What is National Identity Anymore?

One of the reasons I was really looking forward to my recent trip to Germany was to absorb some of the unique culture.  Maybe get some authentic German food like sauerbraten.  While I did find some German food, on the whole I was disappointed.  Most of what I ate could’ve been found in any major U.S. city.  There was even a 24-hour McDonald’s in the street behind my hotel, which by the way was a Hyatt.

Not that homogenization of the world is anything new.  In the early 1960s, NBC Radio broadcast a daily feature called “Emphasis” that was a series of brief essays by their correspondents on their world-wide experiences.   One that had stuck in my mind was a piece by John Rich on May 2, 1961, on the influence the U.S. has had on Germany since World War II.  I’ll quote the last third:

The extent to which these things have gone because clear a while ago when two German fliers returned from Czechoslovakia, after they had become lost in their American-built fighter planes, having strayed across the border and made a forced landing.  German reporters, covering their news conference, were horrified to discover that the fliers no longer spoke pure German.  Trained by American instructors and forced to use English for their airborne communications, they couldn’t utter a sentence without tossing in an English phrase.

Today, a typical conversation between two German airmen at a Luftwaffe field following a flight might go something like this:

“Allo, Maxie.”

“Allo, Fritz.”

Wie gahts?”

“Okay, okay.”

“Fritzie, gestern gab es ein lautenboomer in mein tailpipe.  Aber, no sweat, boy, no sweat.  Ich habe normal letdown procedure gemacht.”

“Achtung, Maxie! Hier kommt der old man. Sehen Sie spater am PX snack bar. Auf wiedersehen.”

“Take it easy.”


The Best of Emphasis, compiled and edited by Arthur W. Hepner, The Newman Press, Westminster, MD, 1962, page 264

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