What life was like in different countries 20 years ago

2:03 PM by Saša Tošić
Peter Menzel is a famous American photojournalist who travels the globe to capture humanity’s social, economic, and cultural diversity. Back in the ’90s, he started his great project ’Material World: A Global Family Portrait.’ In each of the 30 countries he visited, he found a family which, according to UNESCO data, had statistically average family composition, income, and living space. Menzel photographed them outside their homes with all of their treasured possessions.

California, USA

The Caven family with all of their material possessions, except for more boxes of books stored in the garage.


The nine members of the Wu family live in a 3-bedroom, 600-square-foot dwelling in rural Yunnan Province. Two radios and a TV set are considered to be their most treasured possessions. The family raises carp in their ponds and also has 100 mandarin trees and three pigs.


The numerous members of the Costa family outside their home with all of their possessions in the streets of Havana.


This family of six lives in a 200-square-foot ger — a portable, round tent covered with skins or felt and used as a dwelling. There is no electricity in the village, although some people ’steal’ electricity from transmission lines or the nearest electricity pole. To get water, they go to a public well.


The Thoroddsen family pose with all of their possessions in front of their house overlooking the harbor in Hafnarfjordur, near Reykjavik. The head of the family is a pilot for Iceland Air and his wife is a milliner.


Nalim and his family of 13 live in a 3-story rammed-earth house in the hillside village. Cattle and birds are kept on the first floor, the family members live on the second floor, and on the third floor they keep dried meat, grain, and hay. They cook meals over the open fire and use oil lamps to light their house.

Texas, USA

The Skeen family lives in Pearland, Texas, a suburb of Houston, in their 1,600-square-foot house. The photo doesn’t show a refrigerator, freezer, camcorder, woodworking tools, computers, a glass butterfly collection, and many other things. The possession both parents value most is their Bible.


The Abdulla family lives in a 4,850-square-foot house with a basement in Kuwait City. This family also owns four cars and a 45-foot-long sofa. And just to remind you: this is an average family in Kuwait.


The Kapralov family of four — parents and two girls — stands outside their home in Suzdal with all their possessions.


Soumana Natomo has two wives and eight children. The family lives in two mud brick houses in the village of Kouakourou, on the banks of the Niger River. There is no electricity, and all the possessions they own are mattresses, pillows, chairs, and various kitchenware. There is an orchard of 30 mango trees next to the house. The most treasured possession of the family is their grandfather’s medal of honorable service as a guard, received from the colonists.


The Ukita family of four lives in a 1,420-square-foot house in the suburbs of Tokyo. They have a lot of small electrical items and different household appliances. The most treasured possessions are gold wedding rings and an antique ceramic collection.


The Kuenkaew family grows rice for a living and lives in a small stilt house surrounded by rice fields.


The happy Castillo Balderas family of Guadalajara, Mexico, outside their home with all of their possessions.


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