Trips back to America have always been an emotional roller coaster – one trip I go back and have a blast, yet the next I go back and swear I’ll never return. But whether I like it or not, I’m attached to the country for life. It’s my homeland after all.
Having lived abroad in Asia for so many years now, there are certain things that are impossible not to notice every time I go back to my beloved America. Some of them are subtle, while others hit me in the face like a ton of bricks. Here are 10 uniquely American things that are borderline nonexistent in the Far East that disturb me every time I make a trip back home:
If smog is the one thing mainland China can’t hide from the media and the rest of the world, then fat people are what America can never hide. The “ugly American” stereotype didn’t just materialize out of thin air. The second I step off the plane into an American airport, I’m dumbfounded as to how a country can have so many fat people. And not only are so many of these people fat, they’re shameless too! If I was 100+ pounds overweight, I wouldn’t dare be seen getting around on a motorized cart, dining at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and/or wearing loose-fitting gym shorts.
I used to think obesity was a problem mostly confined to the South and the poorer regions of the US, but after a two and a half week road trip across the country, I can confidently say it’a a nation-wide epidemic. The American media never stops preaching about “fat acceptance,” but that’s clearly not helping the problem going away, rather it’s only encouraging it.
The up side to the fat epidemic is that by simply being fit you look better than 95% of all other Americans. Hardly anyone around you takes any pride in their appearance, so you look extra nice if you do. It dumbfounds me when pencil-thin Asian girls call themselves “fat,” as they wouldn’t be saying that if they were in my country. There’s fat, but then there’s American fat.
2. A Nation of Degenerates
If there’s one thing I noticed more on this trip compared to previous trips, it’s that America has become a nation of degenerates. Everywhere I went I saw people with bad personal hygiene, covered in pointless tattoos and tacky piercings (cheek piercings?), with freaky hair colors, and wearing ratty/indecent clothes. It was almost as if their goal was to make themselves as unsightly as possible. And remember those obese people I mentioned above? They were often the worst culprits for intentionally making themselves look bad. It wasn’t uncommon to see a morbidly obese woman with half her head shaved, dyed pink hair, multiple facial piercings, 30 tattoos, super short shorts, and a shirt that says something like “I know I’m ugly. Fuck you.”
But not only did people look bad, some of them were also living lives of ultra hedonism. Zombie-like drug addicts prowled the streets of seemingly every city begging for money to get their next fix. Regular people in both Colorado and California smoked marijuana right out in public just because it’s legal now. Seeing young women passed out right on the sidewalk after a night of binge drinking was sadly more common than it should be.
The media has also taken a hard tumble. Network TV shows, which used to be wholesome family-friendly entertainment, now openly talk about feminine issues like men’s supposed “inadequacies” in pleasing women sexually or what sex toy is their favorite. No longer are these topics restricted to the realms of seedy after midnight programming, they’re now what you watch with your mom and grandma during dinner time. And got luck finding any recently produced show where the humor doesn’t revolve around shallow toilet humor, sexual escapades, or petty racial differences. These things can be funny if done right, but nowadays they almost never are.
I know I risk sounding like a prude for what I’m saying here, but when you haven’t seen these kinds of things for years and your tolerance has gone way down, it’s hard not to think of them as distasteful when you suddenly encounter them all over again. All one needs to do is open their eyes and ears to know that America is on a cultural decline these days.
3. The Almighty Boob Tube
In every American household I’ve ever set foot into, there’s one thing that gets more attention than anything else – the TV set. I can’t count how many hours of my life have been wasted watching some garbage on TV with family and friends instead of engaging in conversation or recreational activities with one another. Sometimes I would be having a meaningful conversation with a loved one, only for the conversation to be cut short so we could watch some crap on Netflix. It seems like only in America do people “bond” by watching TV together.
I understand that sometimes there’s just nothing better to do, but I believe TV should be consumed in very small doses. TV and the mainstream media strongly influence warp how you perceive the world and life in general, as well as make you lazy, complacent, and depressed. And talking to the average American, it’s dead obvious that they watch way too much TV. If you don’t watch Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, or The Walking Dead, then you risk alienating yourself from your peers. I’m not saying these are bad shows, I’m just saying I don’t care or know anything about them, so I get frustrated when I always have to discuss them.
Watching hours-long marathons of mind-rotting garbage on the boob tube while laying on a sofa eating junk food makes me feel guilty and restless. But to the average American, that’s the perfect way to spend a weekend of their miserable lives.
4. Inadequate Public Transportation
Forget about walking or taking a bus or the metro system to get around 99% of the US. You either have a car, or you’re S.O.L. I sold my car way back in 2009 before I first moved to Asia, so every time I’m back in the States I have to mooch rides off of family and friends to go just about anywhere. It’s either that or spend half a day just walking to the convenience store and back. It’s a helpless feeling.
The few times I actually did decide to walk somewhere, people in the cars driving past me would give me weird looks, honk their horns, or even shout obscenities at me. It was humiliating. That’s pretty ridiculous, considering I’ve literally walked thousands upon thousands miles during my years in Asia, and never have I experienced any backlash as a result. After all, why would anyone hate me for merely being a pedestrian?
America has thousands of miles of wide-open well-kept sidewalks, but apparently they’re only for show. I guess walking is only for losers and the homeless in the US. With that kind of arrogant and lazy attitude, it’s not that hard to see why there are so many fat people in the country (see above).
5. A Nation of Spoiled Brats
Americans live some of the most easy and comfortable lives on the planet, yet if you listened to them talk, you’d think they live lives of great hardship. “First world problems” as they say.
American customers are treated like the royalty from historical times. People can customize almost anything to just the way they like it (custom vehicle plates, custom-made dishes, custom consumer goods and clothes, etc). People insist that their food be all natural, organic, gluten-free, and whatever else is the latest food buzzword. American service people like waiters, taxi drivers, and hairdressers have to be tipped just so they’ll do their jobs. Students are raised with a “no one is a loser, everyone is a winner” entitlement mentality. Children make lists telling their parents exactly what to buy for them once Christmas or their birthday roll around. The media teaches us to “love ourselves just the way we are,” instead of encouraging us to persevere and fix our flaws.
I could go on forever, but you get my point. Individualism has its pros for sure, but only up to a certain point. Too much is just obnoxious and bad for society. I don’t think Asia and its collective way of thinking has all the answers, but after a trip in the States I’m always relieved to be back in a part of the world where people are less abrasive and self-centered.
6. No One Is Happy
Even though they live lives of excess and great physical comfort, very few Americans seem satisfied or even content with life. Americans have to placate themselves with narcotics (both legal and illegal – see above), shopping, TV, movies, video games, porn, gambling, and junk food just to keep from killing themselves or others. It’s incredibly cliché to state there are other people in the world with much less than us yet they’re still happy, but it’s very true. I felt incredibly depressed and alienated growing up in the Bible Belt, but these days in Asia I feel my life is far more meaningful, exciting, and natural. A simple change of environment was all it took to flip my emotional state.
America has this miraculous talent of being able to suck the passion from one’s life. I think it’s largely due to how unnatural American’s lives are. People never walk, they drive. People spend an absurd amount of time indoors instead of being outside hunting, fishing, or growing food for their next meal. Food is consumed from packages and cans instead of being made fresh. People dine out instead of creating their own meals. Families are broken and divided instead of having a rock-solid, unbreakable bond. Men are expected to behave like women of the past, and women are expected to behave like men of the past. Minorities are given a badge for merely existing, whereas the traditional heterosexual white American majority is demonized for all its supposed sins against minorities past and present.
Add all these factors up, and you have the perfect cocktail for discontent. Everyone hates everyone. A society can’t go against the grain of nature and humanity its entire life and expect no repercussions.
7. A Distorted World View
Geographically large countries tend to have a warped view of the world outside them. Yet even with all its “diversity,” America is still no exception.
I learned a very long time ago that 98% of Americans don’t care to hear anything about my time in Asia. But considering this is where I’ve spent the last eight years of my life, it’s kinda hard not to bring any of those eight years up. I have to be extra careful talking about my time in China in particular, as no one can seem to fathom why an American would willingly choose to live there. Even I admit that China has a heck of a lot going against it, but it can be incredibly rewarding and eye-opening too.
But it’s not just Asia that America greatly misunderstands and ignores, it’s practically the whole world, especially anywhere in the developing world. Americans’ entire world view is based on old and outdated clichés and what the media has fed to them.
“Don’t go to Mexico. There’s too much drug violence there right now.”
“Have fun in Ireland! They really love drinking there!”
“You better be careful going to a dangerous Muslim country like Malaysia.”
“Don’t accidentally sleep with a ladyboy when you’re in Thailand!”
“I don’t know why you’d ever consider going to Russia, especially with Putin in control. You know he helped Trump win the election.”
I also find it incredibly ironic that Americans think just about anywhere outside of the US, Canada, Australia, and western Europe is dangerous, yet I feel more uneasy being back home than anywhere I’ve ever traveled to in Asia.
8. The Illusion of Freedom
I’ve been to many countries in this world, but there’s only one I’ve been to one where the population is so obsessed with letting the world know about its supposed “freedom.” Funny enough, it also happens to be the one country where I feel the least free on a personal level. As soon as I arrive at an American airport, I have to fill out an invasive customs forms, airport personnel are incredibly rude and make petty threats, and everyone entering the country is treated like a potential criminal/terrorist. What a great way to welcome foreigners into the Land of the Free!
Americans love to beat their chests and boast about their “freedom of speech,” yet ironically I have to be extra careful to make sure everything I say in the States is politically correct and extra sensitive to minority groups. If I’m too vocal about my non-PC viewpoints, I risk the threat of harassment, serious violence, and/or being unemployable for life. I have to follow every minute law to the T, or else I risk being fined – or worst case harassed by zealous police officers and/or thrown in jail. The government takes a massive chunk of my income through countless forms of taxation, yet if I try avoid said taxation in any way, I risk serious penalties, even when 100% of my income was earned overseas. The government feels the need to get involved in my personal relationships – my marriage, my relationship with my children (if I had any) – and they can even dictate that I pay out some serious cash if any of those relationships were to ever go sour. Why? Because I’m a man.
In developing Asia I simply don’t have to worry about these things. Sure, as a foreigner I don’t have much freedom to choose which lying and corrupt politician will oversee my adopted homeland’s political future. But even when I voted in America, I never felt my vote was helping much, rather it was always choosing the lesser of two evils. That said, I’d take personal freedom over political freedom any day. They both have their benefits, sure, but one I have to deal with every minute of every day, while the other is more like a philosophical mirage.
9. A Debt Mentality
The concept of saving for one’s future or for a rainy day is a foreign one to most Americans. Literally every single person I know in the country has more debt to their name than money in the bank. This might seem odd to some non-Americans, but just spend one day with the average American and you’ll quickly see how it’s possible. Everyone lives well beyond their means – dining out more often than cooking at home, buying nice homes with a mortgage they can’t afford, each and every person in the family having their own car, weekend shopping sprees, etc. “Keeping up with the Joneses” as they say.
It’s funny that many of my American friends and family half-jokingly call me “cheap,” yet just about everything I do would be considered completely normal in Asia. I don’t purchase ANYTHING with money I don’t have. I only go shopping when I need something. I live in homes that cost 25% or less than my total monthly income. I walk or carpool whenever I can. I buy off-brand products from the supermarket. I accept a little bit of inconvenience if it means I’ll save a buck. I fix my own problems and happily take on DIY projects. Did I also mention that I’m the only person in my entire family that has no debt to his name and also has plenty of savings in the bank?
America is the most debt-ridden nation on our entire planet, and it all started on an individual level. Americans need to stop sucking the teats of Daddygov and Big Biz and start creating their own financial safety nets. If you spend any considerable amount of time in the US, get ready to pull your hair out in frustration at how incredibly stupid so many Americans are with their money.
10. Treating the Symptoms and Not the Cause
If you ever take a look at American advertisements, then surely you’d notice the disproportionate amount of them selling quick medical fixes to deep-rooted problems. Feeling depressed? Pop a Zoloft instead of improving your lifestyle and approaching your fears. Feeling back pain? Then take a pain pill instead of just toughing it out until you feel better. Fat and overweight? Then get some liposuction instead of just eating moderately and living an active lifestyle. The body and mind can overcome great hardships, but you have to take care of them first so they always perform their best. Medicine often destroys just as much as it fixes.
But even American society operates on this same silly principle. Young man shoots up a school out of sexual frustration? Have more restrictive guns laws rather than improve gender relations. A foreign country finally fights back after years of American aggression and abuse? Then start a war with them rather than fix the overbearing American foreign policy. Racial tensions are at an all-time high? Then enact anti-discriminatory laws rather than accept racial incompatibilities and differences.
Just like with the human body, social problems need to be fixed from within, not only on their surface. Americans need to stop being like the fat person who vainly hopes they can simply take a diet pill or wear a vibrating exercising belt to get six pack abs. Big problems call for big solutions. Being a lazy coward never fixed anything, but it can sure maintain the broken status quo.
I grew up being told that the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth. And even though I naively believed that as a child, my adult experiences overseas have not reinforced this idea. America no doubt has its good side, but those pluses are starting to feel the weight of the minuses crush them.
America may have once been great, but now it’s a troubled nation on a cultural decline trying to ride the great waves of its former glory. Unless something radical happens to greatly alter the path the country is currently going down, then I’m afraid I might have to talk about my homeland with a tone of shame for the rest of my life. Is the USA fixable, or is it just a sinking ship that cannot be rescued? Only time will tell, but I’m glad I’m off the boat… for now.