haggles and things

I don’t know if it is a Canadian thing….but I am completely unable to haggle. Unwilling, also. I’d love to boast that it is entirely an ethical decision, but mainly it just makes me incredibly uncomfortable and ashamed. I mention this to other travellers sometimes and the general consensus is that it is residual of my growing up in a prosperous country. The guilt that I feel when I attempt to get a local vendor to lower their price is crippling. If people I am with haggle, I am mortified. In countries where the people earn the equivalent of my daily wage in Ireland in a month…..what right do I have to exploit them for their services and goods? I get told off by a significant amount of travellers for this sentiment – so far most of these complaints have been funny and good-natured – as my stubborn attitude apparently makes it harder for them to get a good price, but it just doesn’t make sense to me. In cheap countries we travellers already have the benefit of euros or dollars to make our funds go a long way. You know everything will have a price, why cause unnecessary tension for people who are already struggling to buy a tank of petrol for their car, feed their family, pay for their children’s education?….why pick these countries as the target haggling-zones? Why not, if at all, choose the richer countries to make a bargain? They can afford it.

Coming to a country where the maximum salary one can wish for with basic education is 90 US dollars PER MONTH, I do not think anyone should be asking them to lower their prices. The government itself cannot afford to provide electricity for the country for longer than 13 hours per day. And in Europe we waste insane amounts on useless things. There is no heating in buildings, people living in boxes, little children sleeping four or five underneath one cotton bedsheet in the middle of winter, little girls selling their bodies for a meal….I wonder how it is possible to look at this with eyes wide open and attempt to take any more from these people.
Canada is by far NOT a perfect country, however as a child growing up there I was safe, warm, comfortable, educated, and clothed and given the means to travel and make something of myself. When I tell people here I am from Canada, I’ve seen the most emotional responses. Their faces light up at the mention of this particular country. I’ve seen it on odd occasions previously, but never the same as in Nepal. Again, that guilt kicks in. Why did I happen to be born there and they here? I know guilt and sadness solves nothing, but it’s tangible. Most of these people will never have the opportunities I had/have, and yet they don’t show any sign of resentment towards me. They call me ‘Sister’ and bow their heads and smile with their eyes.

Perhaps their ‘Namaste’ is what saves them from the worst sides of poverty; self-pity, anger, a pre-disposition to steal and lie for personal gain….in this sense, Nepal is the richest country I’ve ever been in. And the most deserving of an improved economy. Therefore, little by little, I hope fellow travellers reconsider how hard they fight for that 50 cent discount on a souvenir. It doesn’t make a huge difference in your life, and it potentially makes life a little bit easier for the locals. Be a conscious traveler, not a tourist.

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