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German students get, give view of Signal Mountain

Signal Mountain High School has 20 exchange students from Chattanooga’s sister city of Hamm, Germany, walking its halls for four weeks this fall. Those same students will house their Signal Mountain hosts this May in Hamm, where the SMHS exchange students will attend Beisenkamp Gymnasium.

The German students shared with us the main cultural differences between Hamm and Signal Mountain, as well as facts about their hometown and some of their favorite places to visit in the Chattanooga area.

Most said they are surprised at how big everything here is — from Walmart to food portions to space between houses — and how religious, patriotic and rich the people of Signal Mountain are. Many marveled at the prevalence of pickup trucks and trees, and said they love the free drink refills.

“It’s smaller and more countryish,” said Hannah Mellmann in regards to Signal Mountain as it compares to Hamm. “It’s really pretty and you have the feeling that everybody knows their neighbors and the rest of the whole town, [which] is really great.”

Almost all the students commented about the beautiful scenery and wildlife.

Signal Point and Lookout Mountain’s Point Park and Sunset Rock have the best views, said Lina Schaefer and Nele Grünewald, who added that Hamm lacks any that compare.

“My favorite thing is when we were on Lookout Mountain,” said Mellmann. “I just loved how you could see the landscape and Chattanooga in the valley.”

Several students said they find the lack of sidewalks odd, as students in Hamm are unable to drive until they turn 18, and therefore ride their bikes everywhere.

“In Hamm you can reach everything by bike, but in Signal Mountain that is almost impossible,” said Gregor Boronowsky.

While the students all reported enjoying American food, they feel the portions are huge and most dishes unhealthy. But American french fries are definitely more tasty than those in Germany, said Saskia Hufenbach.

“The American people eat a lot more than the Germans and the food isn’t as healthy as in Germany, but it’s very good though,” she said. “I like it more than the healthy food.”

One major cultural difference mentioned by most students is the frequency in which Signal Mountain residents go to church.

“Most of the people here go to church and religion is a really important part of their life. In Germany [there] are many people that don’t even believe in God,” said Hufenbach.

Other differences include how students play sports at school, which in Germany is done through clubs, as well as the hunting culture here.

“Everybody has weapons and many children have already shot with a gun [at] 14,” said Marc von der Linde.

A few of their favorite things

“The best thing I’ve done here was riding on the back of a pickup,” said Marc von der Linde.

Football games, weddings, Walmart, hamburgers, Hamilton Place Mall, Lookout Mountain, Florida and Six Flags also rate high with the German students.

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