Why Do Rich People "Go Slumming"?

Is it because the rich get jaded by their opulent lives? Golf and lunch at the country club starts to wear on you?
It seems a common behavior-Marie Antoinette liked to dress up as , and work as a milkmaid. More recently, we had Paris Hilton living the “simple life”.
Or is it genuine curiosity-do the rich regard us ordinary folk as zoo animals? And they want to know about our habitats?
It is s tarnge phenomenon-rich people wanting to live poor-what’s your take on this?

Wealth and social standing are laden with stifling rituals. There’s nothing genetic or inheritable about a fondness for opera or the ballet, for example, but if you were dragged to it as a kid because your wealthy parents thought you needed “culture”, I can certainly understand wanting to slip out to to jazz club.

Is this a real phenomenon? In the case of Paris Hilton, was it just a case of “yeah, we poor people can feel superior because look how much like a fish out of water the rich girl is when she has to be like us!”

It’s for the same reason people go to expensive restaurants, spend a lot of money on theater tickets, and go on cruises that cost the equivalent of 3 months’ income: it’s something different. The people who are born rich don’t know anything different, so of course they’re curious about what it would be like to live a more spartan existence. I can hardly begrudge them their curiosity, as I would jump at the chance to live a few days with no financial worries and all wants taken care of. Who doesn’t dream of being in a situation like that?

My take is that this is a fun trope for fiction (or fictionalized reality shows like The Simple Life), but that it doesn’t happen very often in real life.

I’ve met a few rich people (depending on your definition of rich, I guess) in my life and none of them ever expressed a desire to go slumming. In fact, most went around neglecting the fact that a lot of the people they interacted with didn’t have as much money as they did.


But I’ve been around a lot of people who have more money than I do. To me, many of them they seem avaricious and superficial. ‘They know the cost of everything, and the value of nothing.’ Some rich people seem the same; being more absorbed in themselves than in humanity. And then there are people who have gobs of money, but are the nicest, most caring, most interesting people you could ever meet. ISTM that these people might be the ones who tend to get fed up with, as Bryan Ekers said, ‘stifling rituals’. They see the value of listening to what ‘common people’ say and experiencing the things that the common people experience. They know that there’s more to life than country clubs and dinner parties. For them, ‘slumming’ provides food for their souls.

Then there are the ones who go slumming, but want everyone to know how rich and important they are. ‘See? I’m just like you! I’m paying attention to you! Of course, I can buy you and your entire family. So just remember I’m better than you are.’ I think those people do it for their egos.

And there are some who recognise that something is ‘missing’ in their lives and want to get away from their lifestyles and maybe ‘do good’. Maybe they stroke their egos. (‘I did this, and now I am a more insightful person.’) Or maybe they have an epiphany. (‘I have been very fortunate, and yet these people who have nothing compared to what I have are happy. I should use my resources to help them.’) Or maybe they want to be a part of a ‘family’ where their social obligations are not a factor.

There are many types of people, and as many or more reasons to go slumming. It all depends on the person.

I want to know what “slumming” is. If it means going to dive bars or tractor pulls, I assume rich people do those things for the same reason poor people do. They think it’s fun.

“Rich life” isn’t a very homogeneous thing. The wealthy on the East Coast are more likely to go out to black tie events, drink champagne, and buy fine art. West Coast wealthy think that’s all pretty uptight and annoying. They might get bigger houses, but still fairly normal. They wear normal clothing, buy normal cars, and overall live not all-that-much-different from the average person. They can simply splurge more, send their kids to nicer schools, and have fewer worries. Being able to lord your wealth over others isn’t considered a perk of success.

But even the East Coast wealthy still don’t compare to, for instance, if you go to Monaco, where everyone owns a Lamborghini, surrounds themselves with beautiful, scantily clad lasses (or lads), and adds as much grease into their hair as can be managed.

In movies they do it for plot development. In real life they don’t do it at all. Of course if a bunch of rich people turn up at your local bar without a production crew, I stand corrected.

It seems to be fairly common for a certain type of adolescent to have a strong drive towards “slumming”–rich kids, yes, but also fairly middle class kids. For whatever reason, a certain type of kid will feel much more comfortable hanging out with very working-class people–and by “working class” I don’t mean “just plain folks” but these sorts of nebulous crowds of 17-30 year olds who all work in a succession of food service and retail jobs, smoke a lot of pot, drink a lot of cheap beer, and live in a perpetual fluid state–apartments with 2 or 3 people on the lease, one of whom still lives there along with 3 or 4 others who sleep there most nights and contribute towards the rent and there is usually another person or two couch surfing at any given moment. Groups like this are often living in pretty dire poverty: they hang out and drink cheap beer because they can’t afford to do anything else. Property is highly communal.

Anyway, in my experience a certain type of kid is really, really attracted to this sort of crowd, and will turn their back on what seems like an infinitely more comfortable lifestyle in order to live that way. I think it has to do with either poor self-esteem (these are not judgmental people) or severe stress-avoidance (these are not people who have expectations for others beyond “be cool”).

I think it’s the same reason that some people say rainy days are “cozy”: They don’t actually have to sleep out in the rain on a frigid night with no shelter, so they can afford to think that way.

I come from an incredibly wealthy family although it didn’t get to be that way until I was grown. My daughters and grandkids may never have to work but we don’t do it that way because no one thinks it is a healthy way to live. It is a small family and everyone has an ordinary job. I am head of technology for a pharmaceutical factory, one brother is an industrial electrician, and the other is a Coast Guard Officer. I only have two first cousins on that side. One is an EMT and the other a student and hotel desk clerk.

The main benefit is that you have an extreme safety net and you can try things and fail and not have to worry about the financial aspect. I needed a new vehicle a few weeks ago and I just walked into the various dealerships and picked the one that I wanted and made a phone call and it was taken care of. I can do the same with houses but getting anything especially flashy or frivolous is strongly frowned upon in the family. I am seriously thinking about becoming an ER nurse for example because I think I would be good at it. I am pretty sure I would be a terrible politician or a professional black-tie event goer because I hate that type of thing. My tastes are childlike in their simplicity and the main value of something like that is telling other people to screw when you want to and then go fishing with your kids.

I don’t usually mention it to anyone because I was raised in a very poor and tiny Southern town but two of my great-grandfathers had the idea of setting their descendents up for life with mineral rights and it paid off better than they ever could have imagined. It is just about family security and responsibility. I live on the Boston area now and I simply have no idea how to deal with the so-called blue-bloods here. I like talking to my redneck friends from Louisiana on Facebook a lot more because they are a lot more fun and interesting.

I am almost in the opposite situation as described in the OP. My father asked me to investigate how to charter a large yacht off of Martha’s Vineyard with full staff and sleeping quarters for a week for 10 people this summer just to see what other people do with their money. None of us have any idea how to go about such a thing and I am not really comfortable with the idea but it is a cool experiment but so would be setting off $100,000 worth of fireworks in a night like I dreamed about as a child.

I think the OP is confusing the ideas of class versus wealth and there isn’t really a true class structure in the U.S. I personally know a few self-made millionaires in the 100+ million range and they are just regular people who would help you fix a flat tire in an instant because they work and take care of all problems large or small and that is how they got that way. It is really about upbringing, attitude, and personality more than anything else rather than money.

The moral to this story is, wherever you go, there you are.

They want to sleep with common people.

I found this article interesting. An entitled teenager is coerced into going to India for a few weeks of wake up.


It’s largely a myth, IME, that rich people got their wealth from their family. Almost all the rich people I know of earned their money through hard work, 80-hour weeks, ingenuity, and risk-taking. The rest got their wealth by taking a high-paying occupation like surgeon or lawyer. They weren’t born into a high class by any means.

So IME, some rich people go slumming because it’s the way they were raised. It’s how they’ve always acted. Just because they have a lot of money in the bank doesn’t mean they’re going to act differently than your average person. That’s why >80% of the country self-identifies as middle-class. In other words, “slumming” is an illusion- it’s just who they are.

Well, for the same reason men love to wear girly, girly dresses. Its for the change! The excitement! The thrill!

Pretty, pretty dresses…

My step grandfather, although not one of the super-rich, nevertheless had enough money to be a serious collector of classic cars. He was also perfectly generous to my grandmother, who also had a comfortable amount of money of her own. For some reason, she always drove economy cars–I particularly remember her driving a Gremlin. This clearly was a matter of taste. That particular taste I don’t entirely get, but other things, like preferring Timexes to Rolexes, makes complete sense for someone who has no need to persuade others of his or her wealth.

There’s also a form of old-money snobbery that seems to require old station wagons, old tweeds, and worn oriental rugs. That can look a bit like slumming, but it’s really a form of pretension.

This reminds me a bit of the circuits rich “trustifarians” make throughout various destinations in the Rocky Mountain west either during a year off college, or shortly after graduation. A couple of months in Santa Fe, a month in Taos, a couple of months in Boulder, maybe some time in Fort Collins, a winter working for some ski resort, maybe some time chillin’ out up in Bozeman, a while in Portland, a month in Vancouver where they can smoke chronic non-stop, blah blah blah.

But there is a difference; those are kids having a good time, and they have enough parental funds (trustifarians) to avoid serious discomfort. I am talking about kids from a middle class or upper class background who really join the paycheck-to-paycheck working-class grinding poverty lifestyle. Kids who don’t go to college, or flunk out of State U first, then local city U, then community college, never making a serious stab at any of them. Kids that have the capacity, background and resources to go to college but instead want to wait tables or wash dishes at a sports bar and smoke weed when they can afford it. We’re talking about the sort of people that look at drinking in bars to be hopelessly high class, as it costs so much more than a case of Natty Lite.

There are just some people who are happy without making their lives about constantly getting ahead in the rat race. It’s a lot easier when you know you have someone to bail you out if the shitty jobs dry up, frankly.

I know a guy who is incredibly smart and talented, but has worked a series of dead-end food service and labor jobs for his entire adult life. He quit college with 3 credits left towards his degree because no more classes interested him and he was making enough money delivering pizza to fund the lifestyle he liked. He’s comfortable living in shitty apartments as long as he has enough money for pizza, beer, pot and World of Warcraft.

I was frustrated with him sometimes but I get it now: he’s happy the way things are. Why change anything? He was honestly more content with life using his brain to figure out the most complicated strategies to make new and exciting Magic: The Gathering decks rather than apply it towards a job he didn’t care for. He didn’t care about impressing people, or working towards job-related goals, so why do those things?