February 21, 2010

Rich vs. Poor Countries

In the Third World, the richer, the more arrogant, and the poorer, the friendlier. In the first world, the truly rich are relaxed and quite friendly, but the poor look mean and nasty.

***

The so-called Third World is probably what we call "the real world". It runs a full gamut and represents the full spectrum. It has a high top and a deep bottom. First world countries do not have a deep bottom. Middle class people are struggling to make ends meet in the First World. In the Third World they are much happier lording over the 60% of the population that belongs to the working class.

What does it all mean in practical terms? It means that in the third world you can start a business with very little capital and have a family with very little money. It means that middle class people enjoy great respect, high status and can have servants and a great choice of wives from the poorer classes. It means that you can live in a house on the beach for next to nothing. It means that you can eat out every day. Third World is cheap and affordable world with lots of great wonders to be enjoyed. Most important, as long as you are in the third world, you will never be lonely.


***

The best place to live in most countries is the second or third largest city. It is hard to get to know the country and its people if you live in the capital- its people do not really represent it.

***

Whether a country is rich or poor is not determined necessarily by the people's monthly income in US dollars. One has to keep in mind the income/price ratio in local currency when calculating if people are rich or poor.

You may want to pity a Burmese worker whose salary is $30 a month but a meal there costs a few cents and the Burmese worker probably has his own land and a house out in the country- free and clear and usually he pays no tax, either. Not many 1st worlders are this lucky.

"Poor countries" are "cheap countries". So, before you feel the temptation to become smug about your income, think about the PPP- purchasing power parity- i.e. how much your money can actually buy in products and services in your country and how much it can buy in their country.

Mexican and Central American illegals who risk their lives to cross the Rio Grande are not necessarily doing that because they have "The American Dream"- they are often coming to capitalize on-

1) the huge purchasing power that the dollar has in their country.
2) the very high interest rates that their banks pay- $20,000 can already be used as a deposit to generate a significant peso income at a Mexican bank and even enable one to retire.
3) Very cheap real estate there. One can buy a farm for peanuts in many areas where tourists do not go.

So, before you smugly curl up your lip when you see a Guatemalan waiter in your city working his buns off for $30-50 a day and feel so very proud of the opportunities that America can provide, remember- he can (and will) buy a house and a lot back home for $5000 but you can't (and probably won't).

Most countries have an overinflated view of themselves and their role in the world. In Thailand they think that the whole world knows their king and that he is some great world leader next to Kofi Annan ( sp). In the US, they think that events in the US, especially the 9/11 "changed the world forever". Also, that every human being on the face of the earth would rather be living in the US than back in his country.

In Arab countries, they think that the entire world is looking to them to be taken out of darkness and to be converted to Islam.

The Russians think that the most important event of the 20th century was the October Revolution of 1917.

Again, the countries, their media and educational systems confuse "our country" with " the world". Most people do not know Thai king's name and have never seen him. Most people like to live in their countries and 9/11 changed *the US* forever, but people in Bhutan, Lithuania and Mali were not changed by the 9/11 events which took place in a country very far away from theirs.

Most people do not want to be converted to Islam and the Russian revolution of 1917 was an important event for *them*. Not for the world.

*Some countries, such as the Philippines, make their own no-frill cars- jeeps for one. A brand new jeep here with absolutely nothing, not even a radio- but it moves- is less than $3000. And Western electronics are replaced by cheap Chinese goods. These are not as sophisticated but a $20 camera will take pictures, a $4 electric razor will shave and a cheap, $30 TV will be black and white but they will still watch a movie. And most people will have them- some one will make the money and help them- an uncle, a brother, a girlfriend. In the Philippines most people have cellphones and color TVs. Credit is expensive but accessible to many.

Quality is lower but people manage to enjoy the function- it does give you what it's supposed to give.

In the US a 16 year old is considered a child and 22 year old is referred to as a "kid". In other countries, a 16 year old man is not a child but a working adult and a 22 year old is a fully married member of society taking care of a wife and kids. When an immigrant from such a country arrives in the US, he has to travel back in time as he is treated by society as a "kid" and gets little respect. He is even told that he is too young to get married. 19 year old US girls treat him as a kid and themselves, behave like what a 10 year old girl would behave in his country. He feels completely disoriented and unable to fit in in the new society.

Immigrants are shocked when 26 year olds among them are told- "Oh, you are just a baby!" 20-24 year old, fully-formed , mature and intellectual men coming from the Third World cannot fit in with swaggering, spitting and "cool" stateside 20-24 year old "kids" .

Conversely, a 56-year old man in the US is a middle-aged man while in most 3d world countries he is an old man at the end of his rope.

***Whether you are rich or poor is determined by only one thing- what your money can buy within the society you are in. That's all. By finding cheaper societies, you can multiply your worth manyfold.
You may not be poor. It is just that products and services around you may just be too expensive.

***You can become rich and famous practically overnight- that is after an overnight flight to Indonesia or another such place.

A Westerner appearing in a small village in the so-called Third World may become an overnight celebrity and lauded as a great hero and treated as a president of a country. If Indonesia, your money can just dextuple- a $100 will become $1000 and your $20,000 is savings will become $200,000 within their economy. You can buy a house for your fiancee for $8000 free and clear and virtually become her "king".

I once did one thing just for kicks. I took a bus across the island of Mindanao in Southern Philippines. Mindanao is the size of Florida. The bus from the top to the bottom of the island cost me some $4.

But the uncanny thing was this: no Westerners ever travel by that bus and the people in that remote part of the world had never met a white man, and as it went through the jungles, we would pass by small villages along the road. I would stick my head out to look at villages and the inhabitants, upon seeing me, would cheer, clap and shout with joy. Some people would start jumping and virtually dancing.

It reminded me of President Kennedy riding through Dallas. All that was missing was little flags in their hands.


***

Do you pity poor immigrants working for peanuts in the US? Do not pity them, envy them.

All these poor people are happy to be able to save $300-$400 a month for a few years and then go back home to their very very cheap countries and buy a house, a business and have a big royal wedding on that money. A Mexican who goes back to Mexico with $20,000 can just put that money in the bank and never work again- the interest will be enough to live on.

All that while a smug and deluded Gringo is smiling at the Mexican with prideful satisfaction- see? America is the greatest! Everybody is coming here.

Everybody is leaving, too. Once they have $15,000-20,000 they are gone.

A Gringo can't ever scratch his behind for that kind of money.

While the Gringo must pay $400,000-500,000 for a piece of &^%$%^&^ apartment in San Diego and be in debt all his life and date spoiled women, the Mehicano is back home on a free- and clear ranch sleeping with his spicy senorita and living off the fat of the land.

That is his "American dream". Make $20,000 and get the hell out of the Gringolandia

God put everything that a human being needs onto this planet- great food, great music, great women. He just did not put it all in one country.

You almost always get what you pay for- if you go to a foreign country where prices are 3-5 times lower, do not expect the same quality of service and the same quality of products as you would get in a place like USA or Japan. People will be incompetent, your Big Mac will be stale and they will forget to put catch up on it. Phone operators will not be able to find even basic numbers for you- i.e "Please give me the US embassy"- "I do not know that number". Can you imagine?

Richer or Poorer country

If you move to a country that is richer than yours, you may run the risk of being pitied or looked down upon as someone less civilized.

If you go to a country poorer than yours you will get lots of admiration but also jealousy and will run the risk of being ripped off and cheated.

It is usually desirable if you can move to a country that is on the same level with yours economically to feel socially comfortable with the people there.

***

5 comments:

AsiaBill said...

Well Put! I'm so happy I discovered these truths in my early 20s while working in Germany traveling in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, working in South Korea and traveling in the Philippines. For every 6 months one works and saves in a wealthy country one can live and travel in less developed "third world" countries for 12 months or more.

Anonymous said...

This is low and unfair to take advantage of poorer people. One is supposed to be considered successful if he is successful in his own country.
There are so many opportunities in America that are not available to people in other countries. Americans just don’t know how to use those opportunities. Think about all the grants and scholarships, etc. In other countries you might be smart, but you will not make it into the world if you do not have connections and/or money. In America you might be poor, but if you are smart you can live very well…

immigrant from the third world

starion9814 said...

I have found many people in pooer countries see the white tourist as a target - and a quick income. You have to be very careful - especially of taxi drivers and poor young men with criminal leanings. However, there's plenty of crime in 1st world countries too, so this happens everywhere.

philmdstudent said...

Never confuse attention and respect. As a foreigner in a third world country you will get a lot of attention. But a Mexican returning home to his senorita with 20K will have far more respect than a foreigner with 200K looking to settle down, but far less attention.

In addition to the economic differences, people in third world countries have very very different perspectives on right and wrong, good and bad, proper and improper. A Mexican who empathizes with your hunger will tell you that the restaurant thats 2 miles away is just around the corner. He isnt lying, he just wishes things to be better for you than they are. A Filipino will agree to anything you say, any view you hold. He is not kissing up, its just he wants to keep his private views private by agreeing with you. And in most of South Asia, if you are robbed 10 dollars, the fair thing to do when the robber is caught is to ask him to give you half of the money back, any more would be viewed as uncompromising and extreme.

So much like the Mexican illegals in the US, Americans who retire in third world countries are often unwilling to integrate into society at large. Just as the Mexican who only uses the US to make money, the retired American male will use the third world country for its women and services without ever being able to bridge the cultural and language gap, without becoming a full member of the society of his new home. And even in the most rural mountain village, this fact will not be unnoticed. Even if you do a lot of good, and help a lot of people, the unsocialized retiree will be ridiculed behind their back.

My advice is to choose based upon culture, not economics. If you cant understand the people you live with, dont complain when you are misunderstood...

Anonymous said...

Of course an expat who doesn't learn the local language won't be admired so much, but that doesn't change the fact that it is intelligent for a man to move to a place where he does learn the language and does earn the local's respect and still benefits from the economic disparity so long as the food and water are healthy where he has moved to and the women are better looking and nicer than they would be in other places (if they are nicer elsewhere, he should move there).

It is a simple law of economics to use your money to its optimum benefit. Forget Marxist admonitions not to "exploit". If a gorgeous young woman picks you over a local because you are rich and speak her language and don't smoke and drink, you are doing what nature wanted you to do. James Bond was no Marxist.