The encounter of two worlds
Last weekend and after more than one year of absence, I came back to my hometown Nantes located in the French West coast. Half of my family arranged to meet up in this important cultural capital symbolized by the Machines de l’île and its giant mechanical elephant.
My grandma and my sister made the trip to Nantes to join my parents and my brother who are both currently living there, whilst I was flying from Berlin. A special guest was also coming to join this family reunion; Paul, 23 years old, my American twin and close friend who had been exploring our beautiful Europe for a few months.
Seeing Paul and my grandma together was fascinating.
Two generations, two nationalities and two different cultures in the same place. My grandma who is 81 years old has been through:
- World War Two (1939–1945)
- First atomic bomb explosion (1945)
- Algeria’s colonization war (1954–1962)
- Cold war (1947–1991)
- The 60’s liberation (May 68 in France, Martin Luther King ‘I have a dream’, Woodstock, The Beatles mania …)
- The conquest of space and the first man to walk on the Moon (1969)
- The great thirties in France (1946 -1975)
- The fall of Berlin wall (1991)
- The emergence of Aids (end of 70’s)
- Economic crash in 2008
- Climate Change
- The end of an industrial world to the emergence of a digital one.
Social and democratic progress (in France)
- End of juridique incapacity (women don’t rely on men for their juridical right) (1938)
- First paid leave (1936)
- Women’s right to vote and to be elected (1944)
- Minimum wage for everybody (1950)
- End of matrimonial regimes. French women no longer need the consent of their husbands to choose a profession or to open a bank account and dispose of their own property (1965)
- Legalization of contraceptive pills (1967)
- Legalization of abortion (1975)
- Abolition of death penalty (1981)
- The number of graduate students getting higher and higher
- Recently the marriage for everyone (gay marriage is recognized by law) (2013).
- Transistor (1948)
- The gradual emergence of vaccines (50’s) (doubling of life expectancy in France in the 20th century)
- The first artificial satellite Sputnik (1957)
- From a majority of manual household work, to washing machines and dishwashers (1960)
- Personal computer (1977)
- TGV, the fastest train in the world (1981)
- Microship (1983)
The arrival of the mainstream internet and the World Wide Web (90’s) with:
- The open source
- Browsers, Google, Yahoo (1999)
- Wikipedia, the biggest collaborative and free encyclopedia in the world (2001)
- Smartphones, Apple (2007)
- Social networks (2004)
- MOOC (massive open online course) (2012)
- Last but not least Artificial Intelligence and the Internet Of Things which are getting bigger and bigger.
You got it, a life who has experienced an incredible number of technological and social evolution. #BitchSitDownBeHumble
57 is the number of years which separates grandma and Paul. Today they are side by side in the same garden in Nantes. They don’t speak the same language, however they can communicate. Gestures, smiles, mimes and our powerful human instinct which makes them understand that being together here today is something unique.
Before Paul travelled to Nantes, he visited the landing beaches of Normandie like every respectful American visiting Europe. The last time my grandma saw an American was precisely during this historical event. «The chips are down! »
Today in the garden of one of her sons, it’s her grandson who lands with an american.
Paul and I represent a new generation of international kids, digital natives, living in a globalized world. We grew up in a peaceful Europe that hasn’t seen wars on its ground for 72 years. Something we forget too many times, but it’s a record in history.
Thanks to technological and social evolutions we are worldwide citizens who are no longer controlled by borders. When my grandma was young and was living in a small village in the French countryside (where she is born and spent all her life), travelling and studying abroad was something only possible for the rich elite of the country. Nowadays we have Erasmus, which has already convinced more than 3 million young Europeans since its creation. In 2014 11 million young European workers between 18–30 years found a job abroad.
A plane ticket from Berlin to Paris costs less than a new bike (around 100€.) If you’re smart enough to book a plane ticket in advance from Paris to New York, it costs less than an iPhone. Today your level of education and culture is a larger obstacle which can prevent you from traveling on your own, rather than money.
After a few drinks of champagne, grandma, who is usually shy, found the words in English to speak to Paul while we were eating a delicious and orgasmic french meal cooked by my mom.
« Paul I would like the water, please» was the most complete sentence she had pronounced. The whole family looked at her, amazed, Granny speaks English. A few hours earlier, she was trying to explain to Paul how to do a crossword puzzle (a popular game for Grandmas in France) still pushed by this intellectual curiosity and this need to talk.
An intergenerational and multicultural relationship was born. The beauty of human relations in its purest state, the encounter of two worlds.
Sources : UIS (Institut of statistic of UNESCO), ILO (International Labour Office) UN office, OCDE and European Commission.