Now that I am an ex-pat, it seems inevitable that I will start slavering over Marmite, acquire a perma-tan and start believing crazy things about my home country, such as that there are no white people left in London. The International Daily Mail is an under-rated paper you know.
But the first thing that I experienced was to do with the internet. Having just read about England's football defeat at the hands of Germany, I was impressed to hear that a German debutant defender hit a great goal to win the match (I get a perverse kick out of England losing at football; it's mainly to do with the look on Frank Lampard's face). My immediate reaction was to want to watch that goal, which of course I can't. This suddenly raises a primitive but not unimportant question: why would you build a world-wide broadband internet network and then prevent people from watching exciting, up-to-the-minute clips on it? If you explained to the Romans what high-speed internet connections do, the first thing they would probably want to use it for would be to watch Christians being eaten by lions or gladiatorial battles from far-flung corners of the Empire. But that is a function that we have ruled out.
Staying at this primitive level, it's clear that copyright regularly stops us from doing something we (or I) want to do. The no less primitive anti-copyright conclusion to draw is - screw the rights, lets release the whole lot online under a creative commons license. To which the very obvious rejoinder is - but without the billions put in by BSkyB et al, international and league football would be unrecognisable from what it is today, given that Murdoch et al are not inclined to commit vast acts of charity.
But this doesn't entirely nullify my primitive question. After all, isn't it the goal of competition and consumer policy to ensure that efficiency gains are passed on to consumers, and don't simply amount to greater and greater rents for monopolists or oligopolists? The neo-classical competition expert may share something of my consternation about not being able to watch the Germany goal. How can the market for football broadcasts possibly be maximising consumer welfare, when a technology that seems purpose-built to distribute clips across the planet is barred from use? The copyright protection awarded to be BSkyB offers them market power that is at odds with the ethos of the free market. But this doesn't make it automatically undesirable or unacceptable.
So we are faced with a choice between two polarised, incomparable models: a monopolistic, tightly controlled distribution of multi-billion pound elite sports, and a fragmented, loosely controlled distribution of low-profile , honest sportsmen. Would you rather live in a world where I can watch moderately financed, low-glamour football on my laptop, or a winner-take-all world in which a small minority of footballers become more and more famous and wealthy, but I don't get to see it? This is not a question economics can help us with. Ultimately it is a matter of taste and not of value or efficiency.
And once viewed as an aesthetic choice (albeit a hypothetical one, because the free distribution option is scarcely available to us) it starts to become clear that occasionally what consumers are sold is precisely the absence of consumer welfare and the absence of a a free market. What is appealing about current football is precisely that there is so much producer power involved and so little choice. As a sensation, watching Lampard et al is a distant cousin of the strange buzz that viewers get from watching Hitler documentaries - the people on the screen have intimidating levels of wealth and megalomania, looming over us, while at the same time, being no actual threat to us.
Global media companies operate a little like OPEC. When they feel that crazed lust for their product is beginning to wane, they can simply cut supply and suddenly find themselves empowered and feared once more. Which raises the question: if I could watch the Germany goal on my laptop simply through clicking on a link, would I want to as much?