Seeing ourselves through German eyes

Jamie Pressley, Staff Writer

The Cary-Grove German Exchange Program recently completed the American portion of the program’s exchange. The American and German students in the program spend three-and-a-half weeks at their partner’s home.

The exchange program allows students to experience new cultures and practice the language they worked so hard to learn. It also offers hosts the chance to see their own culture from a new perspective.

For the visiting Germans, the culture shock runs from major differences to minor details.

“It’s such a different culture, and the people act so different,” said Sophia, a 17-year-old exchange student from Stuttgart, Germany. “I am excited to learn about this new culture and be apart of these new experiences. For example, American houses are far apart; in Germany we have one house next to the other. In America, everything is so much larger, but the fast food is something very new to me.”

Fast food is a standard part of any American’s existence, but only a few American fast food chains have reached Germany. Franchises like Subway, McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbuck’s, KFC, and Pizza Hut have all made their way across the ocean. Germany has some of their own original fast food franchises, but there are very few locations.

“I am definitely looking forward to the Bulls game, learning how to play American football and seeing the city of Chicago. The city is really big and it’s just so cool,” 16-year-old Valentine of Friedburg, Germany, said. Then he, too, highlighted differences in cuisine.

“The food is different, too,” he said. “In Germany, we don’t have cheese in cups for pretzels and stuff like that. I just think it’s a lot more healthy.”

His observation likely holds true as the percent of people living with obesity in America is more than two times the amount of people living with obesity in Germany. Most Americans are aware of the unhealthy nature of some of our most popular foods, but the Germans also noticed a difference in our school day that may be holding us back.

“In Germany we have one and a half hour class periods, but between that we have twenty minute breaks; compared to Cary Grove’s forty five minute classes and five minute breaks, this is something that interests me already,” Valentine said.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the high school graduation rate in Germany is 95 percent and the United States’ high school graduation rate is 81 percent. With a 14% difference, Germany ranks high when it comes to high school graduation rate.

The Cary Grove German Exchange Program is definitely something to look forward to if you’re taking German as a language. The two cultures may be very different, but they’re also similar in many ways. The way two unique cultures can come together to create new experiences is outstanding.