Notice: this is a political post, if your American you’ll most likely be offended or uncomfortable. If your not-American be prepared to laugh :)
Life is not exactly a paradise and sunshine living in Asia, but better than living in the US :)
I won’t pretend that my life as an expat/entrepreneur in Bangkok is perfect and that anyone can come here and live a wonderful, stress free life. There are hardships like the pollution, communication and misunderstanding, and time to time you may feel homesick especially if you have no friends or network. Thailand is a tourist friendly country and Bangkok is one of the most affordable cities to live in SE Asia with high-end condos, good international schools, good public transportation, and expat community. On the upside, there are privileges with the right passport: EU, US, UK, NZ, SA, and CA, type of visa (bonus if you’re on a retirement visa), physical attractiveness (this only applies to foreign women, men can look any type of way, as long as they have a comfortable income they can easily find a wife/girlfriend/female companion) and transferable skill where foreigners are needed (English teaching, management, entrepreneur with money, hi-tech job), and of course have some kind of money (bonus if you're paid in USD, British Pounds, or Euros), life is quite good. Yet, there is the downside of living as an expat. First how your perspective of your home country changes, and how people view your home country.
Nationality vs. ethnicity why does America categorise people into “race”
If you're American and reading this, you're probably rolling your eyes and believe that “minorities” are obsessed with talking about race. First, race is a social construct, there is 1 race, and that is the human race. The rest of the world categorises people based on their ethnicity, culture, or religion. I never understood until moving abroad why the US government insisted on categorising and hyphenating Americans based on their ethnicity-nationality: “Caucasian-American, African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, Native-American” which divides groups of people and creates different tiers of citizens based on their "race." We’re all Americans! Traveling in Europe, Israel, and Asia nationality comes first. Europeans don’t refer to themselves by ethnicity-nationality they say, I’m German, I’m Dutch, I’m Italian, I’m Finnish, I’m Russian, and all these countries have sub-groups within their borders.
Even for immigrants that gain citizenship and have lived in a respective country for generations and integrated, refer to themselves by their nationality, and will openly tell you that their heritage is from elsewhere, example Turkish people have a long history living in Germany (WWI their allies), I've never met a German with Turkish heritage say“I’m Turkish-German” doesn’t make sense, just a way to make people feel like they don’t belong (ok, yes there are some tensions with Germany opening it's borders welcoming so many "refugees" another post for another day). Even in Israel, where things are a bit more complicated, your Israeli whether you’re an: Ashkenazi Jew, Sephardic Jew, Mizhrahi Jew, or Ethiopian Jew, and if your Palestinian: Arab Christian (yes they do exist, one of my roommates was an Arab Christian) or Arab Muslim (Sunni, Shiite, Circassian, Bedouins) you’re Israeli with an Israel passport or Jordanian passport (or both, that’s another post for another day), or for Druze (not exactly Arab, but speak Arabic and have a ‘secret’ religion and lived in the region for generations), they too are Israeli. Despite the Arab/Israel conflict nationalism is placed first above ethnicity (again a whole different post, I have some expertise on this subject).
The point is nationalism trumps ethnicity (with the exception for certain and homogenous societies like Japan that doesn’t like foreigners or care much for multiculturalism or immigrants, not racist to say, some societies just don’t want multiculturalism, again not racist), and if you’re a “minority” in American you will never know what its like being seen and treated as an American until you leave.
Americans are so sensitive!
Americans are sensitive, I can say this because I used to be that typical “sensitive American” too afraid to talk about politics and religion, afraid to talk to ‘strangers,’ and never said what I meant because being too blunt would offend someone (that all changed when I moved to Israel). Now outside the US, in places like the UK, France, Israel, Germany, and even China (of course behind closed doors and not on WeChat) people don’t mind controversial conversations or debates about politics and religion, people like to talk with strangers, and people tell you what they mean, (why waste time beating around the bush??) . While Traveling people openly asked me what about my political beliefs, on job applications in Bangkok, schools asked me to state my religion, not a big deal! Looking back, I was terribly uncomfortable and confused why people asked such invasive questions.
Living outside the US for about 3 years, I no longer see these as invasive questions because people ask these questions out of general curiosity to understand a person and their world view and how tolerant you are (some cultures and people are more tolerant than others, not racist at all, just the truth). Whereas, for many Americans, they don’t like to be asked these questions because many live in a bubble (I did once upon a time) and don’t like to have their world view’s challenged or disrupted. Now, not all Americans are sensitive and some are open and well traveled just speaking from experience.
In Thailand: politics, “face” and ok subjects to talk about
Living in Thailand people don’t openly talk about the politics or the current situation (I have no comment, just Google politics Thailand if you’re interested) because of defamation laws and a few other things (no comment). But, Thais in general don’t like confrontation (this is from my experience and what I’m told from expats that have lived here for over 20+ years), but are not afraid to tell someone bluntly that they are fat and unattractive and should do something about their looks (there are so many clinics, beauty creams, and spas that are affordable!) Now, in Asia I would have to say, people are very conscious about their looks, it’s not only about vanity, it’s more about “face” or reputation, getting a good job, and marrying into a good family (for both women and men). So if your over-weight and have bad skin and want to travel throughout Asia be prepared to be told your fat to your face. In America, most people are overweight, but you would never tell someone to their face, because that’s mean! Not here, you tell someone they’re fat because you care about them. Funny right? (I actually picked up this attitude of honesty, because looking at people I grew up with, many have “let themselves go” and when I say “why you’re so fat” people get offended. I say this because I care!)
The world is not such a terrible place: socialism, China, and Russia
Watching American politics and current events from abroad America looks like a xenophobic, gun-happy, self-centred country who elected an idiot for president. Despite having some of the best universities in the world, Silicon Valley home to Facebook, Google, and Apple, NYC “the capital of the world” and Hollywood people ask me what happened in our election? Why elect Donald Trump? What is going on in America? Well, what’s done is done, but what’s very hard to explain to curious foreigners about what is currently going on American politics is how globalisation—multi-national companies closing factories and moving abroad, the internet and machines replacing human jobs, expense of living going up while wages remain stagnant—has left many communities in the country angry, under-employed, left-behind, and threatened by immigrants and liberals in cities.
Of course, Donald Trump took advantage of poor rural American, as well as middle-class and educated Americans that voted for him too. But the deeper problem in America is that the ‘American Dream’ is no longer attainable. Now that the world has followed America’s example of embracing democracy and capitalism the parts of the world that were poor and politically irrelevant are catching up while American leaders are leaving the economy behind and the future for American millennials like myself way behind drowning in student loan debt (I have gov. loans though I did pay off my private loan), unable to afford to buy a house (well I do have friends I grew up with buy their homes, as for others how can you pay for a mortgage and pay off your student loans?), and not loyal to their jobs (why given how little people are paid, millennials don't want to wait until retirement to see the world?).
And I’ve see this for myself, living in China despite the pollution, numerous factories, and human right violations (is the US really in a position to be the ‘moral police’ when police officers are murdering citizens on camera? Or electing a billionaire as the Secretary of Education who is hell-bent on dismantling the Department of Education and favouring student loan companies rather than students???) but is investing billions in renewable energy, for example China just built a 100+ acre solar farm in the shape of a panda, over half a billion people have been lifted out of poverty and living as middle class (my Au Pair family in Qingdao for example) over the last 30+ years, and Chinese women are the fastest growing class of self-made billionaires. Though I’ve never been to Russia, I’ve met many living in Israel and traveling in Europe, very nice and well-educated people, not these bitter soviet/spies that the US paints Russia and its people as. As for universal health care a socialist idea (what is taught to Americans)I experienced it for myself living in Israel, it’s actually more affordable and good for the economy to have a healthy work force, who knew!
My life as an expat: will I go back?
I jokingly told my boyfriend prior to the election that if Hillary lost, that we would get married, I’d give up my American citizenship and become Finnish! Well, we’re not married and he explained getting a citizenship is not so simple (not that I thought it would be). But, I enjoy living as an American expat, I do miss hearing and seeing English, and now there is IHOP in Bangkok, so I have my favourite restaurant and real American pancakes, will I go back? To visit my family and friends, of course to move back to America? It’s too early to say.
Thanks for reading :)