Expat: a musical in three acts

Setting: Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom

Act I: 54-40

(A whole room full of drunken Canadians is jumping up and down in ecstasy, singing along with every word of every song. Within the crowd is a group of friends, most of whom know each other from their time at a local high school. Most members of the group are also enthusiastically dancing and singing, but two women standing near the back look somewhat less enthused).

Expat Brit #1: “Is it just me, or is this a terrible concert?”

Expat Brit #2 (The Blogger): “It’s not just you. The sound’s awful! I didn’t even know you could get bad sound at the Commodore!”

EB#1: “I KNOW! Have you recognised any songs yet?”

The Blogger: “I knew that “I go blind” one, because a cover version of it was on the Friends soundtrack”

EB#1: “Oh, is that where I know it from?!”

The Blogger: “Oh well, at least the real Canadians are having fun”

EB#1’s Canadian husband: “ISN’T THIS AWESOME??!!”

EPB#1 and The Blogger: “Oh, yeah.”


Act II: Gomez

(The venue is less full than in Act I, although many people are just as enthusiastic and almost as drunk. Within the crowd is a group of friends, most of whom know each other from their time at a local high school. Most members of the group are dancing a little bit, and singing along with a few of the songs. However, one woman dancing away at the front of the group is clearly much more enthused, and is singing her heart out to every song).

EPB#1’s Canadian husband: “I don’t know this one!”

The Blogger: “It’s from their first album! I remember dancing to this in the student union the year I graduated!”

EPB#1’s Canadian husband: “That’s nice. I’m going to the bar. Want anything?”

Act III: Franz Ferdinand

(The venue is packed. Within the crowd is a group of friends, most of whom know each other from their time at a local high school. All of them know the same songs, and are singing and dancing away. The sound is kinda shitty again, but this time no-one cares).



These three concerts sum up the expat experience perfectly. Whether you’re talking about music, TV, other aspects of pop culture, politics, sport, history, or almost any other subject, you just don’t share the formative experiences, the foundational knowledge, of most of your friends…

…and they don’t share yours.

You stand absolutely no chance of winning a trivia quiz in either your native or your adopted country.

However, if you have the right group of friends, you get to mix and match and share your knowledge and experiences. Sometimes you’ll each think the other group members’ great musical or other loves from their past are super-lame… but sometimes you’ll enjoy yourself immensely as your friends relive their younger days, even if you don’t know all the words to all the songs.

And you get to form new, truly shared experiences. Like when a new band comes along, from any country, and you all get into them at the same time.

I still miss my old friends, and wonder what new experiences they’ve been sharing without me. We’ll always have Paris the Newcastle student union Bassment club on a Friday night, though, to which the Commodore is superior in almost every way, especially the state of the loos.

They really do need to sort out their sound, though.

Next concert: ROXETTE! I am ridiculously excited.

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
This entry was posted in Canada, embarrassing fan girl, music, personal, UK, Uncategorized, Vancouver, videos. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Expat: a musical in three acts

  1. ROXETTE?????!!!!

    Goodness me.

    Sarah McLachlan and K’naan at Massey Hall in September… I am seriously tempted.

    Also – 54-40 have tons of awesome songs. Pick up their greatest hits, jam-packed with wall-o-guitar goodness. Seriously.

  2. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Oh yes indeedy! I tried to see them twice when I was a teenager and was thwarted both times, so hopefully I won’t get knocked off my bike the day before or anything like that and will finally get to see them!

    K’naan is great live – I’ve seen him once at the Commodore and once at a festival. Hopefully he has a new album though, because he did the exact same set both times (about a year apart)!

    I’m sure 54-40 are excellent, but muddy sound combined with being one of what seemed like only two people in a crowd of hundreds who weren’t really, really into the music wasn’t my best introduction to them!

    • Update – the Sarah/K’naan gig has been trumped by us spending $ on tickets to see Jane Goodall instead. 🙂

      • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

        Let me guess – her opening act is the Gorillaz? 😉

        Seriously, though, I’m very very jealous

        • Still can’t believe we got tix. I think last time she was here for a public lecture, it sold out in about five minutes. This one is through the Royal Ontario Museum. We’re members, but not “super elite gold circle platinum donation members” or whatever the people with *real* early access are called.

  3. Nina says:

    I had the exact same experience in the NL some weeks back. Everybody rapping along with some super lame Dutch song and I’m the only one thinking “WTF is this?!?! Dutch rap?!?!”.
    The whole expat thing is starting to annoy me too. all these misunderstandings.

    • Pika says:

      Yes, very true. I sometimes feel like a proper Third Culture Kid, even though I started moving around when I was an adult.

  4. Pika says:

    Oh yes, this is absolutely true!!

    And for this, You stand absolutely no chance of winning a trivia quiz in either your native or your adopted country we actually made an experiment with some local friends when I was living in Sweden with the “Who wants to be a millionare” quiz (you’re bound to have a local version of this everywhere). The locals breezed through the easier questions, which the expats had no idea about (Children’s rhymes in local language? Who was that politician from 10 years ago? No idea for someone who is not local…), while the expats aced all the harder ones, particularly the geography/world related ones. We joked that we should take two people, one local, one expat and disguise them into one person, who would then go there and win all. 🙂

  5. Bob O'H says:

    I guess I’m showing my age by expecting comments about sound in the Commadore to be along the oines of “it’s so bad it sounds like it’s Commadore 64”. Which is, at least, better than at the Vic.

  6. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Nina, I listen to a couple of music podcasts that often play hip hop from all over the world, in every language you can imagine. It’s awesome!

    Sorry about the misunderstandings. I don’t run into too many, given that Canada and the UK aren’t as different as some other pairs of countries. Most misunderstandings are about words that are rude in one country but not the other 🙂

    Pika, yeah, I find the same thing on Jeopardy and on a US-based trivia game I play on my phone every day (Qrank – I’m playing as wonderbrit if you want to look me up and play against me!) – I do pretty well on the harder questions, but “easy” questions about US presidents, history, state capitals etc. are a major problem!

    Bob, oh, it’s way better than that, even on a bad day

  7. Mike says:

    Pfpfpffff, give me a speccy 48k anytime over those clunky ol’ commodores. Especially as I’ve had a heated argument with my (non-British) brother-in-law about the presence/absence of rubber keys on the 48k. Apparently the designs differed between the models released in Spain and the UK. We UKites apparently have a thing for the feel of rubber on our fingertips that is not shared by the more continental.

    Linking together ex-pat experiences and computer geekery. Does I wins an internetz yet?

  8. what the hell are all the old guys talking about today?

  9. chall says:

    haha, the trivia is SO true. all these silly TV shows that were showed in the US before 1995…. as a Swede, impossible ^^

    As for the music experience and friends/old times, I had similar thoughts looking at the closing ceremony of the olympics…. many of those songs have lots of memories for me, but nowadays the people I experienced those memories with aren’t part of my life as much (moving across the world sorta do that more effectively) and it was a little sad. OTOH I guess it’s life?

  10. Commodore PET 2000.

    Metal case. Green screen. Made endearing “clang” noises when you typed.

    I miss those days.

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