10 Reasons I Left the United States (without realizing it)

Submitted by tomo on September 9, 2011 - 12:35am

Having just gone back to the United States for a week, here are some reasons why I no longer live ther. I didn't move abroad because of these reasons, but now that I'm living in Vietnam, these are some of the reasons why I won't move back.

1. Lawn-mowing. I'm allergic to not only the job of mowing lawns and the grass clippings and plant matter that gets tossed into the air, but now the sound itself puts me on edge. Somehow all the dust in the air and sound of motorbikes in Saigon doesn't have the same effect.

2. Cars. Everyone in the US moves around in giant self-contained single-human pods that weigh several thousand pounds, and sit in them for hours every day. I spent more time in a car in just a few days in California than a whole year in Vietnam. Somehow, I became addicted to sitting on the back of a motorbike, being open to the elements (luckily, there is no 'snow' or 'sleet' element here).

3. Coldness. I can get used to periods of cold weather, although I don't like it. I like taking long hot showers, but how do you prepare for the blast of cold dry air that hits you after taking one and opening the bathroom door? Every morning. The maximum temperature range in Saigon is about 10 degrees C, whereas in the US it could be 20 or more (80F then down to 40F at night). It's easier to adjust to weather when it's consistent.

4. Malls. The American mall experience is psychologically advanced and awesome... if you want to part with lots of money. It's a luxury I think most Americans would be better off without right now. And I didn't even step into a Walmart while back in the states. Somehow, going to malls or department stores in Saigon, I just don't feel like buying anything.

5. Digestion. Now I'm back to eating dairy products on a daily basis and it's messing with my body. Hard to avoid milk, butter, cheese, etc. in America.

6. Highway traffic. Who in the world doesn't complain about traffic? In Vietnam, it's everybody's #1 concern. Yet they are fortunate to never have spent an hour sitting on a highway that's turned into a parking lot.

When not stuck on the highway, we get stuck waiting for lights to change, even late at night with no other cars. In Vietnam, it seems that every stoplight has a timer counting down the seconds until the light changes. Who'd have thought Vietnam would be more advanced on that front.

Related to traffic is the sheer distance that must be overcome daily in suburban America. In Saigon, a 10 mile commute would be considered far. In suburban America, a 60 mile commute would not be considered strange at all. I think that's like the distance from Saigon to Cambodia.

7. Aridity. This doesn't apply everywhere all the time. But when I leave Vietnam for Europe or the US, my skin and especially my nose dries out. I can put chapstick on my lips and moisturizer on my skin but what can I do to prevent my nose from bleeding because it's so dry? But not being both hot and humid is nice.

8. Rules. It's good to have rules. But once you get used to the rather lawlessness of Vietnam, it's hard to go back to a world where you have to wear seat belts in the back of a car, make full stops at red lights, separate your recyclables, smoke at least 20 feet from any entrance, &c ad infinitum. As I no longer have a valid driver's license in the US, it would be pretty serious if I got caught driving there. In Vietnam, it would be a small bribe. Vietnam is on the other end of the spectrum, but let's hope it converges somewhere in the middle in the future.

9. "Bán lẻ". As opposed to buying in bulk, this is the idea of breaking up large lots and selling them individually. Like being able to buy a ketchup packet-sized packet of shampoo for a few cents. Buying a single cigarette. Going to the market and just buying enough meat and vegetables to cook for the day and not have any leftovers. Catching a 50 cent motorbike taxi to go around the corner and back. I guess my point is there are so many opportunities to buy things without spending a buck, whereas in the US you'd spend that much in gas just driving to the nearest store.

10. Cost. This is #1. You can't say enough about how much cheaper things are in Vietnam compared to the states.

To be fair, there are also plenty of reasons why I'd prefer the US to Vietnam. Like drinking water from any random tap, lower latency to my US-based server and most websites, more Mexican food, etc. But this trip back only reaffirmed my decision to live in Vietnam for the time being.

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Thomas (not verified)

1) In San Francisco I not exposed to much lawn clippings but I developed allergies, I think to all of the ceder and eucalyptus trees.

6) I've sat in traffic that turned into a parking lot for over an hour just outside of Saigon...

7) +1 on the dryness thing. Yuki's eczema has completely disappeared here.

8) I still separate my recyclables from my compostables here in Vietnam, I hope it makes the life of the collectors with the large carts and rakes who come around every so often a little more pleasurable. I imagine them breaking open one of my non-poop-diaper-filled bags with delight when they find a bunch of aluminum cans ready for the taking :)


6. I think most of the parking lot traffic can be avoided if Vietnam stops building more damn highways. The train north of the city also avoids the major bottleneck around Suoi Tien.

7. That's good to hear. Keiko also suffered from severe eczema and I wonder if it would be cured by living here, but we'll probably never know now...

8. I do think recycling is a good thing. Fortunately for all the unenlightened Vietnamese folks, there is money in taking bottles and such from the trash and so old ladies do it for us. I also like how things that Americans wouldn't fix/recycle, like old electronics, gets recycled here.

Expo Silver (not verified)

I pretty much agree with all of your points!

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