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December 16, 2008


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There's an old saying that Russians are the best "horse traders", which means the hardest bargainers.
I'm Irish and there's a saying "'Tis better to spend money like there's no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there's no money!". Maybe that's why Ireland has been traditionally poor.

I'm second generation Chinese and I noticed that there are several characteristics when it comes to money that is handed down from my parent generation. First, most first generation Chinese are very frugal and not big spenders. Not very flashy and don't like spending money. If they buy brand names, they are usually the cheap imitations. Second, my parents and their parents were great savers. My wife's grandmother is still saving to this day and she is in her late 80s. If it were me, I'd spend a little and live a little at that age. Lastly, when it comes to things that are free, I'm all over it. Hotel shampoo. Free food. Free drinks. Anyway, this stereotyping, but there is some truth behind it.

Ferg's Fascinating Fact #732: The reputation that Jews have with money stems from the usury laws of the Middle Ages; since Christians were forbid from lending at interest, not many Christians would lend money. Rulers and nobility always need more money (a Crusade here, a lost war there, an arranged marriage down the road) so the only folks who were lending money were non-Christians, or, in Europe, Jews. Since borrowers haven't changed much in the last thousand years or so, many would default on their loans and blame the interest charges on their defaults; turning a financial crisis into a "moral" one, where they felt they were superior. Basically, since the nobility wouldn't blame themselves for their excesses, they tended to blame the Jews themselves for not practicing good Christian values and not charging interest. Once banks came about in the 16th century, the nobility had other sources to borrow from and stopped pestering the Jews, but the story of Jewish "greed" lives on.

Wikipedia has a good overview of usury in the Middle Ages, if anyone cares to read about it.

You can't be too frugal or spender, Everything in life needs a little balance. If everything was like that, we would not have the madness that is going on now.

There is a stereotype that Blacks are not good with money. The term "hood rich" is used where I live, and it describes a black person that lives in a lower class neighborhood/ghetto, yet drives a Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator or other nice car that has the spinning rims and the person also wears lots of gold blingy jewelry and fancy suits. But they may have to go to the check cashing place to get a payday loan to pay their utility bill. My father said there is a similar term with similar meaning to describe the Irish, but can't recall what it is.


I am a first generation Indian living in US. There are different groups of Indians living in US, who have some distinguishing characteristics. For example, the PATELS who are primarily from North India are mostly in business, typically Motels, Gas Stations, etc. They are known to be extremely frugal, and sharp business minded. The South Indian counter parts mostly are in the software/health care fields. They are also frugal, but not business oriented.
The interesting part is when it comes to houses, most Indians will buy expensive houses (not completely out of their ball game), but will make everything else frugal.
The disclaimer is I am not generalizing all Indians. Obviously, you will find some non conformists.

Any other cultures????

Yes, it's pretty hard to sterotype a billion people :)

Scots are another nationality that have that "cheap" thing applied to them. I can't think of any that applies to us Irish. All too often these sterotypes are used in a fairly mean spritied way in my experience (obviously Ramit didn't mean it that way).

It's the first I've heard about TJMaxx, marshall's. I'm asian, and I love bargains, but when I go to those stores, I generally see all minorities, not only Asians or east Asians. I've gone to the Galleria, with their high-end stuff, and it's ALL races going there (but not sure if just browsing/wishing or actually shopping...)

I have a friend who is Dutch and I wouldn't say he is cheap, but he is very careful with his money and won't spend it frivolously.

I wonder if the term "going dutch," (splitting a bill) is a reference to the Dutch being cheap and not wanting to pay for another person to eat.

It's interesting to learn the random ways that sayings came to be. According to Wikipedia, there were many sayings with negative Dutch stereotypes that became common in England during the Anglo-Dutch wars.

Not an ethnic stereotype, but a professional one. The scientists and engineers I've known and worked with are cheap. Examples: Brownbagging their lunch and re-using the paperbag until it won't hold anymore. Rinsing the ziploc bag for the next day's sandwich, etc. Pocket protectors to extend the life of their clothing. Resoled shoes. Immune to all fashion sense, dressing only to clothe their bodies, not to make an impression. Infrequent shoe-shines.

I first noticed the difference when I switched majors in college from science to business. Now I work in an industry with both business and computer scientce/engineering types from multiple ethnic groups and nationalities. In an outing, members of one group will always split the check, and each wiill know his exact share. In the other, someone will pick-up the check, actually, a few will vie for the honor of picking up the check, ordering appetizers for the table, getting a bottle of this or that. This holds regardless of the ethnicity or gender of the parties. The difference is along professional lines. Incidentally, the pay scales of both groups are identical.

My parents are Italian (I'm first generation Canadian) and one stereotype that holds true for most Italian immigrant families I know is to pay cash for everything. I mean EVERYTHING. (Insert digs against mafioso Italians not wanting to leave a paper trail).

Honestly, I admire my parents for it. If they don't have the cash, they don't spend the money. Another thing I noticed -- and I was talking to a fellow first generationer about this yesterday -- they don't typically invest in banks (these are institutions that are not to be trusted). Instead, it's argued that Italians especially tend to invest in property or land, versus stocks and bonds.

@jus sayin:

The term is "lace curtain Irish", in "honor" of poor Irish who would try to look wealthier by putting lace curtains up in their shanty windows.

Regarding the original topic, it does seem like I'm often one of very few white people shopping at Ross, TJMaxx, and Savers. Which is fine, since the Latina and Indian women shopping next to me seem to have quite different taste in clothing from me, so I have less competition for the clothing I like. :-)

Great thread! I notice the following:
Some black people as one writer put are "hood-rich" have great cars and clothes but dont have the money to pay utility bills or take care of their homes...(in some neighborhoods!) Some guy's i know actually prefer to pay more for an item rather than looking for a bargin, just so they can tell everyone how much it cost! Whereas,
Indians and Asians tend to always go for a bargin and want things cheaper yet they do have beautiful huge houses and drive nice cars also...but still wear flip flops in winter!
Some white people buy beat up cars but love to spend money on their homes and keep their lawn and house extremely tidy...
I guess you have the same trait in people no matter what culture they are from but generally anyone who is first or second generation to this country tend be be savers until they are eventually sucked into the capaitalist mentality of having the latest gadget.

I would say that migrants are generally a lot more frugal. They think in terms of outflows in their home currency.

Any race or culture that has experienced hardship would be frugal. The next generation doesn't share these values as much and it gets more diluted as time goes on.

There is an old Chinese saying. The first generation starts the wealth, the 2nd builds on it and the 3rd fritters it all away... or somthing like that.

No stereotype is good at all, but as far as stereotypes go, being good with money isn't too bad. There are so many worse ones out there anyway...

In this economy saving money doesn,t have any meaning. government raises the taxes and then pay unemployment money to some people to go vacation and have fun. that's not fare!

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