Typically teens

A Pulse correspondent discovers that English or German, she and her teen cousin share a lot of things in commonBy Brigitte Grewe

A Pulse correspondent discovers that English or German, she and her teen cousin share a lot of things in commonBy Brigitte Grewe

September 08, 2009|By BRIGITTE GREWE / Pulse correspondent

"Guten tag, wie gehts dir?" or "Hello, how are you?" was what first came into my mind (with the little German I did know) on what to say to my cousin from the village of Glessen near KÃ
ln, Germany.

My family and I had just returned from a month-long trip to Thailand and were being picked up by my sister and cousin at Dulles Washington Airport.

I first met my cousin, Kristin Grewe, shyly standing by the car and waiting for us to load our luggage into the car. I didn't know how much English she actually knew or what kind of person she was.

I was relieved to find out she did know a lot of English, because I didn't have to tackle the language barrier. She said she had been studying English for six years in school.


Then I thought of how long I had been learning French in school -- two years. Why aren't we in America studying a foreign language for that long? We'd be able to be relatively fluent in that language.

I found out Kristin can communicate fairly well and loved to tell stories. The interesting thing I noticed about her was her English accent. In Germany , students don't learn the typical American English language we know of. Students learn British English, which is simpler than American English because there's less slang.

Also, the United Kingdom is geographically closer to Germany than America, so British English is the apparent rational language to learn.

On a walk with Kristin around my neighborhood, we discussed the differences in how we spoke. I noticed she would call certain items different words than I was used to hearing. For example, she said "bin" where I would say "trash can" and aluminum was pronounced "a-lew-min-e-um." But overall, she caught onto what everything was called in America.

Kristin is 16 and attended Albert-Einstein-Realschule for six years. After the holiday, she will attend a "Gymnasium." Here in America, we call a gymnasium someplace where we'd take phys- ed class. In Europe it's what they call secondary education.

The school system in Germany works a little differently than it does here. First, there are four years spent at "grundschule," which is an elementary school. Then after four years, students choose between "Hauptschule" and "Realschule," which are both six years long or they go straight to a "Gymnasium" for nine years.

After "Hauptschule" or "Realschule" though, one can choose to continue on to a "Gymnasium" for three more years, which is what Kristin is doing.

During Kristin's stay in Hagerstown, we visited Washington D.C.; Georgetown and Bethesda, Md. We shopped at the Valley Mall, White Flint Mall and Prime Outlets, and visited Hagerstown City Park, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Greenbrier State Park and saw all the sights in between.

In Washington D.C., my brothers Stefan and Erik and sister Sabine took Kristin and I sightseeing where we saw many of the monuments including the White House, the Capitol Building, Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. We also visited the National Holocaust Museum .

Kristin is a fan of shopping and always explained how she had to take the opportunity of being in America to buy nice things because they are cheaper here than in Germany. So going to malls was important to her and something we could enjoy together.

My mom and I tried to take her to as many shopping areas near town and what was near D.C.

Q & A with Kristin Grewe

The day before Kristin left, I sat down with her and asked her for an overview of her trip.

Q: What was a difficult part for you being in America ?

A: The jet lag, for six or seven days I had a problem with it.

Q: What was the best part of your stay and why?

A: I've only seen Washington and Hagerstown but being at Sabine's. (Sabine is my sister who lives in Bethesda and we stayed at her house for a weekend and did some sightseeing in Washington,D.C. and went shopping.) I felt like at home a little bit.

(This was because my sister who we were staying with was born in Germany and lived there for two years. When she moved to America, German was always spoken in the household when she grew up. When Kristin was over, Kristin comfortably spoke her native tongue with Sabine and my other siblings and Kristin explained how she could communicate better, which gave her a bit of security as if being back home.)

And mini golf.

(My friends and I took Kristin to Fun Castle in Greencastle, Pa., to play mini golf and, though she didn't win, she came in second and really enjoyed her time playing.)

Q: Would you do this trip again?

A: Yes, but not for so long.

(She then explained to my dad, in German, her feelings of being homesick and he translated it back to me.)

"If you travel four weeks, the stay would be fine, but being in one place for such a time (staying in Hagerstown), there's nothing new to do."

Q: What was the most interesting part of your stay?

A: "In my opinion, the weight of people. In Germany there are not as many very large people. There is also not as much (diversity) as there is in Germany."

Kristin explained to me how we are a multi-racial country made up predominantly of whites, blacks and Hispanics. Her area of Germany is mostly whites and Turkish people.

She noticed in America, whites typically associated and were friends with blacks or Hispanics, whereas in Germany the whites don't usually associate themselves with a Turk unless they look German. If the Turk looked like a Turk, they would only have Turkish friends.

Q: What is a difference you noticed from here and Germany?

A: There are two doors and not one. (Storm door and regular door)

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