Romanticizing What Our Culture Didn’t Have

Recently, I went Oktoberfest in Konstanz with T. We considered it as a kind of a pre gaming for Oide Wiesn in Munich with other friends in the coming weekend. It was a small affair and quite a decent turnout (though smaller than we expected, but it was a Sunday afternoon and I assume people planned on working on Monday).

One thing that did catch my eye was the line dancing club that blasted country music from their tent near one of the beer gardens.

You heard that right. Line Dancing. In Germany. For a second there, I thought I was back in Indiana. HAHAHAHAHAHAAH There were several folks dressed in their Dirndls and Lederhosen along with cowboy hats and boots. It was certainly an amusing sight!

I even took a video!

This reminded me of one of the aspects of German culture that fascinates me: their romanticizing of the Wild West. Germans everywhere grew up watching the Winnetou movies based on the book series by Karl May. I know I (or my fellow expat Ami in Swabenland) have touched on this subject as well as the popular Winnetou parody Der Schuh des Manitu by Michael “Bully” Herbig.

I guess to a German, the wild west is a liberating fantasy where men can be (rugged) men and they can gallop through the vast American landscape (which still exists in a lot of places….have you BEEN to Montana?) and become one with nature with their Indian brother from the Apache/Mohawk/Kickapoo/Miami/Blackhawk/Sioux/Pawnee/Arapaho/Cherokee/Cheyenne/Chippewa/Navajo/Comanche/others-I-have-surely-missed tribe.

To an American, Old Shatterhand was probably a retired soldier from the Civil War who would have killed not only Winnetou, but slaughtered all of the Apache since that’s mainly what the wild west was – the mass slaughtering of Native American tribes. Also, a good percentage of cowboys weren’t even white! Overall, it is a period in our history that is also romanticized but marred by the reality of our history.

Do you remember in Toy Story when Andy only ever played with Woody? Then Buzz came into the picture and suddenly space was cool?

Source

It’s sort of where the American imagination has evolved. My Dad’s generation (the Baby Boomer generation) loved their western shows as children. I have spent many Saturday mornings with him watching Bonanza (Man, did I have a crush on Michael Landon’s Joe Cartwright – but let’s face it, Adam was hot, too), The Lone Gunman, or Gunsmoke. But then the moon landing happened and eventually Sci-Fi shows starting popping up (Star Trek: TOS, Battlestar Galactica, 2001 A Space Odyssey). In turn, as I got older, Dad and I watched more Gene Roddenberry stuff (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Earth: Final Conflict).  In the 80s, Americans also saw an influx of fantasy films as well – Excalibur, Legend, Krull, Ladyhawke, The Princess Bride, Willow, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth (just to name a few). Americans fantasize about knights and damsels-in-distress, or lady knights, and pretty medieval dresses (or am I the only one). Now that the special effects have improved by leaps and bounds – we have our modern Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit and Game of Thrones. There are Renaissance Fairs everywhere! The biggest is in Texas (naturally) and I went to one in Maryland that actually has permanent buildings (although not open year round).

You see, Americans do it, too. We loooooooooooooooooooooooooooove the medieval times while German are all “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, about ⅓ of us died.” While there was some lovely artwork and architecture that came from that period – Europeans see the Dark Ages as a time of ignorance, disease, and death. Though they also do have Middle Age Festival (check out my post about the one I happened upon in Singen).

T chuckled at my reaction to everything at the festival (he is going to be in for a surprise when he sees how I react in New Zealand next month) but I have a clear memory of his first trip to Brown County Indiana and his desperate search for a real leather cowboy hat.

I just find it interesting how what each culture takes from another. What about you expats? What have you noticed in your expat countries?

Bis nächste Woche!

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