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Europe Meets D.C.: Witnessing Election Day through European eyes

Saturday - 11/10/2012, 3:19pm  ET

Christine Amdam, of Norway, and Alina Braun, of Germany, are WTOP interns experiencing American culture. (WTOP/Melvin Chase)
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Editors Note: They traveled 1,230 miles to come to Washington, D.C. -- Christine Amdam flew all the way from Norway and Alina Braun from Germany. This fall, they are studying journalism at American University and working as interns for WTOP. They quickly discovered that Washington and the American culture are very different from their hometowns Oslo and Mannheim and decided to document their experiences. Check each weekend to read about Christine and Alina's "culture clashes."

Celebrating politics

Alina Braun, special to WTOP

Drink and food specials, people dancing and shouting in the streets and motorcade - this is what I associate with soccer world championships in Germany. On Tuesday night, I learned that the re-election of President Barack Obama also created such a mass party.

I still get the goose bumps when thinking about the celebration and the excitement of all these people - an excitement that I only knew from sporting events. I would have never imagined that a political decision would be able to create the extreme excitement I witnessed.

Some European friends and I wanted to be in the middle of what was going on during election night. We were told to go to U Street by many Americans, and we ended up at the Mexican restaurant Alero. You could feel the tension in the restaurant. All eyes were fixed on the TV screen, anxiously waiting for the next results.

It reminded me of the last soccer world championship in Germany, when all restaurants were packed and people had that same look in their eyes when they stared at the screen. I thought, "Wow, it is voting results we are watching, right?"

Whenever Obama won a new state, people started jumping on their feet, embracing each other and cheering. I expected the final result to be announced around 2 a.m. but, then the win over Ohio caught everybody by surprise. First, there was a moment of shock, and then everybody went crazy. People started dancing to the song "Viva Obama," screaming the name of their re-elected president and some were even crying.

We rushed out on U Street where people had gathered in front of Ben's Chili Bowl and were constantly singing "four more years." Then we decided to go the White House. Here, the craziness was even more extreme: Teenagers climbed into trees, and American flags were swung everywhere. Suddenly, the whole crowd started to passionately sing the National Anthem.

Some Obama fans came dressed up as if it was Halloween. One, for example, wore a rabbit costume. I was so amazed that I wasn't really able to take part in the singing, screaming and jumping. I mostly observed the scene with a big grin on my face and took a lot of pictures. I have never before been right in the middle of a historical moment.

Some German friends and I started to imagine how it would be if this were to happen in Germany. The thought was so absurd that we had to laugh. When Angela Merkel was elected as chancellor in 2009, nobody went out on the street or watched the result at special election parties. In Germany, I never even thought about doing that. This does not mean people weren't happy about the result of our election. Many were - they just didn't celebrate it.

Politics is considered a rather dry topic in Germany. Sports are something you celebrate and area a cause to drink and go crazy. But politics? Somehow, Americans manage to make it a fun and entertaining part of their culture in Washington. I admire people in D.C. for that and wish Germans would find that passion for politics. I have never read and heard more about politics than here in this city, and, generally, I have never been more interested in politics. In Germany, I sometimes had to force myself to read all political news on a regular basis. Here, it somehow became a hobby - as if I was infected by the city's love for politics.

Watch a video of election night by Alina Braun:

Alina Braun is an intern at WTOP this fall. She is studying journalism and foreign policy at American University for two semesters. In Germany, she is obtaining her master's degree and studying, in which she is majoring in linguistics and minoring in psychology. She works as a freelance journalist for the German public radio station SWR.

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