Traveling To The Third World Is Great And Also It Sucks

The thing about visiting the Developing World when you live in the Developed World is that it’s a rich, eye-opening, perspective-building cultural experience and the other thing about it is that it sucks.

You know that upsetting person who posts pictures on Facebook of themselves doing some delicious- or beautiful- or wild-looking activity in somewhere like Tanzania or India or Peru? And even though they’re posting for their own purposes as part of a skillful weave of Image Crafting and Jealousy Inducing, it makes you yearn anyway as you sit there in whatever shitty life you’ve chosen for yourself?

The thing you need to remember is that they did some careful cropping on the photo—they cropped out the misery. Misery is a government requirement when you visit a country like Tanzania or India or Peru and your body is totally unaccustomed to the ecosystem, but that’s easy to forget when you’re not there.

So it’s not that your upsetting friend isn’t having a great time—they are—but beneath their shit-eating open-jaw delighted smile and upward-extended arms grasping into the succulent mist of a waterfall, just a couple feet down are aching, blistered feet, malaria-ridden-mosquito bitten legs, and some gurgling diarrhea nightmare.

You should still be jealous—just not that jealous.

Let’s pause for a moment to examine the distinction between traveling and going on vacation. 

There are three things you can focus on when you’re on a trip:

1) The Place. Exploring a place’s famous sights, natural wonders, history, and modern highlights.

2) The People. Getting to know the modern culture and the mindset of the people; developing a better understanding of what it’s like to live there by asking questions, visiting residential areas, and socializing with locals.

3) Yourself. Being hedonistic, focusing on eating, drinking, reading, and relaxing.

In any place in the world, someone who’s easily fascinated can achieve #1, someone who’s bravely outgoing can achieve #2, and if you have a high budget, you can make #3 happen almost anywhere.

But for the average person, which of these three objectives can be easily achieved will depend on the specific location of the trip. Some examples of where they’ll be achieved most naturally:
What you can get out of a trip

* Here

** A) But really. B) I’ve been there so I’m not just being a dick. C) It was a good choice for that joke because there aren’t many Kazakh Wait But Why readers, so I’ll get in a relatively small amount of trouble for this.

So as far as traveling vs. vacation goes—

For a trip to qualify as a “vacation,” hedonism (Item 3 above) must be a prominent component of things, and misery shouldn’t really enter the equation. A vacation should recharge your batteries and your health. And vacations are non-controversial. They’re good.[1]Unless you’re with the wrong person. But that’s a whole other post. But their effects are also more on the surface and likely not long-lasting.

Traveling, on the other hand, I define very differently. The core focus of a “traveling” trip must be either Item 1, Item 2, or both. Hedonism can sometimes play a part of a traveling excursion, but it’s not the reason you’re there, and you likely will not finish the trip feeling healthy and refreshed—you’ll feel like you need a vacation. Traveling is less uniformly “good” than vacation—some moments will be astoundingly great, and others will be the worst part of your year. But whatever happens may stick around and become part of who you are.

This post is about traveling, and in particular, the quintessential “travel” experience—the one that best nails both Items 1 and 2 (while usually missing Item 3 entirely)—Third World travel. Specifically, as it is experienced by a visiting First Worlder.

(There’s a chance that the terms First World and Third World are offensive. I’m not sure. I googled around about this, and my impression is that there are like two more years before the terms become officially offensive—so I plan to get my fill while I can, because the terms Developed World and Developing World are far less amusing.)

(These terms originated during the Cold War, when the countries aligned with the US and capitalism were called the First World and the countries aligned with the Soviet Bloc and communism were called the Second World. The non-aligned countries were the Third World, and since that time, the terms First and Third World have taken on the new meanings of Developed and Developing nations.)

(Reading this post aloud would have been six-year-old Tim’s biggest nightmare. “World” was the second-hardest word to pronounce correctly for me, behind only “girl.” I remember thinking it was so incredibly impressive that anyone could say “girl” correctly. Let’s move on.)

8 things a First Worlder can expect from a trip to a Third World country

1) There aren’t nearly as many rules.

You can usually kind of just walk into places and drive in the wrong lane and drink on the street and do whatever you want and no one cares. On some domestic flights in Myanmar, there wasn’t even a security checkpoint.

On the misery front… The same lack in structure can make it a logistical nightmare.



Rules 3

2) If you’re friendly, it’s not hard to get to know local people. 

I acknowledge that I might think this is true because I just act friendlier in the first place because I think people in other countries are friendlier and then they respond in kind. But either way, I’ve been invited into dozens of homes in third-world countries simply by being smiley and starting a conversation. One time, a family in a tiny apartment all slept in the kitchen to give me their one bedroom (against my pleading protests). I’m yet to be invited anywhere by a New York stranger.

Unfriendly New York
This is why third-world countries do so much better than first-world places in the “People” section of the above Venn Diagram.

On the misery front… The language barrier can ruin everything if you don’t learn some of their phrases.
3) The food is often great and totally different than what you’re used to.

On the misery front… The food can be terrifying.


4) The culture is usually completely foreign to you and eye-opening and fascinating to learn about.

The way I like thinking about it, I live in a world that is a product of centuries of a certain population of humans and the way they learned how to live life. When I travel to any really different culture, it’s a chance to see what a totally different population of humans ended up with when they took their own crack at how to live life. What could be more fascinating than that?

On the misery front… You might inadvertently horribly violate some cultural taboo.
Violating a Taboo
5) There are cool animals.

I seem to come across elephants, (sedated) tigers, cobras, emus, and a number of monkeys and apes in third-world places. Not much chance to do that where I’m from.

On the misery front… There are lots of stressful stray animals everywhere.
Stray Animals 
6) You can buy amazing crafts you can’t get anywhere else.

On the misery front… You’re the target prey for relentless shop owners.
Salesman 1Salesman 2
7) It’ll remind you that you live in a palace back home, and that you did nothing to deserve that.

Third World Toilets

All it takes is a little time in a third-world country to be blown away when you return home by the sheer quality of life you get to enjoy—the pristine cleanliness of the streets, the vast abundance in the grocery stores, the utter comfort of everything—suddenly the immense wealth of the First World is blatantly apparent everywhere you look and you remember that everyone you know lives like a king without realizing it. Then two days later you forget too and start complaining about everything again.

On the misery front… It’ll remind you that you live in a palace back home, and that you did nothing to deserve that.

Lucky not special
8) You won’t be one of the ignorant First Worlders who thinks it’s dangerous to visit the Third World or has other gross misconceptions of what the third-world countries are like.

If you employ the same common sense that keeps you safe in your hometown, visiting third-world countries is zero percent dangerous. And anyone who tells you differently is either over-paranoid or has little travel experience.

On the misery front… You risk becoming a self-righteous douchebag who’s way too proud of themselves for their third-world experiences.



Other Wait But Why posts on traveling:

20 Things I Learned When I Was in North Korea

The 12 Types of People You’ll Find in Every Hostel

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  • Peter D.

    Wow did you hit home! Great analysis. I’ve been to many of them and agree whole heartedly about the different goals of third world travel. I was particularly fascinated with Cuba, North Korea, and SE Asia in general. I bet you would make a great travel companion.

  • Sam

    Nice post! I was shocked when I pushed “*Here”. What in the world…?!
    By the way, very tricky for foreigners to pronounce “world” perfectly as well (for me at least). One last thing, you don’t need to go to a Third World country to find that toilet. I saw the same in Germany when I was a kid.
    Yeah, I know. I would never understand it either.

    • Fred

      I’ve been living in Germany all my life and never saw a squat toilet.

      In France, however …

  • Sai

    This is one of the most ridiculous post I ve ever read in waitbutwhy.Doesn’t make any sense.Misery is not a government requirement when ppl visit India.And the third world apparently not that pathetic.There IS quite a lot of difference between travelling and vacation. You better need to travel

  • CC

    Kazakhstan WHAT THE HECK

  • Jeb

    The lost and found goat is the highlight of my week.

  • Sonia Kabir

    why don’t you pay a visit to Bangladesh while you are in your Third World exploring mood….

    • Yang

      I did
      It was great experience.

  • Gemmy B

    I generally love your blog, really, I do, but please educate yourself beyond the perpetuation of concepts like “first world” and “third world.”

    • Anonymous

      Did you see the footnotes addressing this issue?

      • Art Dropkin

        This was discussed in the footnotes:

        “There’s a chance that the terms First World and Third World are offensive. I’m not sure. I googled around about this, and my impression is that there are like two more years before the terms become officially offensive—so I plan to get my fill while I can, because the terms Developed World and Developing World are far less amusing.

        These terms originated during the Cold War, when the countries aligned with the US and capitalism were called the First World and the countries aligned with the Soviet Bloc and communism were called the Second World. The non-aligned countries were the Third World, and since that time, the terms First and Third World have taken on the new meanings of Developed and Developing nations.”

      • Anonymous

        Yes I did. The footnote is clearly not intended as any real disclaimer but more as an excuse for quite knowingly being offensive. There is no “chance” that the terms are offensive; they were deliberately chosen over less offensive and therefore less “amusing” options. I’m not abandoning the blog in a huff, but as others have said, I’ve come to expect better than this.

    • Sumani

      Sigh…thanks for your comment. I was SO disappointed to see this post from one of my favorite blogs.

    • gygy


  • Andrews uncle

    The coolest thing about visiting third world is the *no-fun allowed* police , aka litigation lawyers haven’t made it there yet.

  • Sumani

    Wow…never thought I’d come upon a post on this blog that repeats the cringe worthy phrases ‘Third World’ and ‘First World’ only about a million times.

  • Maarten

    Not only did you not do anything to deserve the palace that you live in, you also didn’t do anything to deserve that the whole world regards your native tongue as a sort of ‘standard’ that everyone should at least speak a little bit. You can make jokes about the ‘yes thank you’ of the Burmese guy at the airport, but I’m curious to know about how your Burmese language skills would hold up if someone from Myanmar visited your country and expected to be able to talk his / her tongue to everyone and be responded to.

    Also, Third World is a bit of a Cold War-era term. Get rid of it.

    I enjoyed this post though. I’m still repenting for being the douchebag in #8 a couple years back.

    • Anna K

      Surely there has to be some sort of universal language everyone speaks a little bit? It’s common sense.

      • Maarten

        Sure, but I think it’s a bit self-centered to make fun of it when other people don’t speak that language. For example, in Morocco most people speak several languages: Arabic, French, local languages that I forgot the name of, and then they work in tourism also Spanish and English. It’s like that in many parts of Africa as well. I just don’t think it’s okay to make fun of someone’s poor English when it’s the person’s 4th or 5th language.

        Then again, perhaps WBW wasn’t making fun of the Burmese guy, and I interpreted it that way. I just have seen to many examples of this dynamic, so it might be my interpretation.

    • Anonymous

      “Get rid of it.”
      Thank you for the advice?

      • Maarten

        You’re welcome.

    • Anonymous

      I didn’t get the impression that he was making fun of the Burmese guy, or implying that it was the Burmese guys responsibility to know English. He was just acknowledging the challenge of traveling to a country where you do not speak the native language.

      • Maarten

        Yeah, probably. I’ve just met too many native-English speakers that did exhibited this tiresome behaviour, so I guess it’s me interpreting it through that experience.

    • Fred

      I understood the picture rather as a joke about the horrible logistics and organisation in developing countries than about language skills (or lack thereof).

  • eman

    Define “third world country”?

  • Really?

    Rio, not in the Third world front? I wonder how you spent your time in third world countries…

  • Ekin K.

    Yet another great post! Tim, I wonder if you have ever been to Turkey before and whether Turkey would be described as “Third World”. If you have been, I am curious about your trip, I would appreciate if you can describe it briefly. By the way, that squat toilet is also called “alaturca” so it might be a sign that you have been here :)

  • CAT

    Did you leave your curse words in the Third World? Is it weird I miss reading “shit” instead of “sh*t.”

  • David

    Man. Apparently people are more interested in being offended and expressing their righteous indignation at readily-understood phrases like “first world” and “third world” than they are at actually reading the careful disclaimer in the article.

    • Anonymous

      Yes! Apparently, these are now offensive terms but I just think everyone needs to climb down from their high horses and admit that we all knew the exact picture he was painting when he used these terms.

  • Anony

    I’ve been a big fan of this blog for a while – I never miss reading a Wed post and procrastinating from work for about 20 mins. However, I plan to UNSUBSCRIBE

    I just cannot tolerate supporting this First World – Third World b%llsh*t

    Look, I read the footnotes, but it’s even WORSE that you researched the phrases, learned about the potentially offensive meaning and then DECIDED to use them anyway. Just poor taste. I expect this to be a blog about conscious thinking, not continuing offensive terminology.

    • Marr

      My thoughts exactly – cosign!!

    • Tom

      So your trying to tell me there isn’t a vast difference in living standards and life expectance changing what you call it dosnt change anything if you’re that worried get off your arse and help change the situation.

    • Anonymous

      Merci! Bon Voyage!

    • Tom

      Stop trying to be so politically correct people, changing the name of a problem changes fuck all. Soldiers use to get shell shock in ww1 now the get post traumatic stress disorder, exact same thing just with a coat of paint and far less humanized. Focus on the problem not the word.

      • Anonymous


    • Krusty Shakelford

      First world problems….

    • Anonymous

      People are too easily offended. I live in the third world, and I call my own country third world, and so does everyone else here, without even a hint of embarrassment, because it is simply the truth. Third world, developing world – a simple term won’t change the fact that we are poor, and we get that. Stop making it a bigger deal than it really is.

  • Hannah

    Shorter version: “Savages are so adorable and quaint! But, alas, also sort of savage.”

  • Marr

    Hey there receive this smoke signal from the “third world”.
    I have been faithfully following this blog for a long while now but that ends today.
    This post is ignorant and offensive – pretending not to but nevertheless serving to perpetuate tired and offensive stereotypes. I won’t even get into the merits of this because you obviously won’t understand if you can write such a piece to begin with.

    My advice, get into a few more planes or classrooms before doing anymore writing.

    • Anonymous


  • Fernanda

    “It’ll remind you that you live in a palace back home”


    This shows you’re completely close minded… I’ve been to ‘first world’ and actually lived there for 9 months.

    I have to say I loved the experience, but I can also reckon that I missed many things that make my country, Brasil, a palace to me. You don’t have fresh juice, neither 25% of the fruits and tastes we find here; people don’t hug you in the middle of the street without even knowing exactly who you are, they don’t make friend in the church, the bus stop; the weather can suck if you don’t like it; your bikinis are huge to us…

    And all this make Brasil my palace… Even without Victoria Secrets stores, white eggs seppared, cleaning products that make everything, Disney World or an automatic car.

    Yes, I felt disrespected, even if you haven’t been in Brasil… It sounds much more an Asian experience, but I’m sure they think the same, but from a different perspective, with specific points that make their country ‘a palace’.

    Come on.

  • greetings from the “second world”

    You do not even mention us… this is ignorance, I feel offended!

    So… get into a few more planes or classrooms and… Come on.

  • karen

    Tim. I think folks are being hard on you, and self-righteous, too. But also there’s a level of sensitivity that I think you didn’t quite aim for in this piece,and could have without much trouble. It’s clear you appreciate travel and cultural-education experiences. —A loyal fan who isn’t leaving your blog in a huff.

  • Elizabeth

    Good lord… Lighten up people…

  • Bill

    [comment expressing outrage at use of author’s “first world / third world” terminology and perceived lack of cultural sensitivity from middle-class white person who never traveled outside the developed world and thinks being cultured means gentrifying brown people out of a neighborhood then opening an Ethiopian restaurant.]

    [declaration of un-subscribing (won’t actually unsubscribe)]

    • Anonymous

      This is great haha

    • Anonymous

      Bill – The comment expressing outrage of “first world / third world” terminology came from many, and I was among them. I grew up in a third world country, went to an Ivy League school here in the US, and have travelled to 5 continents and 23 countries in between. And I STILL think this is offensive.

    • Indsay


  • Martin

    This is not the kind of quality content I’ve come to expect from Wait But Why. Throughout the entire article, I kept waiting for some kind of a turnaround or a punchline but it never came. I live in a “First World” country and I don’t care an inch about political correctness, but the entire article boils down to “lol, those funny people who speak their funny languages and have silly manners in their poor countries are silly and not like us”. You can do better than this.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think he implied that anything was “silly”. He said it was different, which it obviously is or what would be the point of visiting at all? If countries were all the same, what would we have to gain from traveling from our own?

    • Anonymous

      Totally agree with Martin. This is the only blog I really follow, and, definitely, expected more. I find that usually the posts being a delicate and different point of view, or are really funny. This time it was neither. And, living in one of the BRICS countries, I find it outdated and a bit disrespectful. Actually, even to amaricans, since it reinforces the stereotype that you’re still ignorant about the rest of the world.

    • Brad

      I think the article was great, and I live in the U.S. First of all I read it as more making fun of travelers from predominantly rich or developed countries. I see how people that are educated and from developing nations might find the terms First/Second/Third world offensive. But in light of the fact that this article highlights (or make fun of) obvious differences in socio-economic factors, I do not see it as ridiculing those peoples native to their respective nations. I read it as making fun of the perceived rich white westerners who might not understand the basics of how human kind has lived for centuries without the modernization of the western world. For example the usage of things like toilets have not been around all that long in the sense of human civilization, hell people in Alaska dig pits with a hole at the top to do their dirty in. The fact that words third world as opposed to developing world is less offensive to you boggles my mind. To me it almost says that you are really insecure about your cultural background, when i’m just as proud to say I’ve lived in a place when I shat in a hole 50 ft. from the shack I lived in on the side of a mountain in Alaska somewhere. What’s the difference? The point is we still all shit through a hole in the ground. GET OVER IT!!!

      To the author, I thank you for giving me a little humility in this rat-race of a world we live in to appreciate the finer things in life, like visiting a “third world” country where things are simpler and for that reason that much richer from my perspective.

  • Prosper

    I am from Rwanda and I loved this post. I didn’t find it at all offensive. Sure, first and third world terms are outdated but they are also easily understood. I thought this post just pointed out learning about cultural differences, not about one being better than the other. I Rwanda we also hug in the street like in Brazil but there is a lot of poverty too. I found it interesting when i first moved to a developed country. So many things to learn. I like this post. I think it shows tim understands that developing countries tend to be more different than developed. Not worse. Different. And it is ignorant to not notice that they are poorer financially. To me this isnt worse. Perhaps those who are offended think that money is the only thing of value in this world?

    • Nemi27

      You have the best and most thoughtful comment. Seems like some of the other people just like being reactive. It always surprises me when people get mad when someone notices poverty. Probably because they feel helpless. Or maybe whatever you would rather visitors ignore in your country are the things that bother you the most and you are upset that your typical blindness momentarily shifted forcing you to see something ugly that you can’t change.

    • Anonymous

      Totally agree, Prosper.

    • Only mildly in love with my own opinion

      Prosper’s comments carry a lot weight for me, given his/ her upbringing and general sense of open-mindedness. Many of us could stand to learn from Prosper; that having a positive and non-assertive tone is the most effective way to share your point of view.

      Prosper is one of the few people who’ve replied to this post, with whom I’d want to have any kind of conversation.

  • Allen

    Good Day Internet Author,

    I must point out that using First World and Third World implies that there are worlds within your planet, which would probably offend someone from another planet. I assume. I don’t know first hand. Just wanted to defend citizens of other planets. If they exist. They probably don’t though so don’t try and find out.

    With Platonic Human Love,

    P.S. The second L is definitely not a capital i.

    **END TRANSMISSION** (completed Stardate 5781430984:4350982:3425094.2345)

  • Barbara

    “First world” and “Third world”? Really? Come back from the 90s and go do some serious world exploring.
    Then you will realized that life in developing countries (yes, that’s how it’s called nowadays) is much more rich and complex. There’s a level of contrast – between rich and poor families, new and ancient habits, cities of high and low population, etc. – all within the some country, sometimes even the same city, that’s much greater than you find in developed countries. But that is nowhere captured in this silly post.
    I’m calling it Worst post in waitbutwhy ever.

    • Anonymous

      Uh oh, he didn’t keep up with the current PC terms! People need to stop obsessing over words.

  • Jess

    If you don’t like the peach then walk on by the tree…seriously.

  • Krusty Shakelford

    I was once travelling in Bangkok and saw a stray dog screwing another in front of an outdoor market. When done, he dismounted and mounted another dog that happened to be walking by. Animals gotta relieve stress too…

  • Leonardo

    I’m born and raised in Rio and in my opinion is that for sure is a complete destination for a variety of purposes. The thing is that is not a good place to live considering the quality of life and other factors…. Another great post but very short !

  • Rq

    Favorite waitbutwhy post!

  • Miobo

    I think all the posts refer to stereotypes and make generalisations, otherwise there would be no posts. Most comedy is about making fun of yourself or of others. The best ones I think were on Korea, and Baby names.

  • Miobo

    Ha! (Mrs Krabappel) It’s 2.17pm in Australia! This blog is not a shining light, but just one bobo’s opinions.

  • Aaron

    Emus are only found in Australia.

    • Anonymous

      FYI – Emus are found and farmed just about everywhere now.

      • Damien

        I think you may mean Ostriches? They are famed almost everywhere now. Not emus, emus are native and wild in Australia, ostriches are not.

  • DS

    As someone who has spent lots of time traveling in third world countries, I am deeply offended that there are only a couple toilet references. If you don’t have at least 5 horrible poop stories, you haven’t REALLY traveled.

  • anon

    I believe emus are farmed in several countries.

  • Wait But Why

    Okay this is like when you did something bad as a child and instead of getting angry, your parents were just disappointed and then you felt all extra bad.

    Usually Andrew and I have the theory that since the posts are going to go out on the edge sometimes, offending certain people will sometimes be an inevitability. So while we read all negative feedback and reflect upon it, usually we end up just shrugging and knowing it’s a natural part (and for certain posts, even a desired part) of what Wait But Why is.

    That said, this one’s a little different. This post was originally planned as a more substantive, serious post, and near the end I changed directions to make it more of a light post (lots of reasons why). But it ended up somewhere in the middle—serious enough to be making real points but light enough to not be making them thoughtfully—and the tone came off more flippant than intended. As for the decision to use the term Third World, it just wasn’t that well thought-through—and now I feel like a bigoted 89-year-old.

    So moms, dads—that’s what happened.

    In any case, it was pretty cool how I made New York give everyone the finger right?

    • Anonymous

      Well said.

    • Coach

      I think there are just a lot of #8 types floating around here

    • Maarten

      NY giving the finger was pretty cool indeed.

      Don’t worry about it too much, guys. I was aggravated by this post a bit. Like commenter Martin said, the message that came off to me was “lol, those funny people who speak their funny languages and have silly manners in their poor countries are silly and not like us”.

      This was the poorest thing I’ve read on WBW, but I really like everything else on this blog.

      P.S. you wanna know another country where they have squat toilets? France.

    • Only mildly in love with my own opinion

      Jeeze… kudos to you for being diplomatic enough to try and ease all the angst caused by your satirical/ tongue-in-cheek writing. *eye roll*

      I’m left wondering how much positive world change could have been made if the disgruntled reply-ers focused their energy elsewhere, instead of into complaining about an internet blog.

      Its a blog, people. Not a UNESCO publication.

      • Still giggling..

        “Its a blog, people. Not a UNESCO publication.”
        Well said.

    • wanessa

      I´m from Brazil and felt not offended at all, just wanted to ask something that made me curious: if Rio is located in a Third World Country (like the purple intersection between red and blue circles), should´n it be placed in the middle of the chart?? It was a light and funny post, congrats.

    • Jenn

      Hey dis my favorite post!

  • Anonymous

    The comments so far seem to be a case of the disgruntled shouting the loudest. It’s clear to me that the blogger is sensitive to other cultures and meant no offence by the first world/third world terms. I also see nothing offensive about the rest of the post.

    I came away from this post with the following lesson – travelling is an amazing experience and learning about different cultures is rewarding but it isn’t the never-ending jizzfest that some people like to pretend.

    Another great post – I look forward to the next.

  • Pingback: Wait But Why – Traveling to the Third World | Life, and Other Co-op Adventures

  • Bryan

    To all of the haters out there. Picture this post coming from the mouth of Stephen Colbert.
    Is it acceptable now?

  • Cicos

    typical “i-am-a-stupid-american-guy-but-i-think-i’m-cool-and-open-minded-because-i-travel-the-world” or “i-am-not-a-tourist-i’m-cool”.
    That’s why a lot of people loves that post…

  • Roboricha

    I thought it was great that you used the phrases First and Third World with cliff note explanations because they are a common expression that is confusing for many people. You taught us about the outdated origin of the words and pointed to more appropriate terminology in a humorously lighthearted way.

    The Soviet Union is gone and the expression implies that people belong to “different worlds” which I understand can be upsetting but I can’t believe how riled up some people are getting over the use of these terms.

    When I read the part about food being different than what you’re used to I laughed so hard. In many developing countries the vegetarian option is NOT AN OPTION.

  • Rob

    This is a blog with stick figures. Stick figures.

    It’s not a think tank on cultural designations.

    Some people need to remove the stick from their figures.

    • Undsay


  • Luke

    I feel sorry for the readers who are offended by a harmless post like this–imagine how upset they must get every time they flip on the T.V. and *gasp* stereotypes! So what if this post wasn’t as insightful as others? It’s free, with no “sexy single girls in your area” pop-ups; I’ve got no complaints!

  • Monster Mom

    Oh my! Why is it that people completely lose their sense of humour when it comes to political correctness?! If someone would ask me I’d say I find “developing countries” much more offensive because it suggests that they all have only one goal: to be like the “developed countries”. Urgh, please, NO!

    In other words, I LOVE this post. And good riddance to those who huffily left because you are not who they want you to be.

  • Katakana

    I don’t see why people are getting so offended by the phrases “1st world country and third world country”. It’s not that big of a deal.
    I personally believe that we are discriminating against fourth world countries. As well as 2nd world planets, and nebulae too.

    • Anonymous

      LMAO – well said

  • wobster109

    Mr. Urban, if you know a term will offend some people, it would be kind of you not to use it. It may not be a big deal to you, but then again your readers have different backstories and experiences. They are diverse, with family in those countries, and proud of their heritage. When you use words and concepts, knowing they will offend someone, that is like saying “my enjoyment of these words is more important than your experiences that make this hurtful and personal to you”. By all means you are constitutionally free to say what you like, but that doesn’t make it kind. Please be kind to your readers.

  • Anonymous

    FYI – Emus are found and farmed just about everywhere now. The Australia to South American connection being a main one.

  • Mzire

    Why did you do this to me???? (I’m referring to the *Here link) I hate you so much right now. Off to the dark playground, bye.

    • Anonymous


    • Akshay

      The *Here link made my day! You are epic.

  • Detta Walker

    Very interesting post…. I can see why there are so many critical responses regarding the term 1w 3w… but besides that, a lot of the experience you describe have nothing to do with 1w vs 3w but maybe the area you grew up in America vs the rest of the world. Examples:

    1) there aren’t as many rules: it’s all about perspective. you happen to live in a state that may seem over-regulated. I currently live in the UK and would say the same is true there.. However, go to Japan and you may find there are even more rules & regulations (and honest people) than in the UK & US combined. Then venture to Italy and find there may be rules, but nobody follows them (same being true for probably east Berlin).
    2) Meeting local people: Again – not a cultural thing, you are now comparing NYC to behaviour in a village. Of COURSE nobody in NYC in their right mind would invite a stranger home, I am pretty sure you wouldn’t be invited home in new Delhi either, and if you are, its probably not a good idea to go. But villages are an entirely different matter – people know each other and look out for each other, there is not such a huge mistrust as we have in cities.
    3) Food being totally different:
    Maybe it’s time you visit Europe a bit more – you can shock a brit with the food they get in Germany or even Poland. I’ve been to Japan, and again, food is very different to England or Germany or America – and half the time you don’t know what you eat. Different countries cook differently and use different ingredients, that’s due to geographical factors rather than living standards most of the time. The only ingredient you can expect to go down with increasing poverty is meat. But mostly a cuisine is defined by what’s locally available and the climate. Go to Bavaria in Germany and you’ll hardly find a vegetable on a plate in a restaurant, but eat in their homes and you’ll see local produce everywhere. Restaurants serve different dishes than people eat at home, too.
    4) Culture – I’ll give you that. But again, down to a geographic & historic factor, rather than it being 3W. I live in a mixed race relationship and I’ve managed to offend my other half’s family many times. The british & the Japanese side :)
    5) & 6) agreed
    7) depends.. some of the places you live in the UK are pretty shit.. :) but yes – when I compare it to what standards were available in Israel back in 2001 – much better off. Although the upper & middle class is much better off in Israel than people on benefits in the UK.

    Anyway – give the guy a break – its his take – might not be yours but no need to emoquit his blog ;)

  • Purrmeister des Hauses

    You know a New Yorker has been in a really dirty country when he talkes about the “pristine cleanliness of streets” hahaha.

    Also, some third world countries, especially in Africa, are very dangerous. Saying otherwise is naive and misleading.

    Source: I’ve been everywhere.

  • Anonymous

    Love you guys :) I m from Ethiopia currently living in United States.I relate to ths piece cuz I had friends visiting me while I was back home.So hilarious and reminded me of their visit with me.I m happy that you illustrated the PEOPLE part clearly. I find people here in United States to me a lil more individualized and miss the more hospitable and socially linked life I had back home.
    All in all love u guys:) keep putting a smile to our faces

  • there

    Gotta love the smoking cats

  • House

    This post offended me 0% AND made me giggle.

  • Celia in Kazakhstan

    Love your blog, as usual… but speaking as an expat from Kazakhstan, I’m pretty sure it belongs in the blue section of your circle: lots of friendly people, with a few bits of hedonism and place. Who else can we vote out of the boat in its place?

  • Christian

    Unfortunately, I’m one of the ignorant First Worlders who thinks it’s dangerous to visit the Third World =[

  • b

    As a 20-something North American who idolizes your definition of travel, I love this and agree with all of it, except for #2 which needs a slight amendment:
    2) If you’re *WHITE*, it’s not hard to get to know local people.

  • V.

    That was a typical ‘Wait and why’ post, funny and thought-provoking. I love your blog, your style of writing.
    And i am from India. i guess many things were about India as well. but we are such a big country, huge amount of people, u can fill almost all your Venn-diagram sections here and there still be something left to experience.. :)
    Let me help you a bit next time you feel like visiting an ‘Another World’ country.. ;)

  • someone from a t-word country

    Being from a 3rd world country, I can say it’s not offending at all. Why it can be found offensive beats me. It’s a mostly economical distinction with an unfortunate addendum of humans’ rights violation in most cases and both criteria are objective. Not a grading on culture, language or people. But I think many people somehow understand it that way, which is actually more offensive :/

    NYC giving a finger is so very damn cool! It’s definitely on caveman-giving-finger-to-aliens caliber.

    On #6, I don’t usually like being targeted by sellers but it was a precious moment when I somehow found myself negotiating for a scarf in a tiny village of Guatemala with my tiny Spanish in front of a curious audience. Granted I ended up buying thins I didn’t want but that’s just a small price for the experience:)

  • eric

    well done

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  • kazakh

    I’m kazakh reader of Wait but Why and I am offended

  • yeahimkazakh

    I’m kazakh, and i didn’t take any offense

  • Rob S

    Don’t forget to leave your cultural baggage at home. “First World” is a Western concept that implies superiority. We may have more money than “Third World” countries, but are we superior? I learned that lesson the hard way in India in 1971. My embassy was happy to let me die, but ordinary Indians helped me until I was able to get my traveler’s checks replaced. I was so sick at the time, I was easy prey.

    I’ve seen good and bad people wherever I’ve gone, but find it interesting that those who have less are often kinder and more compassionate than those who have more.

  • C

    It is more dangerous to visit developing countries, and it would be ignorant to think otherwise. Yes, common sense may protect you substantially from crime, but what about if you are in a serious accident? Surgery, blood transfusions, and surviving illnesses in developing countries carry greater risks than in the developed world.

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  • Robbie MacQuack

    Reading the labels “First World” and “Third World” applied made me cringe, too. But “developed” and “developing” are by no means better, if you think about it – after all they imply a certain developmental path and emphasize the supposed “backwardness” of non-western cultures even more.

    That said, I believe humour trumps political correctness most of the time – especially if the joke is largely on the “First-Worlder” being ignorant, unfriendly, self-rightous and undeservingly rich…

    Also, I didn’t get the impression that the author isn’t reflecting on all of this himself, as his comment showed quite well…

  • Jenn

    “The lost and found is a goat?” Fucking bananas funny.

  • Arnav

    i read the other articles and i was pretty impressed by them. But reading about my country recognized as a third world country with so much mockery was definitely humiliating.
    I dont understand why such notions about other countries, just because we have different cultures doesnt you would go on insulting us. this article shouldnt have been written in the first place.

  • Damien

    I live in 3rd World Australia with all the dodgy Emus!!! Lol bit of a stuff up there.

  • Guilojin

    This is the only post that offended me on this blog. The fauxpology in the comments doesn’t really go very far to correct the situation.

    Also, a point: Not every country that was classified as Third World is currently less developed than Second World countries, so it really is a ridiculous classification to still use when you’re trying to talk about SES stratification.

  • Anonymous

    Was it just me but did anyone else see the empire state middle finger?

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  • Lady Jane

    Keep up the good work. The comments resulting from your posts are oftentimes as interesting and telling as your posts, but much more predictable. PC-ism has infected a large swath of the world, to detrimental effect in my opinion. It’s definitely on view here!

  • RJ

    Lighten up people! I’m Indian and I’m not offended at all!! This is such a funny post.

    And yes, I would prefer it if you took off your shoes just inside the entrance to my apartment. They’ll be there when you leave. I promise.

  • Peter

    One thing I have to object to here: you made it clear that you don’t think China is a place that’s “great for getting to know the people”. I live in China, and the people here are friendly and fascinating. I would also say that China is a “great place for being hedonistic” if you’ve got the $$$

  • Faith

    I’m from a third world country and I’m not offended. While this was a funny post, it was probably not your best. For one it was quite short, and I wasn’t expecting that you’d conclude the article on that note (it was a bit hanging, and not that satisfyingly funny). I admit to have cringed a bit reading first world and third world so many times. Maybe it’s best not to lump all third world countries as a stereotype. I lovedyour write-ups on individual countries better.

    I still really love your website though, and think your stuff are the best in the Internet. Yup, still a fan!

  • Viswa

    i belong to the so called third world.
    All these day i followed your posts/blogs religiouly.. including this one. But, I would like to make a point here. I dont say that whatever you mentioned is not correct. It is true, but the selection of words is important. You being a writer, i need not tell you that. It is not good to make fun out of everything. Yeah.. people here (the people you met)dont know good english, accepted !! But you know, the most of kids in our country know better english than most of the adults in the FIRST WORLD.
    The for the people you met in this third world, English not the mother tongue nor of any use in their day to day life.. but they still know. On an average, people living in urban areas in our third world knows more than 2 languages.

    Reading somthing which demens you really hurts.

    But i know, it impossible to please each and every reader. :)

    • DaveC

      Don’t take it as an insult.. I’ve travelled all over the world and I only speak english. All these countries I visit the locals at least know SOME english (while I know nothing of their language), the fact that we struggle to communicate is MY fault, after all, I’m the one visiting their country!

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