Outside India, that is. I need to mention here that I have never been to any country outside India myself and I don’t even have a passport! So, the countries listed here are based on my perception of the outside world developed over the years.
Perception – We all know that the perceptions we have today would be broken tomorrow (if not today itself!), but still we feel the need to form perceptions of people / communities – Don’t we? Maybe perceptions are like a camouflage for hiding our ignorance!
This is not a list of Countries with my favorite (wanna go) tourist places. Its based more on my perception of a (perhaps non-existent) National Character, of which I think every country has one.
My tryst with Germany is more like first love – Seeking solace through perceived idealism. Some how, this first love stayed with me!
I don’t know why the English speaking people call this country ‘Germany’ while they themselves call it ‘Deutschland’. Maybe the Brits (back then) thought Deutschland was difficult to pronounce, and hence went with a more easily pronounceable word in English! But I like both the names.
To me, Germany represented idealism – Be it Science, Technology, Medicine or even Philosophy! Most of the innovations in the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and even early Twentieth centuries came from Germany.
Germany has produced a lot of world famous philosophers. That’s one reason why I am trying to learn their language – I want to get familiar with the works of these philosophers in their language as I think that translated works might take away the crux of the messages conveyed. A Tamil poem, translated into English can never match or even come near to the original text, for example!
To me, Germany represented tenacity, guts and will to fight powers that are much larger than itself. This is what Winston Churchill had to say after the two world wars – “They fought the whole world twice, and almost won both the times”.
The brands from Germany signified new levels of dependability, quality and efficiency. Be it Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, Siemens, Metro or any other German company. The German football team has been one of the best in the world and Bayern Munich has been my favorite club for a long time. Back then, when India qualified for the champions trophy in hockey, I used to admire their style of playing hockey as well, in which they are one of the best teams along with Australia and Netherlands.
Japan, to me is about admiration & learning. I admire a lot of aspects of the Japanese people and society, and feel that the whole world has a lot to learn from them.
My earliest introductions to Japan were from my English teacher who kept praising the discipline and sincerity of Japanese students (She taught in some Japanese school as a part of a brief teacher training program), and compared them to us 🙂 I also remember seeing a photo in a popular Tamil magazine taken from outside a Japanese company – ‘Workers who come to the factory on Saturday and Sunday to work will be fined!’ 🙂 It seems, the Japanese workers would work more so that the company is unable to sell them and is struck up with stocks, when they want to protest/ go on a strike! Compare that to how others go on a strike!
Anything that has a Made in Japan sticker on it is considered a high quality product, at least here. Sony, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Honda, Suzuki, Toshiba are highly respected brands all over the world. Japanese management/ manufacturing principles like 5 Sigma are followed throughout the world.
I read in some blog about an incident that happened when the blogger was in Japan – When a colleague lost a purse (with money), it was deposited in a police station by someone who found it. So, while the blogger was expressing their happiness about the purse being returned, it seems the colleague said, ‘What else could that person do? Its not their money anyway’!! Try to beat that attitude – Only a society with very wise people can react like that.
In fact, Akio Morita – One of the founders of Sony Corp, writes in his book that Inherited property would not last more than a couple of generations in Japan, as the inheritance taxes were so high and the difference between the salaries of CEO & Workers was not more than 10x (at least back then)!! Inheritance of unearned wealth can hamper a whole society by making them lazy and taking away the incentive to work. Overpaying of executives has brought a sub-prime crisis, elsewhere.
Alfred Nobel assigned the responsibilities to evaluate and hand over all Nobel prizes to different committees in Sweden except one of them – The Nobel Peace prize. That in itself is a huge testament to Norway’s involvement in peaceful settlement of disputes.
Not every other country gets involved in maintaining peace between warring factions in distant nations. Especially when there is nothing in it for them to gain. That shows the genuine concern Norwegians have towards fellow beings in other nations.
Nothing is more important than peace and peaceful resolution of conflicts – Europe has learned this the hard way, and the United States will also learn it the hard way.
Norway has been involved in initiating/ forwarding negotiations in order to bring peaceful resolution of long standing conflicts in multiple regions including Sri Lanka, Sudan, Israel-Palestine, Philippines, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Columbia, Haiti, etc.
Some of them have succeeded but many of them have failed. But just for the sheer effort and their genuine concern in bringing about world peace and harmony, Norway has become one of my favorite countries and an example for all other nations to follow.
The world has become a global village after all. So, why not make it a peaceful one? Hats off to Norway for starting a positive trend.