Favorite countries, -philes and the Motherland

A non-ham recently asked me if I enjoy conversations with the countries from which my ancestors came – and I honestly didn’t know how to answer her.

The short and honest answer is “no – the connection never occurred” but I felt obliged to give her a reason since it seems like such a sensible question and a likely reason to enjoy ham radio’s communicative possibilities – at least from a non-ham’s perspective.

She wanted me to say “Yes – I just love talking with Germany – especially stations in Hanover!”

But the truthful answer is that we enjoy the technical aspects of what makes the communications possible more than the social aspects – an answer that made me seem like a schmuck at wasting such a humanistic opportunity on such a superficial pursuit. Hams with cool and often complex equipment, talking about…..equipment. Even I can see how that might be yawn-inducing to a non-ham.

Family ties aside, humanity is full of people whose hobby is a different country. Anglophiles love English culture; Francophiles ua0kbg(Thomas Jefferson was one), French and so on. Maybe they should become hams – it might add depth to some of the QSOs heard around the bands.

Young hams may wonder if ham radio QSOs were more personal before the internet – back when ham radio was the only way common citizens had of communicating with each other. I’d have to say “no” although there were (and are) exceptions. Maybe in radio’s infancy, long transoceanic ragchews were the norm.

I don’t get “warm and fuzzy” during QSOs with the countries of my grandparents nor does it even register that “Hey, that’s where Grandpa was from” when I talk to Denmark. Or England.

But I do have a favorite country that I enjoy QSOs with more than others. It is based on an interest in that country’s history and, more significantly, the history of the relationship between that country and mine. That interest started as soon as I started DXing back in the late 70’s.

With a very detailed map of the country’s political divisions hanging on my wall, I would often pass up new DXCC entities in favor of yet another QSO with that mysterious country. Afterwards, a thumbtack went into the map marking the source of the RF I’d just dowsed from the ether.

New DXCC entities are few and far between these days but I still – decades later – enjoy an after-dinner, flutter-enhanced QSO over the North Pole on 20m CW with a station some remote oblast.





  6 comments for “Favorite countries, -philes and the Motherland

  1. W3BBO
    August 18, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Hi John,

    Enjoy your blog and noticed that I worked Yuri UA0KBG on the same day, though later in the day 21:20, and he only gave me a 579. I was using my K3 at 75 watts to a R6000 vertical.

    My country favorite is Japan and chase JA’s whenever condx allow. I think it is because we don’t have propagation into JA that often!

    Good DXing, John,
    73 de Bob W3BBO

    • August 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      Hi Bob – I remember JA’s being tough from when I lived up there. From here they’re workable almost daily but of course the middle east is tougher now!

  2. Wes, AC5K
    August 18, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    I will never forget being on the radio right after the airliner KAL-007 was shot down near Sakhalin Island in 1983. The conditions on the bands were great, and tons of Soviet stations were calling CQ where I was listening on the CW band. Tensions were high, and no one was answering them. I remembered that one reason amateur radio exists is to promote communication between different cultures. I called one of the Soviet stations and had a short QSO. We of course did not discuss the political tensions, but I remember that he said “73 es peace” and the end of our QSO. I did the same. We exchanged our feelings without too many words, That was great.

    • August 18, 2013 at 7:03 pm

      As a Novice I used to listen to phone QSOs on 20m longing for my General ticket and phone privileges. One day I heard a Russian station whose suffix was ‘KGB’ speaking perfect English in a QSO with a W station. I don’t mean just perfect grammar but also pronunciation, slang and even the accent. I always wondered how that was possible. His suffix lent an air of mystery to the whole thing!

    • August 31, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      It was thirty years aho this week – from CNN today:

  3. Alan Dove
    August 19, 2013 at 8:43 am

    I also get a visceral thrill from contacting former Soviet countries, especially on CW. I think it’s probably because I grew up in the waning days of the Cold War, in an area surrounded by prime targets (Baltimore-Washington-Annapolis).

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