I’m back home in California for a vacay, for my husband’s yearly work party and to see the lovely fam. It’s been exactly one year since I’ve been away. Gawd, how much I’ve missed being here! It’s been only few days since I’ve been back and I’ve been so relaxed and happy that i do not want to leave. Thought I’d jot down some of the joys of living in California (and states in general) in comparison to other countries, mainly Asia where I lived.
1. Big and Spacious Home
You don’t have to be a big baller to live well in Cali. As an average middle-income family, you can have six rooms with attached bathrooms, a huge kitchen with an island, three (or four) car garages, a private patio with a beautiful view, and a private pool at this beautiful 5000 sq ft home in a gated-community. Gawd, how much I missed the space. I miss having a closet the size of my current room, having a huge island in the kitchen for cooking, and the quietness of the suburban life.
2. Safe and Private communities
I guess one stereotype that Asians have of America is that we’re constantly living in fear of being shot (?). I’ve gotten plenty of questions by both Singaporeans and Koreans if it’s “scary” to live in America. Not at all. I actually feel safer in my suburban home in the US than in crowded Condos of Singapore. Unless you live inside a major city (which is only a car-distance away) or live in a bad neighborhood, the cities in US are generally very safe. Us OC’ers only lock our cars once we enter downtown LA and other ghettos, but that’s okay because we are usually safe in our cars until we enter indoors.
3. Cheap Cars
Yes, it’s possible to get a nice bmw for USD $50,000. Little high-schoolers are able to drive around in Lexus,’ BMWs, and Benz because the cheapest grades start at USD $30,000. Better yet, if you lease your car, you can walk away with any of the three at no downpayment and around $500/month. Not to mention the way cheaper Hyundais, Hondas, and Toyotas. I never knew cars were such a luxury item until I moved to Singapore.. it’s been a pain getting around town without a car in a public transportation system and taxi because it’s hard to catch one (not to mention rude drivers occasionally) and public transit is used and abused. I know I should promote public transit as a planner, but it’s a bit unfortunate watching people squeezing in and out and looking stressed and depressed during rush hour. Public transportation only looks grand if general residents actually have the choice of riding a private car or a public transit. Especially in Singapore, most residents can’t afford one or save for worthier purchases than splurging near USD $120,000 for a basic Hyundai.
4. Credit Cards (and perhaps the US credit system)
So I’m the type that HAS to pay off my balances in full every month. And yet, I hold several cards, of them being: Chase preferred, Amex Gold, Amex Cash, and my favorite department store cards Nordstroms and Bloomingdales. This is because American companies offers the best benefits: my cash is 5% on supermarkets and gasoline at NO Maximum cash back amount per year, Amex Gold offers the best pt per dollar system that can be used on Amazon (my favorite) and many other purchases, best benefits at signup (50,000 free air miles just for signing up), etc. There are not much restrictions or regulations, as I’ve seen with Asian credits (cash back only up to $800/year, 10,000 free miles, at best). The signup is awesome perhaps due to the amazing credit system in the US that tracks down everyone’s past payment history- the signup for credit is SUPER easy, as in, you write your name, address, social security #, your household income, submit online, and voila! you’re done. Typically, you are approved right away and the card is sent to you in less than 3~5 business days. In Singapore and in Asia in general, there were so many instructions and requirements just for the debit card alone, where you are using your own money. So imagine the stress and regulations of signing up for a credit card.
5. Central Air Conditioning
Agreed it may be wasteful, but American houses mostly have central air conditioning system, where if you just set your AC to “auto,” it automatically turns on the air when it gets a bit hot througout the whole house. No more turning on individual A/Cs looking like an eye sore attached in every room. Upscale condos in Korea and Singapore have built in A/C, but you usually have a remote to turn them on and off individually. and fans… man, never seen so many fans in my life till I moved to Singapore. It’s one of the hottest countries and yet residents there bear the heat with just a fan. Props to them, we’ve been really spoiled in America.
6. Return Policies in Stores
Nordstroms’ return policy is that there is no return policy. You can return anything, opened and without a receipt, anytime, most of them time. You can return used makeup that you don’t like at Sephora, if you aren’t satisfied with your product. Not the case in most of the countries in Asia. I hear Korea’s getting a bit better, but I’ve been apalled with Singapore’s 14 day only, exchange only, or no return policies at even many of the top international stores. Not to mention, if you buy something online from an online store, you can’t return them at the physical store like you do in America. You also have to pay return shipping. America is shopper’s heaven, with quality products at cheap prices and their awesome sales that go up to 70%.
7. Best facilities and Equal living?
Due to land restraint, Asian countries typically require thousands of dollars in membership to use golf courses and park facilities that usually mimic a low-end park areas offered to residents in America… for free. America’s a heaven for the low-income. Unless you are Paris Hilton rich, no one can really tell your wealth or status, though it’s easily spotted in Asia. The places you go, things that you own, things you eat are generally same for people of all income. For example, a doctor can own a medium sized home and drive a 3 series BMW. A waitress at a restaurant can own a 7-series BMW and eat at normal restaurants. In Asia, you probably can’t drive a BMW as a restaurant waitress, and you probably eat mostly instant boonshik in Korea or local stall food if you’re a Singaporean. If you’re the type to want to flaunt your wealth (and your wealth is below $5 mil), America is not for you.
California is known for its beautiful weather. It is sunny, breezy, and not humid. I can snowboard at the mountains in the winter, fish at a lake during summer, and do whichever activities I please without having all four seasons. This is perhaps the reason why you’ll find the prettiest flowers for wedding bouquets in California, in comparison to the limited selection in Asia. The greenery here is just beautiful. I’m attaching my wedding bouquet again because I absolutely loved it. :)
9. Abundance of Organic Groceries
There are local farmers market everywhere, and there are huge organic supermarkets in close proximity, such as Trader Joes, Wholefoods, Mothers, etc. that sell Organic produce and products for cheap. I really miss eating healthy for cheap.
9. Living in Your Own World
You really live in your own world in America. If you want to live like a Korean, you move to Koreatown. You can probably speak no English and live fine in those areas. Same goes for any other ethnicities. There is no one to judge, no one to really mind your business. You just go about living the way you please, with whatever groups you please. All kinds of people exist here. In Asia, I see most people trying to “fit in” with everyone else, and those that aren’t are harshly judged and criticized.
There are many great things about living in Asia as well. That’s probably the reason why there are people that move back after having spent years here. It can get boring, monotonous, and too quiet for any person in their 20s. But I’ve just had a newly found appreciation for California now that I’m living abroad… and I really realize you really don’t know what you’re missing until it’s been taken away. As my friends say, I’m such a Cali girl, and I can’t wait till I settle back here someday. <3