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Cultural exchange

Enquirer Photo: Randy Garrison German exchange students and Hartselle High School host students gather Sunday night for the last time as a group after a farewell dinner at Sedona Steakhouse. The German students left for Germany Monday morning and the Hartselle students will visit Germany beginning June 4.

German high school students
discuss their Alabama experience

Seventeen German teenagers spent their last night in Hartselle Sunday, May 1, after being treated to a  farewell dinner at Sedona Steak House.
They along with their vice principal, American host students and Hartselle faculty members spent the time sharing memories of the last two weeks with each other.
During the last week of the visit the German students and adult leaders experienced something new and unfamiliar. North Alabama was struck by numerous tornadoes last Wednesday. According to several of the exchange students Germany does not have this type of weather.
The students also were amazed and watched the coverage of the storms on television. Jonas Boppert commented that Germany has underground utilities after experiencing the power failure from damaged TVA power lines. Other than the tornado outbreak, Kirstina Reinzrtz enjoyed the weather, “the weather is sunny here and not so much in Germany,” according to Reinartz.
When asked if he found things as he expected before the trip, Jonas Baumgarten remarked, “I thought it would be like in the movies,” but instead found that he could find anything he wanted at Walmart.  “This is not the case in Germany. We have stores but not the choices that are available in this country.”
The difference in food was also a topic of conversation.  According to many of the students they were amazed at the number of fast food establishments here.  Chick-Fil-A was mentioned as a favorite as well as most mentioned really enjoying Mexican food.
The only complaint was that everything seemed to be fried. Baumgarten especially noted that Germany really needs “sweet tea.”
Yannik Schulze also wants Mtn. Dew in Germany.  He also mentioned that a popular sandwich in Germany is one made of ground raw beef with peppers and onions placed on a bun, called a thurimger-mett.  The evening meal in Germany is also usually a cold one with the noon meal being served hot.  Sam Harris of Hartselle mentioned that his new found friends also eat more.
The exchange students are from Clausthal-Zellerfeld and attend Robert-Koch Schule.  The ages varied from 16 to 18. Several exchange students mentioned that their school system is slightly different. More extracurricular activities are offered in the U.S. such as sports, choir and band and there is less emphasis on this in Germany.
Private clubs provide sporting opportunities there. Soccer of course is a major sporting event in Germany and Karl Kahla vice principal of Robert-Koch Schule mentioned the strange game of throwing balls at people and then the people trying to hit the ball with a stick, otherwise known as baseball. Blair Sittason whose family hosted Baumgarten noted that the students seemed more advanced in academics than the classes in Hartselle, taking higher level classes sooner than students usually would here.
Several of the students noted that church attendance is not a large part of their life as their American counterparts.  Most families are Protestant or Catholic and holiday attendance is more the norm with their families. Reinartz mentioned that everyone that she met at Christ our Redeemer Lutheran Church with host Shelby Kaup was very friendly and that everyone seemed to know each other.
Another difference noted by many of the exchange students was that American houses are larger in size, with bigger yards and in larger neighborhoods.  Also many of the houses are built of stone and with the temperature being more moderate there is not a need for air conditioning.
The students also spoke of the friendliness of their American host extended families. They really enjoyed spending time and talking with all members of their hosts.  Jonas Baumgarten did mention that Americans do love to take pictures especially on Easter.
When asked about dating and the differences in teens, several of the girls mentioned that American boys all look like Justin Bieber.  Fabian Gartner mentioned “all American girls have long blond hair,” and Schulze thinks American girls are better behaved.
Dating is somewhat different in America. According to Baumgarten going to the cinema and going to eat are not typical of first dates. Usually one would go to the other’s house and hang out.
Also according to him showing that you are in a relationship is more accepted in Germany than it is in America, i.e., kissing in public.  Also rules for teens are more relaxed in Germany than in America.  Social activities are more easily accessible here as well since a teen can drive alone at age 16 whereas it is 18 in Germany.  Also cars are not as common.
The exchange students also enjoyed visiting the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Gulf Shores and the Civil Rights Museum.
According to Preston Adams and Jeston Thompson four-wheelers and Six Flags were also some favorite activities enjoyed by the visitors. All comments about the visit have been positive and many of the students were sad to be leaving but looking forward to their American counterparts visits to their home country in June.
Vice Principal Kahla has several activities planned for the students visit to Germany including a visit to Berlin, a mountain hike, the site of the German V-2 rocket plants, visit to  a Volkswagen plant, and other historical sites.
The German group also collected money to help out some of the victims of the tornados last week.  Also Lennart Pichler along with his host Hunter Grantland worked in Lawrence County helping the storm victims.
One of the best comments from the students was the patriotic spirit that Americans have and the love for their country.  They were impressed at the number of American flags that were on display, since this is not a common sight in Germany. To sum up the visits Jonas Boppert added this, “Hartselle is definitely The City of Southern Hospitality.”