I first came to Asia two years ago in February of 2015. I stayed for a couple of months before running out of money and being forced to go back and live with my parents again.
However, I’ve successfully been on my own in Asia now since July 2015. That’s about 1.5 years. Almost all of that time has been spent in Ho Chi Minh City (often referred to the locals as Saigon), Vietnam.
I’m much happier living here in Vietnam than I ever was in Wisconsin. For that reason, I can sometimes rip on the USA. While the USA has lots of problems, so does Vietnam.
So does every country for that matter. The most important thing is whether the place you live meets your standards in the areas most important to you.
For me, Vietnam meets most of my standards for a place to live as a 20 year old guy. It’s cheap, the women are thin and feminine, the food is delicious, and the lifestyle is exciting.
With that being said, I do occasionally miss living in the USA. I used to be suuuper anti-USA a couple years ago, but now my perspective has mellowed out. I recognize that even if the USA isn’t currently the best place for me to live, others may find genuine happiness living there.
For some people, living in the USA may be best choice for them. That’s great for them. Others are simply in denial, or haven’t experienced what the rest of the world has to offer.
But for those that wouldn’t choose to call any other place home, I’d like to give you guys some props. You’re not better or worse for finding genuine happiness in the place you were born.
You’re just different than those that choose to expatriate or live nomadically abroad. With that being said, today’s post is to give you some credit. This post is to say, cheers to you if you’re happily living in the US.
There’s some great things about the US that most of the places I’ve been to Asia simply can’t touch. If you’re a relative or friend that’s been jealous of my travels before, this post should help you appreciate the things you have at home.
I never realized it, but growing up in Wisconsin I always had access to fresh air. The same can’t be said of living in Asia, especially Saigon.
I miss being able to inhale the fresh smell of summer or spring. I miss being able to cross the street without having to cover my nose or wear a mask (because of the vehicle exhaust here).
A lot of people suffer from the bad air here. I’ve had horrible coughs here before. Several times a year now my lungs get congested. Of course, that would happen at home too. Here that congestion is just a bit more frequent and severe.
Sometimes, however, the air can get really really bad here. Once or twice a year I’ll cough so badly at night that I’ll begin to cough blood. Yuck. That never happened in Wisconsin.
In the US, smoking isn’t really cool anymore. Not that many people do it either. More importantly, there’s lots of restrictions about where you can and can’t smoke. You’re not going to have people blowing smoke into your face at Chipotle.
The same can’t be said of Vietnam. The people here, especially the men here are the most legendary chain smokers I’ve ever seen. Even worse, they seem to be a combination of both ignorant and inconsiderate when it comes to smoking.
Lots of us have family members that smoke. In the US, this means when they have the urge they’ll walk outside to indulge in their addiction. If you were already outside at say a picnic, the family member would at least take a few steps away and blow their smoke the other direction.
Not here. I’m sure there’s exceptions, but generally speaking, Vietnamese guys are CLUELESS. They’ll smoke when you’re eating indoors. They’ll smoke when they’re sitting next to you at the park, and they’ll make no effort not to blow the smoke in your face.
Worst of all, they’ll smoke while carrying a baby and think nothing of it. Oi, Oi, Oi. I could rant about this for another 2,000 words, but you get the point.
Living in the USA you’re blessed. It’s incredibly easy to avoid smoke as an American. Here, not so much.
You’ve got to be careful when you buy stuff in Vietnam. We’ve got fake iPhones, fake North Face bags, you name it. That’s all fine and dandy.
That means shopping here may get me some stuff that’s not authentic, but at least I’ll probably spending a lot less than you guys in the US.
That seems like a pretty fair deal. It is, assuming you get something that doesn’t break a week after you leave the shop.
Things can get a lot more insidious here though. Add poor consumer protection laws and a corrupt police force and you’ve got trouble. Let’s say you want to have your iPhone fixed here.
Cool. Seems like something that’s simple enough to deal with at the hundreds, possibly thousands of phone repair stores in this city. Wrong. You thought US car salesmen were sleazy, wait until you hear this.
When you get your electronics repaired in Saigon you gotta have your #1 hawk eyes honed in on those repair mofos like it’s a competitive staring contest and you’re trying to win through intimidation.
I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about people losing all the valuable parts of their phone in this scheme.
You go to repair your phone. You give it to the guy at the counter. He gives it to another guy. The 2nd guy supposedly has to go to another room to get tools to examine and ‘diagnose’ your phone’s problem.
Little did you know that sleazy mofo was removing all the authentic Apple parts from your phone and replacing them with cheap China knockoff parts. It doesn’t even matter if they repair your phone now. They already made a huge profit off you.
Fucking scumbags deserve to eat shit, but that’s just how things can work in this part of the world.
You can have basically anything ordered from Amazon, and delivered to your house in a few days max in the US. While it’s technically possible to order Amazon to ship to Vietnam, it’s quite limited.
You’ll worry about customs agents stealing anything valuable. And the deliveryman is far more likely to lose your package than in the US. This convenient shipping is one of the top things many expatriates miss about living in the US.
It’s a joke that most people in the US think Spanish is too difficult to learn. I can understand if you think it wouldn’t be worth investing hundreds of hours of your time to learn Spanish. That’s reasonable enough, especially if you’re based out of the US and not planning to travel enough.
Calling Spanish difficult though pssssh. Try Vietnamese. This language is unspeakably hard. Notice I said unspeakably. Vietnamese is actually fairly simply to write. It’s actually probably far easier to learn to write Vietnamese than English.
Speaking Vietnamese is another story though. I’m not a language noob either. I speak conversational Spanish, and basic Esperanto. In Spanish I can hear a word a couple times, begin using it and people will always understand what I’m saying.
They might correct my accent if it’s a language teacher, but it’s clear enough that locals will understand what I’m trying to say. That’s not true at all with Vietnamese.
I’ve known for two years how to say tasty in Vietnamese (ngon). At lunch last weekend my girlfriend’s family asked me if the food was good (ngon không?). I said tasty thanks (ngon cảm ơn). They didn’t understand.
How can you live somewhere for two years, and still be unable to speak even the simplest phrases of the language? Don’t ask me.
Props to you Americans. You probably hear bad English everyday if you’re living in a big city. Maybe that’s why we’re so forgiving and able to understand foreigners with poor English skills. The same cannot be said of Vietnam.
Part of it must be that it’s uncommon for foreigners to learn Vietnamese. Therefore, most people here have never heard Vietnamese words pronounced incorrectly.
I’d really like to go with this answer rather than mental laziness to try to piece together what the other person said.
While some people will just brush you off when you attempt to speak Vietnamese, a lot of Vietnamese people, especially those that speak foreign languages will try to understand you. And due to their effort, often they will! If only more of them would make this effort…
Regardless, USA… you win. English wins. Maybe I wouldn’t be saying that if I was living in a country that spoke Spanish, but for now… English over Vietnamese everyday.
In another year or so I’ll likely make the switch from freelance writer to web developer and be making even more money. With that being said, the amount of money you can make in the US is pretty ridiculous.
Sitting in a cosy cubicle with little risk, and lots of stability is comfortable. A lot of people say it gnaws at your soul, but you’re lucky to even have the opportunity for some soul gnawing in exchange for material comfort.
Having stability, and not having to worry about finding the next client is a pretty sweeeet deal. 2017 is the first year I’ll make a respectable amount of money online (this is great, but I’m not looking forward to finally having to do self-employed taxes hahaha).
If I was still living in the US, I’d probably be making around double per month what I’m making now with a lot more stability. Sometimes that eats at me. If you’re living in the US, be grateful at the abundant opportunities you have available to you.
I know people say the US economy has gone to shit, but there’s still sooooo much fucking opportunity in America if you choose to be exceptional.
Look, there’s a lot of cool stuff about living in the US. You’ve got great jobs, reliable stores, fast shipping, clean air and manners. We can often lack a lot of those things in Vietnam.
That’s why I’m going to take today and say congrats America. I know people like to bash on you a lot these days. I’ve certainly done my fair share, but you got a lot of things right. And I’m confident you’re only going to get better under Trump 😉
Part two is up now. Things I don’t miss about living in the USA.