Feature Photo By: Alexis Drummond – German exchange teachers Juergen (Jay) Weber and Stefanie Waltz pose outside of Rangeview High School. This was their last week here at Rangeview, and many are very emotional to say goodbye.
By: Juergen (Jay) Weber and Stefanie Waltz, Review Contributors
How many Germans does it take to change a light bulb?
One! We are efficient and do not like jokes.
In order to combat long-standing prejudices like that and learn more about our own culture, as well as the American way of life, a group of 17 Germans set out to visit Rangeview.
It did not take long to realize that the self-perception of a culture is somewhat different to the perception people from other cultures have.
Moreover, it did not take long to understand that a lot of existing stereotypes on both the American and German side are easily challenged; oftentimes exaggerated and even more often just not true.
Maybe you have met one of us in the hallway, asked us a few questions, and were surprised by the short and precise answers we gave. To you, that might have appeared almost rude. We, on the other hand, were surprised that you were so open and walked away being happy that you showed interest.
It was never our intention to appear rude at all, we just really did not want you to be late to your next lesson. As simple as this example is, it shows that there is a need to learn about other cultures to fully understand them.
Take time for example: if you tell us Germans to be there, we are there. I mean, why would we not be? Also, would it not be great if you told us when and what will happen that day?
Ask your choir teacher Mr. Laguana who was surprised when he arrived in the choir room at 7:25 to find 15 Germans there who were supposed to meet at 7:30. When the last two arrived at 7:29, they apologized for being late. Of course, we were actively trying to live up to the stereotype, but honestly it felt really good too.
Would our little meeting have worked the American way as well, where people drop in at the meeting between 7-8, and the plan is made spontaneously? Absolutely!
Once you understand the world has different perspectives, you will not get as offended and be open to different cultures.
Which way is better though? The German or the American way? This is a question we were asked many times. If we are honest, we cannot tell you. First and foremost, our cultures are different.
There are certainly things that are better here (why are your pancakes so much better? Why did we not think about putting the traffic lights on the other side of the road so you do not have to break your neck while looking at them?) as well as there are things that are better back home.
What we can take home (and hopefully leave) from this exchange though is the fact that we should never stop learning and therefore, understanding other cultures before we judge them.
This exchange gave us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and the people we stayed with. Moreover, it gave us the chance to learn that despite all the differences, the similarities are prevailing.
By the way, when we were asked to write 500 words about our experience during this exchange, we were happy to do so. Maybe you should count the words, we went completely overboard! Talk about German efficiency and precision right there.