Vol 3 Ed 28 » Omnia » Your Idea of Wealth is Different Than Mine

Your Idea of Wealth is Different Than Mine

Anastasia Boldireff

I didn’t really choose to come to Colombia.  It was a weird twist of events that ended up with me landing in Colombia.  It was probably better that way because I came here untainted by American media or by other people’s opinions of this country. 
Somehow this place, with its vibrancy, tropical fruit, constant road rage, slow bureaucratic paper-pushing, reluctance to ever say ‘no’, and chaos has become my home – and I love it.   
Late the other night, I wrote to a close Colombian friend of mine.  We discussed my new apartment that I recently moved into and the fact that I have spent the last week on a yoga mat on the floor.  We were joking, as people do, and catching up and the conversation took a turn when he made this claim that I was wealthy. 
This made me pause.  We got into an in-depth discussion of what wealth really is.  He told me that I was rich and richer than I knew. 
            As a woman who is straddling multiple cultures, I was mentally trying to reconcile my understanding of Canadian wealth with what I’ve seen of Colombia – and its wealth.  I think one of the reasons why I like Colombia so much is because its conception of wealth – is so critically, and socio-culturally different than mine. 
            Let’s be frank now: it’s the beginning of a new year and the Christmas festivities have come to an end.  Everyone is feeling the strain of what they splurged on over Christmas – myself included.  As my friend and I were discussing this, I realized that my conception of wealth is entirely different than his.  The more we spoke, the more these discrepancies unravelled.  I am not sure whether this is a question of Canadian vs Colombian ideas of wealth or his opinion versus mine.  However, I believe that we can eponymously represent our countries in this discussion. 


De Eduardoliva - Internet, CC BY-SA 4.0

He claimed that wealth had to do with how much money one has, and with one’s possessions; I am sure many people are familiar with this opinion of wealth.  I adamantly disagreed.  In having lived in Canada for the majority of my life, I have witnessed my culture captivated and held captive by consumerism; everyone is on the search for the biggest, brightest, shiniest next purchase; everyone I know in Canada has credit card debt to the max from spending above and beyond what they can afford.  I was one of these drones – a cog in the consumerism machine – buying the next pair of shoes, the next 2 for 1, etc. and living above my means to show off what I had to my neighbours and friends.  I lived in a beautiful apartment in a rich neighbourhood in Toronto for years and was a house-poor university student.  In hindsight, I had more material wealth in Canada at my fingertips – a lot of it being handed down by my parents – and I was so entitled and did not appreciate these gestures of love and gratitude on behalf of my parents; however, a large part of the rest of my money was the result of me working six part-time jobs while attending university to upkeep a lifestyle and to try and gain entrance and climb socially into other spheres which I could not afford, nor where I truly belonged.  But what strikes me as odd now, in hindsight, is that I was not alone in this search for wealth and that these ‘cogs in the machine’ looking for the next latest and greatest – were miserable.  One thing I’ve noticed about my experience in the differences of wealth is perhaps in the attitudes that these two cultures maintain.  It’s evident even in an introduction, for instance, let’s take a typical introduction in English which often goes something like this. Now, discounting the average introduction one has with strangers which is “How are you?” and the response being “Fine”, the average conversation between acquaintances or friends is somewhat more like the following:
Person A: “Hey, how are you?  How’s it going?”
Person B: “Hey you!  Yeah.  Surviving.  Ugh.  I have this application for a new job, my boss won’t give me a raise.  The buses are so terrible ugh…. ”
Person C: “Hey… horrible.  Absolutely horrible.  I have all these exams to study for and I don’t know how I’m going to pay my tuition.”
Here I was jogging at 3am in the morning, forgetting things on the bus, and was never in fear of being robbed or hurt or anything and I felt listless; I was listlessly going through the motions of buying the next things and trying to improve my social status and my ‘wealth’ – because that’s what everyone else was doing. 


De Northwestern Litho. Co, Milwaukee

It seems to me that the concept in the Western world, or at least in North America, is that everything can be bought – and that these purchases will bring you happiness.  Whether the thing someone is looking for is a new fridge, car, job, status, love, or happiness – it seems that there is a price tag attached to it – and that the harder one works, that the more likely they will attain it.  Or worse, that they live for the two week window a year, where their financial strife can afford them a vacation where they can be happy.  (See my article on “When you are Relaxed” for further details.) 
            The thing that I notice the most about Colombians is that they don’t complain (unless they are an up-scale Bogota princess or ‘gomela’ – those chicks do complain – a lot).  It took me a long time to understand that the only time a Colombian says that they aren’t well is if they are legitimately sick.  Here’s how an average introductory Spanish-translated conversation goes:
Person A:  “Hey – how are you?  How have you been?  How’s your family?”
Person B: “Hey – how are you?  I’m good.  Really good.  I have a job thanks to God.  I just had a grandson and I have to work a lot.”
Person A: “Congratulations… but aren’t you young to be a grandfather?”
Person B: “44.  My daughter is 20.  But she’s happy.  That’s why I have to work so much.  But I am blessed with such a wonderful and big family.”   
            In Colombia, anything given to them is generally a blessing.  In English, the automatic reaction to an introduction is to complain and to be-woe life at large.  (Perhaps this is just us Canadians who complain about the weather for half the year, perhaps not.)  In Spanish, in Colombia, I see happy people selling orange juice, avocadoes in the street, maids, low-end, under-employed jobs that would be slave labour in Canada, and the thing is that they are happy.  You ask them how they are, and they are doing well, they are grateful for their job, they chat, they laugh, they smile. 
            A well-travelled American friend of mine once told me that the difference between Colombia and Poland was that the Polish people knew that they were poor and that Colombians didn’t.  I thought that that was a rather harsh statement at the time, but the more time I spend in Colombia, I realize that whether Colombians know they are poor or not is irrelevant because its their attitude to continue no matter what, and to be grateful for what little that they have – renders me baffled.  Concurrently it makes me sick to my stomach when I conceive of the endless credit card debt that exists in Canada and the rat-race for the amount of useless, unnecessary things that people buy. 
            My response to my friend was that he was wrong and that he was the one who was wealthy.  He has his health, he has beautiful children, parents who love him, he has a stable job, he has his strength and athleticism, but more than that he has almost a permanent state of happiness.  I’ve often wondered what the point was in building one’s personal castle with their brand new and shiny things, if they inhabited it alone. 
            Colombia often surprises me with its tiendas (convenience stores/bars/all in one Friday night events) where people pack in shoulder-to-shoulder, and salsa dancing sometimes erupts in an overcrowded corner.  This scene of people sitting together - in what a North American might immediately depict - as a hoard of people sardined into a hole-in-the-wall-establishment, drinking cheap $1.00 beer, makes me compare this Friday night scene to the empty, fancy bars that I once frequented with miserable people drinking their $15.00+ glass of wine, alone, and miserable – often glancing at the person down the bar – who also drank their misery, solo.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t claim that all Canadians are miserable, or that we don’t have a great nightlife; but, in Canada, or at least Toronto, it’s about showing off what you’re wearing and what you’re drinking more than it is about being with someone.  It’s all backwards in my opinion.     
            I repeated myself to my friend: your conception of wealth is wrong.  Wealth cannot be bought, not as far as I’m concerned. Wealth is the accumulation of happiness and love in one’s life: those people who can claim that they have happiness and love in their lives are the ones who can afford to say that they are wealthy – and it’s because Colombia and Colombians enjoy such wealth, that I’m still happy here.       

*Fuente de la imagen principal: De Leon petrosyan - Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0

Si esta información fue de su interés puede compartirla en los siguientes medios:

Filtrar por:

Suscribirse a Revista Nova et Vetera

Lectores RSS On-line:

Lectores RSS On-line:
Revista Nova Et VeteraArticles RSS

Artículos relacionados:

Afronto estas líneas consciente de la posibilidad de que sean interpretadas como un simple obituario, o como una necrológica emitida de forma extemporánea, por la incapacidad de anticipar la muerte de un gran escritor...

Ismael Iriarte

Quinientos años antes de Cristo, en la isla de Cos, Grecia, nace Hipócrates, Padre de la Medicina. Aparte de sus asombrosas artes médicas y enseñanzas clínicas dejó un legado ético invaluable: 

Jairo Hernán Ortega Ortega, MD

Un estratígrafo de la Universidad de Leicester viene hablando, desde hace ya algún tiempo, de una nueva era geológica que poco a poco ha ido reemplazando la era vigente desde hace millones de años, el holoceno.

Manuel Guzmán Hennessey

Las últimas semanas han sido cruciales para Dilma Rousseff, que sigue enfrentando la posibilidad de una salida abrupta, antes del fin de su mandato proyecto inicialmente hasta 2018, pero que parece cada vez más cerca de su fin.

Mauricio Jaramillo Jassir


Ediciones digitales
Ediciones impresas