I was invited by my Gymnasium faculty to do a tour of Nuremberg with some visiting students. A German class from Slovakia came to my Gymnasium for a few days so this tour was arranged for them. 14 Slovakian students attended and 14 German students (with whom the Slovakian students were partnered). This was actually my 2nd "field trip" with the school. (The first was a trip to the zoo! I didn't take any pictures, unfortunately, but I want to go back. Eva told me that Nuremberg is known for their zoo and I was not at all disappointed.)
I could not help but notice a huge difference between these German school field trips and American school field trips. For instance, the Gymasium students were told to meet at the train platform (which is right by the school) at a certain time. The teachers had already purchased the train tickets and told the students to pay 6 euro once they got to the platform. In America, there would have been permission slips and pre-payments involved. In Germany, the teachers just ask, "Okay, who hasn't paid?" and then pocket the money themselves since they were the ones to buy the train tickets. Also, there are no chaperones. Since German children have most likely been riding public transportation their whole lives, they get on the trains and the trams and the U-bahns on their own and the teachers just trust that everyone will remain together as a group (which they actually do). The students are so independent. When we got to the zoo, the teachers said, "Okay, you have 2 hours, meet at this point on the map at noon." And the students came back when it was time. On the Nuremberg tour trip, the teachers said, "Okay, we're done with the tour, you guys can do whatever you want" trusting that the students can navigate themselves home from Nuremberg (which they definitely can). Granted, these are Gymasium students so they range from ages 12-18, but I still couldn't help noting the differences.
When you ask non-Americans (particulary young Germans who are brutally honest) what they think of the USA, the common responses are: "Americans love guns"..."Americans hate Muslims"...."Americans are fat"...."Americans like to sue people". There are, occasionally, positive responses, too, like: "Americans are friendly"..."Americans are successful"....and, of course, "Yes we can!" which people who can't even speak English love to say (one time, 3 people said it to me in 1 day!). I think the "Americans love to sue people" observation is especially funny and, for the most part, quite true. I think a lot of my surprise toward the German field trip experiences stemmed from my knowing that American parents at home would undoubtedly sue the school if their child was lost on a field trip, whereas here, it probably wouldn't even be an option. ?
At the end of the Nuremberg tour field trip, I had the option to ride back on the train with the faculty or stay in Nuremberg. I called a fellow Fulbrighter who lives in Nuremberg because I was really needing what I call "American time". Speaking German all day, every day can be mentally exhausting and sometimes, I just need to speak English. Also, "American time" usually takes place at a restaurant of American origin (and there are plenty of options to choose from). That day, for instance, "American time" took place at Subway.
I am really liking Nuremberg and I think my friend Andy described it best when he said, "Going to Nuremberg is like walking into a fairy tale land".