One year ago, I was living in NYC and had never spent more than a few days at a time outside of the US. I hardly knew anything about Southeast Asia and had never even visited before.
So what did I do?
I decided to leave my happy life behind in New York City, pack up all my possessions into two check-in luggages, say bye to all my friends and family, and change jobs. I decided to move to Singapore. All because I wanted to experience something new.
Now, one year later, I can’t believe that I didn’t make this move sooner. The amount of perspective that I have gained is beyond anything I could have imagined.
In America, almost all conversation around race relations focuses on blacks vs. whites. This is despite America being an incredibly diverse country full of immigrants who have come from everywhere in the world. Why does America ignore all of this other diversity?
Most other places in the world have a much more homogenous population, yet still recognize and celebrate the full racial diversity of its population. For example, consider that all public signs in Singapore are posted in FOUR different languages and there are public holidays for FOUR different religious groups. Despite Islam being the third largest religion in America, can you imagine America even considering to recognize any of the Islamic holidays?
Getting rid of racism is a difficult challenge. But the first step is recognizing and celebrating the diversity of all races, not just the ones that are politically convenient.
On being Asian / Chinese
America is a place where racist degenerates like Steve Harvey can get away with blatantly insulting an entire race on national TV and absolutely no one cares. New York City is a place where Asians make up 13.5% of the population and live in extreme poverty but receive only 1.36% of public funding and absolutely no one cares.
As an Asian-American, I had grown up facing an immense amount of silent discrimination. I had grown up thinking that it was impossible for Asians to experience “privilege” simply because that was my experience.
However, there are parts of the world where being Asian/Chinese isn’t assumed to be a disease. In Singapore, there’s even a concept called Chinese privilege. And to be completely honest, I feel it. I genuinely recognize and benefit from that privilege. But, can you imagine those in America who have privilege to have the same level of self-awareness?
On American feminism
American feminists are quick to point to international examples of what they perceive as oppression against women to advance their cause. For example, American feminists perceive the social expectation or requirement of Muslim women to wear a hijab as the ultimate sign of oppression.
But how many Muslim women do you think these American feminists have actually spoken to?
Have these American feminists ever considered the fact that some of these women actually find wearing a hijab as empowering because uniform dress forces people to evaluate you based on your actual personality and ability rather than appearance? Do they actually care or is it just a convenient example?
On dating culture
When I first started dating outside of America, I realized just how unique American dating culture is (particularly dating culture in some of America’s largest and most liberal urban centers).
In no other culture is the dating assumption of “single until explicitly defined” stronger.
In America, if you want to pursue a meaningful relationship rather than collecting a list of hookups, you’re seen as “less” by society. Casual relationships are glorified by the media. Proponents of this mentality will say it’s empowering to explore different relationships while you’re young, but is the real reason simply because Americans are just loathe to accept responsibility?
On excessive consumerism
It’s quite obvious that no one needs a flat screen TV in every room, or the newest smartphone every year, or single-use clothing to be disposed after a single wear. But trying to tackle excessive consumerism from a needs perspective ignores the core problem. The core problem is that in order to achieve fulfilment in life, Americans have chosen material possessions as the metric of success.
But there are other models to achieve success in life. Loads of money and material possessions aren’t required to have good relationships with friends and family. There can be immediate benefits of security and stability in just saving a little more from every paycheck.
When a society relies on consumerism as a path to happiness, people will always have a mentality of deficiency. If there’s always something out there new to buy, it’s impossible to ever have a mentality of abundance. In some of the poorest societies in Southeast Asia, I’ve seen some of the happiest people. In fact, the closer the society resembles American culture, the less happy it seems that people are.
On entitlement to low prices
Despite America being one of the richest countries in the world, it enjoys some of the lowest oil prices. In general, the only countries that have lower prices are those that export crude oil. Yet, every single time the price of oil moves up just a few cents, people riot.
But this isn’t just an argument about oil prices. There’s a broader argument of entitlement and prioritizing how to spend a limited amount of money. If people in “third world” countries recognize oil as a necessary cost for transportation, then certainly Americans can as well. If Americans can’t recognize that oil is supposed to cost more than a cup of Starbucks, then that’s a problem.
The problem isn’t just confined to American soil. There’s nothing more annoying and insulting than seeing other Americans run through Southeast Asia and just scream how “cheap” is Southeast Asia and then proceed to rudely bargain with local entrepreneurs at night markets. Yes, bargaining is part of the culture here and it is okay to do it. But there is a right way and wrong way to do it, and most Americans are currently doing it the wrong way.
On attitudes toward the “third world”
Growing up in America, you’re taught that the only civilized countries in the world are the US and a few other “western” nations (Canada, Western Europe, Australia). But to the teachers, politicians, colleagues, and acquaintances who hold this opinion, have you actually visited some of these places?
Southeast Asia isn’t a land of jungles and fishing villages anymore. In fact, a lot of the technology and infrastructure that exists in this part of the world has already surpassed that of the “western” world.
For example, consider that America still mostly uses SMS for mobile messaging despite over DECADES of messaging innovation. Or that clearing immigration at JFK can often take over 2 hours (even if you’re a US citizen). Both of these situations would be unheard of in the “third world”.
On allowing politics to divide us
American politics is now the laughing stock of the world. Immediately, some of you just thought about Trump. But, that’s not the real problem here. Even without Trump, we’d still be having many of the SAME EXACT arguments that we are having today. The real problem is the stifling partisanship. The real problem is the inability to compromise or empathize.
No matter how strongly you feel towards a particular issue, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t debate it respectfully. America has forgotten how to do this. Instead, we paint each other as demons and don’t take the time and patience required to understand the perspective from the other side.
Ah… perspective.. or lack thereof. Isn’t that just the most quintessentially American thing?
I don’t hate America by any means. There are plenty of things that America does better than most of the rest of the world.
But when it comes to perspective, America, you seriously need to grow up.