What I Miss (and Don’t Miss) About the United States
As everyone in America is drinking beers and barbecuing in what appears to be blazingly hot weather, I am sitting at a desk in Korea dreaming about boating and fireworks. Now, I may not be the most gung ho American out there, but nothing gets me thinking about my home country more than an all out red, white, and blue holiday.
About halfway through college I became disillusioned with my country of birth. When I left the first time I felt happy to be fleeing the country I viewed as hypocritical and obsessed with all the wrong things. Now that I’ve been gone for a while, I’ve realized that there are a lot of things about the United States that are truly fabulous.
So, on this Independence Day, I present you with a list of things that I miss about my country (outside of family and friends, which is a given), and also a list of things I’m glad to be far, far away from.
What I Miss
I feel like summer is the quintessential American season and I miss the traditional, typical summers I had growing up. In Korea summer means rain. And lots of it. For me, summer is about grilling outside, days spent on the lake, drinking expensive beers at baseball games, spending the weekend “up north”, and being tan, which is heavily frowned upon here.
I love Korean food but I really crave the diversity of cuisines back home. Immigration has made the United States a breeding ground for good cooking from around the world. For example, I’ve realized that it’s hard to find good Mexican in other counties because, well, there aren’t many Mexicans. In addition to variety, no one has the US beat when it comes to quality and creativity in the kitchen.
I miss one stop shopping. I miss being able to buy cheap clothes and shoes in my size. I miss wandering down the aisles buying things I don’t need. I miss cheap Amy’s frozen meals. Target is my happy place.
Yes, there are sports in Korea. And yes, it is possible to view American sports in Korea. But it is hard. The time difference usually means waking up in the middle of the night to catch a game live and Facebook is ripe with spoilers if you try to wait until a more normal hour to watch a replay. The most homesick I’ve ever felt was during college football season last fall (Go Blue!) and I’m always sad during Masters weekend and the NFL season. Plus, the United States has a much better time zone for catching European soccer matches.
What I Don’t Miss
I like to be well informed. I’ve always liked politics (I once dreamed of being the President), but the constant barrage of mindless political commentary is absolutely horrifying. I also can’t stand the political state of the country right now, and view most Americans stance on issues important to me as hypocritical and sometimes disgusting. In Korea, especially during an election year, it’s nice and easy to separate myself from the mudslinging and endless ads.
2. Car Culture
I hate driving, I’m a terrible driver, and I have little patience for other terrible drivers (because underneath even though I know I’m not a good driver, I think I am the best). The lack of decent public transportation in most American cities is frustrating on both personal and environmental fronts. In addition, for long distance travel, your only options are car or plane. The US really needs some high speed rail infrastructure similar to Europe.
3. Unbridled Patriotism
Yes, the United States is a great country, but it’s not the only great country. And it certainly isn’t THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. A couple years ago I got called a communist (not jokingly) because I was cheering for Italy in the World Cup and wouldn’t wear an American flag bikini on the 4th of July. Many times this fervent passion for the United Satates goes hand in hand with ignorance about the rest of the world. Sometimes it’s just plain American arrogance. Whatever it is, tone it down a few notches, people.
4. 9-5, 2 Weeks Off Cubicle Life
This isn’t a solely American concept, but Americans sure seem to believe that you aren’t an adult until you’re spending 40 hours a week in a cubicle. Don’t get me started on the standard two weeks of vacation which leaves little time to actually travel if you don’t live close to family. Increased working hours and time spent at the office does not necessarily lead to increased happiness OR productivity. There’s life outside an office and ten days of vacation!
To all of my American readers, I hope you have a safe and happy Independence Day. I’ll be eating a mediocre burger in a stuffy restaurant later in honor of the Stars and Stripes.
What things do you miss about your home country while abroad? What things could you live without?
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