Experiencing Elections Abroad

Last year, the United States had an election — for better or for worse. It was quite an emotional time and it occupied every facet of our lives for a year. During the last fall semester, I had made friends with exchange students from Germany and they were quite surprised at how prevalent the election was in the media and on campus. (They would later do a road trip to the inauguration).  Now it was my turn to see a foreign election, but in Europe!

It seems to proceed quite differently here with elections. Being a student abroad during these events made me compare just how different our societies and cultures can be.

Unlike in the US, Germany and France have less time dedicated to their elections. I arrived in Paris right after their election. Macron was elected to not nearly as much fanfare as I would come to expect. French political culture is quite critical; politicians from both sides of aisle often have to deal with low approval ratings.

I guess that revolutionary tradition just leads to a lot of displeasure with the government. Even with ours!

Left leaning poster making fun of Macron and Trump.

Once I finally moved to Germany, I found that their election was in full swing. The German election was less emotional than the US or French one. Posters were on every corner and lamp post. Most students here had less to say than students back in the US about our election. It was just another day for students.

Apathy was a bit high…

Satirical party “Die Party” places blank poster for people to draw on around town, “Freeze Ice cream prices!

There weren’t as many viewing parties as in the US either; the German election were considered “boring” by commentators. There were some small upsets, but the results were expected. Unlike the US, the Germans don’t vote for leader of the country, but for political parties. Chancellor Merkel’s party came ahead for the fourth time but, without a majority, there will have be negotiations with the other parties to form a government. This is typical in parliamentary style governments. This will force parties with different ideals to compromise to govern together.

The suggested government? The Jamaica collation (from the colors of three parties that will form the government)!

Newspaper placing party leaders of the Jamaica collation in a “ Pirates of the Caribbean” style photo.

It will most likely take weeks or months to form the government which will elect the new Chancellor. If negotiations fail, there will have to be another election! What I can say is that it is quite amusing to see such a contrast with attitudes about politics here.

Regardless of political affiliation, it’s nice to have everything be civil for once!


Eduardo Santiago is a German major with a minor in international security and conflict resolution (ISCOR). He is studying in Tübingen, Germany for an entire academic year.

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