Life in Southeast Asia vs Europe: Where is better?

by Lara

Last year I spent a month traveling in Thailand and this year almost two months in Indonesia. Ok, I did not actually travel around Indonesia, it was more like, just living in Bali. And that was not my fault at all! Bali does that to many. Sunny beaches, glorious sunsets, breathtaking waterfalls, beautiful people and chilled out atmosphere… everything about this place invites you to stay.
Today I want to share with you my reasons why living in Southeast Asia is better than living in Europe or States, and why is maybe not.
I think that I, a blond European girl, with a few months experience in Southeast Asia, am qualified enough bule to speak on this topic. If you don’t know what the word bule means, don’t worry. I didn’t know either until I came to Bali. It is how Indonesians call foreigners or white people, mostly Europeans. Official translation would be- albino. 😂 Is it offensive or racist term? Well yeaah…the same as calling Asians yellow. But let’s not get into political correctness ‘cus that’s boring. Let me tell you why I think that living in SE Asia as a bule kicks ass, comparing with bule’s life in Europe or US. But also, why it might suck.

If you are “a bule”, living in SE Asia KICKS ASS because:

1. It’s always warm which is nice because sun makes people happy. Simple as that. Also-
2. No need to spend money on a bunch of winter clothes, shoes, jackets, etc…
3. No need to cook. You can eat ridiculously delicious street food for less than a freaking Euro. Even in Bali, for three meals a day, I wouldn’t spend more than 5 euros. For all of them. Crazy, right?
4. No need to do laundry by yourself. It’s easier to take it to one of the street laundry shops that can be found in every corner. You get it back next day clean, fresh and ironed. One kg-50 cents. Bye-bye washing machine and iron, I’ve never liked you anyway. And bye-bye to expensive utility bills, which takes me to number-
5. Rent is waaaay cheaper than in Europe or States, and you pay almost nothing for utilities since you don’t cook or do laundry at home. You also don’t need heating because winters are, on average, pleasant 25 degrees. You might need AC, but if you really need to spare, you learn to live with fans too.
6. Pools. Having a pool in front of your apartment or villa is a more common thing than not having one. And who doesn’t want to have a pool in front of his house?

7.  More free time. Life in SE Asia is much cheaper than it is in Europe or States. Meaning, you can work less. Many bules work as managers in hotels or villas and earn a better salary than most of the locals. And if you can work from the laptop and have your own business- even better, you can earn as much as you would at home but with significantly lower costs of living what instantly makes you rich(er).
8. People are friendlier, tend to socialize more, and there is always something going on. Locals, expats, tourists- it is a social jungle where you keep meeting new people. Also, people smile more often and simply tend to have more relaxed lifestyle.
9. Your life looks like the postcard. Chilling out on white sand beaches, snorkeling with Nemo fishes, drinking coconut water under the palm tree, surfing, diving…all these fun activities that are usually reserved for “holidays” can be part of your reality and everyday life.

10. Markets. Markets were one of my favorite places in both Thailand and Indonesia. I love walking down the shops that sell all kind of stuff, some of them downright weird and useless, but you still end up bargaining with a seller. It is easy to get carried away and end up buying some furniture because it is SUCH a good quality and so cheap, only to realize a few minutes later, that you have no way to take that back home with you. Ok, I guess I’ll just have to stay here.

There are much more reasons why life in SE Asia rocks but these were the ones on top of my head. Now let’s talk about things that can suck for you, Mr. Albino.

If you are “a bule”, living in SE Asia might suck for you because:

1. The fact that you are bule means you will never be treated normally. You will often feel awkward when you notice how people treat you with more respect and admiration only because of your skin color. You will be able to get into clubs or restaurants where locals are not welcomed, and you will feel like shit because of that. But sometimes you will also feel like nothing more than a walking Dollar bill. Local sellers, taxi drivers, cashiers and everyone who can offer you any type of service will try to trick you and make you pay for something way more than you should be paying. On my first day in Bali, I bought a SIM card with 8 GB of data for 20 euros. I thought that was a normal price for one month. When I said that to my local friends who I met later on, they couldn’t stop laughing. They took me to the store and next SIM I bought had 30GB which I paid 5 euros.

2. Toilets. As much as I want to immerse into the new culture and do what and how locals do, this I just can’t. When I enter the bathroom and see no toilet paper but just a bucket of water next to the toilet, I immediately get nervous.

3. Masses of abandoned dogs on the streets is a very sad picture and a huge problem in SE Asia. Plus, you can never know for sure if one of them ended up on your plate, can you?

4. Traffic is just crazy, and you will need some time to get used to it and accept that there are no rules. At least not the rules you and me understand. Cars, all sort of taxies, tuk tuk’s, horses, bikes, scooters with huge installations, they are all part of the traffic. The only rule they follow is honking- that’s how you warn each other of your actions. If I had a penny for each time I thought I am gonna die on Asian roads, I would probably have enough money for an airplane ticket back to Asia. But for some, to me unexplainable reason, I’ve never had or witnessed an accident. Somehow, in all that craziness, they make it work, and the best thing is- no one is pissed at each other like in Europe. But can you actually be upset if this guy overtakes?

5. Safety issues. This is something you also get accustomed to after some time, and you learn to be more careful. But I remember how shocked I was with all the holes in the road, lack of any warnings around dangerous nature areas or how unsafe were some touristic tours. Regulations are just not a big thing over there, and you have to be more careful and aware of your surroundings than at home. You are not in States, and if you slip because there was no sign “wet floor”, guess what- no one cares.

So, those are all disadvantages that I could think of at the moment.

SE Asia: Europe/US 10:5.

But maybe I am still under the impression of my last trip in Indonesia, which was perfect, and I already miss so many things. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this! Do you agree with my points or not? What would you add?

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Tihana October 1, 2017 - 10:40 pm

This is great! A very honest and comprehensive article. I got the impression the majority of travel bloggers are mostly like “SE Asia is sooooo cheap, man” and that was the only pro, without taking into consideration those other things you mentioned. What were you doing in Bali? And how is it with the visas for HR citizens?

Lara October 1, 2017 - 10:53 pm

Thank you Tihana for the comment! Yes, the fact that SE Asia is cheap is one of great advantages but for sure not the only one. In Bali I was mostly relaxing 🙂 I was supposed to travel around Indonesia but got stuck in Bali because it was really magical. Will write about it soon 😉 we don’t need visa if gonna stay 30 days or less. If yoh want to stay longer you can take visa which costs 35$ and you can prolong it each month (for up to 3 months I think).

Tihana October 3, 2017 - 12:47 am

Haha, that has not yet happened to me—I am not that spontaneous traveler! (Though I would have gladly prolonged my stay in some places.) Looking forward to your future posts, I’m really curious now after this one!

Ahsan September 30, 2018 - 9:44 pm

Great post. I, Myself belonging to SE Asia and recently moved to UK can confirm that its all very true. I would like to add a few things as well. About Toilet papers, that’s very true, Before i traveled to UK, i thought i had all figured out, but as soon as i went for the toilet and found no water and only toilet paper, WUT ??? I thought there might be some hidden switch to get the water, but it was a real challenge which i did not considered. So yeah, its just about culture and used to stuff.
Another thing that i would like to add is that people are so much connected back home, They care more for each other (I am not saying that people here don’t care for each other but it is more of a symbolic relation) but it is more built in to those societies in SE Asia, No one is rushing for robotic life, People have a lot of time to talk to each other and hang out with each other.

Lara October 2, 2018 - 2:26 pm

Dear Ahsan, thank you for your comment and input! It is great to hear ‘the other side’ too. When you are born and raised in one culture, everything that is different from that is instantly ‘strange’ and ‘weird’ and ‘not normal’ but actually there is no such thing as a universal normality. I don’t know what to do with bucket of water in toilet the same way you don’t know what to do with paper 😀 That’s why we travel 🙂 And regarding the other part of your comment, I agree with that, being individual/distant and eventually lonely is a product of western culture, technology and globalisation. It’s a paradox- never had we had means of being closer to each other than now, and never have we been more detached from each other than now. You brought up really interesting topic and thank you for this!


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