Sunday, 30 March 2008


One of my favourite scenes in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King has the four hobbits drinking a pint at The Green Dragon as they listen to Ted Arenas's blusters. They share a look of mutual understanding and a rather sad smile. They saved Middle Earth from Sauron's Chaos and Darkness but they cannot tell anyone back home, because no one would understand. They feel, as do war veterans and survivors of all kinds, different, strange and awfully alone. Life and people in The Shire did not change at all, but they did. What had always been "normal" for them isn't normal any more.

One of the last times we were in Spain we felt, for the first time, something which, I think, might be quite common among the expat community. Everything looked strange, unfamiliar. We had a hard time understanding what people was doing. We felt almost “stranger”. Why did everyone talk so loud? What were they doing? How could they play such loud music everywhere? All of them are things we did not really realize when we were living there. Because they were “normal” then. But they aren't any more.


After two or three days the feeling was gone, all we needed was a little readjustment. But it made me realize how dependent we are on our references, on our frames, and how little we know about this dependency.

What is considered “normal” is so fragile that changes happening without stop go unnoticed. Our frames evolve continuously and we don't realize they changing. That's why such words like "normal", "common sense", "logic", "it goes without saying" might be dangerous, as well as arguments that base on them. Because my frames are not necessarily the same as yours, maybe not even close. And we would better not refer to a supposedly common frame which, for practical effects, doesn't need to exist.


To finish, a bit of music. The suite "Estaciones Porteñas", written by Argentinian composer Ástor Piazzolla, consists of four parts, one for each one of the seasons, as kind of a tango counterpart to Vivaldi's "Four Seasons". Like them, each of the tangos evokes the corresponding season. "Verano Porteño" (summer) is a lively tango, and it seems to me as vibrant as a snow storm, while "Invierno Porteño" (winter) has a slow and sad melody that makes me think of the never ending hours of a hot sunny afternoon. Now, "porteño" refers to the city of Buenos Aires. Should I blame my frames because I think the titles and the music do not match? Or is it a wink from Piazzolla's South to northern hemisphere's seasons?

But I am going to stop talking now, to let El Gran Ástor's bandoneón speak.


Gardner said...

reverse expat shock syndrome. Or, isn't that the official name?

Tonicito said...

gardner, welcome to my blog! :)
Reverse culture shock, as you say. It is somewhat unexpected, every expat is prepared for the "direct" culture shock, but few expect to experience the same again when going home.
I found this very interesting link about its symptoms:

Cheers!, and thanks for visiting :)