Exchange Student Nils Buurman and President Sharon Hamilton
Today’s speaker was our Exchange student Nils Buurman from Emden, Germany. Nils had an excellent photo presentation about Germany and told us many facts including:
Germany is the most populous European country (82 million); 15 million people in German are of non-German descent, half of which are foreign residents – not German citizens; Germany is the world’s second producer of cars; Germany’s Autobahn has NO speed limit; and Germany has one of the lowest unemployment rates. 
Some of the most interesting facts Nils shared with us described the German people and how they live:
Germans are extremely open to gays, lesbians and people of different cultures/religions/ways of life.
Germans are neat and tidy and are Masters of planning. Only close friends and relatives are invited into a German household.
German public areas are meticulously clean.
When visiting another home – you are expected to be on time, bring wine or flowers, clean your plate, don’t eat before the hostess or wait until she/he invites you to proceed and you call to thank the hostess within 24 hours. The community is very formal – certainly much more formal than we are.
Very little ice is served in drinks and even Nils requests his water/beverage here in the States without ice.
In Germany, the use of credit cards is much more limited and shopping is VERY limited on Sundays.
Nils’ journey to stay with his first host family took 30 hours. He arrived on Sunday and immediately the next day the family visited Chautauqua Institution and the Athenaeum. Nils was thrilled to be treated to a Maroon 5 concert his first week here (so would I) and then on Monday he immediately started practicing football with the Maple Grove High School football team. Nils loves most sports and was pleased to be a part of the MGHS team – who readily accepted him into their comradeship! The team went on to play in Sectional finals and Nils was pleased to be included – he couldn’t say enough about the great team experience he had.  Nils participated in a Christian camp weekend in the Rochester area which was very different for him as the Germans are not very participatory in their faiths. While it was “culture shock” for him, he also found it most interesting.
He attended his first Rotary Exchange Weekend and met all of the other students and they quickly became fast friends, even participating in a parade!  Nils visited Allegheny State Park and stayed in a cabin for the first time. Then he attended his first hockey game which he found quite interesting!  In October, Nils attended the Rotary District Conference; sightseeing in Niagara Falls. November brought his high school football team’s participation in the NYS championships in the Buffalo Bills’ Stadium; his first experience hunting (successfully) for deer; and traveling to Syracuse for a college football game.  Thanksgiving arrived and wrestling started. He visited Buffalo and participated in ice skating and tours. Christmas is celebrated on 12/24 in Germany but the holidays are similar – he even baked cookies with his family and two days before moving to his next family, the family dog gave birth to five puppies.  With the New Year came basketball; the ski club which was more social than skiing; the celebration of the ice castle; and off to the Rotary Algonquin experience in the FREEZING cold!
With Nils’ third host family, he visited Cleveland for a large youth hockey tournament, visited a sugar bush maple syrup farm and celebrated Easter which is similar in both our countries. His host family took him to Washington to tour which he considered “wonderful” and then when he returned to Jamestown it was time for the Rotary Youth Exchange Weekend – which was great fun and he particularly mentioned his exposure to the Amish culture.
The exchange students recently spent 3 days in New York City seeing the sights and touring all around – which they loved! And Nils’ program ended with his attendance at the Maple Grove High School Prom last weekend at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua Institution.
Greg and I have had the opportunity of spending time with this delightfully intelligent, polite young man – I hope you will invite him to spend a couple of hours with you and your family before he returns to Germany – you will be much richer for it!