“I want your lovin’, I want your revenge, you and me could write a bad romance.”
The chorus to one of Lady Gaga’s hits blasts over the speakers. I see the people on the dance floor shouting along to the words and watch a group of teenagers grind on each other in a style truly perfected in shady little establishments such as Stadium Bar & Grille. And yet, I am not at Stadium, Brick Street Bar, Pachinkos or even a frat party; I’m in the 4th Arrondissement in Paris, known more affectionately as the Le Marais. Why is it I’m listening to Lady Gaga instead of some French pop artist or German rock band? Because, my friends, America is everywhere.
I have been studying in Luxembourg for around 10 weeks now, and after countless searches and fruitless attempts, I have given up on finding a place where there isn’t, at least in some form, the stamp of the good ol’ U.S. of A. In Leipzig, Germany, we danced to Beyoncé. In London we drank authentic ale to Chris Brown. In our favorite little pub in Luxembourg City we hear Bob Dylan’s greatest hits every time we go. If I were to name one thing that has been common in all the cities I’ve visited over here, it’s that I’ve heard a Michael Jackson song in every single pub, bar, hostel lobby and street speaker at least once. And it’s not just music. This past weekend I was traveling to Amsterdam with my parents who dropped in for a visit this week (side note: nothing will make dinner with the family more uncomfortable than having walked through the Red Light District of Amsterdam to get to the restaurant … I do not recommend it as a fun family destination). We were talking about shows and movies I’ve missed while abroad, and my dad was trying to remember the name of this show he just started watching. Describing it in very general terms (on CBS, on after “How I Met Your Mother,” two nerds and a hot chick, etc.) we were stumped as to recalling the name of the show. “Big Bang Theory” suddenly springs out in lightly accented English. “Ah, that’s it, thanks” my dad replies to the 19 or 20-year-old Dutch college student sitting across from us on the train. Now, Lady Gaga I guess I understand, but crappy CBS late night TV? I just need a minute to reorient myself here.
In my limited time here in Europe, I was hoping to have some truly, well, European experiences. I know I’m living in Europe when everything is closed for two hours in the middle of the day, and the service in every single restaurant is terrible, and I would have a better chance of coughing up plutonium than getting free refills of any drink, but there is still something so American about everything. I already touched on the language abilities of Europeans, but it really extends beyond simply speaking English. I went to the movies a couple of weekends ago with some friends, and the movie theater not only played only American films (with the exception of two out of 10 movies showing) but played them in English. I was Facebook chatting with a Luxembourgish friend of mine, and he told me he was watching “Two and a Half Men” in German. In Dublin, I had German police cadet (on vacation and absolutely hammered)shouting Dave Chappell quotes in my ear.
In every political science class there is discussion of the effects of globalization. I realize Europe and the U.S. are part of the globalized north or Western world or whichever buzz word is popular that day, and therefore it makes sense there ought to be similarities between us and our brethren across the pond, but I can’t help but notice it’s one-sided. I can see countless examples of America creeping into European culture, but am hard-pressed to cite the reverse. I suppose the fashion world owes a lot to Paris, London and Milan but nothing else really comes to mind without some serious digging. I don’t have a solution to this problem I’ve presented, but if there’s anything I would say to my fellow Miamians tucked back in Oxford, I would encourage them to take advantage of the international opportunities Miami University offers. The department of French offers guest lecturers every Wednesday and Alexander Dining Hall has language tables where you can speak to natives in French, German, Spanish and Chinese. I’m a little out of the loop on any current cultural activities going on, but a quick stop by the Study Abroad Office’s bulletin board will present you with enough flyers for events to keep you busy until the end of the semester. I also would recommend at least talking to some of the international students on campus, a lot of times they offer a really different perspective on our little Oxford bubble. America might be a leading global power politically and economically, but that doesn’t mean we need to corner the market culturally as well, and I think it would be beneficial to Miami students to at least take a peek at what else the world has to offer.
Liberal education means a lot of things to a lot of people. To some, the Miami Plan is a burden – to others, it is the embodiment of a good education. In an exploration of what liberal education means to those who teach and learn by its precepts, The Miami Student will be printing a series of essays on the subject by students, staff and faculty culminating in an open forum at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 6 in Pearson 218. Liberal Education Council members will be on hand to consider ways the university can improve the substance and implementation of the Miami Plan. We encourage our readers to join in the discourse by sending letters to the editor and attending the forum.