For the most part, Anatoliy Vyshnyakov and Maren Siedentop are having a wonderful time as exchange students at Payson High School.
And for the most part, Vyshnyakov, who is from the Ukraine, and Siedentop, who is from Germany, like the American people and lifestyle.
There are a few things, however, that drive the two very mature 16-year-olds right up the proverbial American wall. They include:
- Country music -- "Music is pretty much the same (as in Germany) but we don't have any country and country is pretty big here," Siedentop said. "Every morning we have country music going in the bathroom."
Vyshnyakov, who is the less demonstrative of the two Europeans, put it this way: "It's OK, but we haven't got it in the Ukraine."
- Food -- "Here it is very, very sweet," Siedentop said. "Like the bread is very sweet. The other night we had tomato soup and it was sweet. I'd never eaten sweet tomato soup before. That was so different."
Siedentop, whose host family is LaRon and Susan Garrett, is also amazed at the amount of fast food Americans consume.
"I'm from a town 10 times the size of Payson," she said. "The whole area has, like, six fast food places," she said. "Like, here you go to fast food for lunch every day."
Vyshnyakov, whose host parents, Del and Elaine Bohlmeyer, sat in on the interview, was more circumspect. But he, too, is amazed at the number of fast food establishments in town.
"I'm from a town of 48,000, and we don't have any fast food at all," he said. "People eat more natural foods -- fruits and vegetables. We live by the sea, so we also have some fish."
- Football -- American football is not popular in Europe, and both exchange students were introduced to the game for the first time during this football season.
"My dad (Garrett) is totally into it, and he would try to explain me the rules," Siedentop said. "I said, ‘OK, the rules are very interesting, but I don't get quite the sense of running into each other'."
- Dress codes and tardy policies -- "We don't have a dress code (in Germany)," Siedentop said. "We don't have tardies. Nobody cares if you come five minutes late to class if it's only one or two times."
While the Ukraine is less liberal than Germany, Vyshnyakov agrees that timeliness is over-emphasized in the U.S.
"In the Ukraine, you can be late half an hour and nobody will care," he said.
Both Siedentop and Vyshnyakov, who arrived in August and will return to their respective countries in July, appreciate the electives they are allowed to take at Payson High School.
"School is a big difference because you can choose your own subjects, and some subjects are different like student government, business management and economics," Vyshnyakov said. "Back home we have more science and math and languages."
"On one side, it's really fun to have classes like that, but on the other side you learn a lot less compared to Germany," she said. "Two languages are a must for high school, and if you don't want a third one you have to have more math."
Siedentop speaks English, German and Norwegian and can read some French and Spanish. Vyshnyakov speaks English, Russian, Ukranian and Turkish.
Both exchange students will take home fond memories of their year in Payson.
"Everybody is so nice to you here," Vyshnyakov said, "much friendlier than in my country. Even on the street if nobody knows you they say, ‘Hi.'"
"If you ask what time it is, they say, ‘Sure, OK,'" Siedentop said. "In Germany it's, ‘What do you want from me? How do you dare talk to me.'"
But sometimes Americans can be a little too friendly.
"People just walk in the living room without ringing at the door," Siedentop said. "You look up and there's somebody in the living room."
The foundation of the exchange programs that brought Vyshnyakov and Siedentop to Payson is the families that open their doors to the students.
"You grow together as a family," Siedentop said. "Now, after just three months, it's really nice. It's really like a second family."
While the Garretts are hosting their eighth exchange student, Vyshnyakov is the Bohlmeyers' first.
"We were fortunate to get someone as mature as Anatoliy because it made it a lot easier," Del Bohlmeyer said. "I say he's 16 going on 30."
"They're lots more mature than our kids were at 16," Elaine Bohlmeyer added.