Steph Yiu

The Little Privileges You Get By Living in the USA

Living in the United States is really, really cool. Here’s why:

1. You can Amazon Prime stuff

I lived in Asia for 18 years. When I was in high school, I had to order my SAT prep books off Amazon because Singapore bookstores don’t sell them (no one takes the SATs there). It took 12 weeks for the books to arrive. Now, I can order almost anything and have it show up at my house in two days. Anything. That’s awesome.

2. You can watch TV on Hulu, and movies on Netflix

You know how you are used to getting TV and movies on-demand, whenever you want? This doesn’t happen overseas. When I traveled home to Singapore this summer, I was in the middle of watching the first season of Smash. I have a Hulu Plus account, so I loaded up the website. This is what I saw:

No Hulu, no Netflix, not even clips of TV shows embedded into blogs. Lame.

3. You can use the iTunes store

In 2003, I was getting really tired of LimeWire-ing bad quality music when Apple announced the iTunes store. I was so excited to just start downloading everything instantly, but quickly realized I couldn’t use the store because I didn’t have a U.S. credit card. Now, there are international versions of the iTunes store, but a lot of American TV shows and music are still unavailable. No Breaking Bad, no Homeland, no Glee. I help my sister, who lives in Hong Kong, work around this by buying her iTunes gift cards (which are in US currency) from Target.

4. You don’t need to worry about spoilers

When you live abroad, you never get the first telecast of any U.S. TV show — it’s always days, weeks, even seasons behind. By the time the American Idol season finale aired in Singapore, I already knew that Kelly Clarkson had won. And, everyone at school knew that Ethan Zohn and won Survivor: Africa — but we hadn’t seen the episode yet. Today, whenever I watch a television show live in the United States, I still get a little thrill knowing that this is the first time it’s airing, and that no one knows the ending. And, I’ll get to see all the blog posts and tweets about it afterward. That’s awesome.

5. Brands in magazines? They’re real.

As a teenage girl growing up in Singapore, I read all the same magazines that American teenage girls did: CosmoGirl, Seventeen, Teen Vogue. But, I never recognized the brands they wrote about, nor could I ever go out and buy any of the items that were listed. American stores seemed like a distant fantasy where they sold all the cool stuff that magazines wrote about. To this day, it still amazes me every time I walk into a store and see something I saw in a magazine. You can actually buy that? Crazy.

6. You can buy Reese’s Pieces

When Halloween rolls around in Singapore, people trek to the American neighborhoods to trick ‘o treat for yummy American candy. That’s because American candy is hard-to-find in Singapore (and I think the rarity makes them even more delicious). Now, I can buy Reese’s Pieces and Jelly Bellies in almost every grocery store, and there’s a million varieties. And, some candy aisles here are the size of entire grocery stores in Singapore. Mind. blown.

7. Have stuff to do over the holidays

Attending an American International School in Singapore meant that got U.S. national holidays off from school. But no one in Singapore celebrated Fourth of July, or Thanksgiving, so there really wasn’t much to do. I also didn’t really know what the holidays were about — did someone mention pilgrims and a turkey? Since moving to the U.S., I’ve been introduced to an incredible array of American traditions, from fireworks and BBQ on Fourth of July to amazing stuffing at Thanksgiving. It gives me something to look forward to ever summer and fall.

8. Britney Spears concerts

I’m not ashamed to admit it — I’ve been a Britney fan since high school. Growing up abroad, I never thought that I’d get to see some of our generation’s biggest pop acts live — they were on the other side of the planet! Even Britney’s world tours never made it to Singapore while I lived there. But since I’ve moved to the United States, I’ve seen Britney, Kelly, Lady Gaga — Taylor Swift is next. This is a picture of me and my friend Steve at my first ever Britney concert in college. It was 4 years belated, and I’m sad I didn’t get to see her when she could still dance, but better late than never.

9. The best media the world has to offer

The United States has, hands down, the best journalists in the world. When you have all of this talent focused on covering your issues, your current events, your celebrity news, your sports events — the major publications that come from the United States are a joy to read. It’s easy to take the professionalism and world-class quality of U.S. media for granted, but just take a look at Singapore’s flagship media outlet, which is partially controlled by the government — it reads like a small town newspaper.

10. Vote in the biggest election on the planet

For someone who grew up in an a politically apathetic country like Singapore, the presidential elections have been an incredible race to watch. Whoever becomes the President of the United States has influence over every single country around the world, but only U.S. citizens get to vote. I still can’t vote, but you can. It’s a privilege. Make sure you do.

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