“Everything is bigger, people are driving giant trucks, and you’re gonna get fat because of all the fast food.”
Those were the mixed expectations my friends left me with after my goodbye party before I left for the other side of the globe. One year as an exchange student in the United States was lying ahead of me.
The first American habit struck me when I was still in Germany. When I entered the plane on Aug. 19, it was approximately 90 degrees outside. I immediately started freezing. Why do Americans keep all their rooms so freezing cold when it’s so warm outside? Throughout the whole ten-hour flight from Frankfurt to Charlotte, I was so cold that I could barely sleep and spent most of the time watching movies as the variety of offered media seemed endless. The great temperature difference between inside and outside would keep choosing my clothes hard for the next three months.
My stay in Charlotte became longer than expected as the flight to Florence was first postponed and then canceled. Completely alone in a country I had never been to before on the other side of the globe and without a working mobile phone, I made my first friend.
The 17-year-old girl whose luggage was only a purse and a plastic bag because she had just beel released from jail and was looking forward to seeing her daughter and her parents again. She was very friendly and made the seven hours I spent waiting in Charlotte a lot more exciting.
After this slightly bumpy start, I was welcomed by a beautiful campus and exceptionally hospitable people here in Florence. I felt home from the first day on and will be glad to confirm the Southern hospitality to anyone who asks.
Everyone seems to be interested in “how you are,” lunch ladies call me “baby” and professors tell us to not feel offended in case of poor grades (no German professor cares about our feelings when giving us back our papers – their motto is, “If you are not happy with your grade, try harder on the next one”).
In general, professors are more open and helpful here than in Germany. I had heard of that open-door policy but was still surprised when one of my teachers encouraged me to just come by his office to say “hi” whenever I was around. If I did that in Germany, my professor would probably kindly remind me of how many papers he has to grade and suggest that I only come by when I have a problem.
Apart from the gent-leness of the people, I really like the Southern weather. Although I had to get used to the extreme humidity, I was glad to finally have some of the summer I had missed in Germany. I love wearing flip-flops in November when my friends in Europe get out their winter coats.
Apart from the American bread that is way too squishy, the dependency on a car and the amount of sugar in any kind of dessert that makes me feel like diabetes is slowly taking a hold of me, America has made a nice and friendly impression on me so far.