17 Reasons Why Living in Developing Areas of Asia Kicks the Crap Out of Living in the West

I am having a blast living in Asia. I just freakin’ love living here, and I know Sean at Location180 does too, so when I started trying to list this stuff out, he’s the first person I sent it to. He responded with feedback to all my points PLUS some reasons he’s all about Asia. Thought I’d just go ahead and share for my fellow Asiaphiles or anyone curious about why we are so damn happy.

I’ve split up the responses below so you can follow our dialogue.

SEAN is currently in Bangkok, Thailand. His commentary below is in this text color. He’s been living in Asia since January (first time in Asia).

ME(DAN) currently in Manila, Philippines. I’ve been living in Asia on and off for 3 years. (First visited 10 years ago).

Let me just say: I am an American. The first amendment of our constitution requires me to believe that America is the best country in the entire world.

I believe that.

But three years ago I decided to uproot and live in Asia. Despite the fact that San Diego is one of the most prestine and pleasant cities in the world, I feel that my happiness and excitement levels have increased dramatically by making the move to Asia. I couldn’t have predicted this before I made the leap.

Some people say running off to Asia is an escape. That’s definitely part of it– I wanted to escape the life I saw lined up in front of me. But its also not reducible to that.  I wanted to engage. I wanted to be creative. I wanted my time. I wanted adventure.

I got what I asked for.

Here are 17 reasons we love living in Asia. I’m sure there is more, and I would like to hear them from you!

1.“What they hell are we doing here?” is always an appropriate question to ask.

DAN: Examining your core principles and aims is a daily experience. There is a built-in absurdity to being an expatriate that I love. Everyone, even normal people off the street, question the foundations of your life. “Do you love your family?” “Do you love my country?” “Why did you leave your country?” To me, these are the most natural questions in the world. I like them being brought up again and again, because that’s just the way my brain works. Not many people ask these kinds of questions in California. My life was just as absurd in California: “why are you standing here in this office?” “What are you working for?” “Do you love what you do?” Except nobody is asking.

SEAN: No one expat in Asia is here because they want a boring life.  95% of the time when you ask what someone is doing here, you will get some totally bad ass answer.  Last night alone I met a freelance percussionist, golf pro and the guy who gave xml its name. That said, by simply asking the question “what the hell are you doing here” you are opening yourself up to a world of potential.  I’ve had more job and business opportunities come my way than I know what to do with, not to mention the friends I’ve made.

2. Other expats are awesome (or not).

DAN: Which makes it really easy to find a super interesting group of people to hang around. People who leave their own country are often on a mission. They are building something. A business, a life, a dream, etc. The ones who aren’t doing this are easy to weed out. Not much middle of the road.

SEAN: Most of the people here are awesome.  Everyone here broke out of the status quo and that alone puts you on a more even playing field than the vast majority of the people you meet back home. Here its as easy to meet and build a relationship with a multi-million dollar entrepreneur as it is with a backpacker.

3. Every little thing is a curiosity.

DAN: I’m in constant amazement. A new riddle around every corner. I like that.

SEAN: The other day I was talking to a friend, and we agreed one of the best things in Asia is the fact that on any given day you WILL have a memorable story to tell.  It doesn’t matter what day it is, something will happen. Could be as simple as an elephant on the street or an orphan begging for money, but being in constant amazement by your surroundings isn’t something that happens often back in the states. At least not in the majority of the places where people spend most of their days.

4. Choose Your Own Adventure.

DAN: There is a way to do things back home. Just do it, and you’ll be fine. Everybody knows the rules. Everyone in the developing countries in Asia is trying to figure out their role in the modern world. Its an amazing feeling to not have “you’re supposed to’s” launched in your direction all day long.

SEAN: Here it is up to you to make shit happen and there is no blueprint for what needs to be done.  You have the freedom to pursue things as you see fit.  The thing that has shocked me the most about living in Asia is the freedom. Looking back on life in the states, everything is very constrained, and inflexible.  Here it feels like anything goes, and if you have the drive to make it happen, you will live one hell of a lifestyle.

5.Food and Booze. Cheap, plentiful, and awesome.

DAN: In general– cheap, delicious, well thought out, and available at all hours. Exception: Philippines on food :(

SEAN: So far where I’ve been booze is not that cheap (Actually in many places its more expensive than it is back home). However, the food continually astounds me with the quality and affordability.  Last week had a huge dinner for 4 of the best Thai food I’ve ever had.  Total price: 160 baht (about 5 dollars).  You will not beat that.

6.Weekend at a Tropical Island? Jet set lifestyle? Done and done.

DAN: Its so easy in Asia to hop on a plane and hang out on some absurdly beautiful beach for a week. Putting general living expenses aside, hotels are really cheap. In the US, a fun 3 day trip to Austin, TX ended up costing me the equivalent of a 2 week romp in Phu Quoc, Vietnam. (Winner: Phu Quoc by a longshot!) There’s also the more laid back approach to being at your desk for 10 hours a day 48 weeks out of the year. That stuff just doesn’t fly in Asia.

SEAN: So many out there (myself included) want to know how to live the jet set lifestyle.  They want to know how they can be a baller, but most will never have the means to do it back in America.  Asia gives them that freedom.  Both in terms of accessibility and affordability.  For the cost of the NYC flight alone, you can practically have an entire week long trip to Phi Phi, and probably have an even better time.  Assuming you like gorgeous scenery and topless Swedes.

7.You can live like a king for what you make back home.

DAN: And by king, I mean it. World class luxury condo. Check. Personal assistant. Check. Maid. Check. You can always grab the tab at a table of 8 and not think twice. Its not about throwing money around, its about being able to afford the very highest levels of service available and not having those things impact your pocketbook in a profound way.

SEAN: I can only imagine what my lifestyle could be like if i was making the same amount I was making back home.  Further there is less stress, more time to enjoy the things you really want to do, and more freedom to be adventurous.

8.The opportunity to meet with incredible people and do amazing things.

DAN: I won’t list for you the people that I’ve met in the mast 12 weeks. I’d sound like a total jerk. Its really nuts the kinds of people you have the opportunity to meet and interact with when you live in developing countries– above and beyond the great opportunities to meet just regular expats who are doing awesome stuff, movers, shakers, and leaders in developing countries– political, social, financial, or business— need good people. You need good people too. Its a great match. This is the “strategically large fish/strategically small pond” effect.

SEAN: Totally true.

9.Hiring and scaling your company is supper affordable and gives you a killer edge on your competition.

DAN: There’s TONS of advantages to setting up shop in Asia– booming economies, tax benefits, great labor, etc etc etc. Check  outsourcetothephilippines.com.

SEAN: I feel like so many people back home are oblivious to the benefits that their business could have in Asia.  I was.  And by really illustrating exactly how outsourcing can help, a lot of people are going to get excited about the prospect of being out here.  Between the lifestyle and the business benefits…that’s a pretty unbeatable combo.

10.The sheer vibrance of living in a developing country.

DAN: It gets in to your brain and rattles around forever after you leave. When I went back to California I couldn’t help but thinking how boring everything was. I pride myself on not getting bored. I always am interested in something. But I couldn’t help but feel I didn’t’ have to many allies in California. Perhaps I needed to move to San Fransisco or Los Angeles? (BTW, briefly considered LA, love the place, but even being there seems a big…. :::sigh::: stale compared to Asia.)

SEAN: Nothing is boring in a developing country.  There is always stuff going on, and I know for me at least, Bangkok is the most exciting place I’ve ever been.  On every level possible.

11.People have time for you.

DAN: This is related to another common theme coming up in these points– networking in Asia is so freaking critical to anyone’s success. People make business and projects by networking. In the states, I ran a medium sized business with over 30 employees and hardly met anyone. I didn’t need to. Everything between my business and our industry was automated. RFP. Bid proposal. Quote. Trade show. Blah blah blah blah. All that stuff is here too, but this is a land for cowboys who like to wheel and deal. Again– I was doing cool stuff in California, but I didn’t meet anyone. I feel like all I do here is meet people and figure out ways we can take over the planet together. AWESOME!

SEAN: I feel like people out here (with a few exceptions) are generally much more in control of their own time.  Due to that, they are able to take the time to talk with you, meet you, whatever.  If it is something they want to do, it is much easier to make it possible.  Here I don’t have to make up doctors appointments just so I can leave my real job to go meet up with business partners in the middle of the day.  The freedom of time is an incredible thing.

12.Your clients are half a world away.

DAN: Enough said.

SEAN:At the same time, in a global company having partners and coworkers halfway across the world can be a bit of a negative.

13.The opportunity to do something interesting, and develop a unique and un-matchable skill set.

DAN: Its difficult to explain. But it can start to happen when you make a big jump.

SEAN: A few other things I might add from my personal experience:

14.Engaging cultural experience.

SEAN: I know in Bangkok I have met people from just about every background imaginable.  While you get some of that back at home, it is in no way on the same level as it is here.  It really provides an opportunity to learn and become more well rounded.

15.People are happier here.

SEAN: At least as far as expats go.  Many of the people I spend time with on a daily basis are constantly talking about how this is the happiest they have ever been.  Because out here it isnt about how much money you make.  If you are working on things that are fulfilling you and building relationships with other similar people, you are fulfilling two basic human needs.  I feel like here I am able to work on the most basic of priorities, when back home, so much crap got in the way that you were never able to truly make yourself fulfilled.

16.There is something going on 24/7.

SEAN: Back home the town was dead by 2, if not much earlier some nights of the week.  It doesnt matter what your social or work schedule is like, you will always find something to do when you are looking.

17.People out here have a paralyzing fear of boredom.

SEAN: They don’t spend every evening sitting around and watching tv.  Cant really say that about the US.  To that effect random shit happens all the time.  Rooftop pool party with super models? Lets do it.  Night train to Chiang Mai for music festival? Done.  If you are looking to lose a boring life, come out here.

DAN: I’m sure you world travelin’ folks got some awesome reasons why you love developing Asia or expatriate life in general. I’m interested to consider how much of this is about Asia specifically, and how much is just about expat lifestyle (I’ve never been an expat elsewhere!).

I would love to hear your thoughts and start to refine my ideas about it. What do you love about Asia? If you live in the West and are thinking about a stint as a expatriate, what worries do you have?


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The other day I was talking to a friend, and we agreed one of the best things in Asia is the fact that on any given day you WILL have a memorable story to tell.  It doesn’t matter what day it is, something will happen. Could be as simple as an elephant on the street or an orphan begging for money, but being in constant amazement by your surroundings isn’t something that happens often back in the states.  At least not in the majority of the places where people spend most of their days.