National Identity and Beer Advertisements

The New York Times broke tradition yesterday and published an article about Slovakia without a picture of a horse and cart:

A history of Slovakia according to The New York Times
Slovakia 2009 Slovakia 2011

The article in question starts with a nice reference to a recent ad for Zlaty Bazant which contains the line “Wanting to borrow from everybody? That’s Greek.  Not wanting to lend to Greeks? that’s Slovak” and becomes a symbol in the article for Slovakia’s reluctance to participate in the bailout as well as a generally skeptical attitude toward broader Euro and European structures (though the NYT piece mistakenly cites the ad as saying “not wanting to lend to anybody” as opposed just to “not wanting to lend to Greeks”).

What the Times article doesn’t say is that the ad begins with another national critique, that is in some ways even more pointed:

Not knowing where Slovakia is?
That’s American.

Versions here

I have to give the ad producers credit for giving the actor great news anchor hair, and it is hard to take issue with the critique given the record of major American news outlets.  A few examples (click to enlarge):

Fortunately for my tender national sentiments, Americans are not the only ones to come under fire.  Czechs get it too:

Having a thousand in your pocket and acting as if you have two, that’s Czech.  Having two in your pocket and acting like you have a thousand?  That’s Slovak.

Nearly everybody else gets it as well:

Marrying a Slovak woman?  That’s English, Italian, Austrian, UAE.  Marrying a Slovak man?  That’s Slovak.

Germans come off as organized but uptight and French cuisine is odd and skimpy while Slovaks have big appetites for unhealthy food and can find things even on a messy desk.  What is most interesting to me here is the notion of Slovak self-identity that is portrayed here: disorganized and sloppy but clever and generous.  It’s actually interesting that this is not all that different from Czech self-identity in the face of the Austrians in The Good Soldier Svejk.
And speaking of beer-related identity discussions, it is notable how much the Bazant ad has in common with its counterpart the “I am Canadian” ad produced by Molson a decade ago, which likewise pokes fun at the arrogance of larger countries while expressing a bit of (self-deprecatory) hometown pride.  Do other countries produce similarly national beer ads?  Do tell.

2 thoughts on National Identity and Beer Advertisements

  1. Pingback What Does it Mean to Be Slovak? Zlatý Bažant Reponds
  2. “are not the only ones to come under fire. Czechs get it too: ‘Having a thousand in your pocket and acting as if you have two, that’s Czech.'”

    Not that Zlatý bažant must have intended that, but in the given context — the commercial starts with a jibe against the Greeks who spend more than they have — isn’t the assumed Czech frugality effectively getting praise here rather than “getting it”?

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