I spend a lot of time thinking about what I love and new experiences I have as an Asia expat. But here are a few things I miss from back in the US.
1. Personal space. For the most part, I have acclimated to the closer personal space standards in Asia. And that’s in addition to the more crowded… everything. In fact, I offered to make the last minute grocery store run on Christmas Eve when back in the States last year. As I suspected, I didn’t even notice the crowds I would have once called “crazy.” Instead, they were normal to me. But there are also days when I barely leave my apartment because I just. can’t. take. it. After my surgery I was even more paranoid to go anywhere slightly crowded because I could not trust people to not jostle my fragile arm and shoulder – despite being in a visible sling.
2. Wide open spaces. Bangkok is particularly crowded and to make matters worse, has extremely poor city planning. I lived in cities most of time in the US and I spent my college years in rural farm land. I find now that I miss both rural America and the city planning from Northeast cities.
3. Seasons. Singapore is the worst in this category. It has the same weather 365 days a year. If that sounds nice to you, watch the movie Groundhog Day. At least Bangkok has 1-2 proper rainy seasons which I can enjoy from my 20th floor office windows. But I miss Autumn, Spring and cool weather.
4. IP (Intellectual Property) Laws and Enforcement. In Bangkok, you can’t trust pharmaceuticals purchased anywhere except the hospital (and maybe some international pharmacy chains. Though even then it’s best to check the expiration date.) Across Asia it’s really hard to trust any brand name clothing item even when the shops look nice. I miss being able to trust that what I am buying is actually the real thing. Generally, I resign myself to paying top dollar (usually plus markup due to import fees) to gain a little confidence. From a professional standpoint part of my job is brand stewardship. That can be very frustrating when I talk to vendors and contractors who don’t even understand why I am making a fuss about brand asset use, trade mark license agreements, etc. The entire attitude towards IP is simply different.
5. Amazon. This is the flip side of something I love in Asia, but I will get to that in another list. The popular eCommerce sites here work differently and I can’t avoid shopping malls as much as I would like. Although Amazon does deliver internationally, the duties and taxes can be extreme and the selection is limited.
6. Large shoes. Long pants. “Large” underclothes. In a recent study, Thai women were ranked among the smallest in the world in breast size. Yeah. I’m also 5’10” and wear a European size 41 shoe. ‘Nuff said.
7. Fast walkers. Slow walking is very practical in a way. It’s very hot in South East Asia especially, so a slower pace is more sensible. But most people here also seem exasperatingly blind to patterns of pedestrian traffic. It’s hard not to crash into people who stop randomly for everything from their phone to an interesting street vendor unless you are moving at a slower pace. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to help myself. I love to just stretch my legs and wander at a nice clip. Walking down a busy sidewalk sometimes makes me crazy.
8. Debate. Sometimes I find it fun to bat around topics, play devil’s advocate, and generally challenge the norm or different ideas with friends. I may not have found the right people, but I also think debate isn’t very culturally acceptable. In both Singapore and Thailand, criticism of the government is severely censored. Thailand has some of the strictest lese majeste laws in the world. I also think part of this is the heavy cultural emphasis on consensus. The idea of debate for fun doesn’t jive well.
That’s it. Friends and family should also be on the list, but I feel that is probably a given. Let me know if I missed any you would add!