I’m by no means the most knowledgeable person when it comes to politics and government policy, but even on campus I love talking with international students about what they think about the United States and how it compares to their homes. I certainly have had a number of wonderful opportunities to do the same here in Munich! The reactions have been rather interesting.
The United States is obviously a large country, and so one of the most common replies to my question ran along the lines of how difficult it can be to find real diversity. Even from Notre Dame’s campus, if one drives twelve hours west, south, or east, one still finds oneself in the same country where the same language is spoken ubiquitously despite crossing perhaps even more than one time zone. Doing so from Germany would certainly land you in a different country, speaking altogether different languages, perhaps even using a different currency. Of course, the European Union, as the mother of my host family pointed out on our drive to Austria, makes Europe more accessible, but it by no means makes it as homogeneous as the United States.
On the other hand, generalizing the United States is also difficult because of its size. Even the book that we use for class makes the United States feel a bit like an oddball, often asking questions like “What is it like in your country?” I simply cannot speak for the minute cultural variances which span the nation, whereas my classmates, all of whom are not from the United States, have less trouble speaking on behalf of their country as a whole.
After posing this question to a classmate, she addressed the difference in health care systems. In Germany, the government guarantees health care for everyone, whereas in the United States, the system is obviously not so. My classmate was shocked that the U.S. has such a successful economy and yet does not provide health care for its citizens. Several others with whom I spoke said that having healthcare guaranteed by the government is a great comfort. Indeed, the implications of having such a system are complex, yet I find most interesting the way in which these systems affect the individual lives of the people they support. Germany has in so many ways proven extremely interesting in comparison to the United States!
In other news, my lovely host family took me with them for a weekend to their house in Rauris, Austria, a small village in the middle of the Alps. It’s quite easily the most beautiful place that I’ve ever been. It was a little tricky at first understanding the thick accent that the locals have there, but I caught on quickly and thoroughly enjoyed meeting my host family’s neighbors. Here’s a picture of me there!
Alles geht mir sehr gut in Deutschland, und ich freue mich auf die Abenteuer, die ich noch haben werde! Bis meine nächste Post!