The term "first world problems" refers to a petty thing complained about by someone living in the upper or middle class.

Is there are word or phrase that means problems or complaints about things that you have relatively little to worry about compared with others (especially in front of those others).

For example, a straight A student complaining about getting a B on a difficult math test that almost everyone failed.

  • I can remember a time when hotels used to polish your shoes for you if you left them outside the room door at night. To expect such a service nowadays would be seen as your being excessively precious. At least it would in Britain.
    – WS2
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 0:36
  • 6
    One I found on the internet is "white whine".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 1:51
  • 1
    Some info: knowyourmeme.com/memes/first-world-problems
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 1:52
  • 5
    @WS2. Once, atypically staying in a five-star where the maid came twice, once to make up the room and again in the evening to "open the bed" (this was on Madeira, maybe others would say "turn back/down" etc.), I asked the concierge why they did this. Not complaining, just curious. His answer was that if the maid did not "open the bed" for them, some guests complained bitterly. Say what? You can't climb into a made bed without assistance? Yeah, the rich are different.
    – David Pugh
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 11:43
  • There are standards, after all, @David Pugh. What would life be without such amenities!
    – user98990
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 16:58

7 Answers 7


There's the term world's smallest violin, which is used to express mock sympathy.

In conversation, it's often accompanied by a hand gesture, as if someone is playing a miniature violin. For example, to that "A" student complaining about his B on the math test, I could say something like:

Aw, that's a shame. Here's the world's smallest violin, playing I Feel Sorry for You.

The website TV Tropes says this about the gesture:

A predominantly Western gesture, the World's Smallest Violin is given to a person who is exaggerating the sorrow of his/her predicament in order to gain sympathy; the person who does the giving presumably has none.

Wikipedia mentions it under a list of hand gestures; the page there reads:

World's Smallest Violin (also called "How Sad" or "World's Smallest Violin Playing Hearts and Flowers") is made by rubbing the thumb and forefinger together, to imitate bowing a violin. This gesture is used to express sarcasm and lack of sympathy, in response to someone exaggerating a sad story or unfair treatment.

Another (more brief) way to express such mock sympathy would be:

Oh, “Woe is me!”

I put the quotation marks in that sarcastic remark, because if I said “Woe is me!” in that vein to the B student, I would be putting those words into the student's mouth.

  • 1
    – user11153
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 11:02
  • 2
    Is there any particular reason why we can't sarcastically say, "Woe is you!" I never hear it, but sometimes I really want to.
    – David Pugh
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 11:39
  • @DavidPugh: We can say, "Poor you!", though, can't we.
    – Andriy M
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 18:27
  • "Only a B? Oh, I feel so bad for you!" Commented May 5, 2015 at 1:30

As a noun, you can consider trifle.

A trifle is something that's totally unimportant. If your friend is freaking out over which shoes to buy and you call her dilemma a trifle, you're saying she shouldn't get so worked up over nothing. [vocabulary.com]

or fuss.

an expression of anger or complaint especially about something that has little importance [MW]

Fuss is a verb also, same as to make a fuss; make much ado about trifles/nothing.

to complain especially about something relatively unimportant. [dictionary.reference.com]



1.3 A feeble or petulant complaint:


White Whine:

A collection of first-world problems
Updated daily

The worst part of car shopping ... I have to call the sellers. Ugh.

A coffee mug that is too big for any of your cup holders is a total nightmare...


  • That's a synonym for first-world problems. In looking for a word with a broader range of uses. Commented May 4, 2015 at 0:25
  • Whine is the general term, white modifies it to accentuate the petulance.
    – ScotM
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 0:32

If you suspect it is a way of boasting without seeming to overtly, that is referred to as a humblebrag.

  • 1
    Never heard that before, but I like it.
    – David Pugh
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 11:38
  • 1
    Humblebrags are when someone makes light of a difficult task, not when one complains about their perceived poor experience in a situation where others have it worse. Commented May 4, 2015 at 15:46
  • 1
    The connotations are different: someone who humblebrags (busybrags, et al) is calculating, whereas someone with first-world problems is clueless.
    – choster
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 16:34
  • @choster - I'd agree with that. But this is still far closer to the right connotation than the current accepted answer. :-)
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 8:56



  1. To cause one to be persistently preoccupied, annoyed, or uncomfortable:
    Doubts niggled at the back of my mind.

  2. To pester someone or be annoying or uncomfortable in a persistent way:
    He niggled at me all day to lend him my car.

  3. To be overly concerned or argumentative, especially about something petty; fuss:
    niggled over contract details.

When Straight-A Joe niggled about getting a B on the that test everyone else failed, we felt like strangling him.


  1. To preoccupy, annoy, make uncomfortable in a persistent way:
    Suspicions niggled him.
  2. To pester or nag (someone).

Settling for half-and-half in her coffee niggled Sally, and her incessant bitching about it niggled us.


  1. a slight or trivial objection or complaint

  2. a slight feeling as of misgiving, uncertainty, etc

The oversize coffee mug is your niggle; I have bigger things on my mind.



Annoying, troubling, or irritating in a petty way:
a pointless dispute over niggling details.

He would have pulled a straight 4.0, except for that niggling B in Phys-Ed.


What's wrong with first world problem? That is a generic term. It can be used in precisely the context you describe. The Oxford Dictionary defines the phrase as:

A relatively trivial or minor problem or frustration (implying a contrast with serious problems such as those that may be experienced in the developing world):

Wiktionary states that

The term is used to minimize complaints about trivial issues by shaming the complainer, or as good-humored self-deprecation.

Basically, the phrase can be used to describe any problem that, objectively, can be considered trivial. It does not need to involve upper or middle class, it just describes a problem that wouldn't really be an issue if the person in question had any real problems such as needing to find food or shelter.

Example uses (taken from here) include:

Missed The Movie Previews

Where to Go On Vacation

Cracked My Cell Phone Screen

I gained Weight

Have Cereal But No Milk

A quick Google Images search for "first world problems" returns things like:

enter image description here


enter image description here

So, in short, just use first world problems, it is precisely what you're looking for.

  • +1. This was precisely what I thought when reading the question. A first-world problem has nothing to do with the social class of the complainer. Commented May 5, 2015 at 11:05
  • @Janus - The definition says, "implying a contrast with serious problems such as those that may be experienced in the developing world." I think the O.P. is looking for a term that can be used in the same way, but where no such contrast is implied. The "motivational" posters here, for example, are meant to underscore that refugees don't get chocolate chip cookies and milk, yet someone is complaining about the size of the glass, or that children in <insert developing country here> don't get to play with Legos, but we complain when they stick together. It's a glass-half-empty kind of thing.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 17:48
  • (cont.) The other examples follow this pattern: Instead of being grateful I'm at the cinema, I'm complaining because I missed the previews; I'm full of angst because I don't know where I should go on vacation (while others would be thankful to have a job); instead of being glad for my working cell phone, I'm sad because the screen is cracked, and so forth. These FWPs are funny because, when you think about them, they highlight an wealth of resources and technology. The weight gain, when viewed as a first world problem, underscores ready access to abundant food. Not so much the B on the test.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 17:56
  • +1 because I've just come back from a place where if you have a medical problem and don't have the cash, and the hospital has taken your rings and bracelets and you are still short the money for a litre of blood (about half the monthly salary of a waitress), you die on the table, see if they care.
    – David Pugh
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 16:25

I live in the north of the UK, and I've heard the word "nesh" used quite a bit to describe someone who complains about a situation that's not necessarily worth complaining about.


Person 1: "I don't like my nose, I'm going to get it fixed"

Person 2: "Don't be so nesh!"

The actual original use of this word is to describe someone who is particularly susceptible to cold weather, but as society has developed around my area, so has the local use of this word as an analogy. It might be particularly constrained to Huddersfield as a town though, as I've lived there all my life and nowhere else.

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