@LetsAllSitDown's banner p




0 followers   follows 0 users  
joined 2022 September 05 08:43:22 UTC
Verified Email


User ID: 507



0 followers   follows 0 users   joined 2022 September 05 08:43:22 UTC


No bio...


User ID: 507

Verified Email

Yes. It can be a bit of a cacophony if you're equidistant from 3 mosques.

Al-Sudani, no idea really, I think the common people basically think that non-corrupt people are driven out of politics pretty quickly, so if you're high up in politics, you're very corrupt.

Al-Sadr, I didn't really talk to anybody about him except for my wife. She's mostly negative, but also has mixed feelings, especially because he urged his supporters to join the protests a few years ago. It's not just posters though. You can see pictures of Al-Sadr on the back of taxis or tuk-tuks. It's clear he still has a lot of popular support.

Actually, a note I forgot to add about corruption:

  • My wife's sister's husband works in the foreign ministry, and until recently he had some money-controlling responsibilities. He gave those up because he was being threatened due to not accepting some bribes.
  • My MIL and SIL have a dental clinic together, and occasionally customers refuse to pay as they're members of some militia or organised crime syndicate. There's not much that can be done about that.

We live up the hill from the church in our village, putting its bell tower at window level for us, and are regularly woken up by its pealing. It goes on for too long at (seemingly) random times. Hourly chiming in a mountain village is fine, but daily life with loud bells isn't all that fun.

We had terrible sleeping habits in Baghdad, but the Adhan didn't wake us up. I'm not sure how I'd feel about it long-term.

I just got back from visiting Iraq, and thought I'd share my thoughts. My wife is Iraqi, so visiting family was our main reason for going.

  • My wife's sister had visited us the week before in Switzerland with her boss (let's call him "Haji") and his daughter. Haji is a real estate mogul in Baghdad. He sent one of his henchmen to meet us at the gate in Baghdad airport (yes, he went backwards through luggage claim and passport control), so that the border police wouldn't ask annoying questions about my wife being married to a potential non-muslim. We cut through the queue, he rang some higher-up, all was well. He dropped us off at the airport later as well. Again, jumping to the front of queues, talking to the guy there, talking on the phone, no problems. It was quite embarrassing.

Government and Politics:

  • When my wife was around 10 years old, her family home was appropriated by Saddam Hussein's cousin. After the fall of Saddam, some newly-rich Shia groups moved in. We tried to go see her childhood home, but the neighbourhood entrances were guarded by guys with guns. Apparently you need to live there or be visiting someone in order to be allowed in. Bear in mind this blocking of streets by armed thugs is not government-sanctioned. This district is now just a Shia faction stronghold and they'll do what they like.

  • There were other differences between this district and others. A lot of billboards had a picture of Soleimani, usually with the words "We will not forget the blood of our martyrs". There are a lot of posters of Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei. I knew that the Iranian influence here was strong, but for it to be that brazen was surprising to me. There were also many pictures of Muqtada Al-Sadr, with him looking angry in each one. He's an interesting character. Another place where the Shia/Iran influence is noticeably strong is in Karbala, a holy Shia city Southwest of Baghdad.

  • There were some pretty big protests a couple of years ago, and people seem to think that this scared the government enough to start investing in infrastructure and allowing some liberalisation.

  • The day before we flew out, the Americans carried out another drone strike on a militia leader. My wife heard the explosion from the vehicle she was in, but was still fairly far away. We were mildly worried about my European-looking face as we went to the airport, but all good.

Baghdad City:

  • Traffic lights mostly don't exist, or if they do, they usually don't work, and if they do work, they are generally ignored. At some busy intersections,a traffic cop stands and directs traffic, and his directions are mostly heeded.

  • Cutting into and across traffic is generally necessary, and the drivers trust each other to be aware enough. Compared to when I was in India, cars tend to not be covered in dents. People are generally not overly selfish.

  • Cars are modded in myriad ways. One taxi I saw had a countdown timer on either side at the back, which would emit a bright series of flashes upon reaching 0. A scooter had flashing blue and red lights, surely outlawed in most developed countries.

  • Armed men in uniform are all over the city. On many intersections, there is a pick-up with a machine gun mounted on top, and usually a guy standing behind it, with a bunch of other guys with big guns and big moustaches in uniform loitering around.

  • Baghdad has footpaths, but they're not really usable. They're occupied by generators or vehicles. This means one generally has to walk on the street.

  • Parking lots highlight how cheap labour is. One evening we drove the car to a parking lot which would normally accommodate around 30 cars. There were 2 employees working there. We received a piece of paper from them, and they parked the car in such a way that other cars were blocked in. By parking in this way, they could accommodate about 8 more cars. It all seemed very inefficient to me, but I guess they're cheap.

Food and Stores:

  • We found a store in the mall called "Swiss Market". Given that I live in Switzerland, I thought I'd test its authenticity. They had all sorts of (non-alcoholic) German beers, standard softdrinks, but no Rivella. The only Swiss thing I found was Lindt. The store "American Candy" appeared to my untrained eye to fit the bill. "German Bazaar" seemed to mostly be Italian and Chinese brands. We didn't even bother with "Swedish Pharmacy". "English Home" didn't sound particularly appealing, but still more so than "Wankids". "Shopping Shop" I took at its word.

  • Restaurants generally give enough free appetisers to fill one's stomach by themselves. We were already overfed and generally not hungry by the time we got to restaurants, so after we ordered a main, we ended up eating about a third of all the food that had been brought out.

  • Fancy restaurants generally play Western music. One particularly expensive restaurant was playing a string version of Despacito when we arrived, and 10 minutes later I realised that once again Despacito was playing, this time with the oboe playing the melody. Classy stuff.

  • The food is delicious, albeit a bit fatty.


  • For a population I assumed to be traumatised from the last decades of conflict, 3 things surprised me:

    • A lot of fake gun toys for kids
    • Valorisation of military
    • Amount of fireworks on NYE
  • People speaking English was rare. No taxi drivers we met could speak more than a few words, as far as we could tell.

  • Botox seemed to be very common among mid-upper class women. Exaggerated fat lips and high cheekbones, which would not be popular in the West.

  • My wife explained that most Iraqis do not have hobbies to the same extent as people in Europe. Going out and meeting for food is something they like to do.


  • The 'Adan' (call to prayer) is less grating than the church bells of Europe.

  • Leaving clear plastic wrapping on things is really common. Oftentimes the entire interior of a car will be plastic-wrapped like it came from the factory. Displays with bubbles all over the protective film. My sister-in-law's dental clinic had plastic all over the instruments. Here that would be considered tacky.

It definitely can be! Going bouldering with a mate is more talking than activity, because you need to rest between attempts. I do a lot of hiking (&flying), and when I go with a friend we're talking the whole way up. Joining a sports club generally means you'll grab a beer together afterwards, or drive there/back together.

Most middle manager jobs don't help in any realistic way

I think this is frequently overstated. A good manager really does coordinate and organise and make decisions about who is working on what, what the requirements are, and the technical workers and product suffer if that work is not done.

Most manual labor is yet to be robo-automated because human labor is cheap, not because we can't do it.

No, getting robots to do manual labour is super difficult. Sensing and accurately moving in the physical world is still well out of reach for many applications.

Most STEM trained practioners act more as highly-skilled monkeys who imitate what they are taught with perfect precision

Well, not quite, we actually solve problems, usually in the form of "how can I meet the requirements in the most efficient way possible". Sure, we're not usually breaking new innovative ground, but it's actually work, and it's not stupid. I write embedded software for controlling motors. These motor controllers are used in industrial applications all over the world, from robots to dentist drills.

That is the sense in which I say 90% jobs are stupid. Ie, given enough time, most average humans can be trained to do 90% of average jobs.

That's a stupid definition of stupid jobs.

Yes, and I don't really like it.

I'm a nerdy and sporty guy who has stereotypically male interests and hobbies. There aren't enough women with the same inclinations for all men like me to marry their best friend.

I gave up on finding a woman like that and "settled" for someone who is very feminine. We talk freely with each other, sometimes for hours, but she's not my best friend. The camaraderie I have with close guy friends is different. For my liking, she and I spend probably too much of our free time together. Partially that's because we moved to a new country and are having trouble making new friends, but also it's because she has largely absorbed the idea of marrying your best friend, and wants to do more activities together.

We don't have children yet, so I want to spend more of my weekends and spare time in the mountains with other men (no homo), and less in a crowded cafe. Not exclusively of course; sometimes it's nice to be in the city with her, and sometimes she'll come into the mountains with me, but it's not the same.

When we were still dating, she once said "I don't care if you spend the whole day outside without me; I just want you back here sleeping beside me at the end of the day". I'm not sure that attitude has persisted.

"whatever's left after deducting shared expenses she can do with what she wants"

That's one way of doing it. Realistically what this will look like after 10 years is that I will have saved up a lot of money and she will have saved up almost none. Then when we go to buy a house, the deposit will primarily come from me, partly because I earned more and partly because I saved more.

The earned more part I don't have a problem with. That's what I signed up for by getting married. My money is our money. But the saved more part makes me feel like a schmuck. Why should I be sacrificing more for that goal than she?

I'll bet he's got a fair chunk of the wife's money going into savings.

Well, yes and no. Yes, because 90% of all the bills come from my account, but no, because if she'd paid "her share" she'd have almost nothing left. I think this is part of the problem. Because all the bills are coming from my account, she has quite a lot of money left in her account, and this makes her feel like she hasn't spent much. In fact, she "saved" $10000 in her account over the last 9 months or so, and was quite proud of it. Pointing out that this number wasn't very meaningful because only 10% of the bills came from her account didn't land very well.

Perhaps therapy for her? Especially if she is spending for social reasons to fit in.

She is in therapy. Not specifially about that, but she talks about this too.

Does she have a specific category where she spends the most? Eating out? Fancy clothes? Etc?

It's mostly online shopping, so clothes and handbags. Makeup and getting nails and hair done as well. Coffee and going out with friends.

Would it be possible for y'all to earn more money while keeping the spending stable?

We've both received small pay increases recently. I've been keeping my eyes out for new jobs, but I'm not finding anything that pays more so far.

Do you as a couple have any less wealthy friends you could spend more time with? Or at least friends and relatives who aren't exerting social pressure on her to overspend?

We moved here relatively recently and are both struggling to fit in socially. I'm less affected because I just go and do my hobbies; she has suggested that the isolation is contributing to her spending. We have a few friends now who also don't seem to be spending large, and that helps. However, she spends time with some girls in the city occasionally. A lot of these are single and waiting for a man with a house and a car to sweep them off their feet, and in the meantime not too concerned about saving money.

But on the whole it's her family and upbringing. She comes from old money that is on its last legs.

I take your point on the whole though. I think it's something we/I can focus on, finding friends who are also more future-focused and frugal.

you should be able to afford a lunch

Lunch costs $40 here. I can afford it with my $1000 budget, but I prefer to spend on my hobby, when I do spend.

you should talk about how wasteful spending makes it harder for your to achieve these goals

We're actually on the same page in principle, pretty much. It's just that she feels like she's already denying herself a lot, but somehow the numbers at the end of the month say otherwise, and she gets defensive about it.

she should not feel obliged to live by their standards.

This is a recurring theme. My upbringing shaped me, of course, but I don't care that much what my family thinks of my lifestyle. She was recently in her home country for her sister's wedding, and the amount spent on gifts and clothing was mind-boggling to me. She describes the lives of her sisters and mother as vicious social status seeking, but she can't help but be sucked into it to a milder extent on occasion.

Is there some way to automatically shift the money you're budgeted to spend to a different account, so that it can't be mixed up with the discretionary spend?

This is what I see as the next step, but getting there without her feeling like I'm controlling her is going to be difficult.

Also, she's going to need a new phone soon (she's somewhat locked into iPhone out of habit). Realistically that would mean saving up now. What am I going to do, tell her she has to be phoneless until she saves up the money?

I'm having marriage financial woes.

I come from a family of misers, my wife comes from a family which is nearing the bottom of the stairs with their silken slippers. Before we merged our finances, I was always wondering why she was never able to save, and introducing budgeting soon told me why. Our budgeting is virtual, which is to say we assign transactions to categories and there's nothing technically preventing one of us from overspending on a category. We still have our separate bank accounts.

Out combined income is about 175k (65% me). We each get a "personal" category which is funded by $1000 per month. This funds clothes, going out without the other person, gadgets, sports gear, whatever we want. To me, $1000 is overkill. I read other couples' budgets online and $250 is more typical. I save most of mine.

She managed to get into the negatives pretty quickly with hers. We kept on making exceptions for why we could recategorise her purchases, but soon she was -$1500. Eventually I agreed we would reset the balance, as long as she didn't overspend again. At half-way through July she was at $800 spent.

It's really having an impact on our marriage. She feels really bad about it, but can't seem to keep it under control. It's building resentment in me. We've still got a decent savings rate, but we're trying for kids at the moment, and we would go backwards financially if we had a child now. It's not just the personal fund, she consistently buys more expensive stuff in other categories. Even assuming perpetual DINK status, I'm pretty sure I would save more money being single.

She thinks she's doing well, and points out that her family would consider her a miser. I think even I'm doing poorly, and my family would consider me to be wasteful with my money.

I see frugality as a virtue, she sees it as a preference. She feels massive social pressure to not look poor. I'm quite happy to tell my colleagues that I can't afford to go to lunch with them.

She's not a feminist by any means, but does have a strong aversion to feeling controlled in any way, so I'm hesitant to suggest I have greater control over her finances.

Any ideas?

if two people disagree then one of them has to be in charge or the issue will never get resolved

This doesn't seem to be at all true to me. Not just in my marriage, but in many situations with just 2 people, nobody is in charge and issues are still resolved. I often do sports in twos with various friends, and I can't figure out any hierarchy at all. In certain situations it's clear that one person has more expertise

People will often say how in male-only groups there is a clear hierarchy, and I have certainly seen that on occasion, but it's not the norm.

Adults can resolve issues in small groups down to pairs, without anybody being in charge.