I’ve lived outside of my home country for a long time. Well over a decade, which sometimes is hard to believe because I never planned it that way. When you live outside of your home country for a significant period of time, it can be difficult to keep up to date with everything going on back home. Especially when it comes to music, cinema, and other pop culture.
Casually perusing the news the other day, I came across and article about President Obama appearing on Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis. I’ve never head of this web series before, and my curiosity piqued, I checked it out. I’m not going to go into anything regarding President Obama, but after watching the episode and a few more, I realized something. It is not funny. At all.
Now, maybe it’s me and I’m completely ready to accept that. Maybe I’m the only one who doesn’t find this show funny, and maybe this is what is naturally considered funny in the US now. I’ve seen an episode or two of a few other recently popular comedy shows (such as Parks and Recreation, Community, and New Girl) in the US and did not find them funny in the least.
This got me thinking about how my years outside of the US have affected what I feel is funny and how I relate to other Americans. In a way, I feel like my frame of reference for things in the US is stopped the year I left. I haven’t lived there since, and of course haven’t been able to keep up to date with what is popular in the arts, politics, and technology as much as I would have been able to if I were still living there. I think this is normal, but it makes me feel a bit odd when I have an opposite reaction about a certain thing (that is considered popular) than a good portion of my fellow citizens.
If any of you have lived in a different country for a long time, you probably have had a strange sense when you go home. Almost like you are a foreigner in your own country. During your time away, you’ve changed. Your home country has too. But you haven’t changed together, and likely changed in different ways. When you’re back in your home country, it’s likely you don’t “get” a lot of things others do, and feel a bit more distant than you would expect.
It also challenges your sense of belonging and your concept of identity. For example, I do not feel like I completely belong to the country of my current residence. I doubt I ever will, even if I stayed here for the rest of my life and became a naturalized citizen. There are too many cultural and political barriers in the way. At the same time, when I go home it can be easy to not feel like I belong there as much as I used to. You might have had a similar feeling. If you don’t belong to your country of residence, and don’t belong to your home country, where do you belong?
I believe the answer is: to yourself. Only you can decide where you belong, and it really doesn’t matter where you live. It’s not popular culture or new trends that define you or make you less or more of a person from country A or B. It’s your experiences, the way you treat others and those around you, and the contributions you make, no matter how big or small. You determine all of these, and you decide where you belong and your place in the Universe. It of course can be a hard road, but at least it is something we all can try to control.