By scanning several newspapers and television news channels from a number of countries, one realizes how different countries are.
There was a blip in interest in all countries about the dangers of nuclear energy following the tsunami in Japan. That story has been pushed aside by other issues, depending upon the country...except in Germany.
Although nuclear energy makes up only 24% of the country's energy consumption, there is a major push to reduce that to zero as soon as practical. This is the lead story of most newscasts and front pages of newspapers. Pressure is being exerted by the increasingly popular Green party, and the weakening Social Democrats are jumping on the bandwagon, hoping to revitalizing flagging voter interest. The right-leaning government feels itself forced to play along with popular fear of nuclear reactors. The population seems to be resigned to paying higher energy fees in the future, but accept the need to reduce the number of nuclear reactors.
No other country gives this topic such prominence in their news. Of course, the US is not interested in anything that will hurt industries. Major energy suppliers spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to discredit science behind global warming and promote use of fossil fuels or nuclear energy. France is too dependent on nuclear fuel to be able to move away. The UK government is too weak to make any decisions. Other countries seem to have their heads in the sand.
I like France for tourism. It's a great country to visit. The landscape is beautiful, and the food is excellent. I have never had a bad tourist experience, such as surly waiter or unfriendly taxi driver (you get those everywhere...except Japan).
That said, when it comes to doing business, France can be a pain in the neck. It took me many years to figure out the reason. I even had a French boss, who had similar problems dealing with our French subsidiary. I had expected him to solve problems with his countrymen, but he pleaded having similar difficulty with all three companies that he had led.
The problem is a major cultural difference: French love discussion over action. Just look at their films: two people talking for most of the duration. In business, this innate urge to discuss can be tedious, frustrating, and aggravating. The basic problem is that French businessmen prefer theory over practice, which conflicts with everyone else's urge to get things done.
The English can do irony, but Australians are masters at irreverent irony.
This explains why there is no common response to terrorism...
ALLIED ALERT LEVELS
The English are feeling the pinch in relation to
recent terrorist threats, and have therefore raised their security
level from "Miffed" to "Peeved". Soon, though, security levels may be
raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross". The English
have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940, when tea supplies
nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome"to
"A Bloody Nuisance". The last time the British issued a "Bloody
Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish
The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's
get the Bastards". They don't have any other levels. This is the
reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for
the last 300 years.
The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror
alert level from "Run" to "Hide".. The only two higher levels
in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated
by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory,
effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.
Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly"
to "Elaborate Military Posturing". Two more levels remain:
"Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides".
The Germans have increased their alert state from, Disdainful
Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs". They also
have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose".
Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only
threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.
The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to
deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new
Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.
Americans meanwhile, and as usual, are carrying out pre-emptive strikes
on all of their allies "just in case".
Canada doesn't have any alert levels.
New Zealand has raised its security levels - from "baaa" to"BAAAA".
Due to continuing defense cutbacks, New Zealand has only one more level
of escalation, which is "I hope Australia will come and rescue us".
Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "Noworries"
to "She'll be right, mate". Three more escalation levels remain:
"Crikey!", "I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend" and
"The barbie is cancelled". So far no situation has ever warranted use
of the final escalation level.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.