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 »

  1. Americans facing hard times and keeping quiet about is not acceptable . Use the bangladeshi style revolt, throw some supervisiors from the second floor, burn some buses , overturn garbage bins , do something !!!!

    whatever happened to the American sense of outrage, whatever happend to( I am mad as hell and I aint taking it anymore ).It must be the giant portions of fried food that pacified your spirits .

    Comment by daggero | August 14, 2008 | Reply

  2. If you want the world to feel sympathy for the US then it won’t happen.

    Blame your foreign policy, your status as the world’s richest/most powerful nation or something else entirely.

    Comment by d | August 14, 2008 | Reply

  3. On another note, increased gas prices = the worst polluters in the world polluting less = better for the world as a whole

    +
    increased food prices = less obesity = better for the nation’s obesity epidemic.

    Comment by d | August 14, 2008 | Reply

  4. Daggero – I disagree. What is unacceptable about conserving your resources? Budgeting? Using more earth-friendly cars? Eating less fried food?

    I also think that if Kuwait raised gas prices, even 20%, it would still be affordable, and eliminate some of the car traffic. Of course, the buses would need to be more reliable.

    d – Nope. I don’t want your sympathy. And I am not into blaming. I agree with your equations.

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 14, 2008 | Reply

  5. Here on Cape Cod it’s business as usual. Perhaps it’s because the Cape is a tourist destination but on a rainy day, the mall is packed with people – shopping, spending money, eating at the food court. Parking in downtown Hyannis is a nightmare becuase it’s so crowded. Even on sunny days when most people are at the beach, stores are full of customers. People are spending money here. I’ve only seen one Smart Car here; people are still in love with their SUV’s.

    But – I agree with the prices. Groceries are astronomically high. Every time we go to the store, just to buy ingredients for dinner, the cost is anywhere between $80-$100. A gallon of milk can be close to $4. Gas prices are over $4/gallon here.

    Re “d” on the obesity problem – I don’t see it. Middle aged and older people yes, but the younger generation tend to be on the thin side. A lot of them seem to be underweight to me. I haven’t even seen a chubby toddler/young person here but in Kuwait, my young son has a few overweight classmates.

    Re “d” on the States being the worst polluters in the world: I don’t buy it. I’ll vote for China or India instead. And I see Americans recycling like crazy, using Green cleaners (biodegradable), using reusable bags at stores instead of plastic bags.

    As far as the prices going down? Not going to happen. I’ve lived too long to notice that once prices go up, and people get used to paying the high price, they never go down.

    Comment by Stinni | August 14, 2008 | Reply

  6. I like d’s second comment… hehehe I find them also funny in a way!

    I dont know how to relate the price rise here in Kuwait given the current situation, and with the stock market dropping some 500 points! sucks!

    Comment by Ansam | August 14, 2008 | Reply

  7. No kidding, Stinni! Today’s Seattle Times says “US Motorists hit the brakes in June” and “Retail sales cool off at height of summer”. It may be local; Cape Cod! That’s a summer kind of place, isn’t it? Lucky lucky YOU!

    I see the obesity here, even though Seattle has a serious focus on fitness. I also think that our autos emit a whole bunch of pollutants. Seattle is having temperature in the 90’s and there is a threat of a smog alert; people are asked not to drive. You may be right about China and India, and as they gain wealth, it will only get worse.

    Go green!

    Ansam, I agree, sometimes problems can be a good thing when they force us to seek solutions. Sometimes it is better to have a problem earlier, then to be complacent, and get a big bad surprise later. 😦

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 15, 2008 | Reply

  8. Most of america’s woes are the results of the current presidency. I still cannot believe the americans have accepted and adjusted to the price of gas! Kuwaitis were outraged and had semi revolts, if you will, when the price of gas went up 10fils a liter a few years ago; then again, arabs look for anything to revolt against. sighf.

    i can still has coffeef? i payf. swearf.

    Comment by Mrm | August 15, 2008 | Reply

  9. Oh Mrm, I disagree. The presidency hasn’t done the USA any favors, but some of the problems we are dealing with are identical to some Kuwait is dealing with, and some are exacerbated by greed! I laughed to hear my Mom talking about the grocers raising the prices just because they can – it was exactly what people are saying in Kuwait!

    As of coffee – Dutch! Looking forward to it. 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 16, 2008 | Reply

  10. Daggero and d — you are being completely insensitive. Everything American must be evil, right? Then why are so many people trying to come to our country? I have lived in several different countries. I enjoy traveling and experiencing different, older cultures than my own. I try very hard to be respectful of those cultures. I see your attitudes everywhere I go… why don’t you guys worry about your own problems and stop sticking your political noses where they don’t belong!

    At least in America I don’t see people dumping the entire contents of their cars out on the streets for some ultra-poor foreign national to clean it up, which by the way they never get around to do because there is trash everywhere in Kuwait. My child doesn’t even know what McDonald’s is… but plenty of overweight Kuwaiti children sure do. Maids are not running to their embassies in America because they are abused by their employers, starved and underpaid.

    Want to know why we don’t have riots on a regular basis in America? Because (here is that American optimism) there is still opportunity in America. Americans habits are changing. Sure, mistakes have been made, but because we don’t inbreed (like some clan cultures do), we can actually learn from our mistakes. It is a good thing that employers are finally letting people telecommute, people are conserving like never before. I live in a very green city… no plastic bags at the grocery stores, people recycle, “green” houses go like hotcakes, people use rain-water reserviors for watering their lawns, etc.

    Yet they still have 10% unemployment in Europe, higher in some cases. The mafia took over the “trash” service in Italy, and where that happened, they didn’t have service for weeks, and I see institutionalized corruption and human rights violated all over the Middle East, and Far East Asia, not to mention extreme poverty, the kind of poverty that the poorest American can not comprehend, among other things.

    My point is, no place on this earth is perfect, that’s why God created Heaven. But I will NOT EVER apologize for being an American. And I am tired of being asked.

    Comment by mimfoy | August 16, 2008 | Reply

  11. Mimfoy, where are you from? What is your green city?

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 16, 2008 | Reply

  12. Austin, TX

    Comment by mimfoy | August 16, 2008 | Reply

  13. dear mimfoy :

    OMG i am sorry i missed your comments until now so here is my reply ;

    first of all officer i don’t know that character d , i never met d , i never spoke to d , i swear officer , i also think he /she maybe in a witness protection program and that’s why uses d as an identity ,too much American TV ,yeah i know ,

    So please don’t lump me with him in a single comment .
    d would you please rise and be held responsible for your actions as i cant take the heat for both of us anymore .

    mimfy please lighten up, my comments were indirectly about Kuwait labor mess than to pick on people ,OK .

    now that you have opened other issues like why people like to come to America , hey, people are always on the move , for God’s sake they even come to the sand box called Q8 !!! people have been on the move from the beginning of history , it is the Grass is greener on the other side of the fence theory , so whats so strange about that ha tell me ha .

    You seem to have been to Kuwait and know it well so my cover is blown and i cant argue with that ,but on issue of the maids running to embassies in the states that wont happen because the country is so big they will be tired before they get there .Seriously i really feel sorry for them but they must first stop peeing in their employers soup so the working relationship between them can improve.

    Mikey D again , i don’t know why people keeping harping on this excellent company that fed billions and billions around the world , they have cleaned their act , they have stopped serving fries tainted with beef to the vegetarian Hindus , they write hot on their coffee cups, sure after they burned that lady’s thighs but hey they learned their lesson, 55 million dollar worth of a lesson ,but they improved , they always offered to their customers tours of their kitchen , do you think any Chinese restaurant would do that ??? that’s unheard of . Micky d’s also started labeling the calories content of the stuff they sell , so i like them , why are you stopping your kids from eating there !!It is up to you.

    Patriotism , lets take this simple test , how many non American cars do i have in my house hold ?? answer is None,all are American cars . what about you ?? any Toyota’s in your drive way ??

    Green houses are great ideas , i honestly hope people get to keep them with all this foreclosure problems ,it is not nice to lose the shelter people must have .look up some European laws where the banks cant foreclose on the buyer while they still living in the house it is a basic human need.

    finally i never asked anyone to apologize for being whom they are or where they come from . so can we kiss (you are not a guy ?? are you )and make up and be friends again ???
    or shall i get the heck (see i am being sensitive ,didn’t write hell)out of dodge before you launch a cruise missile into my tent while i am busy inbreeding tonight ????

    take it easy ,

    love , peace and friendship

    intlxpatr .. sorry for this long post but i thought i will clear things up

    Comment by daggero | August 16, 2008 | Reply

  14. Momfoy – Austin! I have some good friends there. I had no idea it was so Green! Isn’t Rice University also in Austin?

    Daggero – LLLOOOLLL, if you were blogging, you would be getting huge stats. I may not always agree with your comments, but you often make me laugh. I welcome other perspectives – often they help me see things from a new angle.

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 16, 2008 | Reply

  15. The “because we can” capitalist ideology is precisely why i support communism. but i like capitalist coffee!

    Comment by Mrm | August 16, 2008 | Reply

  16. Oddly enough, Mrm, a friend and I were having a similar conversation recently about democracy – how sometimes everyone having an opinion contributes to gridlock in the infrastructure. We sometimes have major problems we can’t get people to agree on solutions to, so highways get worse, public transportation doesn’t get installed . . .Sometimes a strong central committee is better about getting things done, assuming there is no corruption . . . .hmmmm. . . .that is a big assumption.

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 17, 2008 | Reply

  17. intlxpatr

    U welcome ,

    i guess my peace offering was not accepted ,

    well , i tried

    Comment by daggero | August 17, 2008 | Reply

  18. One thing I really liked, daggero, is that you expressed your opinion without getting offensive or using language that would upset my mother. I don’t mind disagreements; I do mind excessive profanity.

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 17, 2008 | Reply

  19. Intlxpatr

    profanity is haram
    🙂

    Comment by daggero | August 18, 2008 | Reply

  20. Of course we can make up … not sure about the kissing though… my hubby might get offended! LOL. I tried to post back yesterday but it didn’t go up for some reason. I must say, Daggero, you have a great sense of humor, and I laughed all the way through your post, so I promise to keep my missiles at bay! Oh, and for the record, I technically own an American car (Volvo was bought by Ford :)).

    Comment by mimfoy | August 18, 2008 | Reply

  21. Intlxpatr — I almost forgot… Rice is in Houston. However, we have 5 universities in a 40 mile radius. Lots of young, engaged minds… great live music, politics (as we are the capital of TX too), and of course, American football.

    Comment by mimfoy | August 18, 2008 | Reply

  22. mimfy ;
    i am glad that you enjoyed my post and and that we are friends again , i am more than happy to have met a rich texan who drive a volvo , cx9 ??? may you be safe in driving

    and God bless

    Comment by daggero | August 18, 2008 | Reply

  23. Wooo Hooooo! Welcome back, Mimfoy, and I am glad you and daggero have made nice.

    I had one Volvo for 13 years, and I only sold it because we were moving to Doha and the company wouldn’t ship it. I loved that car. Volvos run forever.

    Thank you for the correction on Rice.

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 18, 2008 | Reply

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