When I asked foreigners at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions why people back home follow American presidential elections, most of the time I heard answers like this:
"Look at this stage!" proclaimed Yasen Darakov, a correspondent for the Bulgarian-based Nova television, while pointing at the Republican National Convention's colorful set design that took months and millions of dollars to be realized. "Nobody does elections like America. This is a super huge show."
Indeed, the 2016 presidential election has been one of America's biggest spectacles yet.
"We have those two candidates," Darakov continued. "Hillary Clinton — very popular (she's been to Bulgaria a few times). Donald Trump — a household name in Europe as well. Both are candidates that bring emotion to the U.S. people and also the people around the world. Everybody has an opinion of Hillary Clinton, and everybody has an opinion of Donald Trump."
But what are those opinions, exactly? And on what are they based? The answers vary based on geographic origin, and yet, common themes and sentiments seem to string them all together — a thread that's also stitched into the hearts and minds of the American public.
Trump certainly has everyone talking.
"Trump is the story," a journalist from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation told me.
"I think in Bulgaria everyone is just wondering what a Trump presidency might be," Darakov said. "They think it could be a show. So I think that they're very excited, just out of curiosity, of what a Trump presidency would be, how he'll be as a president. We probably kind of know what to expect with Clinton. But we've never had a candidate like Trump, let alone a president like Trump."
John Woo, a journalist from TV Chosun, explained Koreans' fascination with America.
"Government officials and students and professors are very interested in American policies, but most Koreans are very interested in America but more the culture, like in movies, for example," he said.
Woo also told me that many are now switching their support from Clinton to Trump. "I think half and half," he said.
But with the wonderment comes a palpable fear for the unknowable future.
"America is the most powerful country in the world, and Trump is saying that he won't help his NATO allies at any cost," said Philippe Revaz, a U.S. correspondent for the French-speaking Swiss Radio. (Trump has suggested that NATO members that don't pay the required amount to the organization wouldn't receive U.S. aid.)
"If something happens, he says he wants to get out of the WTO. He says he doesn't want troops in Japan and Korea," Revaz continued. "He says a lot of things and everybody is quite destabilized because you don't know. I mean, the U.S. was a big democracy; it was very important for stabilizing the world this past century. If America changes its course, we don't know where we are going to, because everything is going to change."
Whether people love him or love to hate him, Trump is magnetic to the media and to audiences, securing over $2 billion worth of free media for himself this election cycle — $1.15 billion more than Clinton.
But many of Trump's supporters, it seems, don't actually believe he'll do what he says he will. In June, for example, Quinnipiac University released a poll that found only 24 percent of voters think the candidate would actually build his much-publicized wall.
"The wall is a metaphor," Trump delegate Dennis Berwyn from North Carolina told me.
"It's really funny," Darakov said. "I know a lot of Bulgarian people living in America who support Trump and who don't have a legal status, which to me is a contradiction. Trump is very open with what he wants to do with immigration policy. And yet, they support him just because they think nobody believes that he will do any of those outrageous promises he's making during the campaign."
But some people, like Woo, think what Trump says isn't worth the gamble.
"He said Japanese and Koreans can get some nuclear weapons to fight North Korea. This is a problem to me, to us Korean people," Woo said. "And then he said he can beat Kim Jong-un. So it's funny, but it's a very serious problem to us."
In her speech on Thursday in Philadelphia, Clinton commented on her political opponent.
"At first, I admit, I couldn't believe [Trump] meant [his controversial comments] either. It was just too hard to fathom — that someone who wants to lead our nation could say those things. Could be like that. But here's the sad truth: There is no other Donald Trump," Clinton said.
Carlos Rossini, an independent documentarian from Mexico, said Americans see elections as "a political mirage," though he believes this isn't actually the case.
"There is power that is in the hands of people that ignore […] how this power could do some good in the world," Rossini said. "Fear is taking place in the center of the discussion. Fear, which is not the main human sense."
Reach Staff Reporter Sarah Collins here.