I’ve been back in my hometown of Sydney for a week now and it’s really got me thinking about relative riches/poverty. There’s many ways to be rich and/or poor of course, and possibly even more ways to feel or perceive those states of being.
But I’ll start with the obvious – financial. I’ve read studies about whether people prefer a higher income but to be less well off than their neighbours/peers or a lower income but feel better off. And it seems that many people are happier feeling slightly better off than those around them, regardless of actual income. I tend to agree. (Google “relative income satisfaction” for actual info – I might be projecting here!)
When we lived in the UK, we were in a fairly gritty area of North London by dent of buying the best house we could afford without taking out too sickeningly large a mortgage. Anyway, we were certainly part of the new wave of gentrifiers in our particular street and subsequently, we felt quite affluent in our surroundings. Of course, in London, it’s very easy to feel poor too, almost no matter how many ££s you have. Just spend an afternoon around St James’s, Mayfair, Chelsea, Notting Hill, Primrose Hill, etc. and you start to despair that you’ll ever “make it” in that way. Give up, go home… or move to Tottenham.
In Zurich, it’s kind of the opposite for us. We are the poor kids in a rich town. Not that we’re doing badly. But there’s so much wealth there with all the bankers, lawyers, watchmakers (!) and millionaire playboys and playgirls (playpeople?) about. Plus everything is so expensive, even just normal groceries. And you need to take out a small personal loan if you want to eat out regularly. It doesn’t really worry me that much, although it’s a bit depressing to think while there, we won’t get ahead and, if anything, will slowly leach our savings away, particularly if we want to Take Advantage of All Zurich and Being In Switzerland has to offer – eg: holidays, skiing, eating food. I guess that’s what you get for moving to one of the world’s most expensive towns in the world’s most expensive country (depending on which survey you read).
Unfortunately in Zurich at this stage, we’re also poor in other ways. We don’t have much of a social life, we have very few friends so far, no family, we’re not particularly sporty and we have a toddler so adventurous hikes or suchlike are out of reach for now. Plus we’re mostly illiterate, which is horrible. Even health-wise, I’ve been suffering morning sickness and HI’s latest bout of 2 months hard yakka averaging 5 hours sleep/night has put us behind the 8-ball on that front. Thank goodness we have nothing seriously wrong and P is healthy at least.
So I’m holidaying in Australia. The world’s fourth-most expensive country. And I have to say I’m enjoying it, but it’s also making me sad. I’m loving it because I feel so rich here in the best ways: I am a wealthy woman in terms of friends, family, beautiful city, lovely living conditions (thanks to mum & dad and my in-laws), amazing beaches, birdsong. Easy shopping (and groceries seem so cheap after Switzerland!), in fact, easy everything with my own language, really. Don’t get me started on the relief I feel dealing with authorities, shop assistants, anyone when for once I know all the words and have the right accent!
But… and I hate to say this because it upsets me to hear so many people in Australia moaning and cyring poor when they have it SO GOOD… but but but… the house prices here are insane. And I think I’d like to move back. Seriously. But I don’t know if we could actually afford to. Of course, that is ridiculous. We could absolutely afford to – except we wouldn’t be able to come back and live the lifestyle I fantasise about. Which is not to say some incredible 5-bedroom villa overlooking Coogee Beach, but just a nice, proper house in a decent suburb. Our mortgage would be AUD$1 million plus for this. Insane. Or we could rent, which would be fine. And it’s not gonna happen anytime soon anyway – we need to give Zurich at least another 12-24 months. And by then, we might truly love it and have gained some wealth where it counts – in friends and good experiences.
But right now, I feel a little bit stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’m not where I want to be and I do not know quite how I can get there, or even if I can get there. And feeling like a poor kid in a rich town sux.