The Eurovision song contest is so well known all over Europe and yet I had never heard of it until last year. This year we decided to have a bunch of friends over to just hang out and watch (and laugh at) it. I thought of it as just a good excuse to be with friends and drink, but it really turned into a great night. One of my friends has watched it every year since she was little and taught us a thing or two.
What is Eurovision Song Contest anyway?
The contest is a European wide competition where each country enters a single song. They are all sung on live TV and votes are tallied to pick a winner. The winning country then becomes the host for the contest next year.
Cast Your Vote
Voting happens at the end. Each of the participating countries (there were 42 this year) polls their own country and gives out points to the various acts. You can’t vote for your own act. It varies by country how they do it, but in Germany it is a mix between some panel of experts and a call-in/text-in campaign. The results are ranked. The top choice gets 12 points, the second gets 10, third gets 8 and then it goes down the row from 7 to 1. So in essence the top ten choices per country get points, with the top two getting more. So all 42 participating countries give out points. The highest total wins.
This year apparently it was much more of a runaway for Sweden than is normal for the winner. At about 30 countries reporting, it was already easy to see that they would win.
As typical for TV in Europe these kind of things are played without commercials. Between each act there was a short “video postcard” of the hosting country and then the next act comes on. So it only takes a few hours to play the 26 acts that have made it to the finals. Seriously, it is all show and no advertising in between. It actually makes it more fun to watch. We were mumbling that if it had been played in the US, it would have a commercial between every few acts and take at least twice as long.
History and Trivia
This is where we learned a lot from Sarah. This year was the 57th song contest, so it has been going on for a while. Originally it was called the Grand Prix. The original set of rules required acts to be in the native language of the country, though that has changed and a lot of the songs are in English. Earlier they used to read every single set of points from the countries in both English and French. Now they pick a language and only read the top 3. This leaves some of the tension and yet makes it go a bit faster.
Some countries like Germany help finance the Eurovision outside of just their entry fees, so they get a direct acceptance into the finals. Other countries have to go through two semi final rounds to make it into the end show.
The idea is that the winning country gets to host the next one. This brings tourism and exposure and such sure, but it must be a big outlay of money as well. Apparently years ago, Ireland won a number of times in a row and was worried about having to pay for it again. So they sent someone up there just to lose. And looking at their act this year, they may still be running on that policy.
How to throw a Eurovision party.
We had such a great time this year, and will probably make it a regular thing. The acts wander between hilarious to scary to moving. Add some drinks and a group of friends laughing and it is a great night.
Sarah has a tradition with her friends that she brought to us. Food representing a lot of the countries appeared on our table courtesy of her. We ended up with far more food than I had thought and yet with very few leftovers. So plenty of food is definitely needed.
A bit of a drink makes the naturally funny acts just that much better. Plenty of local beer for Germany and we had Macedonian wine (from Aldi of all places).
This was the last piece that made it so much better. Even if you are not so active in Twitter, figure it out enough to follow a hash tag(#esc or #eurovision this year) and read what other people are writing. We had three of us with smart phones reading different feeds and quoting the most entertaining tweets to the group. This made it feel like being involved in something bigger than just a TV show.
An expat’s take on the whole thing
This was such a fun night. There was no violence or heavy drama, just entertaining acts. It didn’t drag, which was good because 3 hours was about my limit. It was really great to have no commercials to break the rhythm. And best of all we got to hang out with friends to see it.