Section 8: Poor but happy


You will come to your destination in Africa and you will feel priviledged.

You will find it adventurous to try out “a life with less”.

You will start looking at your own conditions in the global North in a critical way. And you will think:

The people here have so little, yet they are so happy.

Be aware that you are repeating what you have been told before.

Be aware that it is not your fault.

Be aware that this seemingly harmless statement originates in a racist idea constructed during colonialism.

First of all: How well do you know the people you are talking about? Don’t you think they could be happy even with more?

The statement also assumes that material poverty isn’t as bad – as long as people are happy! But in that way, the current global inequalities are justified from an assumed neutral viewpoint. Global relations, unfair structures of world trade and exploitation are ignored.

Poverty mustn’t be romanticised.

It is caused by unfair global power relations that exist up to today, as this infographic shows:

poor but happy

DJ Paco, Mauretania

“The amount of money needed to leave for Europe would get you a nice little business here.” DJ Paco, Mauritania. (

The romanticising of poverty originates in the colonial construction of the noble savage, who leads a natural, untouched life. The colonies became a projection screen for peoples’ desires.

Up to date, there is the common myth, distincting between the pristine countries in the former colonies and the unsound ones in Europe and America. Those ideas are far from the reality in the global South, but say a lot about peoples’ desires in the global North.

And there is one more mistake: Not everyone in Africa is poor. The continent has a striving middle class.

Download your worksheets by clicking on the links below.

Section 08: Take-Aways

Section 08: Helpful Homework

Section 08: Language Checklist and Travel Diary Prompt