School Life in South Korea and Finland

South Korea and Finland – what a stark contrast in school life.

Student life in South Korea: cram school till midnight, four hours of sleep are the norm, school attendance in high school till 10pm, high cost of cram school education, study for exams only, pressure to get into a top-notch university, etc.

Finnish students have a 20-work school week. This allows them to spend this extra time outside of school to do practical things:  meeting friends, spending time with family, having time to earn some money on the side, reading for pleasure, etc.

German Lesson: der Schießstand

Many German learners have a difficult time differentiating the sound difference between the diphthongs ‘ie‘ and ‘ei‘. If the learners have an Anglo or ESL background, I advise them to read only the second diphthong vowel in English. That way, it comes out as the proper German pronunciation.

The word ‘Schießstand’ [ʃiːs] means shooting range.

If mispronounced as ‘Scheißstand’ [ʃaɪz], then you are talking about a shitting range. Whatever that means.

Schießstand

Schießstand

This sign is in Oberursel, pointing towards the shooting range, and if you proceed, you will also get to the animal shelter in the forest.

Nikolaus in Germany and the American Santa

Today, 6 December, is Nikolaustag. This is when children leave their boots outside the front door, and Nikolaus fills them with treats. As traditions vary throughout Germany, in northern Bavaria, where I grew up, we put our boots outside on the evening of 6 December.

In other areas (and other family traditions), boots are put outside on the evening of 5 December, with Nikolaus stopping by throughout the night to fill up the boots. Forget the reindeer, his transportation is unknown.

Nikolaus versus Santa

Santa versus Nikolaus

Santa was the invention of a German immigrant to the U.S.A. The cartoonist, Thomas Nast, was commissioned to design a comic figure for an American magazine. From there, Coca Cola picked up the same image and started using it in its commercials. That’s how Santa was born.

Saint Nikolaus himself was a bishop from Myra (Turkey), dating back to the 4th century. He is the patron saint of children, hence the gift-giving to the children, which dates back to the Middle Ages.