A kind of weird thing about living abroad as an ex-pat is that you are partly disconnected from the society you are actually living in. Or in any way not totally connected. It’s kind of like I imagine it is to be living without a TV.
One part of that is that we are actually living without a TV. Well, we have a TV, but what we watch is restricted to non-local content. So it’s most often sports, movie channels, Netflix grown up or child supply. But it is never local news programs, local entertainment shows or local programs on societal information.
So we live our lives not knowing what is factually going on around us. A morning last week we had a light earthquake happening, but it’s like it happened in my head, because I seriously don’t watch any local news and it was too small to hit the international news. So bottom line is I don’t know neither how big it actually was (it was my first one so I have absolutely no reference), or if anyone here was affected by it. In fact, I wasn’t even sure it had really happened.
Come to think of it though, I have to take that back, I do watch the news. When we are in our local bakery and coffee shop I do, because they always have a news channel on where the latest breaking news is displayed in writing in the bottom of the screen, kind of CNN style. And reading and listening in combination is for me the simplest way of making sense of the content in Portuguese. So on coffee shop days I am fully informed and actually feel like I am living here, in Portugal, in the Portuguese society.
So from a news point of view, I could do better, I could go to the coffeeshop more often, or I could actually have the same channel on at home every day. Who knows what I might pick up, both in the form of news and improved Portuguese.
But there’s another factor I cannot get around. Not yet anyway, and that’s about culture. It’s about knowing what’s going on, what everybody’s watching, and what everybody is commonly talking about, at work, at the gym, on Facebook. You know, as in is ‘American Idol’ or ‘Portugal’s got talent’ the biggest show, do people prefer game shows or knowledge testing shows, is comedy or political satire popular, and which audience watches what. Which in essence is local culture – what’s going on in the heads of most people.
I’m definitely not saying that the TV media is the greatest one and the one everybody uses and gathers around, no, in fact the sociologists that I studied during my Communications Bachelor are now starting to publish research on the world wide web being todays culture builder and bearer. But I dare say www is still grouped into interest groups on an international and sub-local level, whereas TV is still the leading national culture bearer. For the big crowd, TV is what unites the masses, no matter if you watch it on the actual television in real time, or on demand on-line.
And living without watching local TV therefore means that I am disconnected from the culture and society I live in. So I cannot help myself from wondering – does the same go for people in and from the actual country who do not watch TV? Are they also partly culturally disconnected but in their own country? Or is it really upweighed by the fact that they are born and raised into the culture? So, really, I, and other immigrants in whichever new countries with me, should probably watch more TV in order to become more part of our local community and culture?