I arrived back in the U.S. recently looking forward to reuniting with old friends and enjoying a well-deserved vacation. As a German foreign exchange student at Oneonta High School from 1998-1999, I had the pleasure of living in Blount County for ten months. Aside from the obvious small differences between our countries, I found the United States, and Oneonta in particular, to be very welcoming and hospitable to me.
Being German, I have been able to legally drink in my country since the age of sixteen, before I even came to the U.S. as an exchange student. Alcohol in Germany, much like here in America, is a part of our culture. Wine and beer are common in homes in Europe and drinking responsibly is something we are taught at an early age. Compared to the U.S., I must say I feel we are slightly better prepared to handle alcohol and its consequences since we are introduced to it at a much earlier age. For most of the population, alcohol is a nonissue. It’s a part of life you either choose to enjoy or ignore. It’s your choice. As an outsider looking in, that’s what intrigues me so much about the wet/dry debate I have heard so much about since my arrival. Why is it an issue? In my home city of Munich, we annually host the Oktoberfest that brings in millions of tourists and with them, money. With surrounding areas already serving alcohol, Blount County has the potential to welcome in new businesses and open the door for growth. Why the resistance?
I greatly enjoyed my time here as a student and I always look forward to my visits. Blount County was very good to me and I want to see it maintain its appeal to visitors and those looking in from the outside. I can see a quaint town with cafes and unique restaurants where you can get a glass of wine with dinner… much like a country city in Germany or any part of Europe. I can see the potential for so much and if this piece falls into place, I see a great future for your county.
I look forward to many more visits. Next time, I hope to share a story with you over a glass of wine. Cheers,
(Formerly of Oneonta)