Cheap is Good, But…


When someone from a relatively rich country, like the United States or the European Union, moves to a developing nation, like Thailand, that person gains a tremendous monetary advantage. He is spending money he earned in a place where costs are many times higher than they are where he is now. Compared to most of his neighbors, he is rich.

Chances are he won’t think of himself as rich, but relatively speaking, he is. After all, that advantage goes a long way to explaining why he made the move.

In time, our ex-patriate may find that his newfound economic advantage doesn’t buy him much peace of mind. He still wants what he cannot have. Even though most Thais are poorer than him, some are not, in fact, some are much, much richer. He compares himself to them and their BMW’s.

Being a Buddhist people, Thais already have an explanation for this phenomenon. Desire and suffering begin in the same place. He is manufacturing desires in order to feel a familiar level of suffering.

Unless he gets control of this process, he will be doomed to perpetual disquiet. There will always be some things a man with his income and savings cannot purchase. If he buys a black motorcycle, a pretty girl will zip by on a shiny red one, and he’ll want that bike and the girl that goes with it.

The expatriate should prepare himself for this inevitable bursting of the pink cloud he experienced the first few months after arriving. The fact remains that moving to a super-affordable place will not solve all the problems he has with habitual envy and greed. Those will have to be faced the same way here as they were back home. He might have moved halfway across the globe, but he brought himself along for the ride.

The whole notion of maximizing your advantage, or managing your options in order to get ahead, is sort of the antithesis of retirement. Surely there must be a time in life when this is enough, and the perfect time to develop a generous spirit rather than to stockpile wealth. If this isn’t the time, when will it arrive?



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