5 Things I Learned While in the States

We had a great family day on Sunday, as we spent the day at the Seattle Premium Outlets. We bought Christmas gifts, some things for Kayla’s upcoming birthday party, the boys got Heelys (roller shoes), and even I bought some clothes (a rarity). My lovely wife Gail actually didn’t buy anything for herself, as she was too busy spending on our daughter.

The trip was not only entertaining (and somewhat expensive), but it was also educational. Here are 5 things I learned (or re-affirmed) during our trip to, in, and from the United States in America:

1. I drive fast. My family and friends likely wouldn’t call me an overly-aggressive driver, but they also wouldn’t call me a passive one either. I know that I’m not the most patient driver (that’s why having all of the religious bumper stickers on my Jesus-mobile was good for my driving!), but I do think that I’m a good Asian driver. Anyway, for better or for worse, NOT A SINGLE vehicle passed me on the 75-minute drive home to the border from the outlet mall, while I likely passed between 150 and 200 vehicles. I think it was a combination of the bad weather and people (other than me) driving very cautiously. It brought back memories of my drive home from Portland when we first got our new van a couple of years ago…the ratio of cars that I passed compared to the number of cars that passed me was likely around 10:1.

2. I learned a new short-cut. On our way down, the snow was starting to wreck havoc on motorists, and we passed 2 or 3 accidents as we headed south. With our eyes set on exit 202, traffic came to a standstill at exit 212, forcing us to exit off the highway. As we got lunch and gas for the van, I asked 4 different people how I could make my way further south without getting back on I-5. I got 4 different answers, so I went with the most convincing answer (coincidentally, it was also the last person I talked to…he gave me the most detailed directions as I waited for my Whopper). We took a side street that ran relatively parallel to the highway, and entered back onto I-5 at exit 206 after about 10 minutes of driving. Five minutes later, we were at the Wal-Mart by the outlet, having saved likely anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes of waiting in traffic.

3. I sound like a DJ. While purchasing a car-charger for my phone at Wal-Mart, I made small talk with the cashier, who happened to be Filipino. It went the way that my conversations usually go with someone I meet who I deduce to be a Filipino:

Me: “Are you Filipino?”

Him/Her: “Yes, are you?”

Me: “No, but my wife was born in the Philippines. She’s actually Chinese though.”

Him/Her: “Oh that’s nice. What are you?”

Me: “Handsome, don’t you think? And very charming…”

Him/Her: “I mean, what nationality are you?”

Me: “I’m half Japanese and half-Chinese.”

Him/Her: “I thought you were a DJ…you sound like one.”

Me: “Uh…thanks…I think.”

This is truly how the conversation went (except for the line about being handsome and charming). She caught me off-guard with her DJ comment, not only because I thought we were still on the topic of ethnicity, but more importantly because no one has ever said that I sound like a DJ. I was caught off-guard and was actually speechless (for once). Meanwhile, Sean had a really good chuckle.

4. Americans don’t say “You’re welcome.” This is something I’ve noticed ever since befriending more Americans and doing more travel in the States. Now, I’m certainly not saying that Americans are rude (far from it), but you’ll more often hear “Uh huh” rather than “you’re welcome” in reply to “thank you.” Uh huh just seems like a more natural response for many Americans.

5. I can actually live without Twitter and Facebook. As soon as we crossed the border into the States, I turned the data function off on my phone to save money (translation: I’m really cheap). It felt quite good being somewhat disconnected as I was able to concentrate on being fully present to my family. Gail was thankful because I was better able to carry all of the shopping bags without my phone in my hand. Some people have been bugging me saying that I’m addicted to tweeting and updating my facebook status. I counter by saying that I try not to tweet or Facebook trivial things, rather my posts usually have some sort of wit or wisdom attached to them. As with most things, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle.

Now excuse me as I go post this on my website and on Facebook and then tweet about it.