What You Can Buy For $1 Across The Globe

For most folks reading this, a dollar isn't a lot of money. It's certainly not enough moolah to purchase much of quality in most of the Western world. Now, in fairness, it is true that a buck will still snare you a beautiful assortment of ornate plastic hydrangeas, or — if your online shopping research game is crazy strong — an extremely lifelike novelty fake tongue. 

Setting these notable exceptions aside, we just don't live in a society where a dollar means much or goes far. However, one single dollar isn't quite so insignificant a sum everywhere. It may take bravery, a cast-iron stomach, a high level of moral flexibility, or even some combination of all of the above, but it is still possible to purchase something memorable for one little dollar if one knows where to look. Here are a handful of such bargain basement oddities from around the world.

Perfect novelty socks in South Korea

In humanity's long and checkered history of foot adornment, socks are hardly a new phenomenon. Impeccable historical sources (okay, the Encyclopedia of Trivia) reveal that the first recorded reference to the art of foot ensheathment was by Greek poet Hesiod, sometime in the eighth century BCE. Weird knitted socks that look like they belonged to a terrifyingly long-toed Muppet have also been found in Egyptian tombs. Present-day sock fanciers can even make a podiatric pilgrimage of wonder to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to behold these ancient marvels firsthand.

But if you want to experience what cutting-edge sock innovation looks like today, you'll need to make the trip to South Korea, where for one measly buck, you can lay claim to the perfect novelty sock — one which matches your soul as snugly as it fits your feet. Boutique sock emporiums speckle the streets of Seoul, peddling the perfect sock to suit a wearer's needs, from foot coverings featuring flamboyantly coiffured and divisive US politicians to comparatively tame socks emblazoned with quippy life observations about the importance of coffee or the incontestable fluffiness of assorted domesticated mammals. As Lonely Planet says, "If you can imagine it, you can find socks in Seoul to match."

Grab a cut-price balisong knife in the Philippines

If you know the right person in the right shady corner of the right market in downtown Manila, you might be able to pick up an entry-level balisong butterfly knife for close to one dollar. The preferred tool for artful thuggery in the less salubrious corners of Manila, these mean-looking stabbies are famed for how they can be twirled nimbly around the fingers like Satan's own off-brand fidget spinner. 

As far as dollar investments go, this is the gift that keeps on giving. With brand-new balisong in quivering hand, the novice practitioner can spend hours plundering (really kind of intimidating) Reddit threads dedicated to the art of balisong twirling, delving into everything from how not to lose one's fingers to knife maintenance to fun nonlethal things a balisong-wielder can do about town with this dangerous new toy. A scary hobby and a stylish piece of cutlery for less than the price of a cheeseburger — now that's hard to beat.

Sip on the perfect chai tea in Kenya

Chai tea is normally associated with India. As the New World Encyclopedia explains, "This way of drinking tea emerged during the British control of India, at a time when the British India Company encouraged the consumption of black tea." While the origin story behind this most beloved of hipster beverages varies, one theory is that the recipe was devised as an economic measure to reduce the amount of tea needed per cup. Regardless, vendors on countless street corners across the world have applied their own unique spicing creativity and preparation approach to create a vast spectrum of chai tea flavors — an "almost infinite variety" of aromas and flavor nuances. 

So why is the African nation of Kenya one of the places to experience this odd artifact of colonization and culinary experimentation? Because, for reasons slightly mysterious, chai has been embraced right down to the bones of Kenyan cultural life, so much so that the Swahili word for tea is "chai." According to All Things Kenyan, the beverage is so desirable there that the word has even become synonymous with accepting a bribe. On street corners throughout downtown Nairobi, vendors steep their own family blend of chai, and you can grab a few steaming mugs of this cultural uniqueness for a dollar, probably with a bit of change to spare.

Do you dare partake of the French sausage of doom?

For something a smidge south of a dollar, you'll snag yourself a small but devastatingly potent chunk of pungent-smelling sausage at a street market in any number of provincial areas of France. The aggressive aroma of andouillette is famous for making tourists fail French Cultural Immersion 101, often with the added indignity of having to spend some quality time in a variety of less than hygienic public municipal bathrooms across Paris. A delicate dance of spices, herbs, and pig colon, andouillette has an aroma that gastronomic authorities — notable among them Uncle Stinky of the Things That Stink blog — describe as being distinctly "feces-like." 

Few cuisines have earned entire articles dedicated to why you "must never try" eating them, but andouillette has earned that distinction. And for many, that's exactly why it's worth forking out a dollar to invite this most French of morsels into their olfactory purview. To eat this sausage is to partake viscerally of the knowledge that people see, smell, and taste the world differently. It's a bargain for one measly dollar and an existentially challenging dose of indigestion.

Fork out a Washington to feel really awkward in New York

Tourists in New York lucky enough to find themselves on the right street corner or subway station can lay down a crisp dollar note to experience what may be a life-altering zenith of embarrassingly awkward street theater. 

Interviewed for Guff Magazine, New York street performer Kalan describes his art as a "non-narrative, nihilist, anarchist show about literary theory." Even better than that, though, Kalan uses an assortment of socially confronting puppets made from trash and discarded meat products. Wielded artfully, these foul-smelling fetishes invite Kalan's audience to question their most basic assumptions — about life, capitalism, and the relative merits of educational Muppets made from street detritus. 

A dollar is a small price to pay for an audience member's mind and soul (and possibly their nasal passages, depending on the freshness of Kalan's puppetry selection) to be laid so thoroughly bare. As Kalan phrases it on his website, "Death stalks the garden and unmasked beings belch forth inverted offspring as God devours the sun. Nothing exists."

Why sharpie when you can skerple?

There are any number of cheap counterfeit knockoffs you can get for a dollar or less, but not many attract a cult following, becoming a prized collector's item of cool off-brand products. Meet the Skerple, poorer cousin to the Sharpie. The Skerple isn't the only counterfeit Sharpie you can bag for a buck. As the Sharpie vs Skerple Reddit reveals, Shoupies, Skarpies, Skorpies, and Shanries enrich pencil cases the world over with a rainbow of slightly inferior, quasi-permanent signage options. 

But the Skerple is considered by many devotees to be the original knockoff and therefore the best. It may be the only off-brand counterfeit marker to gain hashtag meme status and has come to symbolize the tidal wave of not-quite-as-good products flooding stores across the world. The ethics behind the very existence of the Skerple are obviously questionable. However, for strictly show-and-tell purposes to illustrate the perils of brand name infringement, The Herald reports that you can yoink six Super Skerples for — yep, that's right — one dollar.

Want a legit house? Because $1 can get you a house

Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and while it has close cultural ties to Italy, it's an autonomous territory, with a solid chunk of its domestic sovereignty intact. Sardinia is a strange place, culturally. Predictably enough, Italian is spoken there, but the island also has a bizarrely cool indigenous language called Sardo, a linguistic shopping basket brimming with Latin, Arabic, Spanish, and Catalan flavors. They also invented sardines. This is a matter of some importance, judging by how vehemently the Total Sardinia website promulgates that sardines are, in fact, named after Sardinia and not the other way around.

With its linguistic eccentricities and strongly held fish opinions, it's probably reasonable to assume that living in Sardinia would be an unusual experience. And a home base for that experience can be bought for the paltry price of one dollar, well, $1.17 to be exact. As Live and Invest Overseas reports, the mayor of one of Sardinia's main towns, Ollolai, is offering 200 homes, some of them for a bit over a dollar a piece. Sadly, Ollolai is in decline, with the vast majority of its younger inhabitants having left the town in search of work. It'd probably be a hard life to set up a new home in a poverty-riddled township on an isolated island somewhere in the Mediterranean. But there'd be fresh air, rolling hills, and an abundance of tinned fish in a wide variety of seasonings. Swings and roundabouts.

Have one of your feet massaged in Thailand (you pick)

A foot massage costs a trivial two dollars in Thailand. So, if you're blessed with a silver tongue — or cursed with only one foot — you can probably wrangle a one-dollar massage with minimal effort. Mileage may vary, however. A travel writer for Houstonia describes her foot massage experience in less than glowing terms: " [...] in a plastic-curtain-shrouded booth. We sat very close to the other clients on auto seats covered with blankets and watched tiny Thai women squeeze our feet way too hard. We walked out bruised."

While not as visceral an immersion into a culture as lightly sauteed colon sausage, and perhaps not as life-challenging an experience as politically subversive meat puppetry on a crowded subway, spending a dollar to have a foot artfully crunched by a diminutive Thai woman isn't just about being on the receiving end of a questionable product or service. It's about dipping into something that isn't mass-produced, injection-molded, or dipped in grease to homogenized oblivion. It's kind of fun to know that, for ridiculously little coin, it's still possible to experience something memorable. A dollar can buy an experience, a moment you won't soon forget, and maybe even a story or two worth telling.