Looking for that Silicon Valley feel in another country

The days are getting warmer, and it’s starting to feel like I’m back in California. Well, a smoggier, dirtier California (I’m surrounded by asians in both places). I’ve been trying to find a place that feels a little closer to home, a coffee shop that has a Philz vibe, or a bar with a Local Edition flair. But these things are nowhere to be found. Even though I work in a coffee shop that has hipster decorations, it’s no Philz (good lord what I would do for a Mint Mojito coffee right now) and I do drink at bars, but craft drinks and real beer are rare and far in-between.

I miss a lot of things, such as el pastor tacos, In N Out burgers, and speaking English. These are just things I gave up when I moved here, I guess. I think as a kid I never noticed how different Hangzhou was to San Francisco, but once you zoom in and see the nitty gritty details, you can see the intense contrast. There is this vibrancy in San Francisco, even with its swarms of tech bros and starship tech buses, that cannot be matched here. That creativity and liveliness is clearly missing here.

Most days I keep my head down and I don’t think about the things I’m missing, but there are times when I can see the blue sky and finally find a place that serves some decent coffee really makes me feel like there is a hole in my chest, like a part of me has been lost and I don’t know where I misplaced it.

If you think the smartphone problem is pronounced in America, wait till you spend some time here. I have to push past people watching movies on their phone while riding the subway just so that I can get off at my stop. People walk like zombies, heads bowed down to their (censored) Internet overlords as they walk down the street, eyes nailed to their phone screens. Couples on dates would rather spend dinner time watching TV on their phones rather than make conversation. Some of my friends spend their entire evenings (on the weekends as well) watching TV instead of leaving their apartments.

Can I change the Chinese culture? Is it possible to use the same technology that is enslaving these people to bring increased social interaction? Can a American fob, one who barely speaks Chinese, make a real difference?

I hope the answer to the question is yes.

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