I was very lucky to have a mom who was so adamant about explaining to me the privileges I possessed as a child. Thanks to her, I was able to have a vast understanding of the world from a young age. However, I realize some kids didn't have access to those same lessons and weren't able to really see the world until they branched out on their own.
Regardless, it can still be a shock for anyone when you grow up and realize that the things that are normal to you definitely aren't normal to everyone else. So, I asked members of the BuzzFeed Community that grew up wealthy to tell me about a culture shock experience they had when they finally left their bubble, and here's what they had to say:
1."When I went away to college, I was wondering how some kids' parents could afford such amazing homes that were basically mansions for their kids when they told me where they lived."
2."I didn't grow up wealthy, just middle-class, but I live in the rural, working-class South, and I'm a POC, so I might as well be Bill Gates. I remember telling a woman I worked with how my friends had a nanny as kids."
"She wasn't a true nanny (not trained), but a college student their parents hired and had on call. I remember this woman looking at me with wide eyes and saying, 'You're rich! You grew up rich!' I reminded her that my friends had the nanny, not me. She said it didn't matter. I was friends with someone who had a nanny, so I was rich by default."
3."Healthcare. I never had to sweat it until this year, and it's... You hear it's bad, but nothing can prepare you for the WILD contrast there is between being wealthy and connected and having an 'average' income on your own. It's more than surreal; it's terrifying."
4."It wasn't until I had my own school-aged kids in public school that I first realized that a lot of the kids are not on teams or in outside school activities because the parents can't afford the fees, nor can they take the time off to run a sports team or head up a Scout pack."
5."My family is comfortable, not super rich, but I was flabbergasted when I got to university and realized how many people needed to take out student loans. I mean, I live in Canada and went to a university that cost about 6K per year."
6."I grew up in what I always assumed was middle-class, but now I understand it was at least upper-middle-class, if not even higher. When I started my freshman year of college, I noticed some of my peers couldn't afford the lifestyle I was accustomed to, like eating out whenever I felt like it and spending a lot of money. But what really opened my eyes was making a new friend. I had come to the school with my mediocre grades and test scores, while she made it with strong grades and high scores."
"Our college was located in Southern California, so there were plenty of restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating even prior to the pandemic. The first time we went out to lunch together, as we approached the restaurant, she did something that really shocked me. We were walking through the front patio seating area to get to the front door. I was expecting to get seated inside the air-conditioned restaurant, but my new friend had stopped walking. She was standing by a table some patrons had recently vacated, and the table had not been cleared yet. Suddenly, she sat down and started eating the leftovers! I was flabbergasted! I went over to her, exclaiming how it was unsanitary. She challenged me by asking how the restaurant would serve this food if it was truly unsanitary; the leftovers were still safe to eat. I again pointed out that it was disgusting to eat a stranger's leftovers with all their germy saliva all over them. Then came an even bigger shock: She told me it was 'much cleaner than dumpster diving for leftover food.' It turns out that's a common thing she and other students did to survive, especially in an expensive place like Southern California. These days I live more paycheck to paycheck, and occasionally, I wonder if I could scavenge like that if it really comes to it."
7."I grew up upper-middle-class, nothing super wealthy, but my parents never needed to price check at grocery stores; we went to the Keg Steakhouse and other similar restaurants every Friday, and we did a two-week vacation in another country once a year. We were that kind of 'rich' from the time I was 8 years old and on. I didn’t know how privileged I was until I was 18 or 19 years old, when my friend group expanded and changed."
8."I grew up outside of the US in what would here likely be considered an upper-middle-class household, but that was pretty wealthy for my country. I was also the youngest of three and the only kid of my gender, so I was consistently sheltered and spoiled not just by my parents but by my older siblings."
"Despite this, because of where I grew up, poverty itself is not a culture shock but rather the fact that 'wealthy' people from other countries don’t understand the concept. It has always struck me as bizarre that humility seems to get lost completely along the way. I went to school with the children of the richest families in my country, who are truly lovely and caring people attuned to the world around them. Were we spoiled? Absolutely. But no one assumed those around us were equally well-off, and we were taught to be mindful of our privileged positions. Then I went to school here and met people with 'real money.' One kid drove his motorized scooter off a roof to impress his equally douchey friends. He ended up in the hospital, and it was well known that his 'friends' made fun of him behind his back. It was just sad to see."
9."My dad traveled a lot for work, and one of the trade shows his company attended was in Las Vegas every year. In 2009, when I was 9, my family took him to the show in Vegas for vacation. We were staying at the Four Seasons, which had a sweeping view of the city and beyond. While the Vegas strip was bright with lights everywhere, beyond it was completely dark."
10."I never thought I was 'wealthy' or different from anyone else until I moved away. I started noticing I wasn't very 'popular' with my new friends. I felt my opinions didn't matter anymore; no one really wanted to come hang out at my place, and I was not invited to many parties. I started to feel ugly and found it hard to cope with my new life."
"For the first time in my life, I was feeling very insecure, and I didn't know how to fit in. Something I never had trouble doing when I was living at home. I think growing up, our parents encouraged certain groups of kids to play together because of our economic similarities. Since we all had parents in the same social circles, we all attended the same private schools, had the same friends growing up, vacationed to the same areas, and even dated within our circle. I have to admit, I did feel different from the other kids who were not in our social circle. I am also embarrassed to say that I now try to make friends with people who had the same upbringing as me. I just don't think I can relate to people who did not grow up like me."
11."I grew up in a very affluent city where all children were expected to go to college. Since I went to a state school in the early 2000s, tuition was affordable for my parents. For reference, it was $1,500 for 15 units. I’m grateful that my parents had no problem paying my tuition for four years."
12."I grew up in an upper-income household; we didn't have a helicopter, but we were very comfortable. In college, I was cut off completely (long story short, my father harassed me, and I was forced to get a restraining order). The biggest shock is how ill prepared you are mentally to have to readjust your lifestyle."
"Learning to budget and live off less than $200 a week for two people was extremely humbling and left you with a newfound appreciation for anything considered a luxury item (new shoes, eating a healthier diet, etc.). Expecting a certain lifestyle growing up is difficult for those to understand; it isn't a choice to be accustomed to certain things when that's all you know until you don't."
13."Both of my parents grew up middle-class and were self-made. I grew up very privileged, and while they tried not to spoil me in some ways, there were a lot of things they truly never explained. I could list a dozen, but the most dramatic is the idea that if a person could not pay cash for something, they could still get it through financing, loans, etc."
14."In 1977, I thought everyone had a built-in pool, pool house, sauna, and electric car. Yes, we had one of the first electric cars; it only went 50 mph. Summers were spent on the boat and skiing at the lake! We had family movie night once a week in our theater room, and our recliners all had massages and rollers. We also ate out four days out of the week and had family meetings to decide where we would go on vacation that year."
"Then, at 14, I was sent to Earth, Texas, to stay with an aunt in the summer of '78. My father said it would be a good learning experience. I had no clue what was about to happen. The clothes I wore to my new surroundings — my cousins and folks of that very small town looked at me the day I arrived as though I were a celebrity! There was only one burger joint, one grocery store, and lots of dirt roads. I had to share my aunt's bedroom, and she had to walk out of her room to the restroom! The house was no more than 800 square feet, the size of our restroom. My grandfather's truck was an old 1949 Ford that I had to ride in the back of. Talk about shock. These kids in this town were so happy and adjusted; they all worked every day after school. It was crazy! One kid had a beat-up car; he would carry all the other kids to and from the burger joint or drive to this water hole where they’d literally swing off an old rope and tire from a tree! At my school, every kid had the newest Camaro, Mercedes, or Beemer. Needless to say, when I finally came home, I felt so different, a little embarrassed by the size of my surroundings and all we had. When I graduated from high school, the town I visited in Earth, Texas, sent me a graduation gift: an alarm clock because I was always late. I’m 60 now, and I still have that little clock and cherish it so."
And finally, this person shared how they came to understand that in the big picture, "wealth" can be a very relative term:
15."My dad graduated from MIT with a master's degree in engineering. He had come from very humble beginnings but was smart and hardworking. My only-child mom lived an elegant life of extreme luxury and privilege. But her parents had major health problems, and her mom was a person with alcoholism, so they both died young. Somehow, my parents made their disparate marriage work, and the three of us kids had everything we needed. However, my mom was a big spender, and my dad would always complain about 'being poor,' so I believed we were destitute. In junior high, when I started inviting friends over, they marveled at our 2,500-square-foot 'mansion' in a planned community surrounded by a dozen golf courses."
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.