One of the little-known benefits of living abroad is that you are relatively cut off from American pop culture. It leaves more space in your brain, space you can hopefully designate for foreign language skills.
Unfortunately this also means that our current American cultural context is pretty much limited to a dusty mental time capsule from 2009. Hit TV shows have come and gone and movies have made it all the way to the Oscars without us even knowing they existed. Music that’s blaring out of every iPod back home sometimes shows up on the radio here, but is often sandwiched between German pop songs and Shania Twain, which is very disorienting. That new hit single from Fun? For months I thought it was Freddie Mercury, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the Austrians were playing obscure Queen songs every time I got in the car.
Anything that’s gone wildly viral in the States is also often slow to reach us, simply because we’re just a bit more disconnected over here: no TV, limited time listening to the radio, barely a few minutes to check email. Any cultural commentary we could read in print is in German. Which is how Husband and I found ourselves doing internet research on the Harlem Shake the other night:
Me: I keep hearing about this Harlem Shake thing. What the hell is it?
Husband: I don’t know! Let’s check The Wikipedias.
Husband: Hmm. It says here it’s some kind of internet “meh meh.”
Husband: See! “meh meh”
Me: Pull the screen closer! I can’t see the text!
Me: Dummy, that’s meme.
Husband: I don’t know what that is either.
(we keep reading and then proceed to watch about 30 Harlem Shake videos)
Husband: Dude! We could TOTALLY make one of those! We could put the kids in it!
Me: YES!!!! And you could wear your spedo! We’ll plan it out after nap time.
(At which point we both stopped for a minute and looked at each other in horror)
Me: F*&%. We’re not clueless expats. WE’RE JUST CLUELESS OLD PEOPLE.