The way the Germans see The United States in general and the Americans in particular is a much more nuanced story than I could ever fit in one measly blogpost. And to be upfront about it, I’m normally drawn to the more critical and even confrontational views. It’s too easy (and naive) to believe everybody loves the Red White and Blue.
Nevertheless, when I’m minding my own business and going about my typical day, I’m often a bit taken aback when I encounter people who have very positive impressions of my homeland. In my own strange and tortured way, I like where I came from and love some of my countrymen/women very deeply. Having said all that, I don’t advertise it.
Some Germans find out I have family in Texas, and suddenly they have a volley of questions that come barrelling out of their mouths. Did you grow up with horses? Uh, no. My grandmother had a farm, but it was truly agribusiness. Did you wear a cowboy hat to school? I most certainly did not. What’s a real rodeo like? I assure you, a real rodeo is nearly as alien to me as it is to you.
Imagine my surprise when one of my clients asked me about the song I Like Beer. It won’t surprise you to know that I had no idea what she was talking about. None. Where on earth had she even located such a song of questionable quality/taste? Well, she was only too happy to inform me about the The Ranch. It’s a terrestrial radio station in the States, but you can also listen to it live-streamed anywhere in the world.
A few other titles that may or may not surprise you:
‘She’s Cold as the Beer She’s Drinking’
‘Barmaid, Pour Me a Vacation’
What do I think about this? I’m conflicted. It’s a little weird. Some Germans, as well as many Bavarians, have a rather idealised picture of life in Texas. I don’t want to dissuade them from thinking people are living a life of freedom-loving badass-ness. There are certainly plenty of people in Texas who believe that’s what they’re doing.
And I don’t want to give the impression that the perspective the Germans have isn’t nuanced. When it comes to geopolitical issues, postwar Germans are actually quite adept at such nuance. They see the American brand and know that some of it is bluster. Some of it is nostalgia. Many older Germans remember soldiers handing out chocolate bars as they liberated the war-ravaged cities. Those old-timers would likely say that that’s definitely something to be nostalgic about.
But what do I think about The Ranch providing the people of my adopted country with a slice of Americana? Still not too sure about this one. Luckily, I know some of the people who read this blog will have some clever answers for my dilemma.
I’ll leave you with the lyrics to Kevin Fowler‘s ‘I Like Beer‘:
She was alone at a table for two I said, Now's the time to make my move So I got me a beer and I bought her ... on the beach She saw that umbrella stuck in the glass That chunk of pineapple made her laugh She took the beer from my hand and said thank you, man I didn't take her for the longneck kind She said boy have you lost your mind? Chorus Hell yeah, I like beer It gets me grinnin' from ear to ear Not just every now and then I'm talking 365 days a year I can do it around the clock I don't like it just a little, I like it a lot Even hot hell yeah, I like beer Ooh, I love it Yeah, it's good for your heart, it's good for your mind It's good for gettin through a lonely all night Everybody knows you shouldn't drink too much So why does it always seem like it's enough Chorus Hell yeah, I like beer It gets me grinnin from ear to ear Not just every now and then I'm talking 365 days a year I can do it around the clock I don't like it just a little, ooh, I like it a lot Even hot hell yeah, I like beer Everybody now, come one! Chorus Yes I do Hell yeah I like beer
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2 Things: A) I never noticed you were drawn “to the more critical and even confrontational views” (oooh, “even”:) B) You ‘re right that relationship is immensely nuanced and multi-layered. I think you should carry on writing and really get to it! Heee-haww!
Thank you Margit. I think I’ll probably be forced to carry on along this vein. Soon there’ll be plenty of comments from folk similarly tortured by this topic.
I think this might touch a few nerves among my twitter folk. Shall be interesting.
What does that mean “Margit” : “never noticed you were drawn to the more critical and oooooh even confrontational views.” ? How condescending. You think lahikmajoe is just Mr nice guy? He is nice, but not everyone is on a frenzied collision course when they write. Lahikmajoe is a facilitator of differing views, an arbitrator even, not a bulldozer barreling over other opinions. Unlike some of the more “confrontational” bloggers he reads.
Oh wow Beanz, I’m rather sure that Margit wasn’t being condescending.
If anything, I’d like to explore these sorts of topics a bit more, and I’m hopeful that I can be a bit more confrontational than is normally my nature.
I would love to comment on this, but some my cattle just escaped and I can’t find my cowboy hat. Or my gun.
Here they come…
Oh wait, I found my gun. It was right next to my beer.
Real rodeos are dusty. Very dusty.
Allow me to clear up some misconceptions about Texas. You can’t get away with just wearing one cowboy hat in Texas. You have to have at least two. There is a straw one you wear in the summer, then there is a one magical day where everyone swaps out the straw ones for winter black. I think those are felt.
I am not sure how you know what day to swap them though. I don’t really wear hats. Maybe you should keep an extra hat in your truck. Better yet, ask the guy where you buy your boots and hats. He will know.
Oh, the hats. And here’s some very valuable information if you want to understand the variety of hats and the rules surrounding them.
There is no question, Lisa, that the guy where you buy your hats and boots will know the ins and outs of these matters. Good tip.
Here is my Texas advice. I was there once for about an hour so I think I’m totally qualified.
1. When I was there for an hour once, it was very windy. So probably you’d want to dress accordingly.
2. When I went there, we went to a gas station. So there are gas stations in Texas. In case you were worried there aren’t.
3. @lgalaviz informs me that you can buy wine in drugstores there, which leads me to believe Texas might be the greatest state in the union when it comes to awesome ideas.
4. There are many awesome Twitter folk who live in Texas, and I would like to see them in person so I could prove to my dad they’re not imaginary. I’m planning on getting there by stowing away on a freight train like a hobo.
Now you know ALL ABOUT TEXAS. You’re WELCOME.
Amy, you’re like a fountain of Texas-knowledge. How do you do that?
Dress according to wind? Are you alluding to the diet of the natives? The eating of beans does tend to make it a bit windy, but did you really want to go there?
I really think the wine in drugstores thing is still based upon where you are. There are purportedly still dry counties where you can’t buy alcohol anywhere. Even then, there’s plenty of legal booze-trade right across county lines.
No matter where you are, I believe it’s against State Law to purchase alcohol before noon on Sundays. Plan accordingly.
Your ‘stowing away on a freight train like a hobo’ sounds like excellent blog material. Everything for the blog, right? You certainly have done plenty over here. Please continue doing so.
I’m not from Texas but I was born in Ellensburg, WA, home of the largest 3 day rodeo on the planet. That’s a fact, not an exaggeration. I was raised on rodeo, attending every September of all my 51 years. My uncles & cousins were rodeo cowboy champions, my female cousins were barrel race. champions. I even have one uncle who was a champion rodeo clown/bullfighter. I have owned numerous cowboy hats, wore dozens of cowboy boots. Tell your German friends if they want to know about the cowboy experience they can come to Ellensburg. And Lisa is right. Rodeos ARE dusty. They’re loud, politically incorrect,arguably inhumane to animals and absolutely one of the few great things leftover from our colorful past.
That being said, horses scare me and Cowboy boots hurt me feet. Yipee-cay-yay!
This is great Debbie. I assure you, my clients who listen to The Ranch are not making fun of rodeo or Texas. Not in the least. They’re really fascinated and respectful. It’s my issue that I have to present it in a balanced and not ironic way.
Rodeo clown? Really? The cowboys/barrel racers are one thing, but the clowns? I have limitless respect for them. I’ve seen what they’re up against, and in my experience the rodeo clowns have no fear.
Thanks for your perspective. That wonder in your voice as you write that is EXACTLY what attracts these clients to the rodeo, as well as the West in general.
I never took offense, and if it seemed that way, I apologize.
I had the distinct pleasure of explaining a rodeo to a gentleman from Turkey last year. He sat next to me, and I can only imagine what was going through his mind during all that craziness. He was fascinated. Afterward, he managed to get down where he could have his photo taken with real cowboys and even with our local Yakama Indian tribal members who performed traditional Native American dances in all their beaded and feathered finery. He looked absolutely giddy as he wrapped his arm around the shoulders of a cowboy wearing a cowboy hat loaned to him for the snapshot. He said to me afterward, “Finally! This is how I imagined America!” Glad we could oblige my Turkish friend!
That’s it. That’s exactly why I wrote this post. No matter how varied and interesting the different parts of the West are, so many from outside of the US think of this picture of the cowboy in his outfit as the real America.
I have spent a fair amount of time in Texas. Since I am from a northern state, I am considered a Yankee. A foreigner if you will.
My in-laws live in a very small town in the panhandle. It is dry and windy. Even on a calm day the wind blows at about 20 mph. They do have horses and my nephew wears a cowboy hat and chaps when he rides.
The thing about Texas is it is so large, you can’t put it into a stereotype. People in Dallas have probably never seen a ranch except on tv and people like my in-laws think going to a town of 8000 is a trip to the big city.
And here is a song lyric for you courtesy of that great Texas songwriter, Waylon Jennings.
“Get your tongue out of.my mouth cause I’m kissin’you goodbye.”
First of all John, I am a huge fan of Waylon and the Boys. Great swagger and some beautiful tunes. I’m sure your in-laws are interesting to talk to and that you’ve been accepted into the fold as one of their own.
What you’re talking about is exactly why it’s so hard to pinpoint any aspect of this state. The variety of people, customs, landscapes, food, music is immense. It’s easy to slip into stereotypes, but at your peril.
Having said all that, there is a tendency of some of the people to be rather myopic. For all of the excellent people I know/have known, there are unfortunately plenty of others who balance them out. Who have little interest in entertaining competing ideas or questioning long-held perspectives.
This is exactly the sort of thing about which I’ll be going into much more depth.
I should mention I spent several days in Texas. This is what I learned.
They have great BBQ.
They are extremely proud of thei football teams.
A lot of women there have really big hair.
Did I mention it’s huge???
Well I’m afraid I fit this stereotype a little too well. I live in Texas….I’ve seen Kevin Fowler in concert……at a rodeo. Yes, it’s all true
I enjoy that people view Texas in a singular fashion. And it’s certainly a conversation starter! People love to talk to me about Texas. I grew up in the country-population of about 6000, and have now moved to the big City.
As for the hair? Theres a phrase in Texas, “the higher the hair, the closer to God”.
See Whoremonger? You’re exactly the sort of expert we need here. And you also introduced me to that other Kevin Fowler gem ‘Lord Loves The Drinkin’ Man’.
How does it feel to be speaking for small town Texas?
I’m sure I’ll be able to insert your *holy hair* line into polite conversation.
Well, some of the women I saw have a front row seat to all the action in Heaven then…that was some big-ass hair!
I have never lived in Texas, but I grew up on a ranch. That’s right. A gen-u-wine ranch with cattle and horses and cow dogs and feral cats to keep the mice away from the hay in the barn. My father has made his living “off the land,” so to speak. There are some rules that he has imparted to me and I thought I’d share them with ya’ll. 🙂
1. You should not wear a cowboy hat if you have no cows. A stuffed cow on your bed does not count. Heck, two cows don’t count. You need to have enough to call them a HERD in order to wear the hat.
2. Cowboy boots should only be worn if you actually RIDE a horse. If you’ve not got a horse, then stick to the work boots of the horseless masses. Those people who use (shudder to think it) four-wheelers to work their cattle… I can’t even finish the thought– it is that bad.
3. Cowboy boots are considered formal and work wear; therefore, you should always have at least two pair. Being seen without your boots (no matter how uncomfortable) is a fashion faux pas. Unless, of course, you are wearing your irrigation boots. Water always needs to be moved around from one place to another. You don’t want to get your
4. When you are young, baseball caps are acceptable ONLY if you are making a quick run to the feed store and you’re sure nobody else will see you. However, the older you get, the less it matters. Apparently you don’t have to keep up images when you reach 60.
5. A rancher doesn’t GROW things on his ranch (except for hay– it is okay because it sustains your animals). If you actually grow things, well, then you’re a farmer and that just isn’t the same. The one exception is that your wife can keep a small garden. After all, you need some vegetables (tomato and corn, usually) to supplement your beefy diet.
6. No sheep or goats are allowed on a ranch. Period. No exceptions.
7. Don’t name any of the animals. They are going to die. (This I learned after I made a pet of one of our calves and found out that it was an eating calf. I turned veggie for that whole winter. No bitterness here.)
Now you’re properly schooled on what a ranch (according to my father, bless his heart) is in Colorado. I know it is not Texas, but I think it’s probably similar.
Oh… I’ve not worn boots since I was a child and don’t own a cowboy hat. My hubby does the gardening. Also, I name EVERY animal, even the wild ones.
#1-has a saying too. All hat and no cattle. Meaning someone who thinks they are better than they actually are.
I have not heard that saying. I might have to start using it, just because of the weird looks I will get. 🙂
I’ve been to Texas a few times… I’ve been fortunate in my day to have worked for two companies based in Dallas so I traveled there quite a bit. Once while I was there it snowed and was told I brought the snow 🙂
My mother has told me that my Non-Teablog is weird. I must be doing something right. She also sent me the following list. Finally, a use for one of these annoying mass emails. Enjoy:
THINGS I LEARNED LIVING IN TEXAS …
A possum is a flat animal that sleeps in the middle of the road.
There are 5,000 types of snakes and 4,998 of them live in Texas .
There are 10,000 types of spiders. All 10,000 of them live in Texas , plus
a couple no one’s seen before.
If it grows, it’ll stick ya. If it crawls, it’ll bite cha.
Onced and Twiced are words.
It is not a shopping cart, it is a buggy!
Jawl-P? means, Did you all go to the bathroom?
People actually grow, eat and like okra.
Fixinto is one word. It means I’m going to do that.
There is no such thing as lunch. There is only dinner and then there’s
Backwards and forwards means I know everything about you.
The word jeet is actually a question meaning, ‘Did you eat?’
You don’t have to wear a watch, because it doesn’t matter what time it
is, you work until you’re done or it’s too dark to see.
You don’t PUSH buttons, you MASH em.
Ya’ll is singular. All ya’ll is plural. (This one I disagree with. If ya’ll must be used, it’s most definitely plural)
All the festivals across the state are named after a fruit, vegetable,
grain, insect, or animal.
You carry jumper cables in your car – for your OWN car.
You only own five spices: salt, pepper, mustard, Tabasco and ketchup.
The local papers cover national and international news on one page, but
require 6 pages for local high school sports, the motor sports, and
You think that the first day of deer season is a national holiday.
You know what a hissy fit is and you don’t have em you pitch em
Fried catfish is the other white meat.
We don’t need no dang Driver’s Ed. If our mama says we can drive, we can