I was reading a blog post the other day that I’d found through someone’s link on Twitter. It was an interesting look at how living abroad, no matter how short a time, can change you, or at least make you aware of things in a new way. I got to this part and felt a particular recognition:
For me, the second noticeable change was the gradual realization that, as knowledgeable as I thought I was, I didn’t know anything about anything, relatively speaking. Politics, history, culture, personality types, food, relationships, language… I was a rank amateur in nearly every way.
We’ve participated in our fair share of quiz nights since being here. The ones we go to are all in Dutch, although we’re lucky to have translations provided when needed. I can generally hold my own in an American game of Trivial Pursuit and as the writer said, I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable person. However, once you start doing quizzes in another country, you start to learn just how specific to a location your knowledge probably is. I’d had a hint of this when playing G (a native of Italy) in a game of (American) Trivial Pursuit. He commented on how much of the trivia is related to things that are specifically American.
Playing trivia games here makes me realize that while I might know a fair bit about general European history, I’m sorely lacking in the finer details which make up general trivia here. Plus, I’m missing all of the general entertainment trivia: music, books, films, actors, etc. When you no longer have the same frame of reference, it can be harder to relate, be it to the person or to an experience. It’s easy to feel left out or simply stupid. After failing to know something seemingly simple or trivial, I often want to cry out in my own defense that “I’m not stupid in my home country! Promise!”
It may seem trivial to be concerned about a lack of trivia knowledge, but it’s often these small differences that can drive home the fact that you’re “not in Kansas anymore”. Try not to focus on how little you know anymore. You’re not stupid. You’ve just got different experiences and frames of reference. Instead, try to remember at least one little trivia bit that you didn’t know before. We do monthly quiz nights and I often miss tons of questions, simply because I’m not Dutch or even European and don’t have the background to know these things, but I try to remember the answer to at least one question and then go look up more info when I get home. After all, you weren’t born knowing the trivia you do know from your home country. It takes years to gather all that useless information. Don’t expect to know everything about your new country, either. Just take it in stride. Eventually, that random bit of knowledge that you’ve picked up will come in handy or seem impressive someday, maybe when you least expect it!