Dear USA, welcome back, we missed you.
Do you know that feeling when you see a close friend struggling? That’s how I felt the last four years.
It can be painful to watch someone who we think highly of, going nuts. Thanks to the Trump administration, that was basically our experience on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
I grew up in Germany. Since I was a little boy, most of the things I loved came from the United States. You guys introduced me to skateboarding, music, and a way of life that promised individual freedom. As an adult, I am engaged to an American woman, and we are looking forward to getting married when COVID-19 is under control.
At the same time, I had been heavily criticizing basically anything the Trump administration did throughout the last years. It showed the ugly side of the United States. I was disgusted by the rise of conspiracy theories like QAnon, and I started doubting my good old friend—many of us in Europe did.
I was called anti-American in the comment sections of my articles—and that hurt me a lot.
But now, it feels as if our friend is back on track—it feels as if a close friend just came out of rehab—there is still a lot of work to get done, but things are moving in the right direction.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on how Germany managed the pandemic a little better than our friends overseas, but the situation has changed by now.
Germany did much better at the beginning of the pandemic. We went to lockdown, wore our masks, and trusted mother Merkel. In the meantime, the United States saw protests of folks who insisted on going to a hairdresser and carrying loaded weapons into a town hall.
But, all of a sudden, the situation has changed. The first vaccines were ready to go, and the United States wasted no time and threw all the available money at the companies producing them. At the same time, the German government waited with their orders and wanted to make sure not to waste any money.
Do you know that saying that our biggest strength can be our worst weakness?
My American fiancé often gets upset with me for overthinking situations—she says that I worry too much. And she is right on that. At the same time, I feel the other way around quite often. I just cannot grasp the optimism my beloved partner holds toward the future—and that is one of the key differences between our cultures: concern versus optimism.
It turns out that none is better than the other—it literally depends on the situation we are dealing with.
Right now, I am watching drive-in vaccination centers in the United States while German authorities are discussing if family doctors should be allowed to administer the shot. Germans are worried—Americans are moving forward.
I was shocked by the emphasis on individual freedom displayed by COVID-19 deniers in the United States who were unwilling to limit their personal lives for the greater good. Now I am embarrassed by the indecisive vaccine rollout in Germany that is slowed down by “the German way.”
We Germans are taught to double-check everything from the get-go. There is always that thought of, “but what if?” Sometimes that is a good thing, and sometimes it sucks.
I remember a New Year’s Eve party in Morocco a few years ago. I was introduced to a German couple about 30 minutes before midnight. The dancefloor was pumping and everyone was having a good time. Out of nowhere, my new German friends asked me, “Dude, living abroad seems to be fun, but I have to ask you: do you have health insurance?”
Germans love to worry—and that is not always a bad thing, but it can be a burden.
With a Trump administration drifting away from reality, it seemed as if all the worriers-in-chief in Europe got the upper hand, but that is over now.
Joe Biden’s administration already vaccinated 80 million Americans within the first 50 days in office. The new president already announced the goal to return to something close to normality by summer. In the meantime, Germany is struggling to make any similar promises.
My intention is not to decide which country or culture is better, smarter, or more successful—my point is that we need to learn from each other.
I learned so much from my beloved American fiancé about taking risks, standing up for myself, and thinking outside of the box. I always admired the American way of life that offers unlimited opportunities to unleash creativity.
Individual freedom can lead to presidents like Donald Trump, ridiculous characters like the QAnon shaman, or nasty agitators like Candace Owens, but it is also the breeding ground for personalities like John Lewis, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and our Editor-in-Chief Waylon Lewis.
One day this COVID-19 crisis will be over, and we will have to learn our lesson on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
In my experience, as an individual, we benefit the most if we try to learn from each other. What can we learn from other cultures, and what can we share with other countries?
The past year has shown us that it is all about balance and learning from each other. Europe and the United States are like two buddies who are different, but we need to be able to see the qualities of the other.
Imagine the United States would have adapted Europe’s lockdown policies, and Europe would have managed the vaccination rollout as Joe Biden does—we would probably be done with COVID-19 by now.
Europe and the United States are not rivals—we are brothers and sisters that share common values but agree to disagree on several issues—just like friends and family do.
And as a European, I can say, “I am so happy to see that our best friends are getting their sh*t together again.”
Let’s move forward and take this crisis as an inspiration to listen better to each other. Let’s take this as an opportunity to learn from the other. And most importantly, let’s show all these dictatorships around the world that democracies are also able to deal with a worldwide pandemic without completely giving up individual rights.
You are our big buddy we look up to, but please don’t go crazy again. The last years had been challenging.
Welcome back, beacon of light. Welcome back, my best friend. After all, you are pretty cool.