Re: Altruism & Culture
Whilst I agree with 90% of what Mark Honman has written, he needs to be a little more cautious with his idea that plenty of sunshine means that one does not have to be efficient. If you live in a desert you are overburdened with sunshine and you need to be very efficient to survive. I have visited many deserts and in every case I have been told how lucky I am to live in a country that has lots of rain (the UK).
My experience, gained from visiting the Altoplano in Peru and Bolivia, and visiting Botswana and Namibia is that different cultures value different things. We westerners measure our wealth in momentary terms. Poor peoples measure their wealth in the richness of their social connections.
Wealthy western people flaunt their high status by 'Conspicuous Consumption. Other cultures flaunt their social wealth by 'Conspicuous Welcomeness'.
The idea that you are unable to reciprocate is down to lack of planning and foresight on your part. When you travel you should make provision for bringing home souvenirs that you purchase from local people. Well, before you leave buy stuff that they might value. Badges, postcards, pencils, notebooks, whatever. Particularly get stuff for children and perhaps visit a local school.