Ugh, there are so many things that I adore about Asia. The yummy street food, amazing exchange rate, friendly locals, delicious fruit smoothies, precious Asian babies, and the chaotic way of life.
Adventure is found around every corner on this continent. Because it’s really old, it’s super rich in history and overflowing with culture.
Indulging in all the treasures that Asia has to offer doesn’t come without a small price. There are some minor struggles that I’ve dealt with during my time of living and traveling throughout Asia. They’re totally first world problems that naturally come with the travel territory, but that doesn’t make them suck any less; especially if you’re going through culture shock, had a bad day abroad, or aren’t feeling good. It’s those situations that all these slight struggles seem to be significantly magnified.
DIFFERENT HOUSING STANDARDS:
Bugs. It’s impossible to leave out any food once it’s already been opened without the ants making their invasion. Most of us here in Thailand also have a lizard friend running around our rooms without our permission. Additionally, the electricity tends to go out randomly. It’s happened a few times since we’ve been in Thailand, which unfortunately means no air conditioning as well. No air conditioning loosely equates to a slow death in this tropical hot and humid climate, but it’s all part of the experience right? The toilets can also be super different depending on which country you go to in Asia. I am so grateful that we have western toilets in our rooms in Thailand. I didn’t get so lucky in the bathroom department in China when I had to squat to use the toilet for an entire four months.
THE LANGUAGE BARRIER:
Not being able to communicate with the locals is easily my biggest and most frustrating struggle. Using Google Translate, charades, and hand movements definitely facilitates communication, but when the people I’m trying to talk to still don’t understand what I’m attempting to say, that’s when I usually just smile, laugh, and give up. I did my best to learn the necessary phrases in Chinese but I’m far behind in Thai. Both Chinese and Thai are hard and languages look more like art than letters or understandable symbols. To be fair, I knew what I was getting myself into when I chose to come to their country without knowing the language.
NO DRINKING THE TAP WATER:
I know this sounds silly, but being able to drink the tap water in America is a complete blessing that we take for granted! While I was living in China we had 5 gallon jug water coolers in each of our rooms because we couldn’t drink water from the tap. One night when I was sick with a cold, I woke up super thirsty with a dry throat full of phlegm (sorry for the visual) and we had no water left in the jug. My water bottle had maybe a few sips lefts until it was empty. I laid in bed genuinely contemplating whether or not I should risk drinking the nasty sink water because I was that thirsty. Not having water when I’m thirsty is one of my biggest and most nonsensical fears, so not being able to drink tap water if I run out of bottled water is a definite challenge.
DRIVING & GETTING AROUND:
In the Philippines, I don’t even remember seeing lines on the road in some places. Clusters of cars just kind of mesh together into an even bigger clump of messiness and all drive in the same direction. The drivers in China seemed to have watched one too many Fast & The Furious movies. They not only drive faster than my blood pressure can handle, but the weaving in and out of lanes is enough to make me nauseous. It also sucks not being able to drive yourself wherever you want, whenever you want. Bikes are a bonus, but they can only take you as far as your fitness and legs are capable of.
STRAIGHT-UP NASTY FOOD:
Insects on a stick? No thanks. Chicken feet? I’d rather not. Stinky tofu? Absolutely not. Durian? Durian smells so bad that some taxis wont even take you if they see that you’re holding one of those infamous fruits, so I’m definitely not about to eat one of those.
“WESTERN FOOD” IS SLIGHTLY OFF:
I’m all for trying new foods, embracing authentic cuisine, and eating as the locals do, but sometimes all your American palette will be satisfied with is some western food. A hamburger, pasta, pizza, and a good steak are all things you start to really miss after 84 days of white rice for lunch. It’s definitely worth it when you’re really craving it, but more often than not, the taste of western food is always slightly off. It tastes like the food you’re used to back home, but also just a little bit different. It’s not a big deal, which is why this is a complete petty struggle, but it’s enough to sometimes be sad about. On the bright side, McDonalds tastes the same in Asia and America. Yay for McGlobalization!
Getting sick while in Asia really does feel like the end of the world, especially when it’s food poisoning. When I was in the Philippines, I got a steamed bun full of meat from a 7Eleven for quick dinner one night and the next morning on our flight back to China I threw up. From Manila to Guangzhou to Shanghai, I was trying to keep the sickness under control and it was when I finally got back to Shanghai that I basically died. To make it even worse, the air conditioning at the Airbnb we were staying at broke. That was one of the worst experiences of my life that I hope I never have to go through again. God bless Constantin for taking care of me.
BECOMING MOSQUITO BAIT:
There was a time during my semester in China that I had to spray myself with mosquito repellent every night before I went to bed because they would attack me in my sleep. The mosquito situation is absurd and I still have bites on my legs from days ago that haven’t yet gone away here in Thailand. If I’m leaving the comfort of my cool and dry room to go out into the humidity, I know I either need bug spray or to accept my mosquito bait fate.