They knew my sister, but was that a strong enough reason for not having me pay for all of their effort? AirBNB, Uber and other peer to peer market services offer their  services based on some taxes (between 3- 5% of the booking subtotal for AirBNB[3] and depending on the route and its length for Uber[4]).

In some way similar to couchsurfing and covoiturage/ carpooling, the Walker-Coxes adopted a very generous form of “economy of giving” attitude without even knowing about it. The economy of giving implies exchanging goods or services without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards. It has always existed, but it was theorized by anthropologists Bronisław Malinowski and Marcel Mauss and later debated by Maurice Bloch and Jonathan Parry.

5 bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a garden forms the space where the Walker-Coxes’ economy is applied. More than 9 young people stayed in their home for the past 6 years. Students from Germany, Canada, Australia, Bulgarian, the USA and even Romania shared the house with them for more than one month, some staying up to one year without paying a penny.

“We always receive more than we give.” said Lydia, the 47-year-old mother of 7. “We love people and are eager to learn new things from them. It is a great experience for our children to get in touch with new cultures and perspectives and develop a better understanding of the world. […] If God has given us this house, why wouldn’t we share it with those who need it the most during their college years?”

The accommodation fees for one student in Worcester’s neighborhood represent a minimum of £400 per month[5], without the other £100-£300 for food and other expenses. The Walker-Coxes thought that it is the students who need their help the most, as not all of them afford staying in the dorms or renting a room.

Lydia and Alistair, her husband, run a 26-year-old business, selling books and cards in a small local shop. The family’s eldest children, Annika and Christian graduated from college and divide their time between helping their parents with the small business or working in their fields of specialization. The younger 4 are home-schooled and enjoy the encounters with the foreign students who come for a while in their lives.

The Walker-Coxes do not represent one of the 112 million accounts from AirBNB[6] and Couchsurfing[7], but whenever they hear from their friends or local community of students in need of accommodation, who come in their area an, they are willing to help.

Ioana Bivolaru

Sources:

[1] Vulliamy, Elsa. 7 stereotypes about British people that everyone believes. December 17, 2015. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/inaccurate-stereotypes-about-british-people-that-everyone-believes-to-be-true-a6776461.html (accessed May 20, 2017).

[2] Blum, Lawrence. “Stereotypes And Stereotyping: A Moral Analysis.” Philosophical Papers, November 2004: 251- 289.

[3] Airbnb. What are Airbnb service fees. https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/1857/what-are-airbnb-service-fees (accessed May 29, 2017).

[4] Uber. Account and Payment Options. https://help.uber.com/h/463b843c-acfb-4c7b-b3bd-449812872a25 (accessed June 2, 2017).

[5] Rightmove. Property to rent Droitwich. http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-to-rent/Droitwich.html (accessed May 30, 2017).

[6] Smith, Craig. 90 Amazing Airbnb Statistics and Facts (March 2017). March 10, 2017. http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/airbnb-statistics/ (accessed June 4, 2017).

[7] Coachsurfing. About. http://www.couchsurfing.com/about/about-us/ (accessed June 1, 2017).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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