East vs West

Cultural Differences: The Difference Between Rich and Poor in China and The West

I just came out of the apartment complex in Wanshengwei (万胜围) and saw a pink BMW.  I thought, “That must belong to a rich girl.”

The interesting thing about cars in China is that you are almost anonymous when you drive them.

If that was in Australia and you had a pink BMW, everyone on the street, and everyone at your workplace would know you were this up-yourself girl.

No one in China can estimate your value by appearance alone.  Because in China you can live on the fiftieth floor of a property, and in the underground you can park your twenty million dollar Ferrari, and when you drive that Ferrari to work and park underground at work away from the public, no one looks through the tinted windows to see the driver.  You are anonymous to society.

In Australia, everyone can estimate your value.  Houses are worth more than apartments in Australia, and everyone can see the three or four cars parked in your driveway, so we can all estimate, “This person is worth two million dollars. That is not rich.  I have a house and a car too.  That is middle class, like me.”  So, if you flash a pink BMW around in Australia, everyone will know you are a “niubi”.  No one in Australia likes pretentious people.

But because in China when you drive around with tinted windows on big, anonymous streets while everyone else is walking, it becomes two separate societies that the rich can easily hide themselves in.

Nobody knows you are driving a car.  Nobody knows you here.  When you go to work, you park in an underground car park, and nobody knows what you have driven.  When you come home, you live in a big apartment complex, so nobody knows who the pink BMW belongs to.

In Australia, your neighbors across the street know you drive a pink BMW, your work colleagues see you park in an assigned company car lot, the people you shop with at the mall all see what you drive, and because there is nowhere to hide your affluence in Australian society, wealthy Australians are more humble, and modest with their choices.

In China however, where the rich and the poor never eye each other, a car becomes less of a personable thing to show off to people, and more of a trophy for rich, boastful Chinese tycoons (土豪) or the children and second generation of rich families (富二代).

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