MARSHALL?- In Europe, students attend school from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. - and the teachers get there a half hour before and leave a half hour later. European students also have a longer school year with just a month-and-a-half off in the summer. European students don't work - they concentrate on their studies and extracurricular activities such as sports and music.
Those are some of the facts three American Field Service exchange students told senior citizens Friday morning at the Adult Community Center.
Alex Lwowski from Cologne, Germany, Markus Manner from Turku, Finland, and Charles Dalle from Lille, France, shared tidbits about their respective countries including climate, topography and food.
Dalle said he missed the bread that is available in France - baguettes.
"We have the best bread in the world," he said. They top that bread with Nutella, a peanut butter-like spread.
Dalle said French toast in France is made from stale baguettes.
"We call it lost bread," he said. "It was lost but now you can eat it (by dipping it in an egg mixture and frying it)."
Another cultural difference is how you greet friends, by shaking the boys' hands and kissing the girls on both cheeks.
"I scared some girls here," Dalle said.
Another difference between France and America is the national bird.
"You have the eagle," he said, "and we have the chicken."
Dalle said he came to America to perfect his English.
"In France I was the worst," he said.
He also wanted to learn about American culture, to go beyond the prevailing stereotype of "fat Americans, watching football, eating donuts and hating soccer."
Manner said his country, Finland, which is in the northern part of Scandinavia, is similar to Minnesota in that it has a lot of lakes - "we have 100,000 lakes."
He said Finland is bordered by Russia to the east - "we hate Russia" - and Sweden to the west - "we hate Sweden." The reason for the animosity is because Sweden ruled Finland for 600 years and Russia from 1809 to 1917.
"Finland is a new country, not even 100 years old," he said.
Ninety percent of the country speaks Finnish and the rest Swedish. Swedish is an official language so Manner learned Finnish and Swedish. In addition he is studying German and Spanish.
Adjectives Manner used to describe Finns included "quiet, shy, drunk and gloomy." Finns drink a lot, like Russians, he said.
Besides drinking, another popular pastime is the sauna.
"Almost every house has a sauna," he said, adding that it is commonplace for Finns to take in the steamy heat of the sauna then "go out in the snow and roll there and go back (to the sauna)."
While Finland is bordered by four countries - Sweden, Russia, Norway and Estonia - Germany is smack in the middle of Europe and is surrounded by nine countries - Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Lwowski said much of the country is flat, which is good for agriculture, but to the south are mountains.
Germany's highest mountain is "moving toward Austria because of continental drift," he said.
Lwowski said Germany is a 95 percent Christian country of those who are religious - 35 percent of its people are nonreligious. Religion overall in Europe is declining, he said.
"Not many people believe," he said.
Like Dalle, Lwowski misses the bread that he can find in his home country. The bread in America is "spongy," he said.
Lwowski has adapted to American life - but did notice a major reliance on fast food here. In Europe, there isn't so much fast food - "drive up to a window, order food and then eat it in your car," said Lwowski. There is more "going to a shop and then cooking the food at home."
Lwowski said Germans eat a lot of "fried sausage, sauerkraut and all sorts of beer, especially Bavarian. Oktoberfest is popular."
In Germany 16-year-olds are able to drink a lower alcohol beer and are adults at age 18. They get their driver's license at age 18, but it is hard to get.
"You have to answer 50 questions and if you fail four you have to take it again," he said. It is also expensive - $1,000 euros or $1,300.
A lot of young people don't have cars, he said, but rely on the rail system to get around Europe.