Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Creative Americans

In a German class that consists of people from Belgium, France, Croatia, Britain, Scotland, and the United States it is very interesting to see the approach people from different countries have doing something as simple as describing a picture.

Yesterday, for example, we were each given an image of someone in a hospital to describe as we are on the “hospital” chapter.

The Frenchman described the picture very literally—“there is a man lying in a hospital bed. He has a broken arm.”

The Brit also described his picture literally but with a little more story—“there is a man who is lying in a hospital bed because he had a biking accident.”

Then the American guy read his description—“Herr Schreiner had a biking accident. He is being asked by the nurse where and when and how much beer he was drinking at the time.”

Another American guy read his “Frau Hessler has back pain and is at the doctor. The doctor told her it’s because she has been lifting too heavy of a purse.”

And mine was “Herr Helmut has visitors visiting him after his operation. They brought him flowers and cookies. He was so glad because the hospital food is terrible and the nurse was about to make him eat more.”

Obviously, there was no right or wrong in these descriptions. But the Americans’ definitely got the most laughs and kept the class engaged. Why did all the Americans name the people in the photos? And all give a back-story?

From a very young age, Americans are trained to be individual and creative. From first grade on, we are trained to give “show and tell”. We bring in an object and show it off and tell its story. I think Americans are natural storytellers because of this.

My husband was recently on a conference in Athens where he noticed a related trend. All the Europeans that gave presentations read off PowerPoint slides. Only the Americans and Indonesians did not just read the slides, but told stories and embellished off of them.

So while the American education system is often criticized for many things, I think they have won the game when it comes to teaching people to think creatively. And for that I am thankful to have been raised an American.

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