Foreign Exchange diary

Hanna Ladstaetter

There is a big world map hanging on the wall over my bed. All the places that I have seen are circled with a red pen and the places I want to see one day in my life are in blue. Unfortunately, there are not too many red circles.

Time goes by fast and it is already November, which means that one third of my high school year is over. It seems like yesterday that I left home, though. Furthermore, I cannot believe that it is still warm outside. I am used to building snowmen during this time of the year. My Dad always says that “we have six months of winter in Germany and the rest of the year bad weather.” Certainly, climate change is already noticeable in Germany. It seems that there are no seasons, and last January was warmer than May. However, the fact that it never gets really cold in Texas is definitely something that I am going to miss when I’ll shovel the snow in front of our door next year.

The second cycle was different from my first six weeks at Cedar Park High. It was not as over-whelming and exhausting, but nevertheless still exciting. I know the ways to my classes, my teachers and classmates and what people expect me to do. I overlook happenings instead of feeling lost between all those events.

The elections were something that I will tell my grandchildren. America as the world power voting for its new leader, who is now the most powerful person in the world. It is not only for America important, who is the new president, but also for the rest of the world. Germany is for the most part a fan of Obama. Many people disagreed with the politics of President Bush and hope for a change. Germany is also more liberal in politics. Barack Obama will generally polish America’s image. I personally hope that America’s international relationships will improve.

Homecoming in October was outstanding. As athletics don’t play a big role at German school, neither do spirit days, nor dances like Homecoming exist. It was new to me that all students cheer and are proud of their school. “School spirit” literally gripped me. Thus I enjoyed the spirit week and dressing up every day. The mum was the most curious thing of the week. I had fun making mine, but I still don’t understand it, if it actually has a sense at all. I was looking forward to the Homecoming dance since I arrived, and it truly was an interesting experience. I knew that American dances are different – how you dress, dance, and have fun. Honestly, you Americans are like Baby and Johnny! I felt as if I was in the middle of Dirty Dancing. Luckily, that is one of my favorite movies of all time.

Some people here were surprised, when I told them, that we have Dirty Dancing, and all other American movies and TV shows in Germany. Well, the German TV includes pretty much every show you watch. From Desperate Housewives, CSI, Cold Case, Spongebob to every MTV show that comes to your mind. And yes, it’s in German. It’s all dubbed, and the quality is surprisingly good, probably better than most of you think. One feature is, that most actors have their own German voice. Therefore Patrick Swayze sounds the same in all of his movies even for Germans. However, his famous quote “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” does not exist in the German version. Wordplays cannot be “germanized”, many jokes get lost, and people often think that it is more enjoyable to watch the movie with the original voices. Another advantage of watching movies in English is the learning effect. If you go to Sweden, you will recognize how well Swedes speak English. The simple reason is that their TV programs are in English. If you look for certain TV shows in your hotel room in Germany, you will not find many reality shows in English, though. You can watch “Dancing with the stars,” but you would have to watch German celebrities whirling across the stage. The equivalent for “Cash cab” is “Quiz Taxi” and “Germany’s searching for the Superstar” replaces “American Idol.”

In addition to the TV programming, Germans also adopted Halloween. In 1994 a German businessman started to promote Halloween in Germany. It’s not as big as in America; Carnivale in February is our big costume party. On October 31 only children dress up and walk around the neighborhood. I was trick-or-treating this year, too, which was hilarious.

Not only Germans adopt foreign traditions and language in their everyday life, but if you pay a little attention, you will find many German words in your language, too. You all probably know, that many Germans settled in Texas, therefore many streets, towns and last names are German origin. A few weeks ago I was in South East Texas and got to meet some elderly that are originally from the German speaking part of Europe. It was very interesting to meet them. I was surprised how good their German was, though they didn’t speak it for years.

Settlers had a big impact on the English language. Today Americans use many German words. Schlitterbahn is literally translated as a “slide roller coaster,” New Braunfels is actually “New Brown Rock”, and if you have a look in the refrigerator you might discover bratwurst (barbeque sausage) or strudel (a traditional cake). Kindergarten is the “children yard,” a poltergeist is a ghost that makes unexplained noises, and gesundheit means “bless you.”

Likewise many English words are used in German everyday language. America has a great influence on our country. These English words are called anglicisms. Most people won’t be able to give you a translation for words like “baby,” “fans,” “chips” and “meeting.” Furthermore we have pseudo anglicisms. That are words that sound English but they are not. For instance “handy”, that is our word for cell phone, or “beamer”, which is simply a projector.

Germany lost its self-confidence after World War II. Showing our flag or singing the national anthem happens rarely. We consider our country as very small and therefore I was surprised how much people know about my country and that it actually influences the Americans. I am also surprised that there really are students at our school that study German. In my opinion it is a very complex and difficult language and I am amazed by everyone who tries to learn it.

Learning English is by the way comparatively easy, because we listen to English songs on the radio all day long. We start with English in fifth grade or even earlier.

In addition to English, I learn many other things, too. It seems as if I become grown-up faster and get to know myself better and what I personally expect from life. I try hard to integrate myself in the American everyday life and hopefully I will be at least partially American by the end of the year. I cannot accentuate enough how happy I am that I came here.

A few weekends ago I was in Houston and next week I will see San Antonio. There is so much to do and see here, I never have even time to be bored. I happily can say that the map on the wall over my bed has more red circles every week.