My brother has just finished up his final exams at uni and is putting together information to go and teach and live abroad. I was speaking with my mum about the things that matter when you’re an expat – she was saying Malaysia would be a great place to live since they have British shops there so it would be just like home, but actually I think it would be a really tough place to live. When you live abroad, it’s really the smaller things that matter the most, like when I was ill, the difference between how we do things in England and how they are done in Germany was a little tough. In Japan, even something like the toilets could get to you, since it’s not all super robot toilets – get to the countryside and it’s all “squatty potties” and I even went to a place where the “toilet” was a massive hole in the ground that stank of ammonia. In Malaysia the toilets often don’t have toilet paper, but they all have little showers and a lot of the time I walked into a cubicle to find the whole place wet. That kind of thing is fun and novel on holiday but could get very annoying if you lived there.
In Germany there aren’t so many things that are different that could cause annoyance or displeasure in being an expat here. Sure, the shops being shut on Sunday is a pain in the bum, and it often feels like you have to have a paper to give you permission to even breathe here sometimes, but on the whole it’s fairly easy. But sometimes I feel like I’m living in a huge cave while I’m abroad. It’s not a German thing; I had it in Japan too. When I go back home I find myself, for example, asking my sisters what the song is that’s playing in New Look and they look at me as if I’ve asked how to boil an egg and say “duhhhhh she’s, like, the biggest thing right now”. Only, she’s not big enough to be involved in this little expat world I live in.
I find I miss out on a lot of things. Not just with music; when I was home at Christmas I discovered Come Dine With Me (no seriously, click it. It’s an awesome show) but it was almost past it’s prime in England by that time. I discovered Mad Men while I was in Japan – about 2 years after it had started showing. It meant I could do a massive marathon with it (though Mad Men isn’t very marathon-able, it’s a bit too dark/deep/complex for that…) but still, I was out of the loop all together.
I do feel very dependent as an expat on media suggestions from people over Facebook or Twitter and now I use Tumblr a lot and find myself asking my friends if I should be watching Sherlock or Game of Thrones. But it is pretty hard to get a good sense of what is good. I turn on my proxy and look over the iPlayer of 4OD and just don’t know what is good, what isn’t… what is being hyped up or what isn’t worth clicking on.
I’m interested to see what the other expats out there do. Where do you find your media knowledge? Do you bother to stay in the loop?