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Slumming It

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

So, you're an Idle Rich character suffering from Rich Boredom, and you're facing ennui from your luxurious life of lounging and Conspicuous Consumption in your Big Fancy House and your garage full of Cool Cars. So what do you do? Dress down, borrow a servant's old car and pretend to be poor, so you can mingle with the hoi polloi and explore the dive bars and Red Light District on the Wrong Side of the Tracks. After all, if so many people are doing it, it can't be so hard to dress down! While debauchery may be one motivation, another reason, especially with royalty who are usually sequestered in a guarded castle, or celebrities who live in a gated luxury compound is to see how the regular folks live. A modern-day celebrity may want to just do normal life activities without paparazzi and reporters hounding them with cameras.

A President's teenage daughter or a young prince/princess or heiress may need to Ditch the Bodyguards to accomplish this. Even once they've escaped to the regular world, the posh character is a Fish out of Water in the poor neighborhood, so they'll have to try to blend in and not give away their elite status, and try not to get duped by con men.

Compare King Incognito, Refreshingly Normal Life-Choice, Secretly Wealthy, Prince and Pauper, Bourgeois Bohemian, and Hipster. Contrast Mock Millionaire, a poor person putting on a show to appear richer. A character doing this may or may not be Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense.


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    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. 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 members of the Ouran High School Host Club have never even heard of instant coffee crystals. One of them tries it and is delighted. "So this is why commoners drink it all the time!"
    • 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 exploring 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).
  • When average office worker Retsuko hooks up with wealthy entrepreneur Tadano in Aggretsuko, her friend Heida (who still has a crush on her) accuses the boy of doing this. The English dub even name-drops this trope.
    Heida: (sarcastically): Tired of dating supermodels, might as well go slumming it!"

    Fan Works 
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) fanfic build your wings on the way down, Gabby and Aviv are poor college students who live in a crumbling building. Since Gabby is actually Catherine Armstrong, it's implied that Gabby lives like this willingly after she had a falling out with her family.
  • Downplayed in the Harry Potter fanfic crawlersout: Fem!Harry has enough money for her and Tom to live off of for the rest of their lives. However, she still gets a job for more monetary support. It's notable because what passes as "very wealthy" in the twenty-first century equates to "stinking rich" in the 1930s, and that is where Tom and Harry spend most of their time. However, instead of living like royalty, they settle happily for a moderately large house in a suburban neighborhood like a normal middle-class family.

     Films — Animated 
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Cinderella (1997), this is how the prince and Cinderella meet for the first time. Most of the conversation gets a Meaningful Echo at the end.
  • Life Stinks is a comedy about a billionaire making a bet that he can live as a homeless person for a month. No money, no support, and absolutely no telling anyone who he is.
  • Sullivan's Travels: A rich movie director, famous for comedies, pretends to be a bum to suffer enough to make a film adaptation of the fictional epic drama "Oh, Brother Where Art Thou" from the Great Depression era. 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 — back in 1919.

  • Discworld:
    • 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..."
  • Dragon's Teeth: In what the narration calls a "slumming-tour", the very rich Lanny, his even richer wife Irma, and all their spoiled Idle Rich aristocrat friends go to visit that temple of working class New York amusement, Coney Island. They are all shocked by the teeming masses of humanity filling up the beach. Lanny, for all his talk of socialism and the betterment of the workers, is disgusted, thinking that the regular folks visiting the Amusement Park have an "emptiness of mind."
    "Irma, who monopolized a half-mile of ocean front, was disgusted that anyone should be content to squat upon ten or a dozen square feet of it."
  • 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 Haunted (2005), 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 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 Richie 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 privileged 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 Spoiled Brat to Leslie's nice girl 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". 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 the lives of the British working-class, with a particular target being Blur's "Park Life".
    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.
  • 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. As you might imagine, the song's protagonist isn't having any of it.

  • 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 does this and so does Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie. She even has an "I Want" Song about it, titled "How The Other Half Lives."
  • Hamilton: Aaron Burr describes this as a common practice in 1770s New York:
    There's nothing rich folks love more
    Than going downtown and slummin' it with the poor.
    They pull up in their carriages and gawk
    At the students in the common just to watch them talk!

    Visual Novels 
  • In Daughter for Dessert, Lainie did this to escape her stifling but cosseted family environment. Unfortunately for her, she wound up in a cult, then got rescued by the protagonist, a hot dog vendor without much in the way of dreams or resources, after she lost access to her family fortune. Then, she hid a serious illness from him so he could use the treatment money to start a new business, dying in childbirth as a result.
  • In her epilogue in Double Homework, Amy eventually decides that when she goes to college, she wants to pay her room and board using only the money earned through her Twitch channel, not her family’s wealth.

    Web Original 

    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 supposedly said): "The peasants don't know how lucky they are!" We all know how that turned out...
  • One of the numerous things that annoyed the nobility about Edward II was his tendency to engage in unkingly activities like swimming, ditch-digging, and shopping for cabbages.
  • Some people in industrialized countries engage in what's called "slum tourism" in African, East Asian, and Latin American countries.
    • This can also happen in relatively well-off countries; New Orleans was plagued by "disaster tourists" for years following Hurricane Katrina. Residents in the hardest-hit areas (e.g. the 9th Ward) were particularly mad about busloads of visitors who were out to take pictures instead of helping.
  • One of Pablo Picasso's quotes is "I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money."
  • The Pabst Blue Ribbon brand of beer has this to thank for its popularity among hipsters. It's generally regarded as A Tankard of Moose Urine aimed at blue-collar workers, but middle-class hipsters drank it "ironically".
  • Hipsters have also attracted criticism for gentrifying poor inner-city neighborhoods, causing rents to go up, thus forcing their original residents to leave. The "urban flavour" advertised by real estate developers in the US has been described as "black neighbourhoods with no black people in them".
  • In The '80s, when it was new, much noise was made about the newly-rich tech sector billionaires simply continuing with the (generally) middle-class lifestyle they were used to, instead of trying to move upwards in the society, except some rare cases like Bill Gates, whose family was quite affluent to begin with.