Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Changing Reactions: Thank You, Mr. Obama

Little nice things I notice: Three times in the last week, someone has noticed my appalling accent when speaking bad French and reacted nicely, offering a few English words. One person even said I had a nice accent, but I know she was lying, just to be nice. It has always struck me as grossly unfair that when Americans speak French, we usually sound like rubes killing a beautiful language. When French people speak English, it makes me want to melt. Just listen to this:

I have been living as an American in Europe for over 20 years (as a dual Dutch-American citizen for the last five years). I have never seen open hostility or anti-Americanism directed at me, perhaps because at least for the last eight years I have been as disillusioned with the US government as pretty much anybody. While I never got hostility, most people let me struggle along. I was in France, so I should be at least trying to speak French.

This week though, that changed subtly. When hearing me speak, or talk with my wife, they smiled. I am sure they were thinking of a tall, skinny man speaking from a podium in Chicago to adoring crowds, and the hope he provides. Even the most anti-American Europeans (and several Canadians) I have met make a distinction between the government and the people (for the last 8 years bad and still good, respectively). Those smiles show that hope travels around the world that these two can be reconciled. 

For this too, thank you Mr. Obama.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thing I Dislike About Cannes

A few weeks ago, I posted here about why I dislike Orlando, the traditional location of my company's Fall user conference in the US. I feel obligated to post a similar list about Cannes, the European venue.

It will be a much shorter list, as while there is one thing I don't like about the place, I generally find it quite pleasant. The main thing it has going for it is that it is a real city, an actual place. One can wander into town, see people going about their lives with their ridiculously small dogs in tow, and escape the conference bubble without too much effort. None of that is possible in Orlando.

So here it is, the one thing I don't like.

  1. Cannes is expensive and pretentious.
    I mean really: €14 for a beer? The polo shirts are nice, but am I really supposed to pay €140 for them because of the logo?

That's it. Not really too much to get excited about. I can't even get worked up about the famous rudeness. I either seem to not attract it somehow, or it feels right. I expect a brusque reception at a busy brasserie, even if it is not that busy. A stern warning that I shouldn't expect to order a full meal at 4:00 PM makes it feel authentic and familiar, mostly since I only wanted some oysters anyway.

I really don't think I will be able to continue this thread much longer. The next US location is Las Vegas, and I wouldn't even know how to begin there. The next European location is Barcelona, and I'm not sure I could come up with anything I dislike about that place.

If you have anything you'd like to add about something to dislike about Cannes or Orlando, please leave a comment.