Preparing for a visit to a foreign country can often be overwhelming, with no shortage of things to learn before you go. Language learning app Babbel asked 22 foreign ambassadors to the U.S. to recommend the book or film they believe first-time visitors to their country should read before they arrive.
H.E. David MacNaughton recommends:
Book: With Faith and Goodwill: 150 years of Canada-U.S. Friendship (2017), edited by Arthur MilnesFilm: The selection of films from National Canadian Film Day’s Top 150 (which includes Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner and My Uncle Antoine )“On the occasion of Canada’s 150th anniversary, we suggest the newly-released book, With Faith and Goodwill: 150 years of Canada-U.S. Friendship, edited by Arthur Milnes. It is a beautiful collection of speeches, photographs and essays from Prime Ministers and Presidents that express our shared history (from Sir John A. Macdonald and Andrew Johnson to Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump).”“For the movie, we recommend browsing National Canadian Film Day’s Top 150 sampler, which provides a list as diverse as the country itself.”
United KingdomH.E. Kim Darroch recommends:Book: Atonement (2001), by Ian McEwan
Film: Life of Brian (1979), directed by Terry Jones
“For the book, I would choose Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Published in 2001, this is a literary tour de force, set in three time periods: 1935 England, the Second World War, and the turn of the millennium. The story is constructed around a half-innocent lie, told by a 13 year old girl, that destroys lives and shatters a family. It addresses momentous themes — love, war, the hold of the past over the present — while capturing to perfection moments from Britain’s recent past, whether an English country house summer between the Wars, or the horrors of the retreat from Dunkirk.
For the film, and with a change of tone, I’ll go for Life of Brian. I think a good, perhaps necessary, starting point for any visitor to the UK is understanding the British sense of humor — and Life of Brian is arguably the funniest British film of all time and an undisputed classic. I think it encapsulates British humour perfectly; it is impossible to imagine it emerging from any other nationality. Phrases from it have entered the English language: “What did the Romans ever do for us?” It captures the edginess inherent in the best British comedy; highly controversial at the time, and made only through a late and generous intervention by Beatle George Harrison, after the studio took fright, now more than 35 years on, it is still divisive, inspiring a Constitutional Court case in Germany in 2016. And the final song, “Always look on the bright side of life” has become an anthem for British resilience.”
Note: "H.E." stands for His or Her Excellency, the official title for ambassadors to the U.S.