I am lucky to be able to say that as a university student, I have lived in 7 countries so far, the shortest being 3 months in Italy and the longest 7 years in Scotland. From the beginning, my baby eyes and ears have been observing and analyzing the different cultures surrounding me, trying to understand why people are so different but so alike. My experiences are based on European countries such as Spain, France, and the UK (although people argue the UK is quite different to Europe), but also my one-off time living 5 months in China. Money, as we all know, plays a big factor in our lives, so here are some interesting thoughts from my travels.
‘Our new amazing deal: Upgrade your prescription lenses in one hour for just 100€!’ Amazing deal? I couldn’t believe it. That’s the price of 2 new pairs of glasses with prescription and all done in 20 minutes!
It’s when you live in another country that you realize how much some consumer markets are scamming us. Whether it’s cappuccino, clothes, cigarettes or food, each can vary hugely from country to country. Someone somewhere will always have it better than you and I was astounded by the difference in prices just by crossing over a border in Europe.
So, naturally, people like my family decide to relocate. It’s either that or a nice short weekend trip to the country next door (we were in Andorra between France and Spain). That is how we adapt to rising prices in Europe.
Money is everywhere. We work for money, we spend money, we live because of money. And guess what? We all do. I’m not sure why, but I expected something different when I changed country and culture. In China, everyone was working 9-5 hours (many of them even more).
Everyone went to university after high school, everyone tries to get a job and everyone gets married and has children. I was really struck at this pattern I saw in each country I lived in and it made me feel closer but also confused about humanity. Really, we are all trying to figure out what life is and how we should go about it. It’s very touching.
Although we may trundle along life in a similar way, one thing which differentiates all these cultures is definitely spending habits. In the video ‘The secret power of time“, Zimbardo explains that people who live nearer to the equator focus more on the present, since they see less change in the environment around them.
This could explain why more southern countries in Europe such as Spain, Italy, and Greece are countries which typically spend more money on eating out, parties and instant gratification. In more northern countries like the UK, people tend to spend on nice houses, nice cars, and nice clothes.
The one that hit me the most was Shanghai in China. Everyone had the newest technology and the most fashionable clothes, the shopping malls were packed with all kinds of restaurants and people kept buying and buying. But when you went to their houses, you were in for a shock. They were falling apart! I was awed at this very different lifestyle of living.
Although we tend to discuss religion less and less nowadays, Zimbardo also explains that religion has a large role in how you manage your money. Since the Protestants focus more on the future, they feel much more they need to succeed in order to prove that God has chosen them. Catholics focus more on the present or past, so will put their priorities on less futuristic success. In this article by Les Picker, he describes how creditor rights are strongest in Protestant countries and will work to enforce those rights more than Catholic countries.
We are all very similar, but we are also quite different. It’s very interesting to see how these different cultures affect people’s finances, and it raises many other questions about how our culture raises us to who we are. Next time you travel to another country, keep an eye out for people’s habits and what you notice is different to yours. Who knows, you might learn a trick or two about saving and spending!
Araminta is the creator of Financially Mint, a personal finance blog for college students written by a student. Have no idea about tax, credit cards or investing? Neither does she, but she is determined to learn, experiment and explore all aspects of money possible. Through these experiences, she hopes to help other students graduate financially stable and conscious about money.
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