Asia’s Food Vendors: A Plus for Work-Family Balance

Travel Blog  •  Julia Ross  •  05.28.09 | 1:38 PM ET

Photo by René Ehrhardt via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I’m not a parent, but I’ve sympathized with two sisters and plenty of friends who bemoan the constant time stresses on working parents with young kids. Grocery shopping and cooking rank high among parental time-sucks, of course, so a Thai curator’s recent comment to the New York Times that Bangkok’s ubiquitous food carts “provide a vital support system to people who work, especially couples with children” got me wondering about the benefits of raising kids in Asia.

I’ve often thought that the Scandinavian countries, with their generous maternity/paternity leave and subsidized child care policies, would be an ideal place to have a family. Indeed, they consistently lead the pack in surveys of child well-being.

But the glorious street markets in countries like Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam surely should be factored into what makes a healthy work-family balance.  Year-round availability of cheap, fresh, nutritious meals—all right around the corner—goes a long way toward saving time for homework and assuaging parental guilt.

For expats raising kids abroad, there are plenty of factors to consider, from child care costs to educational opportunities, and I suppose what constitutes balance for one family might not work for the next. All I know is, after a long day of teaching high school, my sister would love the opportunity to pick up some freshly grilled fish, a bowl of noodles, or a few skewers of chicken satay on her way home every night, for a lot less than it would cost to cook for a family of four.

Getting my 7-year-old niece to try a hot-and-sour Tom Yum Goong, however, is another story.

Julia Ross is a Washington, DC-based writer and frequent contributor to World Hum. She has lived in China and Taiwan, where she was a Fulbright scholar and Mandarin student. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Time, Christian Science Monitor, Plenty and other publications. Her essay, Six Degrees of Vietnam, was shortlisted for "The Best American Travel Writing 2009."

3 Comments for Asia’s Food Vendors: A Plus for Work-Family Balance

US Travel 06.01.09 | 1:58 PM ET

Whenever I watch the travel channel and they go to like asian/Indian countries, there are always tons and tons of street vendors selling tasty food, anything you can think of. Why don’t they have that in America? They only thing they really have here is hot dog carts. Am I wrong?

grizzly bear mom 06.01.09 | 5:58 PM ET

We have food and sanitation standards that prevent people from opening business here.  Ever heard of anyone getting sick drinking the water/eating the food overseas?

Having lived overseas I would say that those vendors’ prices were out of the reach of the average person.  Most Koreans I knew ate mostly rice and vegetables with a little fish.  The prices in Italy’s restauranst would have kept most locals home too. 

By the way, thanks for the link to the survey.  It was very itneresting.

Amy @ The Q Family 06.02.09 | 2:31 PM ET

Great post and so very true! Food is readily available in Asia especially Thailand. And even if you don’t want street food, you can easily buy from food court which tends to be a bit more expensive but still more affordable. I hardly cooked when I lived in Thailand so when I moved here people expect me to cook Thai food for them. :)

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