High school for me was not as most people experience high school. I had no prom, no football games, no homecoming, basically anything associated with an American high school, I did not experience. My high school years were spent at an International School in Switzerland, as that is where my family was living at the time. I know what you’re thinking, how fancy. And while I was privileged to be able to have that experience, I was also able to pick out some stark differences between the USA and Switzerland upon my arrival to Boulder, Colorado. As always, there is no better way of life, just observations on how things are run in each country.
In the USA, people are shopping crazy. The term “shop ‘til you drop” didn’t spur from nothing. Shops are open 7 days a week in the USA, and hours are extensive, from early in the morning until late at night. This allows for care free shopping. No bread? It’s okay because the supermarket is definitely open.
In Switzerland, things are run slightly different. Almost every shop opens slightly later, and closes relatively early (9 or 10 – 5 or 6), and they close for an hour between 12 and 1 for a lunch break. To top that off, barely any stores (except for restaurants) are open on Sundays. This means if you have a midnight feast on Saturday, be prepared to reap what you sow on Sunday when there’s no food in your fridge.
Americans, for the most part, only speak English, with Spanish on the up and coming. While being monolingual had it’s draw backs, it does help to connect the country—as you know that you can go to any state, even the exotic ones like Hawaii and Kentucky, and still be able to talk to anyone with little to no issue.
The Swiss, however, have 4 official languages in their country: French, German, Italian and Romansch. I do realize how cool this is, to have so many official languages, and this does mean that many Swiss are, in fact, multilingual—however, a lot of them are not. I’m sure that the drawback to having 4 languages is becoming more apparent, it creates the dilemma of going to a different part of your own country, and not being able to speak your country’s language. There are many Swiss people I know who speak French, and don't like going to the German-speaking part, as they know they won’t be able to talk to anyone.
I’m sure I don’t need to go into too much detail about American schooling. There’s K-12 school, followed by college. This ensures that all kids have the equal opportunity for an education.
Swiss school works slightly differently. You attend normal grade school up until you’re about 16. At 16, you then have the option to continue for 2 years in a “secondary school”, and you can begin working full time—the Swiss will sometimes have to apply for acceptance to these secondary schools. After secondary school, the Swiss then apply to University, and the cycle overlaps again with the USA.
To me, these are the three main differences that have affected me so far in my long and eventful life. But I think they help to really show just how different two cultures can be, but also how many different cultures can be good and produce successful individuals too.