What’s Your Price?

I overheard an interesting conversation on the MRT. It went something like this:

Vietnamese beauty: “If you buy land in Vietnam now. 2 years later, price go up double. Buy car only $10,000.”

Singaporean dude: “But I have no licence.”

Vietnamese beauty: “Licence easy, not like Singapore.”

Suffice to say that I’ve encountered situations like this numerous times over the last few decades of my life. And it’s not just young dudes like this guy who get “proposals” like that. Even your neighbourhood uncle gets them.

And if they’re you’re friends, you would would really want to warn them. But the reality is, warning doesn’t work. They need to go through the whole painful learning process to get it. I’ve been called all sorts of names from “bigot” to “racist” when I warned my besotted friends before they stepped into the trap with their eyes wide open.

I can’t say that everyone will suffer from it. If the money is just a drop in the ocean for you and you’re in it just for the fun of it, by all means go ahead. Even if you’re putting in your life savings but you’ve still got a few decades of working life left in you, the damage wouldn’t be devastating. But many folks in the silver generation go in with their retirement funds and even borrowed money. They often end up horribly and too ashamed to face the people who had warned them, they put all the blame on “black magic”. The girl used “black magic” on them. I’ve written about this phenomenon in my book Spellbound in Chiangmai.

But at risk of being called a bigot again, many of these situations are not scams. If you go back to the conversation I heard, Vietnamese Beauty was just giving the dude her speculative investment strategy. Indeed, many of these women have absolutely no premeditated plan to pull the rug under the feet of the ignorant Singaporean. In fact, they themselves could be just as ignorant; having heard rumours and exaggerations of friends and relatives making fortunes in real estate.

When they start a business with your money, they could be 100% confident of success and living happily ever after with you even though they have absolutely no business acumen. When the business fails (which shouldn’t be surprising), you may go bust, but it isn’t a scam.

While cultural issues with regards to customs and decorum are relatively easy to overcome, it is usually the money culture that kills. People may borrow money from you with without feeling the obligation to return it. People who consider you rich often don’t see that your bank balance is finite. Indulgence takes away the understanding that when debits exceed credits, the balance goes down to zero.

At the end of the day, I need to ask the dudes this question: So what if your “investment” doesn’t work out? Does it mean that it’s the end of your relationship? Why is the relationship so dependent on the investment? Was it a meaningful relationship from the start?

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