Slumming It

I want to live like common people,
I want to do whatever common people do.
Pulp, "Common People"

So, you're a Rich Idiot with No Day Job, but you're getting a little bored with your idle life of lounging and spending. So what do you do? Pretend to be poor, of course! After all, if so many people are doing it, it can't be so hard!

Compare King Incognito, Secretly Wealthy, Prince and Pauper, Bourgeois Bohemian, and Hipster. A character doing this may or may not be Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense.


Anime and Manga
  • In Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Rin poses as an ordinary public high school student despite being wealthy enough to do whatever she wants.
    • Let's not forget that her brother Nozomu doesn't have any reason to be a teacher. Plus, two of her other brothers, Mikoto and Kei, are a doctor and a surrealist artist, respectively.
  • The idle rich have never even heard of instant coffee crystals in Ouran High School Host Club. One of them tries it and is delighted. "So this is why commoners drink it all the time!"
    • All over Ouran High School Host Club. The "commoner" Haruhi is so fascinating to everyone else because they're all so rich and high society that a normal middle class lifestyle is like a different world.
  • In Heat Guy J, Kia does this to find inspiration for his music. Subverted in that Kia was not rich at the time, at least not since his parents' messy divorce.
  • Tsumugi Kotobuki in K-On! is completely fascinated by the lifestyles of normal people, and one of her favorite things to do with her friends is explore all the things they find mundane. She eventually gets a job working at a fast-food restaurant to see what it's like, and later in the manga she cuts herself off from the Kotobuki family fortune save for her college tuition due to how much she's found she prefers this lifestyle (that, and maybe to make her own way in the world).

  • Bruce does this in Batman Begins.
  • In Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, this is how the prince and Cinderella meet for the first time. Most of the conversation gets a Meaningful Echo at the end.
  • In Aladdin, Jasmine tries this, and very quickly learns that she knows nothing about life on the streets. Later, when she sees through Aladdin's "Prince Ali" disguise, Aladdin claims that he's a prince who makes a habit of going about the streets dressed as a commoner.
  • In The Princess and the Frog, while Naveen doesn't actually try to convince anyone he's poor, he does enjoy sneaking away from his duties as prince of Maldonia in order to listen to jazz music, dance with the everyday folk of New Orleans, and buy everyone within earshot drinks. At the end of the movie, he gets along very well living with Tiana in New Orleans, helping run her restaurant.
  • "Sullivan's Travels" a rich movie director pretends to be a bum to suffer enough to make his epic "Oh, Brother Where Art Though" during the Great Depression. He is warned by his butler not to do it as one of his previous employers did it as a lark and hasn't been seen since. When was this? 1919.

  • Mentioned in Witches Abroad: Nanny Ogg says that those princes dressing up as paupers always make sure the peasants don't get too close.
    • In Pyramids, Teppic reflects that peasants have more freedom, before correcting himself with "yeah, freedom to be starve, to be worked to death, to die of a horrible plague..."
  • In The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight, Lancelot and Sarah arrive at King Bagdemagus' castle and the fashion-obsessed king is inclined to look askance at them because they're wearing such shabby clothes. Lancelot convinces him that dressing up as humble shepherds is the new court fashion, causing Bagdemagus to set about getting a "costume" of his own. He takes it so far that when the climactic duel is scheduled to be held in his Great Hall, the hall is full of actual sheep he brought in for the atmosphere.
  • One of the characters in Haunted2005, known only as "Lady Baglady", her now-deceased husband, and friends of theirs made a habit of playing at being street people to experience something different from their normal lavishly wealthy lives. Then someone starts killing off street people to eliminate possible witnesses to a murder...
  • In the Kydd series by Julian Stockwin, this is what Renzi is doing as penance for the suicide of a son of a farmer whose land was enclosed by his own family.

Live-Action TV
  • The Reality Show The Simple Life featured Paris Hilton and her friend Nicole abandoning their pampered lifestyles to live less-wealthy lives (for example, Down on the Farm) and seeing how well (or rather, poorly) they'd cope.
  • Fresh Meat has two distinct types of slummers: Braying toff JP, who is posh and proud and living in a slummy student house for fun, and Oregon, a hipster who is embarrassed by her privleged upbringing and living there because she wants to fit in with her cool, working class housemates.
  • The first season of Newhart had Leslie, a wealthy heiress and Dartmouth grad student who took the maid's job to "find out what it's like to be normal". In season 2 she was replaced with her cousin Stephanie, who was a Rich Bitch to Leslie's Spoiled Sweet and took the maid's job because her parents had "cut her off".

  • Pulp's "Common People" (the page quote) describes a student from Greece who does this - and then skewers her mercilessly for thinking "that poor is cool":
    And still you'll never get it right,
    'cause when you're laying in bed at night
    watching roaches climb the wall,
    if you called your dad he could stop it all, yeah.
    You'll never live like common people.
    You'll never do whatever common people do.
    You'll never fail like common people.
    You'll never watch your life slide out of view,
    and dance, and drink, and screw,
    because there's nothing else to do.
    • This is widely believed to be a Take That about the general tendency in the Britpop era for musicians with affluent backgrounds to idealise and appropriate traditional British working-class culture, with a particular target being blur's "Park Life".
      • to hear this song at its snarky best, you must heard William Shatner's rendition.
  • The Dashboard Confessional song "Matters of Blood and Connection" is a Take That directed at a wealthy young socialite who does this so that she can have a vacation. Among other things, she uses a fake accent to try and convince the locals she is one of them.

  • Arthur Shnitzler's "The Little Comedy" (which was the basis for the first act of The Musical Romance / Romance): Two rich folk pretend to be poor to find love with someone real- they find each other, then have to nobly break it off because they're in love, and they can't get out of their web of lies. Then they later meet each other as themselves at a party.
  • In Camelot, King Arthur meets Guenevere in this way, intending to avoid an Arranged Marriage to her. It turns out to be a Perfectly Arranged Marriage, but all the same they find themselves singing "What Do The Simple Folk Do?" in the second act.
  • Miss Dorothy and Jimmy does this in Thoroughly Modern Millie. She even has an "I Want" Song about it, titled "How The Other Half Lives."

Western Animation
  • The Dethklok band members in Metalocalypse attempt to be "regular jackoffs", before they realize they liked it better when they were basically gods.
  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Mr. Burns remarks, "A blue collar bar! Let's go slumming!" upon seeing Moe's Tavern.
  • Token tries this for a little while in South Park, after the other kids start making fun of him for being rich. It doesn't really have the desired effect.

Real Life
  • Historically, it was fashionable before the French Revolution for nobility to have picnics in which they dressed up as peasants and shepherds or for paintings to depict a romanticized version of the peasant.
    • Marie Antoinette also did this, and said (or was said having said): "The peasants don't know how lucky they are!" We all know how that turned out...
  • Some people in industrialized countries engage in what's called "slum tourism" in African, East Asian and Latin American countries.
  • One of Pablo Picasso's quotes is "I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money."