Living in a bubble

I just wanted to share my experience from HS reunion. Just a few facts about me (which are crucial to understand)

I've attended a regular HS at a regular town. However, after that I went to a private target school and after at first experiencing a major culture shock, I adapted.

Fast forward almost 4 years to the first HS reunion I attended. I was dressed like for every other "smart casual" event. So I wore a slim fit Ralph Lauren shirt, Hermes belt and my common projects.

At the event I was surprised that everyone else just wore a t-shirt and shorts.
Anyway, I proceeded to talk with a few people, they asked me how I was doing and I told them about my semester abroad in Asia, my internship a small PE fund in London after sophomore year and how many hours I worked at a EB last summer and how happy I was to convert my internship to a full time role.

Fast forward a few minutes, the only I person I still keeping in touch with, dragged me to the side and told me how people were talking about me. While the majority of people felt intimidated, the other ones thought I'm a stuck up asshole due to my clothes and experience. While I tried to be nice to everyone.

But for me it seemed unfair, that everyone else seem to be allowed to talk about their jobs, new car or whatever, while I can't talk about my life without being the "stuck up asshole".

How would you guys handle it, or have you had similar experiences?

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Comments (42)

Dec 24, 2019 - 9:35am

I always wondered if anyone actually bought those super tacky Hermes belts...

That alone is likely your problem.

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Dec 24, 2019 - 10:13am

People don't want to hear how things are going with you if you're clearly better off. Just ask them how they're doing, and when they ask about you say it's fine.

"while the majority of people felt intimidated" - this isn't a good thing. Social awareness is a highly valuable skill. Adapt to your surroundings. There's no reason to walk into a reunion and try to impress people, particularly since you hardly ever see them.

Dec 24, 2019 - 12:34pm

OP you learned a good lesson early in life. That's just awesome. Seriously.

The Herm belt may have been overkill. If you truly struggle to figure out how to dress for these things if you are in finance where it seems like you rock nicer clothes, best to go shopping the day of at the local department store, find something mid-range (at the store) with matching colors that don't stand out. In other words, be understated. Keep said clothes at home for the next reunion or any other similar event that may pop up when you go home. You are probably home so infrequently that no one will notice (and fewer will care) that you always wear the same thing.

Then on socializing. You can keep it brief if you notice others aren't responding to you or seem intimidated. You will learn how to spot this if it happens enough. Just keep it general.

Something like

"Oh I was lucky to spend a semester abroad studying and now I work at a bank, you know boring stuff, dealing with companies. What about you? How are your parents/friends/siblings etc?" Let them talk, listen, be (or act) interested. It's amazing how few people actually are interested and ask follow up questions, so just play into that.

m8 is spot on in his analysis.

Good Luck

I used to do Asia-Pacific PE (kind of like FoF). Now I do something else but happy to try and answer questions on that stuff.
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Dec 24, 2019 - 2:16pm

You're in college and are attending high school reunions already?

Hermès belt? That's just horrible. Whenever I see one of those, I automatically assume the person attached to it is a huge douche. I haven't been proven wrong yet.

Dec 25, 2019 - 3:10am

You're in college and are attending high school reunions already?

I wondered the same thing. I thought they normally don't begin until 10 years after graduation.

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
Most Helpful
Dec 24, 2019 - 5:52pm

Eh, you kind of sound like you loved it. The giveaway was when you described your "private college" experience as culture shock. Not buying that. If indeed you grew up in a normal town and not the hood, nothing about "private college" should feel particularly weird. And then dressing up for a HS reunion that's not your 50th is also odd. Not to mention caring about the brand of your belt or (even stranger) thinking that others care. It feels like you're forcing a narrative where you want to feel like you left behind the normal world for some rarefied place.

Dec 25, 2019 - 11:24am

I've been to quite a few (ahem) HS reunions.
There will always be jealousy, and insecurity.
Just be yourself. Wear what you like. Every reunion will be so different, as to who talks to you, who's interested in what you have to say and have done, etc. You weren't bragging, if anything, you are offering old friends the opportunity to network.

Dec 25, 2019 - 4:37pm

Hey man, I just wanted to share a couple of quick tips that may help you in such social interactions. 1) you may want to recognize the social context - this is a HS reunion not a finance event, 2) you may want to tailor your interactions, and limit how far down the rabbit hole you go on yourself in general, 3) recognize that there's a real struggle out there for a lot of folks.

  1. The context: your fellow alumni went to the reunion to connect with old buddies and reminisce about past good times. Not sure they want to hear about your latest deal or successes any more than you want to hear about their jobs. These guys don't know you as "Johnny the PE guy" but rather "Johnny the nice guy from homeroom" or "Johnny the class clown from chemistry class." There's limited context for talking business outside of that framework. And to put it into perspective, even if I (a fellow PE and finance guy) met you at a class reunion, even I would probably rather talk about old times, rather than how awesome your new finance life / job is. I'm happy for you if we were buddies and now you're successful, but I don't need the details.

  2. People are generally self-centered/self-focused, so they care about what you have to say to a limited extent. If someone asks you "hey how are you, and what have you been up to" they don't want a 50-page essay on how awesome you are and how everything is going great (I'm not saying you did this). Rather I think they want a brief soundbite to hear you're happy in life, and then get a question or two back at them so they can tell you they are doing well too (or bitch about things, which you can equally ignore). Try to keep the topic away from work and more on your common experience - like the people you knew in common and your common hometown experience. Hearing a lot of info about your Wall Street life may not be as relevant to someone who isn't living the same (again, not saying you did this, but just a pointer).

  3. The struggle is real - Good job, you crushed it and got into WS and PE. You are now in the minority. Many others who strived for success haven't gotten there yet, by bad luck or shortfall of skill. MANY people fall through the cracks, and the tales of smart young people struggling are legion. You have your hand tightly grasped on the brass ring, and kudos and congratulations. But for those who are still struggling, hearing this is both a reminder that they aren't in that position of success, and will thus feel awkward that you are. This is especially true in reunions, which can devolve into dick measuring contests. In life, if you've gotten success (and again, kudos for crushing it) remember to keep humble, keep subtle, and keep milking it quietly while you can. No one likes a show-off, and the struggles of your fellow young grads to find their way are quite real. Imagine all the young folks here on WSO who are still pushing and striving. Even someone here on WSO who is struggling and fighting just to break in is not going to want to hear tons of details on how awesome your life is, if they're still worries about how they're going to make rent, and maybe hopefully get a shot at a peachy finance gig.

Jan 2, 2020 - 11:43am

Very well said; the key word here for OP is empathy.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
Dec 26, 2019 - 12:08pm

Is this post a joke?

You're telling us what a "culture shock" it was to arrive at a private school, and then telling us about how you actually decided to wear an obnoxious luxury ensemble costing north of a thousand dollars to your HS reunion. You're either stupid if you didn't know this would upset people, or you were intending to get a reaction, in which case it seems to have backfired on you.

You were being a douche. You need to recognize that for most people, a job is what you do to pay the bills and it's often one of the things you hate doing most in your day. Anyone who has ever worked a simple job in their life would know this - unfortunately, based on my review of stacks of resumes at elite institutions, the most normal job many of you kids have ever held is chauffeuring your dad's business buddies around in a golf cart over the summer, followed by summer after summer of resume building in fancy sounding internships where, I know from past experience, you likely added very little of substance or value.

So here you are at your reunion, with a bunch of people who work retail/agricultural/reception/etc and struggle to cobble together their piece of the pie, holding forth about your posh little world where your annual bonus as a first year analyst might be a multiple of their peak lifetime salary - how do you expect them to feel?

You may feel entitled to stunt on people after all the work you put in, but with age comes the maturity to realize that the rest of the world isn't going to pat you on the back for your accomplishments, meritorious or otherwise - in fact, most of them will feel like you are part of a system that has played them, and they will resent you for it. At best, they will feel unable to relate to your story, and through that they will feel alienated from you.

The best you can do is be understated, and very conscious not to view yourself as special or better than these people, even though you have probably spent most of your waking hours up until this point creating and solidifying that distinction.


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Dec 26, 2019 - 1:13pm

>95% this is a troll, but, seriously, how does someone a few years out of high school not know how people in their hometown dress?

Also, if you were some normal, middle class person, who is buying your fancy douche belts? Did you blow your whole summer analyst salary on clothes?

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Dec 26, 2019 - 1:58pm

Assuming this isn't a troll post - its a classic case of know your audience. Clearly you're a bright kid that got into a good college and now has a solid budding career. That said, you need to learn to tailor your communication style to those you're around. Unless the goal was to "prove" something about your success, then you need to just get on the same level as people. The way you describe it your classmates didn't travel the world and make good money at top tier firms. So dressing that way and talking about these things is just unnecessary. You gotta focus on commonality with people. Its not really a big deal that you can't talk about these things, you gotta get over that. Just have fun connecting over common interests.

Dec 26, 2019 - 1:59pm

This is how you handle these situations:

Friend: "Hey, so what you do you do?"
You: "I work in finance."

If he actually knows shit about finance, he'll ask you a more targeted question, like "so...are you in banking or sales & trading?" and from there, you can have a normal conversation.

If he just answers "oh that's cool me too", just leave it at that.

"Work ethic, work ethic" - Vince Vaughn

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Dec 26, 2019 - 3:03pm
Intern in IB - Gen:

I was dressed like for every other "smart casual" event. So I wore a slim fit Ralph Lauren shirt, Hermes belt and my common projects.

At the event I was surprised that everyone else just wore a t-shirt and shorts.

This is a finance forum. Not a Bret Easton Ellis novel.

Dec 26, 2019 - 11:21pm

Coming back to this, the thread is extra funny because OP bought the exact clothes poor people think rich people buy. Super hoodrich.

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Jan 2, 2020 - 11:48am

I had to Google "Common Projects" but it looks kind of like a K-Swiss that costs 3x as much?

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
Jan 2, 2020 - 11:55am

Trendy hipster "minimalist" sneakers that yuppies buy. No real quality when compared to something like John Lobb or Edward Green. The aforementioned will last forever too.

Dec 27, 2019 - 11:17am

Never been to a HS reunion because I honestly don't care what my peers are up to. They weren't my friends then and aren't now. I keep in touch with one guy from HS, and he's one of my closest friends. Beyond that, don't care.


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Dec 27, 2019 - 2:43pm

I think a lot of people above gave excellent advice. It's all covered. However, just wanted to give another perspective....

A lot of people were complete assholes to me in high school. In fact, they went out of their way to make me feel small and useless. So, if these same people are jealous of your success, all I gotta say to them is "tough shit bro".

Dec 29, 2019 - 11:33pm

Then just don't go. Life's too short for that petty shit.


I used to do Asia-Pacific PE (kind of like FoF). Now I do something else but happy to try and answer questions on that stuff.
Dec 29, 2019 - 9:39pm

You need to learn how to dress for the occasion.

Interested in health tech, consulting, and entrepreneurship.

Dec 30, 2019 - 7:48am

And to think people wonder why stereotypes exist.

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.
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Jan 2, 2020 - 12:10pm

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