Service with a smile

Rickshaw in MirpurYesterday, I watched a very interesting discussion develop on Twitter regarding those who serve in other countries. The tweets were sort of all over the place with about 4 main people involved, so instead of posting a screenshot I’ll try and summarize.

A young woman posts a picture of herself on a small boat being rowed by a Haitian man (his health, happiness, etc. were all debated from this picture) with a caption about how she was felt blissful.

Someone replied that she was sure the guy rowing didn’t feel the same.

Someone else replied – why should he, he’s working.

And from there the debate was developed into what we (those of us who are not living on a $1 a day) should feel bad about paying for, with the other side saying a job is a job and every person has a right and duty to earn a living (regardless of living conditions). Oddly enough, this argument reminded me of an episode of Downton Abbey where the cousin, who was considered middle-class because he was a lawyer, complained about the excessive help. He didn’t want a servant to help him get dressed or serve his every whim. He felt that they must have better things to do and couldn’t possibly enjoy doing that type of work. The uncle (aristocrat) pointed out that this was their job. If you didn’t let them do it, they were then unemployed. Which do you think they prefer…

I thought that this was a good point and even though society has changed, this is something you face all the time living as an expat in Asia, Latin America and Africa. For expatriates, you struggle with the idea of paying what you feel is a pitance for a service from someone you feel “needs help”. I think there are several things to consider when having these thoughts. First, the majority of the world does not have the same lifestyle as Americans/Europeans. There’s no point in trying to compare. Second, finding pride in earning a living is something that is universal. Don’t assume that because it’s work that you wouldn’t do that someone else won’t enjoy doing it. Third, we are not all equal – hence, the laws that exist to try to ensure we have equal opportunities. Not all of us are meant to have office jobs, earn six figures or be homeowners. And that’s okay. Those things are not directly related to your overall happiness.

I could go on and on about this topic, because it’s such a gray area. What do you think about this dichotomy? Are you okay with paying a fraction of the cost for the same service in poorer parts of the world? Or, do you try to ensure a more balanced standard of living?

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