They always say that there is no better way to share your culture and friendship with someone else than over a meal.
And what better place in America than a hamburger joint? Here is a video of American President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sharing a hamburger and fries together during President Medvedev’s visit to the USA.
It includes Obama telling Medvedev that he can leave his jacket in the car (“It’s safe. It’s ok”), a photo shoot with both presidents and some American soldiers, and Obama ordering a meal for himself and Medvedev at the counter.
This video is a reminder of the fact that language and culture even the playing field. As we watch Medvedev, we can relate to him fully. Yes, he is the President of Russia, but suddenly he becomes simply another human being, a person like us who is taking in something new and out of the ordinary. As multilinguals, we understand this. We’ve been there. We’ve done that. As Obama orders a hamburgers and fries for both of them, Medvedev smiles, he stands by, he comments here and there but ultimately he is unable to participate fully in the process.
Is this not something with which we can relate so very well? Can we not remember those times we stood in Medvedev’s shoes? As I watch this video, I am transported to a time when I was in a restaurant in another country where someone else ordered food for me. I couldn’t even understand what was on the menu. My companion explained to the waiter with expertise our meals of choice. I sat there, not sure what, exactly, I should do or say and so I just smiled and took in the whole experience. I was taken care of fully and completely yet I also felt helpless, like a little child.
In the end, whether we are a president or a bystander, a traveler or an inhabitant, without language, we are speechless.