We’ll be returning to the US at the end of June. With one month left in the place we’ve happily called home for the last (almost) 3 years, there are inevitably things we’ll miss. This list isn’t the major things, but the “little” things we’ve come to love and that seem all too normal here… In no particular order…
1. Choosing our own seats for a $3.00 movie.
Here, when you go to the movies, you pick your seat when you buy the ticket. At first we thought this was weird… it’s best to go early or buy your tickets online (no, we don’t live in a hut!) but then, even if you end up getting there 5 minutes late or in the middle of the previews, your seat is there waiting for you. They even have “Couple Seats” in the back couple of rows that don’t have arm rests between them. And the theaters here are all stadium seating, very much up to US standards. I definitely think the US though, could learn from Asian ticket buying- When I think about going to the movies in the states I’m already whining because I know I’m going to have to buy tickets early, then make sure I get to the theater early (or wait in line early) then try not to get into a yelling match with the bozo saving 8 seats for all his friends who haven’t shown up yet! Grrrr.
2. Full-Service Petrol Stations. Do these even exist in the US anymore? I think in the entire time I’ve been here, I’ve pumped my own gas less than 10 times. Thanks to the (more than likely) illegal Bangladeshi workers, going to the gas station is less of a hassle.
3. Gargantuan Malls. If there is one thing Asia does hands-down better than America, it’s malls. There is no such thing as a single storey mall here. And I can only think of one 2-Storey one…wait, nevermind, the bowling alley and movie theater are on a lower 3rd level. So yeah. Malls here are big. And there are tons of them. “Malling” is definitely a cultural thing. It doesn’t matter that a new 5 storey mall goes up 2 miles from the last one, on the weekends, they are ALL ALWAYS packed. I’m going to miss participating in this part of the culture!
4. Parking Garages. These are a necessary accompaniment to the mega malls. If I make a “10 things I won’t miss” list, these will probably be on it too. But under the hot equatorial sun, never having to get into a car that is suffocatingly hot or never having a seatbelt brand my hand or leg, and never having to worry that anything in my car might be melting is nice.
5. The Ice Cream counter at McDonald’s. I have no clue if these exist in the US, but they’re standard here. Nearly every McDonald’s has an entirely separate counter that’s just for ice cream so you don’t have to wait behind all those burger eaters for your choco-top cone. Nice.
6. Head Massage with any Shampoo. At salons here it’s a given that you will get a head massage. You don’t have to ask for one. They shampoo your hair as you’re sitting up in the chair (I know, and it’s not messy, I have no clue how they do it) and while shampooing they work their magic on your scalp. I’ve noticed that if I compliment the stylist as they’re massaging, they go a little longer. Even at barber shops they do it (and Anthony’s barber also does a neck crack that would cause any chiropractor to applaud)…the best part is there’s no extra charge!
7. Weather reports not-necessary.
Here there’s no “Weather on the 10’s” during newscasts. It’s either hot and dry or hot and wet 365 days a year. Bring an umbrella and you’re prepared for either (people use umbrellas more for keeping sun off than rain). My news watching must be proportional to weather forecasts because I think I’ve watched less than 10 newscasts since being here because I already knew what the weather would be!
8. Roundabouts. This is also one that could end up on a “won’t miss” list, but I think I’ll be missing the sight of them. It’s not that they’re better than a four- way intersection (though for 5 way intersections they’re nice) it’s just that they’ve become part of what I expect to encounter when I drive…so they’re a distinct part of my experience here. It’s a good feeling navigating one without feeling scared...almost like a rite of passage. And if I ever get on the Amazing Race, I’m sure it will give me a leg-up by expertly maneuvering through the mess as the other confused Americans wait nervously for the ‘break’ that never comes in a roundabout traffic! Ha!
9. Being called “Madam.” I’ve never googled or wikipedia-ed this, but I’m fairly confident that the word “Madam” replaces “Mrs.” for a married woman’s title in British English. At hospitals, clinics, and other places where formality reigns, “Madam Sharon” just sounds so British Colonial and I love it. Also young boys are called “Master” so when we fill out Isaac’s medical forms and what not, he’s called “Master Isaac.” Very cute and very Un-American sounding.
10. “COMELNYA! MATA BIRU!” That’s “He’s so cute! Wow blue eyes!” in Bahasa. Isaac gets this everywhere we go. And though a lot of the time I crave anonymity, being told constantly that your baby is beautiful…to the point where Isaac gets at least 2 spontaneous photo ops when we’re out in public each time, is nice and boosts the ol’ mommy self-esteem. Camera phones come out and people hold up their peace signs with the blue-eyed, fair skinned baby and everyone walks away smiling. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still “cute” in American terms, but I wonder how much my ego will suffer when no one randomly asks for my baby’s picture when we’re in a sea of blue, green, and hazel eyes. ☺