Monday 21 February 2011

Social Climbing

I have been inspired recently to write this after having met a couple of my friends, whom I had always known to be MAJOR social climbers aka KAZABEEN (1)
Not here to judge really but when this social behaviour is at my expense since I may be the subject of the social climb or considered a barrier that has to be used (to climb) or pushed aside then something has to be said.
We have all seen, lived or experienced this but the fact is we dont even pay it much attention because it is something we grew up with and has become a natural occurence like watching the duspin men collect the rubish you see it but you dont pay it a second thought or analyse it. Well this is about to change, I am hoping that once you have read this you will start making observations in your surrounding groups and acknowledge this social phenomenon.

We’re all subjected to different group’s dynamics or hierarchy in any society, town, city or village, there is always someone rich, someone average and someone poor.

Some groups have a “flat” hierarchy and people are treated as equals or at least chose to treat their peers equally, whereas a number of groups have a more perpendicular hierarchy, where you’ll find members of different social classes and of course always always the social climbers forever striving to attain a higher personal status or the illusion of higher social status by faking his way up the social ladder.

In Algeria social climbing is achieved through the same channels as anywhere else in the world, however being referred to as la ChiChi (2) aka posh or rich is a key. Let’s analyse this…

...How does social climbing work…

Identifying the Target

This is the step where the Social climber identifies his/her target based on certain criteria such as money, fame, high recognition and social prominence, business relations, family connections and anything that puts this target in the high social cast that allows access, knowledge and can be identified as someone who would benefit the social climber in any way.
In Algeria the criteria for being considered la Chichi is completely unrealistic, anybody who speaks French and doesn’t practice Islam (if you are a practicing Catholic you'd still be regarded as superior) could be considered la Chichi…harsh? Ok Let me start again…if your father is a government official (Minister, General, Colonel, director of some sort etc...) if you have money, land and reside in a villa, if you express yourself well and often in French instead of Arabic or Berber, if your mother is not illiterate (she drives a car or teaches...etc) and doesn’t wear the Hidjab, if you drink alcohol or aren’t adverse to it, travel domestically or internationally(my fingers will bleed should I choose to continue typing this list) then consider yourself CLIMBED.


Upon identifying the target, the social climber then proceeds to establishing contact which isn’t easy as the high social cast can be unapproachable. This is where the grooming comes in. By practicing the many rituals of grooming, compliments, gifts, favours (offered not requested) the peacock spreads his plumage as it were and lets you approach and admire.

Once the peacock opens up its tail, more attention and grooming is expected, the behaviour of the target changes from accepting attention to demanding it and shunning anyone who doesn’t offer it. Whereas perhaps this very same person was more humble and accepting of other people from lower social classes, they become more scrutinising and impenetrable; the grooming effort gets more intensive, subsequently when feeling rejected the protagonists feel pressure and proceed to over-grooming just to prove worthy, thus becoming  social climbers themselves.

Maintaining proximity

Rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, connected people, people with money, people in power, government officials and Industrialist, Business men, Highly educated people and of course name dropping and using the right lingo and generally using obsequious behaviour help establish the social climber as a connected person who is in the know and seen as one of the rich & famous.

This obsequious treatment extends to the offspring as well, sons & daughters of hotel tycoons or a government personality (president, minister…etc), TV stars and artists.

A lot of Algerians practice this by associating themselves with la “Jet-set”(3), so much energy is spent on looking the part, be seen with the right people, several methods are employed such as forming romantic relations or dating (dating up or marrying up), offering gifts, free dinners, singing praises and generally kissing ass, it could also be a work relation where the “social climber” renders services to the “rich & famous” or by working as an assistant or be their run around person, driver etc...

So proximity to the “rich & famous” opens opportunities for the social climber or gives them access to “Club des Pin” (4), to be seen with important people, make use of their all-access status, it could be to clubs or to discounts, making use of their holiday homes, yachts and simply popularity, enjoy being whisked away to exotic destination as their assistant etc, advantages can of course extend to the children, where pushy parents can practice social climbing to widen their children’s opportunities, get them into the right schools and exclusive sporting clubs.


Whilst aiming high and only looking up, the social climber will inevitably need leverage and that is sadly often other members of the social group that are less affluent or people he/she perceives as his peers. Rumour spreading, limelight hogging, lying, and sabotaging anyone perceived as a rival or competitor to the rich & famous’s affections.

This activity the social climber engages in can be done consciously or unconsciously, but its consequences are the same, pushing him/her up the social ladder, getting isolated from friends of equal social standing or even higher social standing but are not high enough for him/her to envy or desire so they end up being pushed aside, damage their reputation or relationships with the higher cast of the society.

In Algeria, the sabotaging is rife, the rumour spreading and gossip are a national sport and elbowing “competitors” is a just the way we walk, so social climbing in Algeria is a hobby, people are obsessed with this unattainable high social cast and envy is a terrible thing so if you can't beat them do like them, and so they do and believe they are like them…or at least pretend they are.

NB - Please note this does not only apply to Algerians but it’s a universal social reality
(1) Kiss ass, brown nose-rs
(2) Anyone with a high living standard (lifestyle that includes hobbies) and has money
(3) What Jet-set???? Perleaaaaase
(4) Restricted access government area – Our own Area 51 but with beaches, babes and high concentration of la Chichi


  1. This is so funny. What class am I I wonder. I do not have a "high living standard (lifestyle that includes hobbies)" or do I? Crochet, cleaning and baking are hobbies? Right!

    Wait a minute, if you speak English, do you automatically get bumped? :D

  2. The answer is yes - you qualify :)

  3. Fantastically put.
    Thoroughly enjoyed the article.
    Very good fact pointing abilities and I like how you relate them to Algeria with humour.

  4. hahaha so funny and so true...

  5. Thanks Anonymous. I love this post.

  6. Really cool and could be applied to every single society. What if you're woman holding double masters, your PhD is pending, you worked so far your ass off...and your super-Algerian-man expects you to maintain high standards and best practices between cooker and dishwasher :-) Forget your international trips, ambitions, friends and family, now my dear you are lady of the house. Dz-chick, I believe it's converted in order to degradate your self esteem, confidence and self worth. Woman can't remain superior at any price, how she dares! ;-)

  7. Social climbing is universally the same, I only covered some of the Algerian specifics.

  8. DZ-Chick, I am exceedingly surprised that this article hasn't generated more comments as it's very controversial.
    I read it a little while ago and awaited the completion of the reading of your entire blog to fully focus on this piece.

    I would like to point out that I have never been exposed to social climbing as I am from the french 'favelas' and we have way too much niff to even consider kissing anybody's a*se, we would rather opt for theft, fraud, drug dealing or simply hard work to climb the social ladder. Evidently I am generalising, you will also find social climbers in the 'hood.
    My sister, who is an Employment and Family lawyer, is very well connected as she evidently studied law and rubbed shoulders with the French bourgeoisie, she remains her 'Algerian ghetto' self and treats them as she would any of her friends, which is quite harshly at the best of times, and lovingly of course.

    Nonetheless one is aware of this global phenomenon, thank you for giving me an Algerian perspective.
    I can comprehend the necessity of rubbing shoulders with the members of la Chi Chi in a developing country as it might be the only way in. Malcolm X once said 'by any means necessary', the desperation of the less fortunates will result in impetuous behaviour. I cannot help but feel sorry for them. I could not endure anyone's company unless solicited and attributed solely to the enjoyment of that person.
    I have come across many wealthy men and refused to date them or take it to the next stage as they bore me or I simply did not nurture any type of feelings for them.

    The social climbers can be compared to prostitutes, they sell their time, self-esteem and soul and that is probably a highly unpleasant entreprise.

    Self love and self knowledge as well as spirituality greatly hinder social climbing as one understands that social classes are illusionary.

    I have two quotes about the matter dear DZ-Banksy:
    "There are people so poor that the only thing they have is money."
    "A poor man is not the one without a cent. A poor man is the one without a dream." Henry Ford
    A social climber is not a dreamer, he gave up on his/her life and lives through other, I cannot think of a worst existence!

    It must undeniably aggravating for the 'victim' of the social climber to be used in such manner for social advancement. It is an unscrupulous practice.
    I won't say no more on the matter except that dear DZ-Chick protect thyself from the ravens.

    'Maître Corbeau, sur un arbre perché,
    Tenait en son bec un fromage.
    Maître Renard, par l'odeur alléché,
    Lui tint à peu près ce langage :
    Que vous êtes joli ! que vous me semblez beau !
    Sans mentir, si votre ramage
    Se rapporte à votre plumage,
    Vous êtes le Phénix des hôtes de ces bois."
    A ces mots le Corbeau ne se sent pas de joie ;
    Et pour montrer sa belle voix,
    Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber sa proie.
    Le Renard s'en saisit, et dit : "Mon bon Monsieur,
    Apprenez que tout flatteur
    Vit aux dépens de celui qui l'écoute :
    Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage, sans doute. "
    Le Corbeau, honteux et confus,
    Jura, mais un peu tard, qu'on ne l'y prendrait plus' Jean De La Fontaine

  9. DZ-Chick,

    I meant 'protect thyself from the foxes' ;-)

  10. Miss Polemique
    This has to be one of my favourite pieces, I think the content might have been too heavy or too truthful for most readers hmmmm :/
    I came across a lot of Social climbers, at first I didn’t understand the point of it all nor could I put a name on it, but through years of living in Algeria and witnessing the behaviour over and over again, I grew intolerant of it and forgot about it promptly upon arriving to the UK, but after a few years, after I found myself drawn to the Algerian community again here (London), I found the very same individuals performing the very same rituals and I felt I was being dragged back a few years to Club des Pin and thought Coomeee ooooon
    A social climber is the worst of all social energumens! The end.

  11. I used to notice that sort of thing but I dont anymore. It used to make me chuckle than frustrated. Now whatever anybody does, unless they are hurting themselves or others, it doesn't bother me or affect me in anyway negatively or positively.
    whatever makes you truly happy people fine.

  12. Ah you are in the phase I reached a while ago, where the "Live and let live" is applied to everything and it's nice to be positive and it makes you more relaxed.Sadly I snapped out of that about a week ago, hence my latest blog post O o....
    But I think you've got the right attitude, I just can't afford to be like that beging a blogger and all :)


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