I’ve been living outside of America on and off for a few years. During that time, I must admit I haven’t really missed America that much. So much of what the US government stands for, I completely disagree with and I find it much more agreeable and interesting to be living in a foreign country. However, having said that, there are things I miss about America. Things I miss, which I never thought I would.
Flat Sidewalks – Living in Thailand, where the sidewalks are a joke (big holes, motorbikes driving on the sidewalk you have to avoid, sidewalk construction that’s started but never finished, police cars on the sidewalk and much more), I really miss American sidewalks. In America, you can walk on the sidewalk without having to look down. In Thailand, you’d better walk with your head down and watch where you put your feet because, if you don’t, you’re likely to discover a huge crater as you suddenly plummet down it.
Pizza – One of the things I miss about America is pizza. We have pizza in Thailand at Pizza Company, Pizza Hut and many independent pizza shops but I’ve yet to discover a decent tasting pizza. Most Thai pizza has a tasteless crust, even more tasteless sauce, and the cheese is like glue (and also devoid of any taste). Add to that the weird fact that Thais slather ketchup all over their pizza and then add funky seafood that shouldn’t be seen anywhere near a good pizza, and you can understand why I very rarely touch the stuff. I really miss a good American pizza and it’s always the first thing I order when I get back to the US.
Mexican Food – I live in Bangkok, where we have most types of ethnic food. Until recently, however, we didn’t have any Mexican restaurants. We do have a few now, but none of them come close to a good Mexican restaurant in the USA. I miss free chips and salsa, a big breakfast burrito or a beef chimichanga and fried ice cream for dessert. Every time I’m back in the US, I eat Mexican food almost every day, making up for the fact that it’ll be another year before I get to eat it again.
Openness of Americans – I do miss the openness of Americans when I’m outside the US. Americans will pretty much tell you anything about their lives, from where they work, who their spouse is, what they think of the present government and, yes, in some cases even about their sex lives. On the other hand, Thais, although friendly, are very reserved. I miss getting in an elevator and having someone strike up a conversation or exchanging grumbling comments with someone standing in a grocery line.
Freedom of Speech – I miss the freedom of speech and freedom of expression that’s a fact of life in America. In Thailand, you have to be very careful what you say. Newspapers are censored, TV is censored, and even movies are censored. If you say the wrong thing about a famous person, you could find yourself in jail. As a writer, I miss America’s freedom of speech and value it above anything else in the United States.
Clean Air – In many American cities, the air isn’t that clean. But, compared to Bangkok, it’s like breathing in pristine, filtered air. Bangkok has some of the worst pollution in the world. You can see it, you can feel it and you can smell it. I’ve been here long enough that I’m used to it now but, when I get off the plane in the United States, I immediately notice how crisp and fresh the air seems.
Seasons – I miss seasons in America. We don’t have any in Thailand. Well, actually, yes we do – hot, hotter and hottest. I miss getting up in the morning and being able to go down to the beach and run because it’s only 50 degrees. In Bangkok, most mornings, when I get up at 6am it’s already 85 degrees and it just gets hotter from there. Some days I’d kill to see mist hovering over a field, dew on the leaves and a quick snowfall would be like heaven.
National Public Radio – As far as I’m concerned, NPR is the best thing to ever come out of America. I’m lucky in that I can download many NPR shows from the internet, or listen to them in streaming audio. I do however miss being able to tune my radio into NPR any time I want, especially when I’m taking a walk and just want something fun to listen to (Thai radio just doesn’t quite do it!) After all, NPR is an American institution with some of the best news coverage and commentary shows around. I miss NPR so much.
So, as much as overall I don’t miss America, I do miss certain things about it. Whether I ever choose to move back to America, stay where I am, or move on somewhere else, at this point I don’t know. I do know however that, every time I go back to America, I will be grateful for these and many other things.