I was invited by a colleague to see Malcolm Gladwell speak at the SVA Theatre yesterday as part of the New Yorker Festival. I got there a little late but it was still fascinating. I’ve read all of Gladwell’s books in the last year so this was a big deal for me. This is the most interesting man in any room, as far as I’m concerned, and I could read a 400 page book about the telephone book if he decided to write one.

His lecture yesterday was about our “default to truth,” and how we can spot liars. He used the Bernie Madoff case and Harry Markopolos. He determined at the end, that he would rather have a world full of Bernie Madoff’s than a world full of whistle blowers like Harry Markopolos.

He took questions from the audience, some good, some not so good. It was ninety minutes, but it was thrilling. I could listen to him talk for hours. If you ever have the opportunity, go see him speak.  

A Very Interesting Date

I had an incredibly boring date on Friday. And that’s being nice. There was nothing wrong with him, but we had zero to talk about. I ended the date by saying exactly that. I’m quite positive he was relieved too. I was home by 9pm on Friday and I caught up on some R&R while chatting extremely briefly with a dude on OkCupid. We exchanged pleasantries and phone numbers and said we’d possibly get coffee on Sunday.

Well, today was Sunday and we met up at Khave in Hell’s Kitchen and we had a relaxing two and a half hour discussion over teas, smoothies, and tortilla chips. He was German, which I’d somehow completely glossed over on his profile, so naturally I was very interested in the difference between the two countries. (The two countries being Germany and the US, of course.) This is what I learned this afternoon:

  • On a date in Germany people don’t ask questions like “what do you do for work?”
  • Germans aren’t as connected to the fake sense of self like what you do, your religion, your politics, etc.
  • He didn’t know anyone who was religious growing up. Religion is never talked about in politics.
  • Germans are very direct. They say what they think and ask you what you think, mean, need.
  • Germans are also not flakey like Americans.
  • Institutions, like schools, are not there to tell kids what’s right and wrong – that’s left up to the parents.
  • Germans do not like to flaunt their money. If they’re wealthy they try to hide it. Germans are also known for being cheap.
  • On their political spectrum, Bill Clinton would’ve been seen as a very conservative candidate.
  • Germans hated George w. Bush. (Who, with half a brain, didn’t?)
  • When you’re born in Germany, you’re registered under one of four major religious groups: catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or Muslim. But 60-70% of the country identifies as atheist.
  • Scientology isn’t regarded as a religion in Germany. It’s regarded more a cult with economical mindset.

We also discussed Backlash Theory, Malcolm Gladwell, and Freakanomics (which I have yet to read!). Though I don’t know if we’ll see each other again, I know I had a really good time talking to him and I could totally see being friends. 

On another note: If Germans are as direct as he says, I may need to think about learning German and moving there. Anyone have any tips for learning German?