Is struggling in big cities really better than being rich in the countryside?

January 20, 2024 | 03:29 pm PT
Is struggling in big cities really better than being rich in the countryside?
City dwellers have to pay high costs for housing rent or mortgage payments, food, daily living expenses, and child-rearing. Illustration photo by Freepik
Old Vietnamese people used to say that “wealthy people in the countryside are never as rich as idle people in a big city,” but this is no longer true.

In HCMC, a couple’s combined monthly income of nearly VND25 million (US$1,018) is considered aspirational in the countryside.

However, life in the city, with its high costs for housing rent or mortgage payments, food, daily living expenses, and child-rearing, can quickly overwhelm even a combined monthly income of VND30 million.

Couples with that income level find themselves spending all of their salary each month. They always appear well-dressed to outsiders, frequently dine out and enjoy weekend activities, yet they continue to live in a rented home.

During holidays and festivals, they often rent a car to return to their hometown, maintaining a certain image with their neighbors and relatives.

For a couple I know that live in similar conditions, the husband feels a sense of envy towards his rural friends whenever they meet up. Although not particularly affluent, his friends have stable businesses and own their homes, with some even managing to afford cars.

Living in the city, they find themselves unable to reach such achievements.

Now, they have to borrow money from relatives in their hometown to afford a down payment on an apartment.

Recently, there has been a fascinating discussion online about who leads a more affluent lifestyle: people living in the city or those in rural areas.

The conversation centers on individuals who have moved to the city, which is believed to be filled with opportunities, to build their careers. Despite this, they often receive shipments of food from their families in the countryside.

There is a perception that rural people live modestly, saving their money, yet they are generous towards family members living far away. They send fresh fish, healthy chickens, and organic vegetables to their relatives in big cities like HCMC.

For example, my neighbors, who come from a village in the Central region, receive a box full of fish, shrimp and local delicacies every month, which they store in their refrigerator for gradual consumption. They often share photos of meals they prepared from the ingredients back home, and subtly express their homesickness.

This practice of sending food to urban relatives is not just an act of affection but also a reflection of the desire to share the best and unique products with loved ones living afar – a sentiment widely shared among those in rural areas.

The issue I want to address here is that there are people who, after years of education and career building in the city, find themselves poorer than those in rural areas. More accurately, they feel out of place both in the urban environment and back in their hometowns.

Two years ago, I shared an opinion saying that you should not stay in HCMC if you earn less than VND15 million a month after having been there for five years.

My viewpoint remains unchanged.

If one cannot escape big cities’ middle-income trap, then buying a house or a car will never be attainable.

Young couples need to quickly seek alternative paths, such as returning to their hometown to start a business, which can be a viable strategy if they target markets with high demand.

One should not get too caught up in the allure of being a city dweller or be enamored with the indulgent lifestyle of having to work days and nights just to spend on shopping and dining out with family.

This can lead to a sense of discontentment in the urban environment, especially when you look back at your hometown and see that significant changes have occurred and everyone, except you, is prospering.

So what is your viewpoint on this matter?

Reader Le Trung Bao

*This opinion was translated into English by AI. Readers’ views are personal and do not necessarily match VnExpress’ viewpoints.

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