This is the point of the blog where I’ll attempt to go beyond the surface level and try to make meaning of my experiences abroad. For some readers, this may be the point that I lose you. But for other readers — that is, those that are interested in my experience abroad beyond a superficial level — this may be the part of my blog that interests you most. Whether you fall in the former or the latter, no judgement is passed and I respect you equally nonetheless.
The moment has finally come where I am beginning to realize how long I will be away from the states. Having arrived to Singapore on January 6th, I have now been in Southeast Asia for 3 weeks, which is approaching the point where you stop viewing your time abroad as a vacation but rather as a new place you live in. While I am enjoying every lasting minute here and by no means would like to return prematurely, I would be lying if I said I am not missing American culture.
In my view, at least for me, you don’t really understand or appreciate the value of your home country’s culture until you’re separated from it for a significant period of time. Having lived in the United States my whole life and having traveled very little internationally prior to studying abroad, I’ve never really been immersed in a culture different than mine for an extended period of time.
With that said, as an American, I have the privilege to see and experience shades of my culture no matter where I travel. Whether it’s a McDonalds or Subway, or a Hollywood movie playing at the theatre, or simply having English written on signs everywhere I go, globalization has spread Western cultural institutions not only all throughout Singapore, but even in many places in Malaysia. Unfortunately, due to power dynamics, the reverse does not apply for these groups, and that, to me, is the essence of American privilege.
For example, assuming you are from the states, do you know of a place where you can eat Malaysian food, or watch a Malay movie, or see Malay written in a public setting? (If you know of a place where I can eat Malaysian food, please let me know — it’s delicious!) All I wish to express is that it is a tremendous privilege to be an American — not only for the obvious economic, political, and social privileges, but also for the less appreciated privileges such as the one I just described above.