First World Pain

For the past few years, my kids have been calling me out whenever I complain about something they deem as trivial. They quickly make the statement “sounds like a first world pain, mom.” After the call out and spending just a second on my complaint, I tend to agree. I have since started calling others out as a defense and a way to make myself feel superior and not so much like a whiny, spoiled American.

#firstworldpain is popular on Twitter and provides a place to dump all those sarcastic, extreme complaints that are well, only experienced in a first world. A few of my favorites, “the screen on the treadmill at my gym isn’t in HD” “I only have a $100 bill” “the beds in first class are too short” and “the bottled water in my hotel room is warm”

This move to China has forced me to rethink my complaining. What happens when you have legitimate complaints in a 2nd world country? 3rd world if you run China through the filter of suppression of news and media but that’s all I’m going to say about that as I don’t want this blog shut down.

So what about my complaints? Could they be legit for a 2nd world country?

The answer came to me as I was discussing “China Days” with a co-worker and he asked me if I was familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy. A study from the 1940’s that suggests that within each person is a hierarchy of needs and the individual must satisfy each level before they move onto the next. There are five levels.


We discussed and joked that when you left the U.S. you were at the top of the pyramid. You were living a life that satisfied each level and now that you’re in China you are starting at the bottom and need to rebuild.

Not so easy living here. Every day you are concerned about the safety of the water you drink. Where your food is coming from. Is your food really what they market it as.  And each morning when you wake up, you check an app on your iPhone that tells you the air quality and if it’s safe to go outside. By the way, the top number is what the U.S. Consulate reports and the bottom is what China is reporting. We follow the top number.

China Air Quality Index

China Air Quality Index

These are real and legitimate challenges of basic needs. Over the last six months, the people of Shanghai and China have been challenged with issues I never had to deal with while living the life of comfort at the top of the pyramid.

Just take a look at a few headlines from this last year.

Hundreds of dead pigs fished from Shanghai river –

Mar 11, 2013 – At least 2800 dead pigs have been fished from a Shanghai river since Friday, but authorities insist that tap water in the city is still safe to drink.

I just couldn’t insert a photo. But if you’ve already clicked on the link above – sorry.

BBC News – Rat meat and Chinese food safety

The latest food scandal in China – which has seen rat meat passed off as lamb – has raised more questions about food safety in the country.

No need for a photo here either. You get the idea.

How hot would you have to be to get into this swimming pool? – San Jose Mercury News

Locals flock to community pool to seek relief from the heat.

No chance in hell.

The above gave me nightmares for days.

Chinese zoo that substituted lions with dogs closes temporarily – Telegraph

And then there’s this report. Who does this? China. In a country where everything is made and if it doesn’t exist, just ask and it will appear. They can make anything. So why not try this.

Not even close.

Not even close.

Okay, I can’t help myself. “my local zoo doesn’t have a real lion” #secondworldpain

4 thoughts on “First World Pain

  1. Mary Johnson says:

    I see an easy fix, STOP reading those horrible news reports from other countries! Just love the one you’re in. Keep climbing, you’ll make it back to the top of the pyramid, it might take a while but we all know you love a challenge.

  2. Jan says:

    Thanks for sharing,we look forward to your posts. If you don’t drink the water or eat lamb we’re almost sure you’ll be alright. Stay in touch Jim and Jan

  3. margojoseph says:

    We don’t realize how good we have it here. Thanks for sharing. Your posts are great! Hugs

  4. Lani Shimer says:

    Oh, Wow!! 2,800 pigs and the drinking water is OK? Somehow I find that hard to believe! (I am trying to insert a smiley face but my computer isn’t cooperating!! Oh, is that a 1st world complaint?) Your blogs are so fun and interesting. I feel like I am there. Thanks for all your effort at keeping the rest of us informed and entertained. Love, Lani

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