Monday, February 28, 2011

Ridiculousness by the numbers ...

The hot water has been broken in our house for the last two weeks or so, and I have been pretty apt to complain about it. But then I started to think that maybe it's a little ridiculous to be complaining. After all, a lot of people have it much worse. 

That's kind of trite and vague advice. So I decided to look at how just how much. The average American makes about fifty grand a year (this site says $46,326 and this one says $52,049). The average Nepali makes about six hundred dollars a year (that's 0.6 grand). The figures here also vary: this site says it's $2,072 (for a man) and this one says it's $125, but about $600 if you only count city-dwellers. That's about 80 times as much!

So even you make (*ahem*) significantly less than $50,000 per year, try this. Take your yearly income, square it (that is, multiply it by itself) and then divide by 600 (or if you're feeling brave, 125). Now think of the habitat and money related things that a person who makes that much is likely to complain about. Even for me, a mere grad student, that person is likely to be complaining about how the BMW dealership didn't have the color they liked in stock or how now that expensive Apple product N is out, they just can't stand having expensive Apple product N-1. Ridiculous stuff, right? But now realize that is exactly how ridiculous your habitat and money related problems sound to the average Nepali. 

Okay it's true that all kinds of things might mess that up: cost of living is different in Nepal or maybe ridiculousness is not linear (this is normally the type of thing I ask Alex about ...) but it's still a helpful way to get some perspective when you feel like complaining about some thing ... 


  1. I was going to mention cost of living. Anyway, my sleeping area gets wet every time it rains. I've done cold showers and bucket baths, and I think it's okay to complain about it. People who regularly take bucket baths would also generally also prefer a warm shower.

    I do realize that I make 3x as much as the average employed Marshallese citizen, so you won't hear me complaining when I'm individually picking bugs out of my rice. But, for the record I make about 20% of what an average American makes and my cost of living is higher. Those things really don't bother me as much though as people being stupid and unfeeling. Interesting blog. I find it encouraging actually.

  2. $50K is the average HOUSEHOLD income - that may mean more than 1 person in an American household is contributing to the household income (the $50K). Just a technical point...

  3. Yeah that's a good point. I think I saw a per capita income for the US that was like $21,000 per person, but I wonder if that counts children or just adults? I suppose the lesson is you have to do some serious stats to quantify how ridiculous you should feel (households, cost of living, blah blah blah) ...