The Following is an interview I did for my Global News and World Media Cultures class. We were searching for perspective from individuals born outside of the U.S. on key differences that they thought existed between media and culture within their country of origin and here. Edith had some excellent points so I thought I’d share.
Edith, 59, now of Winchester, TN, grew up near the town of Frankfurt am Main in Germany, which is the fifth largest city in the country. She was born in the 50s when the reconstruction was in full swing after World War II. Both of her parents were refugees from different parts of Germany. Her father was a POW of the Americans, and Edith recalls him frequently commenting that the black G.I.s treated the prisoners better than the other soldiers did and would often sneak them extra food.
The post war generations were more accepting of other people and cultures than previous ones had been, Edith says. “I grew up with people of Greek, Italian, Turkish and North African decent, as Germany didn’t have enough labor when the economy was booming in the 60s and 70s.”
Growing up, Edith was expected to respect her elders, offer her seat on the bus to an older person, work for what she wanted, and not to expect someone else to be her safety net. The saying that still rings in her ears today is; “if you make your bed hard, you will sleep hard,” which she translates as taking personal responsibility for one’s own actions.
Education was stressed in Germany and Edith attended school six days each week. She explains that there were different levels or paths one could take based on individual grades and points of interest. She also commented that most Germans were taught more than one language from an early age, and many speak at least three or more fluently. Germans didn’t watch as much T.V. as she says is customary in the U.S., and instead she read books in her free time, which she cites as a principal learning tool for herself, something that Americans tend to put on the back burner, unless required by school.
“We (Germans) know more about what is happening in the rest of the world, and are usually more politically informed. Europeans are usually well traveled and educated about other people and cultures.”
Edith recalls learning about the Vietnam War and civil rights issues in America. She states, “We were very informed about what America was doing in the rest of the world as well as internally. I believe we received more objective news and the truth than Americans themselves did. Americans were hypocrites to us. You can’t preach human rights to other people when you are one of the worst offenders in the world yourself.”
After meeting her husband, an African American solider stationed in Germany, Edith moved to the U.S. in the early 70s and began raising a family of her own. She recalls being utterly shocked at the level of poverty that she saw and how primitively some people still lived in America, and in the South particularly. “The level of ignorance about the rest of the world left me speechless, Edith remembers, “The religious hypocrisy was and still is amazing to me, and the racial biases that still exist to this day are showing as to what extent people are really belying their religious beliefs. I am not impressed with the educational levels of the average person and how easily they are manipulated by clever politicians to believe in something that is actually to their own detriment.”
Edith recalls raising her four children at a time when American society was already changing into one where material things became the focal point. “It was important what shoes and jeans one was wearing in school in order to be accepted,” Edith claims. “I think that became an issue in all industrialized nations and not just the U.S. The focus of working hard and educating yourself and personal responsibility had shifted. Parents worked harder to provide luxuries for their children and the children became a generation of people who felt entitled. I personally never felt a sense of entitlement, everything I have I worked for and it makes me also appreciate what I have.”
“Overall I feel that Europeans were privy to objective news about how America and the rest of the world handled their affairs, Edith states, “When you watch the evening news here very little is reported about foreign affairs unless it’s a big deal. Americans have and are living in a vacuum.”