May 2011


What Unites…

I want to thank everybody who commented and provided suggestions as to what to talk about during my Living in Germany as an American talk.

Amongst the others, I want to thank 50% of My DNA (I stole one of your photos, but I credited you), and PapaScott (I quoted one of his 2009 blog posts, with proper credit). Also, PapaScott reviewed a mid-to-late iteration of the presentation and sent me an impressive list of comments on a number of slides: corrections, additions, and some insights.

I gave the talk Tuesday morning and, I think, it went fairly well.

There were a total of 60 slides, including the title and closing slides—which, had the break been only 15 minutes and not 30, would have worked perfectly. I ended up rushing through the last six slides—which included my discussion of the differences in freedom of speech between the United States and Germany.

The very last slide I threw in was a slide entitled, “What Unites and Common Experiences”—which I will readily admit I put in because I wanted to put Eurovision somewhere into my presentation. (And my apologies for the “misspelled” words in the slide, but short of tagging each individual box, I’ve never figured out how to make an entire PowerPoint presentation written on a German computer behave like it is supposed to be in English.)

What Unites and Common Experiences: The US, German, the EU, and Europe in comparison

I am not writing in German, but PowerPoint thinks I am.

I ended up with what I ended up with after consulting a number of colleagues at the office. It was easy for me to identify what “unites” Americans, even if I personally think that flag worship is odious and that the best way to enjoy the Super Bowl is to sleep through it. It was also easy to come up with things that unite Germans: the national obsession with recycling and the German soccer team quickly come to mind.

However it was trickier to come up with something that unites the EU – the Euro doesn’t qualify. The only thing that comes close is English – except in France. Of course the United States has Texas, so that’s roughly the same thing.

When I broadened it out to Europe (whether you define it loosely or tightly), the shared, uniting experiences include English, UEFA football (an international soccer league, somewhat akin to the NFL), hatred of George W. Bush (more potent back in 2004, but the hatred is no longer so virulent), and, of course, Eurovision.

With over 100,000,000 people watching, from all corners of Europe, it is the one of the few common shared experiences for people from Geneva to Istanbul, from Oslo to Lisbon, and Reykjavik to Baku.

It might actually be the only common shared experience.

4 comments to What Unites…

  • Jen

    Oooooo…care to share the whole presentation? You know my email. 😉

  • What a cool topic to give a presentation on! What photo did you end up using from me? I don’t think of myself as a particularly good photograher.

    Also, I think you should give this presentation at WeBUM. 🙂

    • I used your photo of the “information for foreigners” bulletin board…

      A classic photo if there ever was one!