Back to Anonymity: 21 Impressions of Being Back in the U.S.

About 2 weeks ago, I officially got back to Thailand after my 3-week vacation back to the states. It was the first time I’ve been back since originally coming out here, so before the trip, I was both excited and nervous to see how it was going to feel being home. From the day I landed, I kept a running list in my phone of all the different impressions I had about the good ol’ U.S. of A. I’ll sum it all up in the end, but here is everything I took note of in chronological order:

  1. Our money smells good. Seriously. It was my first glimpse of home when went to my Thai bank before I left and converted 2 months worth of salary to good ol’ greenbacks. The cashier lady with the scary blue contacts laughed at me as I excitedly buried my nose in my freshly minted Benjamins and started sniffing like Tony Montana.
  1. It’s freaking cold. I’m probably just a giant puss now, but I was literally freezing the entire time I was home. And it was like low 60s.
  1. Hostility. People get angry back home. And it happens fast. Even just at the airport waiting to get picked up, I saw a stranger (who was walking way too slow through the crosswalk) get honked at. He rushed up to the car’s passenger window and started screaming and jabbing his finger at the poor lady sitting there. Thai people are so un-confrontational, so this was weird to see.
  1. cheese!Cheese for days. My first night back in the states, I was up late dealing with jetlag. What do I see as I open my parents’ fridge? Cheese. Cheese for days. As far as the eye can see. And we’re talkin Costco sized bags. Mozzarella. Cheddar. Mexican. Parmesan. Fancy French stuff that I can’t pronounce. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how much I missed it.
  1. Carpeted rooms. To everyone in Thailand reading this, try to think of the last time you walked into a room that was fully carpeted. … crazy right? My toes were on vacation just as much as I was.
  1. The internet. It’s fast back home. Despite terrible connection at my parents’ house, download speeds were legit twice as fast.
  1. Food… and the consequences. We have a phrase in Thailand called “Thai tummy,” which is basically the socially polite way to say that you can’t stop pooping. Combine a year without carbs, dairy, and obscene American portion sizes and I’m hereby coining the phrase “freedom belly.”ladyboy tinder
  1. No ladyboys on Tinder. A luxury you don’t realize you have until it’s gone.
  1. “I thought you’d be tanner.” Was told this multiple times while I was home. Yup, I’m still white. But unlike back home, Thai people actually envy me for it. And it’s nice not felling socially pressured into skin cancer. There was actually one day at home when I wished that I had a sun umbrella.
  1. Driving=easy. Walking=not. I loved coming back to Big Red and being able to drive again. And just like getting used to driving on the left, driving on the right was easy. Crossing the street however almost got me killed multiple times. Every time I went to jaywalk, I would look in the wrong direction first. Same with walkways. I got into so many of those awkward “are you gonna go left or right?” dances with people on the sidewalk because I kept veering left.
  1. “Nobody gives a shit about you.” Quote credit to Rizzo. And it just about sums up life in America. Oh, you’re upset about something that has nothing to do with me? Bummer. Oh your car broke down? That’s unfortunate. Oh you’re in a hurry? Well please, let us all move for you. Behind the socially polite answers to all these questions, the underlying reasoning lies in Rizzo’s quote. America is about as individualistic as it gets.
  1. I’m a movie theater snob now. I went and saw a terrible movie with my brothers at the ArcLight theater, which is supposedly one of the nicer theaters in LA. It definitely did not meet my now 4D theaterhigh-standards that I have for movie watching. Basically the nicest theater in America is the standard in Thailand. Every Thai theater has reservable seating, incredible audio/video, chairs that recline, and 45 whole minutes of trailers (okay so the last one kind of sucks). There are even 4D movie theaters here, which are awesome.
  1. Healthcare is stupid. And no this isn’t a politics thing. About 2 weeks before I left for my trip home, I was lucky enough to contract a foot parasite (…gross) that didn’t show symptoms until the day I got back. But, instead of being able to go into the pharmacy and buying antibiotics over the counter like I can in Thailand, I would’ve had to spend X amount to have a doctor write down the name of the antibiotic that I already knew I needed on a piece of paper. So out of principle, I suffered in whiny silence for 3 weeks until I got back.
  1. Eavesdropping. I was actually excited for this at first. After living in a place where I tune out 99% of conversations going on around me, I was looking forward to hearing some strangers gossip about stuff. And it was fun until I realized that everyone else could understand just as much of what I was saying and could do the same to me. Then it wasn’t as much fun.
  1. No competitive queuing. In America, we respect the laws of first come first serve. But after being trained in the Thai art of standing-in-lines for so long, I found myself getting strangely competitive when in line with people. Every half step the guy behind me took was met with an inner dialogue of, “oh no you don’t buddy.”
  1. What drought? All I’ve heard for the past year was about this supposed California drought. Well I’ve been freezing in the rain for the past 3 weeks. Buncha whiners.
  1. no half measuresYou want me to pay for plastic bags? I’ve talked about it here before, but all of the bag saving efforts we do in America are completely undone by Thailand. Besides, don’t charge me 10 cents for a bag if you’re gonna give me a 2-foot receipt for a pack of gum. Come on America, no more half measures.
  1. Nothing is spicy. My taste buds are like samurai warriors. Come at me habaneros.
  1. I do not miss working hospitality. It was fun while it lasted, but sitting in my old restaurant and watching my old coworkers put on their fake server-personas and trying to contain their slow-building rage is not something I miss doing 5 nights a week.
  1. The Pledge of Allegiance is creepy. It seemed normal when we were kids, but just think. Every single young person in an entire nation, facing a flag, striking a pose, and reciting a compulsory monotone pledge to “the republic”? Very creepy.
  1. We can be nice too. I’ve had a lot of non-American friends recently, so I’ve had to listen to a lot of… negativity aimed at the red, white, and blue for the past year. Yeah, some Americans are assholes. But so are some Thai people, and so are some people from every country around the world. When I was home, I did my best to be nice to everyone I interacted with and they were nothing but nice to me back. Besides, if someone is just going be an asshole regardless, nothing will make them angrier than being excessively nice to them. That’s my life lesson of the day internet friends: be nice.

So that was the gist of being back home. Despite all of these silly gripes and minor successes, it was awesome being back for a while. It seemed really long, but way too quick at the same time. I got to see a lot of old friends, spent time with the family and nieces, and ate burritos until my little heart was content. It was a little crazy though how quickly I fell back into old habits and routines. It didn’t bother me because I knew it was temporary, but one thing that my trip did do was affirm that whenever my Thailand adventure does end, my next journey won’t be in S. California. I love it there and have great memories, but nothing is new. Nothing is novel. I know where everything is, how to do everything, and life is generally pretty easy. Those things were nice for the time I was there, but I know that it would get boring pretty quickly if I were to move back permanently. By the end of my trip, I was ready to get back to my newly adopted homeland with a newfound respect for the warmth, spicy food, and portion sizes that don’t encourage diabetes. Until next time America… stay chubby.

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