Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Hard Times

I noticed it right away, driving home on the Seattle freeway – a significantly reduced number of cars, and NO one is speeding. Seattle has outgrown it’s freeways – even early mornings the roads are packed. Or they were – they aren’t now.

At first, I thought I might be imagining it, but the trip down to the ocean cabin in Oregon and back up and through and into Seattle several times have only driven the point home – there are fewer cars on the road.

The Starbuck’s have fewer customers. This is mid-summer, normally a carefree, free-spending time, but not this summer.

There are also fewer shoppers in the stores – and, in downtown Seattle, many of the shoppers were foreigners, here to take advantage of the bargains provided by the weakened dollar. I have to admit, it’s humbling to be a bargain destination. I know many Kuwaitis headed for the USA this summer, enjoying an improved exchange rate.

Sitting in Barnes and Noble with a friend, we heard a very plummy voice giving directions to friends who were to meet them there.

“We drove through the most amazing rural area,” she trilled, “SO picturesque, you must try to find it, it is called Bothell.”

Bothell picturesque? Bothell rural? Bothell is a bedroom community to Seattle, full of sub-divisions where there used to be farms. I wanted to give her a dirty look, but I remember saying the same things – glowing about the desert and camels or sweet little French villages, and I just figure what goes around comes around and I am just getting a little payback.

It’s also scary seeing how much prices have gone up – eggs! The same problem Kuwait is having – eggs are more expensive. Rice is more expensive. My Mother thinks some merchants are just marking things up because they can, and they can blame it on oil and it’s all just GREED.

I think all this has a lot to do with perception. Right now, people are feeling insecure and are trying not to spend too much money, not knowing what is around the corner. Americans have an irrepressible sends of optimism, and I suspect that a more positive approach will take hold in the next few months. Once it does, markets will rise, people will be spending again . . . and I wonder if the prices will go down, or just keep going up?

August 14, 2008 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Seattle, Shopping, Social Issues | 24 Comments