The past week was my first trip to the US since Carrie and I moved here in January. I cannot believe it has been four months and I cannot believe that I was making a business trip to the US, and let me tell you it was all business and quite a trip. I wanted to write a post about my trip and give some perspective on what I missed or did not miss from the US.
As I said it was pretty much all work, with some minor play time. I left here on Friday evening and arrived in San Francisco the same day, two hours later, despite flying for 16 hours 30 minutes and having a 2 hour layover in Hong Kong. I just love the magic of crossing the international date line (of course it is only magical going west to east).
When I arrived in SF I promptly got a burrito at a taqueria into town and then fell asleep (thank you Grandpa for the hospitality and the comfortable bed). It felt like I had never left in some ways, but I did realize just how much I miss Mexican food and more importantly I really did miss family and friends.
The next day I had to unpack an entire suitcase of goodies for those in the US including Kaya (singaporean coconut jam), Ba Kwa (bbq pork the closest thing in the US is beef jerky), and a few small knick knacks. Make sure you get your orders in now for my next trip back to the US which will hopefully be in 5-6 months.
After unpacking I did some shopping at Old Navy, Trader Joes, Macy’s, See’s Candies – you know the important things. Needless to say I did not really miss any of those places too much but it felt good to do some shopping for items I cannot find in Singapore.
After my shopping spree I went with my brother, his wife, and my Grandpa to the SF Giants Game to see Matt Cain and the boys bring home a convincing win. Again this was a great time to catch up with family and was a much needed sports fix.
Sunday was spent in similar fashion, until that night when I had a dinner with some colleagues from Tokyo and Singapore which kicked off the work week. I was lucky enough on Sunday and Monday night in SF to go out after dinner for a few drinks with friends. Again let me say thank you to those who made time to meet up with me, it was great to see you.
Monday through Friday looked very similar and went something like this:
Be ready for someone to pick us up from the hotel at 7:30am for our first client visit. Go visit clients at 9am until 10am. THen off to the second client visit from 10:30am to 11:30am. Then off to client lunch from 12:00pm until 1:30pm. This lead to the third client visit of the day from 2:30pm until 3:30pm, and we had a small break with a final client visit from 4:30 to 5:30pm. Then scramble to freshen up for a client or possible management dinner at 7:00pm until 9:30pm at which time the hotel bed never felt so good.
Of course the first three nights were confusing because due to jet lag I would wake up at 3:00am for at least an hour at which time I was wide awake and almost ready to put on my tie before my body decided to finally fall asleep again. Note that when I was finally over jet lag I got back on the airplane to head home to Singapore. The flight home dispelled all the magic of the dateline as I left LA on Friday and arrived in Singapore and Sunday thereby losing my weekend.
It was a whirlwind of a trip and I was very happy to head home to Singapore despite the 17 hour 30 minute direct flight from LAX (which is the second longest commercial flight currently available in the world).
Some observations on the trip and life in general are below:
- Not everything you see on TV or in the movies is true. As my Singapore colleague really believed that every town in California had beaches and women like baywatch and that every American had a gun. Needless to say he felt unsafe walking around San Francisco and was disappointed by the beaches in Los Angeles.
- California is not the same as Los Angeles. Again two of my Asian coworkers were not happy with the cold weather in San Francisco and were disappointed in the lack of shorts and sandals everywhere. Although it is true that LA always has warm weather and everyone really does wear sandals and shorts everyday but California is a big place.
- Singaporeans actually do speak English despite being in Asia. I was asked by at least ten people if I had learned the language in Sinapore yet? I am not good at English but I can say I get by.
- Americans are really bad at geography. I met someone who lives in Los Angeles who had never been to San Francisco and the same person asked me if I was enjoying the extra day light and warmer weather in Singapore. He also asked if I had been to Tokyo yet since it was so close. News flash: Singapore is one degree north of the equator so it is always the same temparture, always the same weather, and Tokyo is almost as close to Singapore as it is to the western US. Also I now truly believe the statistic that less than 30% of Americans have a passport and I would venture to guess that 90% of Americans have never traveled to anywhere but the US, Canada, and Mexico and could care less about any country outside the US.
- Americans are very entitled people. I had never realized this until I lived in Singapore and then went back to the US and watched the news. Every night the news in the US had someone complaining about something they were losing like their 99th week of unemployment, or taking a 10% paycut to their $500k salary, or the higher cost of education…whereas in Asia the governments generally do not provide unemployment insurance, affordable education, or expensive retirement benefits. People here just view it as a requirement for them to work hard and save on their own. Not as much entitlement here, especially outside of Singapore.
- America exports more than people think; but also not the things people would ever imagine. For example the store 7-11 has really made it big in Asia (I think it is more prolific than Starbucks in the US) and KFC is a very popular restaurant here. The other things we export as mentioned above are Baywatch and violent movies…go Team America.
- The things I miss from the US (in order of importance) are: family, friends, US sports, seasonal weather and mexican food. Again thank you to my family and friends for taking the time to see me. I really appreciate all the love and for those I didn’t see it is not because I love you less it is because my work schedule was hellish. But let it be known that I appreciate all of you now more than I did when I was in the US. Also, come visit me in Asia I would love to host you all.
- The things I miss from Singapore are: the foods (chicken rice, noodles, Indonesian and Malaysian spicy foods), the diversity of cultures here, the ease of getting around via cheap taxi and on the subway, the cleanliness and safety of my daily life, the ability to travel for under 3 hours and be in so many countries, and the warm weather that allows me to wear shorts and sandals all year round.
It was great to visit the US and feel like I had never left. I loved wandering around SF and eating the food, seeing the people, and being at home. It was also good to stop by LA and do the same. However, I do realize and am adamant that Singapore truly is my home now. It is where my heart is, where my commitment for the next few years at least is, and it is a place I enjoy coming home to.