Missing products: The downside of living abroad
There are a ton of advantages to living overseas in less developed countries. The main one being that life, just generally speaking is a lot cheaper. This is what attracts a lot of digital nomads and online teachers to these parts of the world. You need significantly less moolah to make ends meet or dare I say even thrive.
I make significantly less money here than I did back in the west but at the end of the month if I don't go crazy with my dinner and drinking expenses I would imagine that I am actually able to put more of my "paycheck" into the bank than I would be able to do back "home." Most of this is because rent and bills are much much lower here than they are in the west, particularly big cities. For example, I live in a relatively compact but more than big enough condo that is 2 blocks from the beach for under $300 a month. I don't think you can even get an apartment at all in USA for that kind of money.
That doesn't mean that everything is wonderful though because there are a lot of products that you simply cannot get here and it can be frustrating at times. Here are a few products that I really miss and can not get no matter how much I was willing to pay for them.
The cereal selection in this country and those around it leaves a lot to be desired. I believe it is because the Asian market never really took to having cereal in the morning (or at all) and therefore the demand doesn't justify the existence of the product at all. Other than things like Corn Flakes and Frosties (Frosted Flakes) you can't really count on any sort of product being available at all. The brands I miss the most are Lucky Charms, Count Chocula, and Captain Crunchberries. I have seen Lucky Charms in a couple of shopping centers but they were imported and therefore cost nearly $15 for a box. I like them, but I don't like them that much.
Next up is seasoning packets. The two in question that I miss the most are the taco seasoning and those ranch dressing packets where all you have to add is mayo and milk to create like a gallon of the stuff.
Large size basically anything as far as clothes are concerned are tough to find. I am not a huge guy, but I am much bigger than your average Vietnamese person. This makes getting thigs like shirts, trousers, socks, underpants and especially shoes difficult to find.
The S / M / L system can not be trusted here either. I didn't realize that these sizes are not universal when I arrived and I bought a pack of "L" sized t-shirts only to discover that they would probably have fit me when I was in 7th grade. If you are an average size male (probably female too) from the West living in Vietnam you need to buy much larger sizes than you would need to back home. It can be a little odd ordering XXXL underpants when you consider yourself to be a normal sized human but you better, because you are going to be incapable of fitting into them otherwise.
We also are missing a lot of canned goods but the one I miss the most is probably soup. We actually do have Campbell's Tomato and Chicken Noodle soup, but it costs 3 times as much as it does in the west and since you can get noodle soups on just about every street corner, it doesn't make much sense to buy this product and therefore, ever few people ever do so.
I can't say for certain why a lot of these products do not exist here but I think much of it has to do with me over-estimating my value to the community here. The expat population is a VERY small portion of the overall demographic makeup of Vietnam, so there isn't much incentive for them to try to cater to us. I would imagine that Asians living in the United States probably go through the same thing. I know that after living over here for just a few years I went to a Vietnamese noodle shop in the states just to see what it was like and it was really expensive for one thing, and didn't taste authentic at all.
I suppose it is a global phenomenon!