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What is luxury?

Kate Müser
April 24, 2015

By sheer definition, luxury is relative. DW readers show that what we perceive to be extravagant has a lot to do with our background. And perhaps it's not quite as elusive as we might think.

Diamant pictured under light in the Antwerp World Diamond Center, Copyright: Oliver Berg/dpa
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/O. Berg

Longing for luxury

From diamond rings to the finest champagne, luxury is often associated with things - material objects that are rare, expertly crafted and prohibitively expensive.

While natural scarcity is responsible for the hefty price tags on items like precious stones or caviar, luxury brands work hard to establish an image that makes their wares pricier than the sum of their parts. Did that fancy handbag really cost $1,000 to make? Probably not. The luxury factor is to sum extent in our heads.

The less tangible and more digital our world becomes, however, the more non-things like time and space become valuable to us.

As the Victoria & Albert Museum in London opens an exhibition on April 25 dedicated to our evolving perceptions of luxury, DW asked readers from all over the world what they think.

For Twitter user Mamma Morticia, a bit of nostalgia plus material value add up to luxury.

Facebook users Nikolaus Kris Abimontro and Dana Alan Rüthers find luxury in Mercedes Benz cars, while Peter Zubor prefers a Bugatti and a $10,000-per-night hotel stay. David Charles Jeffrey and Anas Ahmad agree that luxury is having things that others cannot afford.

However, many DW Facebook followers offered definitions that have nothing to do with physical objects.

A customized Mercedes-Benz SL600, Luxury Crystal Benz, studded with 300,000 Swarovski crystal glass, is displayed at at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, in this January 15, 2010 file picture. Copyright: REUTERS/Toru Hanai/Files
Mercedes stand for luxury for some DW readersImage: Reuters/Toru Hanai

Luxury is "living in my simple home that I couldn't reach since the war started in Benghazi," offered Ruweda Alorfi.

For Woody Jagla and Rupy Kanwar, luxury is something - in addition to peace - that many people in other parts of the world take for granted: "Clean air."

Cultural offerings are also appreciated by many DW readers. "Access to education and culture," commented Juan Pablo Tejena Vergara, while GB EiramAnna focused on music: "I appreciate listening to classical music via online streaming, but listening and watching it in live will be already a luxury for me... kinda expensive for someone who has no means to shell out that much."

Twitter user Emilie finds luxury in having the freedom to produce art herself.

Good health and free time were also mentioned. But Facebook user Amaka Elochukwu may have summed up the rarest and most exclusive attitude of all: "Being content with what one has."

"Luxury has the potential to unlock dreams of being somewhere else or someone else," wrote the Victoria & Albert Museum on its website.

Mother and child visit a doctor in Sudan, Copyright: picture-alliance / Ton Koene
Good heatlh is not to be taken for grantedImage: picture-alliance/Ton Koene

While that certainly applies to those who have the opportunity to dream, perhaps redefining luxury as what we already have is more accurate that defining it as something unattainable.

To read all the comments from DW's Facebook users and join in the discussion yourself, click on the post here.

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