By Guest Columnist Marius Hepp
Four thousand three hundred thirty-four miles, one thousand three hundred eighty-three feet and four inches—the exact distance of my first flight. It seems crazy that you only need to fly eight hours to cover this immense distance. I have never slept as well as I did after the 30-hour trip.
When starting this column, I intended to write about the differences between German and American culture. I have since realized that while most people, both American and German, assume the cultures are completely different, in most cases, this is entirely wrong. It is more or less funny prejudice we hold, that we have nothing in common. Many stereotypes we hold about each other are completely false. I know of no Germans who wear lederhosen or love sauerkraut, nor have I yet seen any Americans dressed like cowboys or toting guns everywhere.
However, after dispelling some of the funnier stereotypes, I realized some legitimate differences. Many of these, I believe, are historically caused. For instance, Americans feel good to be American. Germans do not feel good about being German. In America, if you love your country, you hang a flag outside of your house. In Germany, you don’t. While here you’re lauded as a patriot, in Germany, you are often insulted as a Nazi.
Another difference I noticed is the yellow signs in people’s yards that say, “I am so cool, I play football at the high school.” The people here are proud of what they do, which I think is a key to their success. The self-confidence of America is descended from the idea of the American dream, and that is something that, unfortunately, many Germans lack. There is no “German dream.” The only “dream” we had was the fanatical vision of a mentally-disordered dictator, and this was no dream; it was a nightmare from which the victims suffer even today.
Schooling is another area with differences between the two countries. Four days per week, my school in Germany releases at 1 p.m. However, schools like mine in Germany have much fewer extracurricular options. In America, of course you have to take math, English and science, but there are also subjects like photography, jazz band and a student newspaper.
The part of American life that I envy most is the driver’s license. That simple thing gives you more freedom than anything else. Here, you send a text message to your friends, and two minutes later you have met up for lunch. In Germany you send a text message to your friends and even two hours later you still have not met, because someone missed his bus.
0.000000000737262931 light-years—the exact distance of my return flight. I expected that I would be surprised in America, but I didn’t expect I would be surprised by similarity of the two cultures. It seems that the world has shrunk in the past 30 days.