It is not easy to maintain a balanced friendship when you are dealing with different financial conditions. It is equally hard for a broke student to keep up with his upper middle class friends as it is for them, in turn, to keep up with the billionaire league.
Since we are human and most often strive to better our position and usually seek something in other people that inspires us, we like to climb up the social ladder. Very often we find ourselves admiring and/or genuinely liking friends with more coins in their pockets. There is nothing wrong with that. More money means mostly better education, more possibilities, a better network and also more self-confidence. Also more stories to tell. Although I could bring up many names for whom quite the opposite is true.
Having less. No yacht, no jet, no estate in the Hamptons? Not even for a summer rental? I have been in that position and so have most of my friends. And somebody you probably also know: Mr. Derek Blasberg. He is “just” the editor of glossy magazines and certainly can’t provide a house in France or some PJ rides for his ultra rich friends Lauren Santo Domingo or Dasha Zhukova. And you know what? He doesn’t need to. They don’t expect it as he seems to be brilliant as a person. He is well spoken, very witty and charming. A talented social tiger, able to bring people together and always guaranteeing a good time. Loyal and discreet. Who wouldn’t like to be friends with such a person? The New York Times put him on the cover with the headline “A talent to amuse”.
Truman Capote spent MOST of his life as guest of the richest socialites in NEW YORK and spend all summer on their ships or holiday estates. He brought the life to the party. No money needed.
It is stupid to think that if there is absolutely nothing you bring to the table, you will be received empty handed. Sometimes it is your network they are longing for, sometimes it is your wit, and sometimes they just want some eye candy around. Whatever it is, there is always something you bring as an exchange for money.
If you work in a gallery, your peers might like the fact that you organise them tickets to the Serpentine summer party and introduce them to some new artists who turn out to be the future Tracy Emin. If you work at a glossy magazine, they might thank your for taking them to nice events. If these are male friends they will SURELY be happy to meet some of your model friends. If you are with an investment bank, they might be happy to get some advice about their portfolio from time to time. But in the end, you have to be exceptional.
How to handle the uncomfortable situation of the bill arriving?
Your wealthy friend would not like to make you feel uncomfortable and will grab the bill immediately and say, let me do it. IF IT IS AN EXPENSIVE PLACE. If it is a random coffee place, you will be able to afford coffee, I assume, and you can switch. Once you pay, then they pay. A dinner invite for 500 Euro is something, which might need the attention of your friend. You might want to take them to a cheaper place. If you are lucky and you live in a great place, you can cook at home. If you have taste and a nice dining room. But then again, you would be rich. I am not, but I have a great place. I guess, I am lucky. Puhhh. And to be honest, hosting dinners turns out to be REALLY expensive. Better take them out. If you constantly introduce them to people, give them great advice all the time and are a great eye candy because you are outrageously well dressed, you can leave your wallet at home. Every relationship is a give and take. Not a take and take.
How to deal with group evenings?
Well, in most parts of Continental Europe you will find a gentleman’s agreement. Which means: boys pay. Some might say: “I don’t make more than the girls, why should I pay ?” Because girls invest in make up, blow dries, outfits and a cab ride because they can’t walk that long with their ultra high heels. Plus they usually don’t eat much so it will not break the guys’ bank. So if they have the function of being the eye candy for the evening, girls pay opportunity costs for not being with another group. Hate me for that.
If you are in a partnership/marriage, you will also be part of the gentlemen’s agreement. What if the group consumes A LOT, like 3 aperitifs, caviar, scallops, dessert, champagne – the whole thing. And you just eat pasta, had ONE glass and your wife a salad? Well, now it’s tricky. Let’s do the math: You consumed food and drinks worth 80 Euros because it’s the end of the month and you can barely afford your lunchbox. They consumed for 300 Euro. Each. You will have to split the bill. No matter what. Equally. If you start counting the cents, you will not be in a good spot. If you cannot afford to go to Cipriani’s for dinner and you are not prepared to drop serious $$$$, better stay home and wait for the next paycheck.
Even if your friends tone down financially, you have to be able to participate in MOST activities.
Get the drinks, when you are at the bar/club/festival, give music and always bring thoughtful gifts with a great handwritten card. That is sometimes all you need to make your way through the social jungle. Oh, and be kind and listen.
It is a cruel world, it is an unfair world. Nobody said it would be easy. Like writing this long post. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a comment, I am happy to help. Oh and since some readers like to keep it private, I learned, here is my mail: email@example.com