In Singapore, I paid $45USD for a haircut. A good meal at a hawker center (an outdoors open foodcourt) took less than $8USD.
In Shanghai, I paid $3USD for my lunch and $7USD for a regular haircut that was still comparable to the ones I got in Singapore.
When I visited Bangkok, $5USD at any convenience store could buy me enough food for 2–3 meals. A 1-hour taxi ride from the airport to our hotel took less than $10USD.
Back home in Canada, Richmond, I’d pay at least $15CAD for a meal at a food court (if I wanted “good” food). My haircuts cost $25, with tip.
In Philly, I pay around ~$15USD for a cheapish meal or takeout/delivery, and at least ~$25USD (with tip) if I wanted good Chinese food.
I remember one dinner I had at a local Shanghai restaurant cost 30 YUAN, or $5USD. A bottle of coke was only 3 YUAN (a bit over $0.40 cents!!!)
It’s interesting to compare the standards of living in all the different places I’ve been to.
A minimum wage job salary in America would be a pretty sweet deal if it were here in China, where a 1-hour taxi ride can cost as little as $20USD.
But you can’t survive, at least not comfortably, with a minimum wage job in North America. Not when a bottled coke costs $3. And not when real-estate and houses can cost a fortune.
Yet, North America ranks among the highest in the human development index. We are one of the “wealthiest nations” in the world. Canada and America both rank in the top 10 (in fact, based on 2015 estimates, they were tied for 10th). Below, you will see the ranking of the 20 highest human development countries in the world. And you’ll also notice that Thailand (87th) and China (90th) are nowhere to be seen, while Singapore (5th) and Canada and America (tied for 10th) are among the top 10.
The more developed a country is, the more expensive the goods & services are. Advanced countries offer advanced quality items, which garners advanced pricing. The more expensive goods & services are, the higher the standard of living, which supposedly means higher wages and higher prosperity for the people and the country.
Which makes life seem almost paradoxical.
So, you are telling me, I want to live in a country where my lunch costs the most? Live in a city where my house is ridiculously priced?
Don’t get me wrong. Singapore is great. And I love Canada. But what if you ended up with a minimum wage job in a developed country? What if you have to sell peaches on the corner street, standing in the immense heat of Shanghai, to make a living?
Did you know that there is not even a minimum wage in Singapore? In Shanghai, the minimum wage is less than 20 Yuan/hour. In Richmond, the minimum wage just increased to be over $11CAD/hour, which is 55 Yuan/hour.
But still, a minimum wage in any country is not liveable. Not really. For these people, it is a struggle, no matter how much their lunch costs.
I don’t have a solution. This is a global issue. I think the easy thing for me to do is to write about this topic. But I want to do more. I want to raise the standard of living not just for the country, but more so for the low-middle class. It’s weird for me because I value capitalism, and believe that a free market economy works best. Yet I have this socialist philosophy, where I really want to help everyone succeed in a capitalist world. Financial literacy, financial education, this is a part of my future. How can I help people manage money? How can I help people live a better life through better financial skills? It’s a question I’ll be asking myself for the foreseeable future. $4 lunches are great, but not if you are making $2/hour, or less.
So, how much did you pay for your lunch today?
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I write a daily blog here: The Jawesome Life.
I also write on Quora