Of the 1,410 students enrolled at WGHS this year, four of them are foreign exchange students. They compared America to their home countries.
“I think the biggest difference would be food,” junior Marie Dapper said. Dapper is a foreign exchange student from southwest Germany, near the Black Forest.
“Everything is just bigger over here, including food. The portions are bigger. Cars are bigger. Even shopping carts are bigger. Streets are bigger; everything’s just bigger.” Dapper said.
“Then the food, we don’t eat so much cheese. Some things are very sweet. At the beginning, that was the biggest culture shock for me, but I’m kind of used to it, and I like it. I do miss bread, like German bread, because it’s different. Bread is also sweeter than in Germany,” Dapper said.
“I would say the primary difference would be like how people are,” junior Lukas Hillström said. Hillström is a foreign exchange student from Stockholm, Sweden.
“So how extroverted and welcoming people are here. I would say that people in Sweden are much more introverted. If you’d go there, you would probably not feel very welcome because if we don’t have anything good to say we don’t say anything, but here, people always say what is on the top of their head,” Hillström said.
“It’d be like you and me have this conversation, and you speak very highly of me. Let’s say that you do, but then you go to your friends and talk s*** about me,” Hillström said. “I think that is a more occurring theme than in Sweden and that is when, if we don’t like you, you will notice it immediately. We will not talk to you.”
“I’ve only been here for three weeks, but I assume people are more two-faced here or they talk much more behind your back here. You can maybe get a fake vision of who people are because people are so nice here, but at the same time, my experience here has been very very good just because people are so nice. There’s both good and bad,” Hillström said.
“When I was younger, like in elementary school, the U.S. fascinated me,” Dapper said. “In 2016 I decided I wanted to do an exchange here, and then I was looking to go to Ireland or England. I wanted to go somewhere English- like a country that speaks English, but then I decided I want to go to the U.S. because I wanted to have that whole experience,” Dapper said.
“I don’t like that people are so fixated on politics here,” Hillström said. “It’s a pretty big thing here too. If you don’t agree with someone on politics, I think it’s harder for you to become friends.”
“We don’t really care if you’re on the left or right. We do care about it, but I could be on the left, and you could be on the left, doesn’t really matter, doesn’t have anything to do with our relationship. We can still get along; I think it’s harder here,” Hillström said.
“I’ve been here before, so I knew that most of the people were nicer than German people,” Dapper said. “I feel like if you’re interested in a culture, and you know a lot about it, you’re not as surprised. That’s why I didn’t have a big culture shock, the only thing was food. I knew it was different but not that different.”
“Then there are the government things,” Hillström said. “Taxes are way higher so we have more welfare. People are more healthy in Sweden, less obese.”
“The thing I dislike most is the healthcare system. There are a lot of things you can improve on with that,” Dapper said.
“There are guns [in Sweden], but you have to get special permits, and it’s only for hunting. So we don’t have, like the, maybe it’s not very normal here, but school shootings happen here, but they don’t… it’s not a thing [in Sweden]. When I heard that there are school shootings in here, I thought you were crazy,” Hillström said.
“No [not worried about school shootings], not really. St. Louis seems like a good place. Especially I like Webster too. I don’t really know [what] the thoughts behind a school shooting would be, but I guess if it’s students, I would not imagine any students from here doing a school shooting,” Hillström said.
“I feel very comfortable here, and I like Webster Groves,” Dapper said.
“It’s much much easier to be part of something here than it is in Sweden. I’m part of the football team, and they were like immediately, everyone’s my friend now. I don’t have any disagreements with them. They’re just nice. It’s very easy to be part of something which also leads to feeling less lonely,” Hillström said.
“It’s easier to know many people here, but it’s harder to know few very very good. Like the friend groups I have in Sweden, I’m very very attached to them as they are attached to me,” Hillström said.
“School in Germany is very different. I will not explain the system because it’s very complicated. I would also say it is more difficult than in the U.S.” Dapper said.
“I know German, English and then kinda Spanish and kinda French because we are required to learn more languages, and that is basically the only thing we can choose, like languages and science,” Dapper said.
“School in Germany focuses more on general knowledge so we don’t have classes like web design or housing and interior design,” Dapper said.
“In general, we focus on learning and learning only, and not having fun while learning stuff,” Dapper said.
“The teachers are much more lenient here. I’d say they’re very similar to the teachers we had in fifth grade and sixth grade. They’re just nice. They want you to succeed. They still do that in Sweden, but it’s like- we have so much more competition between the students in Sweden because everybody goes to college because it’s free,” Hillström said.
“The standards are lower, and I can appreciate that since I’m only staying for a year,” Hillström said.
“We don’t really have school spirit, at least in my school in Germany, because sports and schools are separated,” Dapper said.
“I really like the school spirit, and I do love the traditions like Thanksgiving, and I’m very excited for Halloween because Germany, we realize that there is Halloween, but we don’t really do stuff,” Dapper said.
This will be Lydia Urice’s second year on ECHO staff. Last year, she was podcast editor, and this year she is junior editor.