Ambassadors: Visit our nations via books and films

Published 26th May 2017
(CNN) — When is it you first visit a country?
Is it when you cross the airport tarmac and join the line at immigration? Or is it when you fall in love with a book or a film and resolve that one day, somehow, you'll buy a ticket to the land where the story began?
Language-learning platform Babbel has exclusively shared with CNN a new survey in which they asked foreign ambassadors to the United States about the books and movies they would recommend to visitors to their country.
Twenty ambassadors, from Bhutan to Jamaica, have shared their cultural picks.
Their choices range from globally renowned classics -- such as Austria's choice of Carol Reed's Vienna-set film "The Third Man" -- to quirky new releases, such as Malta's "Limestone Cowboy," about a family dealing with a delusional father's ambition to become Prime Minister.
"One theme we noticed is a focus on nature," says Julie Hansen, Babbel's newly appointed US CEO. Wildlife documentary "Colombia, magia salvaje" (2015), for example, showcases the country's glorious landscapes for an international audience more used to seeing them in the context of crime series such as Netflix's "Narcos."
"Another common thread amongst the recommendations was love," adds Hansen, "a theme that has inspired stories in almost every human culture in history."
When immersing ourselves in a new culture, a nation's fictional works -- the stories it tells about itself -- offer insights as valuable as those we can receive from its nonfiction.
"Non-fiction [works] well in depicting the history that shaped a country and the can't-miss experiences that a visitor should see," says Hansen.
"Fiction works wonderfully to boil down the experiences, beliefs attitudes, and characteristics of a country and its people. It is often better than non-fiction at capturing a zeitgeist."
The full list of recommendations is below and you can read more about the project here.

The ambassadors' selections:

Austria (Ambassador Wolfgang A. Waldner)
-- Book: "The Tobacconist" (2012), by Robert Seethaler
-- Film: "The Third Man" (1949), directed by Carol Reed
Azerbaijan (Ambassador Elin Suleymanov)
-- Book: "Ali and Nino" (1937), by Kurban Said
-- Film: "Ali and Nino" (2016), directed by Asif Kapadia
Bhutan (Ambassador Kunzang C. Namgyel)
-- Book: "Treasures of the Thunder Dragon: A Portrait of Bhutan" (2006), by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck
-- Film: "Travelers and Magicians" (2003), directed by Khyentse Norbu
Canada (Ambassador David MacNaughton)
-- Book: "With Faith and Goodwill: 150 years of Canada-U.S. Friendship" (2017), edited by Arthur Milnes
-- Film: The selection of films from National Canadian Film Day's Top 150
Chile (Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdés)
-- Book: "La casa de los espíritus" (1982), by Isabel Allende
-- Film: "No" (2012), directed by Pablo Larraín
Colombia (Ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzón)
-- Book: "One Hundred Years of Solitude" (1967) by Gabriel García Márquez
-- Film: "Colombia, magia salvaje" (2015), directed by Mike Slee
Denmark (Ambassador Lars Gert Lose)
-- Book: "Smilla's Sense of Snow" (1992), by Peter Høeg
-- Film: "A Royal Affair" (2012), directed by Nikolaj Arcel
Estonia (Ambassador Eerik Marmei)
-- Book: "The Man Who Spoke Snakish" (2007), by Andrus Kivirähk
-- Film: "Lotte and the Moonstone Secret" (2011), directed by Heiki Ernits and Janno Põldma
Finland (Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi)
-- Book: Moomin books (1945-1959), by Tove Jansson
-- Film: "Tale of a Forest" (2012), directed by Kim Saarniluoto and Ville Suhonen
Germany (Ambassador Peter Wittig)
-- Book: "Tschick" ("Why We Took the Car") (2010), by Wolfgang Herrndorf
-- Film: "Good Bye Lenin!" (2003), directed by Wolfgang Becker
Greece (Ambassador Haris Lalacos)
-- Book: "Freedom and Death" (1953), by Nikos Kazantzakis
-- Film: "Zorba the Greek" (1964), directed by Mihalis Kakogiannis
Iceland (Ambassador Geir H. Haarde)
-- Book: "Independent People" (1934), by Halldór Laxness
-- Film: "Sigur Rós: Heima" (2007), directed by Dean DeBlois
Ireland (Ambassador Anne Anderson)
-- Book: "TransAtlantic" (2013), by Colum McCann
-- Film: "Once" (2007), directed by John Carney
India (Ambassador Navtej Sarna)
-- Book: "Freedom at Midnight" (1975), by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins
-- Film: "Monsoon Wedding" (2001) directed by Mira Nair
Jamaica (Ambassador Audrey Patrice Marks)
-- Book: "Selected Poems" (2003), by Louise Bennett
-- Film: "Cool Runnings" (1993), by Jon Turteltaub
Malta (Ambassador Pierre Clive Agius)
-- Book: "In the Name of the Father (and of the Son)" (2010), by Immanuel Mifsud
-- Film: "Limestone Cowboy" (2017), directed by Abigail Mallia
New Zealand (Ambassador Tim Groser)
-- Book: "The Whale Rider" (1987), by Witi Ihimaera
-- Film: "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" (2016), directed by Taika Waititi
Norway (Ambassador Kåre R. Aas)
-- Book: Harry Hole series (1997-2017), by Jo Nesbø
-- Film: "Kon-Tiki" (2012), directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
Slovenia (Ambassador Božo Cerar)
-- Book: "I Saw Her That Night" (2010), by Drago Jančar
-- Film: "Valley of Peace" (1956), directed by France Stiglic
Sweden (Ambassador Björn Lyrvall)
-- Book: "Nordic Ways" (2016), by András Simonyi, edited by Debra Cagan
-- Film: "A Man Called Ove" (2015), directed by Hannes Holm