One of our friends taught for a year in Japan but before she went home they gave her a one day course. The course was in how to talk about your time abroad, or really how not to talk about it.
The problem is that referencing your travels can make you look like a class A ass.
Oh that’s cool that you order rare teas off Amazon. A friend I met in China spent a year in Japan and is like a tea expert. She raves about taro tea, do you drink taro?
It’s easy for other people to feel like you added the country to sound arrogant. Why didn’t you just say “my friend” and leave it at that?
See the problem is that when you travel for a year or more, everyone you you meet become “friends from Thailand” or “friends from backpacking XYZ country”. Plus you meet other travelers from different countries and they become your Swedish friends, English friends, Aussie friends, etc. It becomes normal to reference countries and places.
Course advised solution:
Oh that’s cool that you order rare teas off Amazon. A friend of mine is a tea expert. She raves about taro tea, do you drink taro?
No references to countries you’ve visited or where the friend was met. No risk of sounding like you’re trying to impress the listener.
Writing a Blog – Kind of An Ass-y
In a way, writing this blog makes me an ass while helping me avoid being an ass. It lets me get out all my philosophical shit and political comparisons without ranting in person. If you’re reading my ranty blog post and I’m annoying you, you can just close the page.
But having a blog makes me a bit of an ass because I spend so much time writing about my thoughts, my adventures, the people I meet, etc.
I have no excuse, I like to write and put it out in the universe.
Annoying Comments Unleashed
Our family’s threw a welcome home party and I was nervous about it. I knew I’d be forced to talk about Thailand and unlike this blog, they’d be cornered and unable to x-out of my philosophical BS. I was worried that before the end of the night I’d have convinced everyone I was a true ass, the annoying family member who travels a lot and can’t shut up about it.
Considering the trip is finished, I do feel the need to talk and reflect on some lessons learned. In respect for other’s sanity, I’ve decided to write about it instead of talk about it:
1. Buddhism Rocks
I now wish that Buddhism was the world’s dominant religion. There’s no fanatical bullshit, there’s no being forgiven for terrible things, if you live a shitty life then you’re next life will be shitty. Be peaceful and patient. Be thankful and reflective. It may be the only religion I could imagine myself embracing.
2. Thai Emphasis Culture
Thai education isn’t like other Asian countries. They aren’t as rigid as China, Japan, and South Korea. Even the best Thai schools still carve out a lot of time for culture oriented activities. They are constantly practicing dances, singing, practicing plays, festivals, and other such stuff. Thai education deeply incorporates a sense of culture and community. Add to that:
- A deep love of food so woven into society that “how are you” is replaced by “have you eaten?”
- Buddhist shrines everywhere
- Week long water fight festivals like Song Kran
- The totally insane vegetarian festival with endless fireworks and body piercing
- A language that is impossible for a foreigner to master
All that adds up to a sense of culture that is truly amazing.
3. Families Stick Together
Some of my adult students lived in a house with their adult children, their elderly parents, and even siblings and their kids. When they told me this, they didn’t say it with embarrassment or regret.
A met a Filipino guy who was dating an American. When talking about moving back to the US with her, he voiced his concern. Not only had he heard that their are more laws and rules and standards, he’d heard we put our elderly into places call nursing homes. “I don’t understand how they could find happiness in such a place.” I shook my head and told him I doubt they do find happiness there.
4. Fewer Rules = Happier People
I can’t prove it but I do believe that a steady increase in rules and regulations in the U.S. is eroding happiness. A smaller box, even if it is safer, is not necessarily going to bring more happiness.
- Useless Monitoring – Speeds limits with huge fines. Are most accidents caused by speeding? No. Speed traps and radar guns are non-existent in Thailand and, swearing on my life, I felt safer on Thai roads. People sped, ran stop lights, scooters swerved through traffic… but people drove with common sense. We’ve seen more road kill in two days being back in the US than we saw in a year in Phuket, despite there being more street dogs and cats in Phuket, because Thais drove responsibly without constant threat of fines. To make useless monitoring and fines even more prevalent, we have parking tickets. Want to come into a U.S. town? Pay that $1.50 an hour and if you overstay by an hour, pay that $20 ticket. Don’t obey and they’ll boot your car.
- A Government with Safety Paranoia – What started with fire drills in schools have grown to bomb drills, drills to hide from gunmen, locked doors, and in some schools even security guards, and metal detectors. No smoking laws making it illegal to smoke in bars. Helmet laws for motorcycle riders. Even laws on the size of sodas in New York City.
- Politically Correct Obsession – We keep introducing laws on discriminatory hiring practices and equal pay. A company can’t make its own decisions on whether it wants to not hire the disabled, a certain race, gender, age, or sexual orientation. We’ve made having a moral compass a law. What’s the point of artificial morals though? It’s government doing the moral thinking for its people. In 2015 we could surely let bastards be bastards. A moral society would put immoral companies out of business by choosing not to shop there.
- Endless regulations – With time we keep making it more and more difficult for businesses to start. There are more health and safety codes, more approvals needed and permits to be signed. In Thailand a poor person can scrap together money to start a spring roll stand to wheel around at lunch time. In America, a cart permit often costs thousands of dollars. In New York City, a hot dog stand permit costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.