Today I want to talk to Americans about the Cost of Living.
In the USA many people struggle with rent, food, healthcare premiums, taxes, car maintenance, and other things. I know. I am from a really bad neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona.
When I moved, something amazing happened. It was like I had been carrying an elephant on my back for my whole life. I was hunched over and in pain. I was so exhausted. But I was so used to the elephant being there that I never even noticed it. I just thought life sucked for everyone.
Then I got to Korea and I moved into my beautiful apartment with my electronic door that talks to me. The first thing I noticed was how safe it was. No crime. No gunshots at night. No danger of being raped or murdered walking home late at night.
However, over time I began to see deeper. It wasn’t just safe. The elephant was gone.
See, in Korea I paid the standard middle class tax rate of 12% of my income. That isn’t much compared to the 36% rate I was paying in the USA. However, the really mind-blowing part is that I get stuff for it. No, really.
For my 12% tax rate, I get free healthcare, amazing public transportation and infrastructure, cheap housing and food, and the second best schools on Earth (New Zealand being first in that regard.)
All of a sudden I realized that I made way more money than I needed to survive. Without all those expensive things I had to pay for in the USA, I have left over money. That’s right, it’s money that is extra after paying bills. I never thought I would know what that felt like.
When I realized that I had been carrying this awful stress my whole life from being poor, and that it was finally over, I sat down and cried. Okay, I suppose my co-workers thought that I was crazy, but I couldn’t help it. I am free. I don’t live in poverty anymore. I can go to the doctor if I am sick, I don’t need a car to get anywhere because of the great public transportation, but I could afford one if I wanted. I can buy anything I want in the grocery store. Anything! If I want strawberries in winter, I can afford that. No more ramen and hot dogs. I have so much money that I don’t have to bring a calculator to the grocery store and make hard decisions as I look at my list and calculate prices. I don’t have to cut coupons. And I never have to go hungry.
You know how I know that I really made it? I can afford to eat out. Wow, right? Even at a nice restaurant!
And this is something that none of my friends back home have. They are still living hand-to-mouth with no savings and not enough to eat well or have the things they need to survive. And none of them can afford to visit the doctor even if they have medical care, because those co-pays and deductibles are awful.
And I am sad for my country. I wish I could do something. I just want to shake everyone and say “It doesn’t have to be like this! It is possible to have a better country!”
It really is.