Bragging Rights

At times I admit the contradictions elude me. There’s a general consensus that prices are too high. In reality prices are always too high. Five years from now today’s complaints will merely become tomorrows complaints.

Yet so many Jordanians, and perhaps Arabs, are fixated with buying expensive things simply so they can say they buy expensive things. Or rather so as not to say that they purchased it inexpensively.

And therein lies the contradictions that I find myself grappling with in the moments before I fall asleep.

I never hear someone tell me about something they bought that was cheap. No one tells me where I can find a “good deal”. More importantly no one brags about finding a “good deal”. Instead we inflate our own purchases to extraordinary proportions so as to affirm wealth and status. If you ask someone in Amman who much they bought something for, the numerical answer will always be 25% higher than they actually paid.

Everyone else in the world seems to enjoy a good bargain. In fact they love it. The brag about it. Even as a child in Canada I was tuned into that mindset that suggested saving money was a good thing. Nine year olds bragging on the schoolyard about buying their baseball caps for less than others did.

This is non existent in Jordan it seems. Saying you bought something cheaper suggests that you yourself may be cheap. Hence saving face becomes pride and pride becomes vanity.

So instead I hear stories about wealth. Constant wealth.

Stories about the rich are told amongst the young and old, the men and the women. Everyone knows someone who did something extravagant and they retell the story like it was folklore in the making. And everyone listens keenly, with open eyes and gaping mouths, closed ever so slightly every now and then so as to let out a long whistle of amazement…

The latest wedding at a five star hotel I don’t care about where the cake was laced in diamonds and a famous Arabian pop star sang to the bride and groom. Stories about someone who bought his son a porche for his birthday because he had the pocket change to spare.

I don’t know these people. I don’t want to know these people. I don’t care about any of these people. More importantly, I don’t want to hear stories about them or what they do or how they choose to lead their lives.

Because I really, really don’t care.

I’m sorry…I just don’t.

I mean excuse the alliteration but why are their extravagances essential to my existence?

No, I don’t care what fashion statement my mobile makes about me. What it says about me. Where I come from or who I am. The car I drive doesn’t seem to make that statement either. It just drives.

But we build ourselves up, create a social image that is beyond the realms of our actual realities. And that makes the fall only that much harder, because so many of the wealthy do fall from grace. Ah, but that makes for a better story I suppose. Folklore about the man who once was and what he has now become. A fraction of his former self. Schadenfreude.

I feel sometimes like I’m living a Dickens novel in the digital age.

As Tyler Durden would say, I am not my fucken khakis.

Don’t get me wrong, materialism is not the point.

I just appreciate a good deal, a good bargain and an ordinary life. I prefer shawarma sandwiches to steaks at a five star hotel restaurant. I like jeans to armani suits. I like to brag about buying something cheaply. And heck, if I could find that armani suit at half the price I would wear it.

More importantly, I would brag about it.

But that’s just me.

And I’m just rambling here.


  • I understand… people are caught in there. I just rather appreciate the advantages of both sides; A 5 stars steak and a 1/2 JD shawerma. NO dilemma between the two realms would be much better, as at the end… goods at all prices exist… so just appreciate the deal you make whether cheap, expensive or in between. And don’t measure your social status by that.

  • While I do know what you’re talking about and have noticed it in some cases, most of my experiences are actually the exact opposite. I’m trying to remember conversations about people buying cars or furniture and my impression now from that past is that there was definitely an existing focus on how good of a deal the person got on it. And while the motive behind the stories you’re talking about might be to portray an image of wealth, the motive in most of the cases I’m thinking of is to not show that you were fooled by a seller and that you managed to get a good deal and that you’re not an “easy person” in this “tough environment” that Jordan is.

    One exchange that almost always exists and stands out in my mind is the following:

    “How much did they want for it?” in Arabic “addaish kan beddo?”.

    “Noooo, I made them come down in their price of course” in Arabic “laaaa, fasalto ella 3abain ma ridi ynazzel el se3er….”.

    and things along those lines.

    I am fully aware of the types that you are talking about though. I think both exist and I think people go this way or the other depending on who they’re talking to. If they’re talking to someone they know very well and who knows them very well, they’ll go for the “good bargain” talk, but if they’re talking to someone relatively new or someone they’re trying desparately to impress, they’ll go the “money is no issue” route. And sometimes they’ll mix both.

  • i agree mostly with what you say, people do brag alot, people do want to show off, and they never tell when they get a good deal, or find a place that is cheap or even when they shop from the (balad)…i say some people here are so sick with the image thing

    but lets not forget that some people that wear armani do not brag, and some that wear jeans are full of bragging

    it is not what we have or how much we own that tells what a bragger we are, it is the way we display our goods.

    and naseem the small box is still not showing

  • Are you sure you are in the same Jordan I know? πŸ˜€ Among the peopel I know, either form work, uni, neighours, etc… rich or not, we do brag about good deals! We wait for the sales and admit that we don’t deal with certain stores unless it’s sales season… Life is easier this way, I think you should expand your circle of acquaintance πŸ˜€

  • Why is it that people are constantly bugging me to know how much I paid for absolutely EVERYTHING I buy, and then when I tell them, they say, “Oh, that’s too expensive!” (Like I don’t know.) If I got a good bargain, I’ll tell you about it. If not, I’d rather keep it to myself.

  • Salaam ‘Alaikum

    My experience, with family for the most part, here is that one is always on the lookout for someone having paid too much or rather, more than what the item is worth — and this is then exaggerated too. For example, you got a used English novel for 1 JD? Well, your relative knows someone (or is the someone) who got 20 used English books for a shilling.

    At the same time, you also hear a lot of, “Well, your curtains are nice, but so-and-so paid $$$$ and hers look really nice.” Ya’ani, the implication being that yours aren’t that great, so don’t go getting all happy with what you’ve bought. Then, at my cousin’s work, the women are constantly telling each other how much of their paycheck they’ve blown on designer clothes that week. When she says, “I wear vintage,” they turn up their noses at her (even though, as she points out, the same celebs that these girls like often wear vintage clothing).

Your Two Piasters: