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 (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.