The problem with first world problems. The problem is, there is no problem. Western, developed and first-world nations are too often labelling minor issues as complicated, stressful and exaggerated to the point of almost terrifying. Are we too spoilt and have too many expectations of this world or are we just blinded by ourselves and prioritise these ‘first world problems’.
If you actually think about it, we all whinge over the simplest things. You know that annoying two dollar fee you get charged every time you access your own money at an ATM, imagine if that tiny little fee was all you needed to feed your whole family or several families within your village for just one day.
Imagine this. It’s 37 degrees, your clothes are wet from sweating, but you can’t take them off. The highway is thick with black smog, your bottom is numb from sitting for just over a few hours, your hair and face are sticky and your neck is killing from the two sizes too big helmet placed on your head. It starts to rain. It’s freezing. The roads slippery from leaking oil out of the over loaded trucks, not to mention the fumes that are literally blown into your face from other vehicle’s exhaust and now your clothes reek of fuel. Your view forward is of your sisters back with your dads helmet not too much further away and the side view is the white lines dashing along the road dividing it into two. You cannot turn around as you’re seated between your mums legs and your baby brother on mum’s lap. Your not even half way and you need to stop for a toilet break. Only problem is your entire family will have to disembark as well as all of the luggage that took 20 minutes to tie down. Your on a family vacation, but is this how you picture the start of a road trip?
I have lived it and experienced it first hand to a certain degree, in the developing nation of Indonesia at a local level. It is so clear that my own and many others lives in Australia are taken for granted in more ways then we realise. Yes, on colder days on the island of Bali after a huge soaking of tropical rain whilst on a three hour scooter ride, I too, am guilty of complaining about a cold shower with a bucket and a sore bum. It’s not as luscious as the hot, half an hour shower I would have after a freezing winter surf session in Australia, but at the end of the day, it is just shower, isn’t it?
The thing is, many throughout the world don’t know any different and have never had the experiences of a brick house with a bathroom, more than one tap and of course a clothes washing machine. Our image of a road trip or family holiday starts with sitting in a comfortable 7 seater LandRover or 4WD with controlled windows and heating, stereo, automatic locking, Bluetooth and who could forget iPod connectivity and a navigation system. Instead of the ideal family vacation or road trip with a DVD player on each head rest and several TV screens throughout the car, not too mention the air conditioning and storage for luggage, here in Bali there are families of 4, 5 or more family members piled onto one, two wheeled scooter. Imagine not having a baby seat nor a toddler seat. Well actually, there’s only one seat and that’s for everyone. Oh and for the baggage, let’s just hope there’s enough rope, cables and arms to hold it in place for the several hour ride. It is lucky for them all to have a helmet and sunglasses on let alone a tiny place on the seat or another family members leg to sit on.
There’s so much discussion lately about ‘first world problems’. It actually saddens me to think that the majority of times I hear people use this term, is in a joke or sometimes in serious sarcasm. It scares me that people don’t actually realise how insignificant these easy, simple everyday occurrences are. How can we be so driven by these expectations of an easy life that everything we do has to be on time, perfect, rushed or has a deadline? I know money is one answer, it can buy us the newest things and with money comes greed and laziness. This is where I believe simple, everyday issues or these ‘first world problems’ are being created. An idea where we view simplicity as terrifying and stressful making us feel anxious and impatient. It amazes me that we are labelling these as our problems.
Who cares if your phone can’t charge right next to your bed, does it really matter if you have to wait an extra ten minutes for the food to be delivered to the comfort of your own house. What if the classroom is too hot, the coffee doesn’t taste perfect and of course the busy traffic lights and round a bouts that cause everyone to arrive that extra ten or so seconds late. These so called ‘first world problems’ are actually the complete opposite.
The microwave, the hairdryer, the kettle, the lawn mower and the fridge. Such underrated pieces of machinery, yet so many of us just expect every house hold to have one. Within these first world nations, the time in which we recognise and appreciate technology in appliances such as these, is most likely when the power turns off, they don’t work and when we cannot actually use them, and that’s not very often. Within many countries throughout the world and personally experiencing it in Indonesia, there is a blackout or power cut almost everyday, if not every week and that’s without these appliances. The first time my partner Dwi came to Australia, (as a 21 year old) he had never seen a microwave let alone knowing how to use it, or the kettle. He now reheats food all the time when we are in Australia without any questions, it’s just kind of expected.
Throughout life you meet amazing people, where you can identify their good and bad characteristics. As a school teacher, I constantly aim to see the positives in people all around me. As they say ‘money can’t buy you happiness’. I truly believe that no matter how much money, belongings or priceless experiences we might have, doesn’t give any advantage to make us a happier individual, but it should definitely make us more appreciative and thankful for the things we have within our lives. No matter how big a persons bank account or house is, has no impact on the amount of happiness in ones life. It can help of course in making life ‘easier’ but I have met many individuals and families that have broken buildings they call home and boiled rice for a standard daily diet.
So next time you are about to comment on the size of a bed, the taste of a meal or how small your car is, just stop, think and be thankful you have one. Society these days doesn’t appreciate enough.