In my last post I listed all the things I miss about America and writing it got me thinking: What do I NOT miss about my home country? Since I had nothing better to do yesterday, I wrote this post.
8 Things I Don’t Miss About America While Living Abroad
Going to Wal-Mart is a necessary evil in small town America. The adventure starts with a 15-minute drive around a sprawling parking lot looking for a spot. Eventually, you find an empty space at the end of the lot and walk across searing hot asphalt getting blinded by the sun reflecting off cars, or trudge through blowing snow like an Arctic explorer, depending on the season.
Once inside, you get a shopping cart and load up as though you are preparing for a hurricane. Since Wal-Mart serves as the general store, grocery store, pharmacy, bakery, electronics store, etc., every trip to Wal-Mart is an epic shopping endeavor.
After loading your cart so full that it is impossible to steer, you head to the checkout area where you stand in a massive queue suffering from line envy as others around you inch forward while you stay in place. Eventually, you get to the register where a minimum wage worker doing their best scans the items and bags them in enough plastic to choke a whale.
From there, you push the cart through the blinding sun/snow storm dodging runaway carts and grannies driving the wrong way, only to learn that you have no idea where you parked. Once you finally locate your car, you realize you forgot to buy toothpaste.
I miss nothing about Wall-Mart. At my house in Bangkok, there are two small grocery stores and two 7-11s within a five minute walk. I take a canvas bag with me every time I leave the house and buy a few things at a time. I never deal with a parking lot, shopping cart, or mega-checkout line from hell.
I really hate tipping, and not because I am a cheapskate. (Although, I am a cheapskate.) I could write a whole blog post on why I hate tipping, but I’ll just drop some bullet points here:
- Tipping is racially biased – minority servers get worse tips and minority customers get worse service.
- A study found that women with big boobs get better tips. Shocker.
- How much do I tip becomes a conundrum. The federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13. In Alaska, it is nearly $10. Should my tip vary depending on the state?
- Tipping encourages sexual harassment – since the customers pay the wages, women often put up with inappropriate behavior.
- Do I still tip if the service is terrible?
- Do you really need a tip for making my coffee? That is literally your job. The person who deserves the tip is the checkout worker at Wal-Mart.
In Thailand, like most places in the world, they don’t tip, at least not like we do in America. Thais don’t tip taxis and leave only small change at most restaurants. At fancier restaurants, a service charge is included. This is the way it should be.
3. Being the Weakest Guy at the Gym
In America, I am always the weakest guy lifting weights; in Thailand, I am a beast. Once in the USA, I was bench pressing 150 pounds when an uber-male jacked up on HGH and testosterone asked to jump in. I thought he was going to do a warm up set, but he jerked the bar off the rack and started doing hammer curls.
At my gym in Thailand, when I bench 150 pounds everyone stands around in awe, marveling at my super-human strength.
This isn’t to say that all Thai people are weaklings. There is a Muay Thai training center next to my house and the fighters jog through the neighborhood twice a day. These dudes are all rippled muscles, washboard abs, prison tats, and broken noses. Some of these featherweights could kick the shit out of people three times their size. But none of them go to my gym so I am the strongest guy there most days.
4. Right Wing Talk Radio
One of my favorite things to do when visiting my home state of Oklahoma is to drive the backroads. There isn’t a lot of radio coverage out there, so as I scan the channels I inevitably enter the hellscape of right-wing talk radio.
Visiting home last summer – and I am not making this up – I listened to Rush Limbaugh talk about the California straw ban. “If an illegal immigrant uses a straw to shoot an ICE agent with a spitball they will give him a medal. If a white person uses a straw to drink they will throw them in JAIL!!!.
I quickly turned to a different channel where a blowhard, with no sense of irony, was working his listeners into a lather saying that two of the Mueller investigators had no right investigating Trump because they had committed adultery.
I flipped to a Christian station where a distraught preacher gave a dire warning, “In the next few years, it will be a crime to be a Christian in America!” I turned the dial one more time, to hear a man seething with rage warn that AOC is going to outlaw cows.
5. Gun Culture
Speaking of guns, not long ago I was in my college town of Weatherford, Oklahoma, enjoying a coffee when three old men pulled out their guns and started examining them right there in the cafe. One of them wanted to weigh his gun so he went next door to Kelley Jewelers becuase he knew they’d have a scale.
Weatherford is a peaceful town of 10,000 people that probably hasn’t had a murder in 50 years. These men did not need guns for protection. In fact, I was afraid one of the septuagenarians suffering from coffee jitters would drop his pistol and blow a hole right through my leg.
I don’t have to worry about guns where I live in Bangkok. I suppose I could anger a local and get my ass kicked Muay Thai style but that is probably the worst thing that could happen.
Before my execution, I will request a ribeye with baked potato for my last meal. Nothing beats a juicy steak cooked on an outdoor grill accompanied by a potato covered in butter and Ranch dressing. Strangely, even though this is my favorite meal, I don’t miss it.
7. Fox News, CNN, and the 24-Hour News Cycle
I stopped watching 24-hour TV news stations several years ago. It is garbage journalism designed to enrage not educate. When I do watch TV news, I prefer real investigative journalists like John Oliver. Yes, he is a comedian, but he is also a journalist, and a very good one! You know it is true!
But in America, there is no escaping it. I go to the doctor and the lobby has a TV playing Fox News; at the airports CNN blares from the overhead screen; at family restaurants TV news is there to make us hate life and order dessert because the world sucks anyway so we might as well eat pie.
Make no mistake, I still consume way too much print news and over the last three years I’ve been living in a state of semi-rage, which does help when lifting weights, I might add. But, I don’t miss the inescapable American 24-hour news cycle.
8. Having a Car
Walking everywhere in my neighborhood is one of the things I love most about my lifestyle here. I walk at least five miles a day which is great exercise when I’m not getting swole at the gym.
When I leave the house I see the same smiling street vendors, pet the same street cats, and see the same Muay Thai fighters running along. I often bump into my friends and stop to have a quick chat. I feel a real connection to my neighbors and community because I interact with them instead of flying by in a metal transportation pod on my way to Wal-Mart.◊
Those who moved away from your home, what do you NOT miss?