As a component of the U.S. Department of State's International Education Week (IEW), Cynthia W., a 2015 - 2016 CBYX participant hosted in Germany from New York City presented about cultural stereotypes to her local German school peers.
My presentation was about comparing German and American stereotypes. I gave information about my life in school and at home, in order to provide a perspective about how I live and how it doesn't necessarily conform to the stereotype of an American teenager.
It was fun to formally answer questions that addressed stereotypes. For instance, a teacher asked me if Americans really mean what they say when they tell someone, "you should come over some time!" When I answered that most Americans might not intend for this to be an invitation, he was a little shocked, since people in Germany typically operate with a different communication style.
His reaction opened me up to the direct and honest nature of German culture. I've never really thought twice about this phrase. From an outsider’s perspective, I can understand why this would seem superficial, or even untrustworthy, which is something that I’ve never given much reflection to before. Before this experience, I always thought that this was an expression of politeness.
I was able to share my family’s history, because I thought it was confusing to see an American of Chinese descent for some of my schoolmates. I explained that my parents came to the U.S. in their 20s and that I was born in New York. I was happy to represent the diversity of the U.S., and also presented my point of view as a Chinese American in the U.S.
I was also able to explain that U.S. cuisine is very diverse, given the different types of cultures that the U.S. welcomes. I explained the different boroughs of New York City, my hometown, and the difference between schools in Germany and New York City. I was asked which school system I preferred more, but I didn’t want to state any judgements. Instead, I shared what I liked about American and German schools. At school in the U.S., I enjoy the flexible schedule, tutoring hours, lockers, diversity, and abundance of school clubs and sports. In German schools, I prefer that students stay in the same class groups for several years, and that they travel together, because they form stronger relationships with one another and their respective head teacher. I also prefer the longer breaks between courses in Germany (15 minutes, between every 2 periods), as well as the emphasis on class participation as opposed to testing, and the grading style.
It was also interesting to see the reactions of my classmates as they ate the snacks I brought along. Some said the candy was really sweet, and therefore confirmed their belief that sweets in the U.S. are very sugary. Others really liked the American version of the brownie.
Overall, it was a pleasant experience! I really enjoyed sharing information about my American culture, and I plan to give similar presentations to different audiences throughout my time with CBYX in Germany.