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My exotic Asian life vs. Life in the West

I have been living now in SE Asia for 3+ years. First I spent roughly 2 years in Bangkok and have now been in Singapore for 1 ½ years. In this time, I explored a part of the world I never imagined I would know, much less know intimately. In this time I have visited 16 new countries…sometimes for personal reasons and sometimes for work. It’s actually sometimes more interesting when it is for work because I get to go into consumer’s homes (I work in international marketing) and talk to them about their lives, their families and the products / brands they use.

I love this life. Everyday is an adventure, or holds the potential for an adventure. I have met endless number of people, from locals to other expats, that have enriched my understanding of other cultures as well as of myself. My potential for new experiences is seemingly unlimited. But then again there are the trials and tribulations of being a foreigner in a foreign place and sometimes missing that which is familiar.

So I thought I might share with you my few things I love in Asia vs. things I miss at home.

Loving this about Asian Life

  • Endless weekend trips
    Many countries are within a 3-5 hour flight from Bangkok or Singapore. Some of the most exciting world cities as well as the best beaches and scuba diving sites in the world are at my fingertips
  • A multinational community and new friends
    I have never had such a diverse group of friends…Thais, Swedes, French, German, Singaporean, Indian, Phillipino…
  • Asian food
    I love Thai food, it’s actually a comfort food for me. And there’s nothing like having Indian food in India and Chinese food in China…. no chicken cashew my friends, real Chinese food. And Japanese food…. aaaaahhh, another new obsession of mine. Although I still don’t understand though how people can eat so many rice and noodles and not gain weight.
  • Asian beer
    I am a beer aficionado…and Asian beers are outstanding. Especially some of the true local beers like unpasteurized Vietnamese Bia Hoi.
  • Engrish
    Engrish is so defined by the Asian substitution of “l”’s and “r”’s. But its really more than that, it is the funny examples of translations that happen in countries where English is a non-native language.
  • My home
    I traded 600 sq foot living in NY for 1400 sq foot living in Asia. Size matters.
  • Cultural experiences that broaden my horizons
    Living in various cultures and long term travels allow me to experience cultures first hand. I believe the lens on which I see the world has changed and that my life perspective is much richer. Whether it is seeing the extreme poverty of Nepal or the wild and wacky world of Tokyo, so many things have made a deep impression.

Missing this about Western Life

  • The seasons
    Some might enjoy perpetual summer (+90 F / +40 C), but I miss spring and fall…and sometimes even winter snowstorms. There is a certain energy and vitality when winter shifts to spring and people are thrilled to be outdoors again. I also shallowly miss the fashion too…boots, sweaters and coats.
  • A wine culture
    On top of enjoying beer, I am also a big wine drinker. I miss restaurants where you can ask servers about wines and they know their stuff. With wine that is x400 in price due to import duties, there is no such thing as a good value in Asia…in particular I miss the perfectly adequate $10 South American red (Malbec, please!).
  • Proper bread
    There is bread here, but oftentimes it is not proper bread(unless you are at a hotel where it is handmade). Hearty thick pieces with a substantial crust, and even better when it has grains and seeds…yum! Paul has recently started making bread at home and I am oh so grateful.
  • Snow skiing and Winter Trips
    I suppose I have swapped ski slopes for beaches in Asia. But I do miss weekend trips involving suiting up in the morning in a ski bib and a robust après ski scene. No role for Irish coffees and fireplaces here.
  • The price is the price
    I don’t relish haggling over nearly every item I buy. I appreciate the convenience of walking to the cash register without having to spend another 15 minutes bargaining. When I bargain, I always have a sneaking suspicion I have overpaid.
  • US pricing in general
    As it turns out just about everything is cheaper in the US – cameras, computers, clothing, phones, shoes, many groceries, cars….I could go on and on.
  • Old friends
    I have met so many new and wonderful people. Some are very rich relationships I will carry with me when I leave. Yet there’s just something special about those friends who knew you when you were a teenager with braces and frizzy hair.
  • Being “average” sized
    In the US I am a bit tall at 5’10”, but not unusually so…in Asia I am a veritable feminine giant. This is convenient for seeing over crowds in rock concerts or sporting events, but less so for shopping. I cannot buy anything in my size here…bras, shoes, clothes, etc.

All in all, I am so fortunate to have the life I have and I truly relish the opportunity. Asia has been good to me. My passport is bulging and so is my photo album. I have a wealth of experiences, friends and memories that will stay with me forever and I wouldn’t trade that for anything (except maybe a glass of Malbec and a slice of 8-grain bread 😉

Won’t you share with me some things on your list?

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