A lot of people have asked me how the USA is – “Great!” I reply. I’m having an awesome time, with a backlog of blogs to write when I eventually get time. Still, as great a time as I’m having, it’s certainly a bit different after spending so long on the other side of the world.
Living and travelling in Asia for over a year means you get use to certain things. Culture, language and food are three of the main things which I can safely say were the biggest shock coming over to North America. “Asia” is a ridiculously broad term, but after experiencing China, Vietnam, Laos, and then to South Korea, landing in Vancouver was a little odd.
One of the first things we did after arriving in Vancouver was to get some food. Mitch bought a hot dog from a stand and we had a proper conversation with the guy he bought it from. He recommended things for us to do, asked us where we were from etc. While this all seems very normal, when you’ve lived in China (and when your Mandarin speaking skills can only get you food and the briefest conversation with the vendor about where you’re from and what you do in China) to have a full on conversation with a local is refreshing and weird.
Many of the little problems we sometimes encountered on our previous travels (including those in Europe) fizzled away because there was no language barrier. We could ask bus drivers where things were, we could order food and know exactly what it was, we could talk about in-depth subjects. It’s the first time we’ve travelled a country where their first language has been ours too.
I was looking forward to having cheese, and alcohol other than beer, but oh my gosh – the diets really are so different. South Korea was somewhat of a middle ground in terms of food, we ate the local food, of course, but the local food also had some western home comforts – fried chicken and more available dairy products.
Two things I’ve consumed far too much of being here so far are bread and cheese (though I do welcome the cheese with open arms). The staple food use to be rice, and now it is definitely bread. I feel pretty unhealthy. Burgers, doughnuts, and pizza have all been devoured, along with Canada’s famous poutine.
This is one that’s difficult to write about because the culture within China, Vietnam, Laos and Korea differed greatly (which is why I dislike referring to them all as “Asia”). There are the little cultural things such as throwing toilet paper down the toilet (as opposed to into a bin), getting ID-ed for alcohol (as opposed going to places where beer was cheaper than Coca-Cola), and having to book accommodation at least a week in advance (if you want to stay somewhere decent).
Apart from that, I’m struggling to put into words the differences in culture, even though they are apparent. I think it boils down to economy and wealth. The wealth gap in North America is more apparent, as I’ve seen a lot more what I could call “homelessness”.
Something Mitch said to me in Laos comes to mind. We were cycling around a rural village, he said that from a Western perspective, we would probably call these people and their livelihood “poor”. However, they all have roofs over their head and most of them live with their family. Can we say the same for the UK or the USA? How do you define wealth?
Some food for thought there. Overall, however, I’m having a wonderful time. Here are a few photos of the trip so far, because I know there hasn’t been many!