Sunday, September 21, 2008

Back from California

My job sometimes requires me to attend international conferences and workshops. It's pretty exciting, but also very hard work. You have to prepare presentations, posters and articles for the conference digest. You must concentrate on others presentations (ignoring your jet lag) and the brain gets much more input per day than usual. Some people, who wish me a nice holiday before I leave, don't really know what this is about :)

This year, I had the honor to make a 2 weeks trip to Southern California, first to San Diego and then to Pasadena. It was my first visit to the US so here are some differences I noticed with respect to Old Europe. Of course these are highly subjective and based on what I saw in two weeks in just a tiny corner of a huge country.

Shops, Restaurants
If you are used to the unfriendlyness of German shop employees and waiters, you'll be positively surprised in the US. They always have some friendly words for you. They might not be serious with that, but they do it well enough so it works. This is definitely something, where Germans can learn from the US.

Public transport
As a resident of a big German city, I can live perfectly without owning a car. Of course people here always complain about the local trains being too expensive, finishing operation too early in the night etc. But this is still paradise compared the US. At the bus stops in San Diego I saw mostly people who didn't really look prosperous. It seems that everyone who can afford a car, buys one. For a reason.

International news
If you want to learn about a foreign society it's a good idea to watch their TV programs. I learned that American TV news (aside from being extremely hysteric) mostly deal with domestic issues. I talked to an American colleague about that. I was quite surprised that he told me exactly, what I already thought: Americans are self-centered. Maybe a bit of information about foreign countries and societies (especially the ones you plan to bomb) would make some things go more smoothly.

Both Western European societies and the US appreciate personal freedom. But the definitions of freedom seem to be somewhat different. In Europe you can usually drink alcohol in public and on many beaches you can decide yourself how much you wear. Americans want to be able to buy firearms, drive big cars and put their dishes into the trashcan after eating. In Europe, I don't miss any of the American freedoms. Not sure about the vice versa.

Shows of any kind in the US have definitely another dimension. Germans seem to be way too modest to do something like the killer-whale show in the San Diego Seaworld or the shows in the Universal studios in Hollywood.

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