Jon: Welcome to episode 99 of The Digital Life, a show about our adventures in the world of design and technology. I'm your host, Jon Follett, and with me is founder and co-host, Dirk Knemeyer.
Dirk: Hey, Jon. Good to be back.
Jon: Yeah, it's great to have you back after, what was it, three weeks on your Asian tour. How long were you in Asia for?
Dirk: It was just under three weeks, and came back, I guess, Friday, so been back a few days now.
Jon: I know you're feeling the jet lag still. With a roughly 12 hour change in time zones, it must feel like it's 3 in the morning for you.
Dirk: On the sleep side, I've acclimated pretty well. It's a little strange in that I'm sleeping from 8pm to 4am, which usually I'm more of a night owl. From that perspective, the schedule's a little bit backwards, but it's a workable schedule in terms of I can go to work and participate with the family, just sort of flipped to the opposite extreme of what I usually do. Yeah, the problem is more that I just feel foggy, like my head still isn't quite right, quite here, and that's despite this weekend really having a lot of downtime and taking it pretty easy. I think it's one of those "time heals all" kind of things.
Jon: Yeah, for sure. We're delighted to have you back on the show. For this, our 99th episode, we're going to dig in a little bit to your trip to Asia and try to get a sense of all the different things you've learned.
Dirk: Sure. I'm happy to share.
Jon: Yeah. I have a number of questions for you. I know you traveled to various different Asian countries during your tour, and I was curious what you thought were some of the most significant cultural differences between Asia and the United States, and also how they manifested for you.
Dirk: Boy, there's a couple things. Probably the biggest cultural difference I found was really just straightly one between First World and Third World, that there were a number of contexts that I experienced, particularly in China and North Korea, that are unlike anything that I've seen in the United States, with the possible exception of very rural West Virginia or very rural places. The condition, the point in their evolution, of parts of these nations are just definitely very different from a technology, from a socioeconomic, perspective, than we're used to, and that was really notable.
Jon: In terms of these experiences, how would you say, as you were acclimating to these cultural differences, how did these make you feel, or how do you think in the East meets West paradigm that we have now with so much commerce going back and forth, what do you think these Asian citizens are thinking of Western visitors and vice versa? What was the vibe there?
Dirk: Gosh, that's tricky, because I really visited a lot of different places during this trip. It was sort of a whirlwind. Briefly, because this might be germane to some of your later questions as well, I started in Hong Kong, which is a city that has had a lot of commerce for a long time. It's also a very cosmopolitan Asian city. It draws a lot of citizens from up and down the Pacific Rim. Then I was in Shenzhen, which is one of the larger, not largest but one of the larger-ish, Asian, or excuse me, Chinese specifically, cities, and one that has had a great deal of development. That was a more modern but newer Chinese city. You know, 30 years ago, there was basically nothing there.
Then I was in Guilin in China, which is rural. It's way out, sort of in a resort area, and surrounded by extremely rural things. From there, I went to Beijing, which is one of the largest cities in China, and famously the most polluted, the most smoggy, very urban city. Then to Pyongyang in North Korea, which is that country's biggest city and most modern city, but by Western standards is a little bit different. Then from there, going to Japan, I was in three places, in Tokyo, which is the, again, most modern and cosmopolitan city.