Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Penny-pinching: a British institution

We all like to save money right or get a good bargain, we shop around to see if we can get things cheaper in some places, like computers or cars, but hey the extent that people in the UK go to save money just seems unbelievable to me. So the british are notorious for being misers- in fact, penny-pinching is not just a term in the english dictionary, its become the national past-time. There are exceptions, my half anglo-friends (half-french and half-polish ones just in case they are reading) who are arabists at heart, are not included. However, these are the observations recorded to support the above statement:

-Having lunch at 11.30 cos of the special offer on at the canteen. Friend: hey why don’t u come over my place for lunch, Us: yeah sure. Date is set. Day before lunch, Friend: how about you grab a couple of pizzas from the med school and bring them over, then I’ll pay you my half, Us: Errr, yeah ok. 2 hours before lunch, Friend: hey if you go now and grab the pizzas there a special discount before 11.30am…. errr..ok so its cheaper to have lunch at 11.30, do i change my lifestyle over it?

-when someone declares "F R E E F O O D" is being served somewhere, there is a stampede. I'm telling ya, someone decided to play a prank once, and came into the lecture and said there was free food downstairs, half the class ran out, stuffed their mouth, stuffed their pockets with whatever they could fit in. In fact, turned out the food was for an official event-but no one could hear the poor lady telling them to stay away, they were caught on camera and had to pay back the cost. As for FREE DRINKS, hell, a desert cant suck water as fast as these people gulp it down.

-the friends who get their year’s supply of toilet roll from library loo. I’m telling you these girls are what you’d classify as ‘classy chicks’, wouldn’t be seen dead without a pair of earl jeans and flashy trainers, yet their designer handbag is stuffed with a pinched bog roll.

-Friend: how about I cook dinner for you guys tomorrow night? ?Us: Yeah sure that would be nice, Friend: can you chip in for the groceries half-half???

-the fact that half the refectory’s cutlery and dishes goes missing every year. Oh, nice bowl, I think I’ll take it…i'll have that spoon too thank u very much. Apparantly was costing the university £3000 a year.

-when you go to a restaurant and the bill arrives, they are the first people to get the calculator out. Offering to pay is simply unheard of?? Unless its booze that is.

-Starve themselves the whole week to scrape enough money to go binging Saturday night.

-sitting in the restaurant, your friend calls the waitress and asks for her separate bill! rude or what.

-using a handkerchief….i never quite understood this…why would you want to collect all your boggies on one bit of cloth?

-sharing bathwater..keeping the water in there for the next person to bathe in!!!! I can understand if it was 1948 and Hitler was attacking and no water supply, but in this day and age?

- a bidet is considered a luxury to be found only in 5 star hotels or extremely upper class apartments. So washing your arse is an unnecessary luxury.

-whats with the hot and cold taps – either you freeze to death or burn to death. Are mixer taps that expensive? I had to survive with this for over a year in my bathroom.

Coming from the Gulf-no i'm not boasting- but generosity flows through our blood, i mean you are taught to give, even if you don't have. Your taught never to ask your buddy for the money you lent him, your taught that your home is open even to strangers. I dont have anything against people hard-up or on student loans, but I guess I just wish they'd be more subtle about it. I got nicknamed the ‘peacock’ as I was apparantly too extravagent, and i'm telling ya, I made an effort to try and appear not so. I mean, I wore the same smelly tracksuit for a year, and hardly did any shopping, my allowance barely covered the basic necessities, but I just couldnt meet the miser-standard.

Only in the uk would you read a story like this:
LONDON (Reuters) - An elderly British man who lived in a run-down house, bought second-hand clothes and watched television at his neighbor's to save on electricity left a million pounds to a dog charity, newspapers reported on Friday.

Don’t get me wrong, dog’s charity is a worthy cause, may surpass any other more human causes you may argue, but what about your kids??

Even Shakespeare back in the 16th century says "A miser grows rich by seeming poor. An extravagant man grows poor by seeming rich." So this isnt a recent thing at all. Terms like scrimping and saving are common phrases, but looking at it in this context seems to make sense. The British live in a culture of scrimping and saving, doesnt matter if your rich or poor. Is it good or bad? Well that is subjective. If you compare it with the opulant lifestyles that some people live in the Gulf then I would say it is definitely good - as 'tabtheer' is a very bad sin, that 80% of muslims commit, so I cant argue with the scrimp-save culture. But its enough to hear the story of Sh. Maythem Albahrani back in the 12th century to see how the importance of appearances actually matter in the Bahraini culture.

Posted by BB @ 11/24/2004 11:42:00 PM

Read or Post a Comment

Hey I'm with you sis!

There is a grace and hospitality in the Gulf like almost no place I know and the UK (although it has many wonderful aspects to it) just can't measure up!

I'll take my bidet, drive-up service, and Arab generosity any day of the week!

Salaam Alaikum,

Posted by Blogger peacefulmuslimah @ 11/25/2004 01:33:00 AM #

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Posted by Blogger Desert Island Boy @ 11/25/2004 02:08:00 AM #

Other cultures don't necessarily differ from yours. Usually the attributes you're looking for are found in places you might not expect.

In the East, the penny-pinching happens in business where we try and cut costs in all enterprise, even to point of hiring cheap labor, inferior materials, not to mention how you will never walk out of a Damascus souq getting EXACTLY what you paid for.

But we're generous to a fault with food and time. The West is generous with the way they go about their business. I always wondered why it behooved the United States to let people into their borders and give them citizenship, land and opportunities that you and I are so used to seeing being horded for those deemed "worthy". Or to invest so much money into welfare or even benefits packages for employees. It's a part of their work culture to be generous with those things.

Generosity is their spirits as well, you just may be surprised where you find it.

Posted by Blogger Desert Island Boy @ 11/25/2004 02:08:00 AM #

I have to agree with DI Boy. Generosity and stinginess pops up in different places in different cultures. When I first went of to uni, whenever I went out to eat with friends I would naturally offer to pay the bill. This went on for a few weeks or so until I realized I was broke because no one else would ever put forward a "counter-offer" to pay the bill.

On the other hand tipping is not as common in Bahrain as it is in other places. Again during my first few weeks at uni, I wouldn't leave much tip for the waiters, and this point was not lost on them the next time I visited the place.

(But I do confess to stealing loo roll once or twice)

Posted by Blogger Chanad @ 11/25/2004 03:26:00 AM #

i don't think this is just to do with culture of a particular country.... moreover its 'student life culture'.... i've experienced the same student lifestyle in Canada... and now here in Bahrain.....

its probably a bit different here in Bahrain (depends on the uni atmosphere as well) than in Canada..... but its more or less the same stuff you described :-)

I'd just like to add more to the list you've got on:

- Place your roomie's & your clothes in the washer & dryer together & save about $3 on laundry twice a week. Sometimes it would be a whole floor laundry session for 1.75 ..... i tried it out once.. never again - the colors got all mixed and i ended up with rastafarian styles on my t-shirts :-)

- go out on a date to the local bar/pub.... order coke or anything else that's soft [soft drinks - are free courtesy of the nightclub), when asked why, just say you wanna' keep a straight head cos u're the one driving home- end result - u get free beverages all nite thru + yo date pays for his/her own drinks & u don't need cash to go on a date..... simple yet elegant... Oh and and usually u don't get a bite to eat cos u just keep dancing and dancing..... (u probably save about $20)

- Make all your calls from the courtesy phones provided on campus by the student union (2 mins max/call).

- Didn't pay your rent on time? u're out on the streets for a week till u find a new place to stay and u still gotta attend classes? no worries - check in your stuff with a friend (not more than 2 suitcases) and spend the nights in your local 24hr fastfood outlets/coffee shops (Tim Hortons/Hol n One)... give staff the excuse you're having an exam week and you revise best in a coffee shop kinda' atmosphere (that's if they do come up to you and ask u -mostly they don't)... and then just tag a long your coat, a pillow and u can even doze off to sleep - heavy studying makes u do that... and u need to look fresh next morning in class - not a problem - get to college an hr before classes start - and freshed up in the rest room - use the hands blower as a hair dryer.

- Feeling hungry yet u don't have much bling bling on you to buy that fab brunch? Don't worry, just grab hold of a prof and ask him if he/she would like to have lunch with you (gesture is great for yo grades as well)... in the middle of haing lunch.. fake a cell phone call and hang up suddenly and act like u're in a hurry to get out of there... (make sure to fininsh eating up as much as u can to yo heart's delight) and just inform yo prof "mah bf/gf/whoever is in the icu - i need to go chk on her asap" leaving yo 'nice' prof to pay the bill.... not bad eh! :-D

- Spent all yo pocket money during the 1st week of the month? dunno' how u going to pay for the heat/water bill? take it ezzz! Sign up to be a paid volunteer for lab experiments at your uni clinic, local heath care center or bio department - it pays good money - just pray that when u are on the examiming table u come out all fine :)

- if at anytime yo get invite out for a bite or a drink just remember - its dutch style bill payment - oh and if u don't have money on u its fine, just tell your firends that you'll catch up woth them later 'cos you're gonna chat up with the chef and find out the kind of ingredients he put into the food - actually you're going to be washing dishes in the kitchen for the next 2 hours to pay for everything u ate....

.... now as to what happens in ucb .. oh well.... i'll save that for more laughs later on :-D


Posted by Blogger Angelo Embuldeniya (Strav) @ 11/25/2004 04:46:00 AM #

Damn Strav!

Things I didn't see in the College Survival Handbook.

Here's a radical thought: When I was in college and needed cash, I went and got, you ready for this?

I don't think you're ready for this,

You sure you're ready for this?

Ok, I went and got


DIB ;)

Posted by Blogger Desert Island Boy @ 11/25/2004 07:37:00 AM #

NoooooooooOOoooOOoo.... *head shaking in disbelief*. this can't be happening... sleeping in the 24 hour fast food joint?? Sharing laundry loads?? Is there anything else we should know about Strav before we go on?? Picking up cigarrette stubs off the curb maybe? How much are you going to leave your pet cat??

Strav, you've surpassed all common notions of stinginess.. i hereby award you with Bahrania's Miser of the Year Award - For exceptional ingeniuty and thriftiness. Beware: I doubt you will be getting many dates after this.

Anymore contenders for the Award?

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 11/25/2004 02:33:00 PM #

Bahrania, Fair comment thought dont you think a bit too generalised and judgemental?
By the way - did you find a decent cookbook then?

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 11/25/2004 05:53:00 PM #

Of course its too generalized and judgmental... its not about to be written on holy grail though is it :)

Cookbooks are such a waste of money arn't simply too tight to pay for one, the cheapest way of finding out how to cook a particular dish is miss calling your mother (so you save on your phone bill), tell her that you have 1 slice of mouldy bread+ 1 can of baked beans + pasta+ two eggs + peanut butter and asking her to concoct a recipe with these ingredients that will make an unforgettable meal.

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 11/25/2004 06:08:00 PM #

LOL, Thanks Bahraniat for your Bahrania's Miser of the Year Award - For exceptional ingeniuty and thriftiness.

I don't need to worry about dates... its a free world... dates come and go..... just smile and the world smiles with u :-)

And DIB :D... i had 3 jobs on campus while i was reading for 6 courses/semester.... i worked part time as a student intern for 2 profs and was on the night patrol for campus police which was scarry at times.... yea i had my share of campus jobs.... but i guess when u're responsible for loads of things while in college PLUS Dumb taxes.... u'd do as much as u can to make ends meet....

And.... no i haven't gone to the extreme of picking up cig stubbs off the curb - i'll never do that.... no way! thats way beyond my imagination..... thankfully students' lifestyles in Bahrain aren't as bad as in North America... i was surprised when someone offered to pay my bill in fudruckers when i came down.... wow! how nice of them... and then i learnt it was a hospitality thingie which meant i'd have to do it as well later on....

BTW... if anyone's interested.. chk out the 2nd floor of DQ in Al Alaawi Comlex @ around.... 2-5am on weedays - u'll see students dozing off [u can't quite sleep up there - they got a security cam on].... well mostly happens during mid-term weeks.

student life is fun overall! well sometimes atleast its nice....@ other times when its all crappy u just keep thinking about the times when it was nice....


Posted by Blogger Angelo Embuldeniya (Strav) @ 11/25/2004 06:44:00 PM #

heheheh....funny ,, :) totally agree with u and they have the nerve of calling us spend-thrifs coz we have "oil-money" - well we too earned this money its not that money is handed to us on a golden platter..
Al ;)

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 11/25/2004 06:50:00 PM #

Like DIB said, when's that shack gonna start sizzling?? You need to post Bahrain's very own Scrooge Survival Guide Handbook written by Strav.

i gotta hand it to u, there are many lazy fat-arsed spoilt rich kids that would do good taking some of your advice - but hell, they'll never be that desperate enough for money.

There are actually some places in Bahrain, where people are notorious for being tight - but i'm not gonna mention where as its where i come from :) We call them 'loosa'. There's actually quite a funny Bahraini saying:

Mid irjoolik 3la gad il7afik..which means stretch your legs only as far as your blanket can cover you, which is used for people who outstretch their financial budgets.

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 11/25/2004 09:34:00 PM #

That was too funny....and quite true in some cases that I've seen in western societies. Hoarding the ketchup packets at fast food chains and little bottles of sauce and pots of jam in the hotel room service....those have been done by people I know. A penny saved is a penny earned! ha!

And while it's true that there is a bit of that going on all over the general terms, the Middle Eastern culture is a VERY generous one. Sharing is big deal...and taken to heart. It's really lovely.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 11/25/2004 10:19:00 PM #

That was too funny....and quite true in some cases that I've seen in western societies. Hoarding the ketchup packets at fast food chains and little bottles of sauce and pots of jam in the hotel room service....those have been done by people I know. A penny saved is a penny earned! ha!

And while it's true that there is a bit of that going on all over the general terms, the Middle Eastern culture is a VERY generous one. Sharing is big deal...and taken to heart. It's really lovely.


Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 11/25/2004 10:19:00 PM #

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Posted by Blogger Girl, Interrupted @ 11/25/2004 11:29:00 PM #

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Posted by Blogger Girl, Interrupted @ 11/25/2004 11:45:00 PM #

"...I don't have anything against people hard-up or on student loans, but I guess I just wish they'd be more subtle about it." Why?
Correct me if I'm wrong cause I worry that I might drift from the main point, but I can't help but accuse you of being a typical 'khaleeji'
People in the west live a 'normal' life of growing up in a poor neighborhood or one full of gun crimes. They wear the same baggy jeans and t-shirt every other day along with some smelly Nike "up towns"
Some of them work hard in order to save up for a university education or work during the term in order to pay off a 1000+ Pound-a-year loan. They bring packed lunches to university along with their own tea/coffee. They never buy books unless it's second hand and they make sure that they've been to every second hand bookshop in the capital before making that dreaded purchase.

Arabs (Khaleejis so to speak - and I don't mean to generalize, but I'll say most) grow up in a generally spoiled environment. They don't pay tax. They don't have to work in three different supermarkets in order to save up for college or whatever. Those that travel abroad for university, make sure they have enough and God forbid if they should run out of money, just mention the 'J' word and they'll go into denial all over again. They make sure they're wearing the latest matching designer bag and shoes... Tell me, do they know what it feels like to eat lunch at 11:30 so that they'd save money? Do they know how it feels like to be stepped over when there's a "Free food" sign somewhere? Do they know how it's like to run out of loo rolls and there's not a penny in your pocket? I don't even know what they do if they were given a cleaning job to survive on their own for one week! Generosity is not OVER SPENDING, but having the essential sensitivity towards these people you've written about in your entry...
And this is university... It's normal for a student to be broke half the time and find some way around it. Sooner or later, we'll graduate and make millionaires out of ourselves.

Posted by Blogger Girl, Interrupted @ 11/25/2004 11:50:00 PM #

Camden Town is the only place i feel comfy with in the UK.... skin heads, boneheads.. its a open culture... and you're free to do whatever u wanna'... very nice place to grab a book and dig in..... anywayz....

i got classified as a hippy by my folks at home when i got back to Bahrain..... wasn't very nice to listen to.. but when i asked why.. i got bombarded with questions like:-

Q: "why do u wear the same faded clothes everyday?" Ans: hey atleast i was n dry 'em every day - that's why they're all faded, and i'm not dishing out cash for new ones until next year.

Q: How come yo hair is all long?
Ans: i got so used to not taking a hair cut, probably didn't get time to and when i did get time i had run outta coins to take one.

Q: What makes you attracted to 'freebies'?
Ans: i dunno' that's a habit i guess....somethng i got used to doing when you're on a extremely tight budget.

well there were more q's....but... i'm taking on that idea of your Bahraniat and publishing my own Bahrain's Scrooge Student Guide on my blog soon.. just dealing with some bugs ....

but... out here in Bahrain... the loo rolls story lives on....anywayz......

my college is like a 3 minute drive from Alosra (Spinneys) and what i do is chk out the special offers in the store, end up buying a arabic kinda pizza and a coke, seat myself down at one of Costa Coffee's tables opposite, borrow a knife and a fork, help myself gladly to the napkins..... have a lovely lunch and dash back to uni.......

last wednesday when i took a friend over for lunch, he was horrified that i had been doing this for the past 3 months.... and he insisted that we ate at MC on the otherside... but as usual i'm stubborn and i held my ground until he gave in... but i guess next time he won't come over to spinneys with me... unless he gets used to the idea... yes this guy had a 3 digit car plate... but like i care rite.... i think they should understand its all part of a student's life.....and we come to uni to study not to be models in a fashion show or chk out da best rides in a car showroom......

Oh well... i hope to be pulling off the costa coffee treat next week with a prof from the region..... i'll post back what happens :-)

Has anyone tried selling flowers/chocolate to ppl in their vehicles at traffic signals on Bahrain's streets? Any tips?

Posted by Blogger Angelo Embuldeniya (Strav) @ 11/26/2004 12:16:00 AM #

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Posted by Blogger Girl, Interrupted @ 11/26/2004 12:22:00 AM #

Right on Strav!

Posted by Blogger Girl, Interrupted @ 11/26/2004 12:23:00 AM #

hold up...

Girl, Interrupted (by what may I ask?) - yeah i totally agree with what your saying...i find those that are the most hard-up actually go about their thriftiness in quite a dignified manner and are straightforward about it. Its the 'free-loaders' that are annoying...the people who want freebies for freebies sake, not the fact that they need it. You know the people in the sub-sample that I based my observations above are from well-off middle class families...thats what perplexed me... but ur right, the working class people who worked hard to get into uni and pay their tuition fees, they normally do the best in class anyway and are down-to-earth about their situation and not ashamed by it...i may have been cleared if I had referred to the Bri-ish term 'ponser'.

i agree with what you said about khaleejis and the 'J' word...they are the opposite extreme arnt they? Lavish lifestyles and too much money... but believe me things are changing...its actually when they study abroad that they taste the 'real' life..the fact that they have to budget for things u said moderation is the key.

Strav, your gonna have to be clever though, if you give away all your little tricks, then the law of arbitrage will mean that you'll price yourself out of the market, COSTA might start cracking down on all the UCB ponsers that heed your tips.

Shalloola...thanks for the comment...u never know when the McDs ketchup sachets will come in handy!

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 11/26/2004 02:53:00 AM #

To spending money, well squandering it, I'm in big support of.
I used to know this guy with the last name 'Asfar' - I had to give him props everytime I saw him.


Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 11/26/2004 04:21:00 AM #


Asfar - props??? elaborate please !

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 11/26/2004 03:36:00 PM #

Maybe it was my independant nature, but I felt like I was taking enough from the government dole and my parent's savings just to pay for school. I'm thankful that I never had to take loans for school but that's what oil money has afforded us.

My first day on campus I was determined to make my own money. This cos if my father ever so much as gave you a single dinar, he was adamant about knowing where you spent every filoos. Whenever he complained about being thought of as the Bank of Dad, I told him he was more like the audit firm.

Americans are a bit more dignified about their stinginess. But then again these are the people that brought you 'Conspicuous Consumption'. I've yet to met one that I can truly accuse of being 'khanjoosi'. They'll tell you straight up if they want to or not want to spend money. I've had dates that have gone dutch; telling me one of two things: that's why I'm not seeing them anymore or I should try less strong autonomous women.

What did get to me though was after my parents made sacrifices and conscious choices to put money away for me to go college, American parents had no problems having their kids take out students loans (which could run you about $60,000 to $150,000 when it's all said and done), so they could pay for whatever their midlife crisis called for. Kids I knew who were taking loans out for school, were moving into the dorms from pristine suburban neighborhoods in mom's shiny new SUV or dad's spotless `vette. And I used to ask myself, how on earth do they afford this?

The answer is they don't! Only in America is your key to future wrapped up in a) Home Equity and b) Credit Limit!

I owe, I owe, so it's off to work we go!
I owe, I owe, I owe, I owe, I owe, oh, I owe!

Posted by Blogger Desert Island Boy @ 11/26/2004 06:30:00 PM #

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Posted by Blogger Angelo Embuldeniya (Strav) @ 11/26/2004 06:58:00 PM #

No student would need to take a loan or go to the extremes of earning their way through college if tution fees had stayed the same or just stopped increasing unreasonably each year..... so you can either go towards the extreme of earning as much as you can doing whatever's possible or you take it the short-term ez way , long-term killer by taking a student loan that will kill you after you graduate.... even after 5 years of working once you're in the industry, the money you get won't be enough to pay off the loan plus the interest that kept lazing upon it..... oh well... another side to students' life in uni.....

Posted by Blogger Angelo Embuldeniya (Strav) @ 11/26/2004 06:58:00 PM #

My bad - I meant to type in 'asraf', as in 'spend money'. That was his last name, and that's why I had to big-up him everytime I saw him.

nasser-e - You don't know me, but I've been a silent fan (until now) of the blog. You write well, and I like the poetry posts you throw in every now and then.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 11/27/2004 01:37:00 AM #

DIB - i agree student loans come by default in the West. In some cases, even when the parents pay, they ask for the kid to pay it back in some way after they graduate!! Its common culture, that even when you live in your parents place, you have to earn your keep after a while - after the age of 18 they expect u to pack ur bags and leave home or start paying rent!!! The rates students pay in the US is astronical. My American friend has over $100,000 dollar debt!! I dunno how many years thats going to take her to pay back.

I agree Strav, suffer short term and not long term... but people are myopic/short-sighted...i know people that take the student loan out cos of the low interest rate and say they will invest it and pay it back when they make a higher return out of the end it just got squandered away...

Nasser-e. Who has a verb for a name? Glad you decided to break your silence!

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 11/27/2004 02:42:00 AM #


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