YFU Switzerland

Cultural differences – traffic

Hola a todos,

Since my last week there has really not happened anything, I still haven’t heard anything of my new host family and my days are as boring as always. At least I finally got to do some sports this week and went to Pilates with my host mum on monday and tuesday. But that’s all news I have. And because I have a weekend without any plans once more, sitting alone at home I thought I would try to bring some cultural aspect of Ecuador a bit closer to you. The differences are so immense, that there will be more than one post and for this time I will focus on the traffic. Yes traffic. May sound special but when I came here I was so overwhelmed by just travelling by car that I thought it would earn a post in my blog. Also I think that the situation on the roads of a country says quite a lot about the country itself.

So I thought I would just set up a list with the things that seem different to me:

  • There are very many Taxis in the city. Often 40% of the traffic are the taxis that you easily can recognize by the yellow colour and the honking. Taxis are very cheap and you can find one always, so many people use them to get from one place to another (including me)
  • But still Taxis are expensive for some people, so busses are very popular too and cost only 30 cents per trip. The busses are huge and often hot and full of people. I’ve only driven one once but I get an impression on how dangerous bus drivers drive every day.
  • Most of the cars are really big. People often own the typical American pick-ups. But I’ve also already seen very small cars that were nearly falling apart
  • Everyone is honking, all the time. It is crazy. It’s always loud on the streets, but the thing is without honking I think I wouldn’t be alive anymore. Drivers often don’t even look at the street, so if you don’t want to crash you actually need to honk. Another thing is, that everytime I walk through the streets, people honk at me. All the time. It can be annoying to be the blonde stranger at times.
  • Seatbelt? What is that? Here no one wears a seatbelt. Only if the driver sees a police control somewhere he puts it on, but in all my time here, I’ve never worn one.
  • Phone while driving? No problem. I’ve feared about my life many times, while the driver was whatsapping or phoning.
  • Neither does anyone find it weird to sit in a small car with like 7 other people or that children often sit in the front with their mums.
  • On the back of pick-ups you can see all possible things. Huge families including pets, pigs, chicken, like 1000 bananas and much more
  • Mopeds are very popular too. You often see whole families on one moped. The dad in the front, two kids in the middle and the mum sitting on the back. It is a very dangerous way to move but the people don’t have other choices.
  • Here I’ve seen like 2 people driving a bike for fun or to do sports. It’s used as a means of transport and it’s not unlikely to see 3 people sitting on one bike. It is dangerous to drive a bike on the roads, because car drivers are not very respectful. So there are not too many.
  • Yes, traffic lights exist and they get respected (more or less 😉 ) but crossings are very chaotic places.
  • Gas is very cheap here. I don’t think it’s even possible to pay more than 20$ on refilling your tank, even when it’s all empty.
  • There are many bumps on the road that make the cars slow down for more safety but actually they just cause the cars to speed up really fast until the next bump comes.
  • At really every place a car has to stop for just 2 seconds or has to slow down, there are people selling stuff. Usually it’s food or drinks but they also sell technical accessories, children toys and clothes such as scarves. Literally everything. At traffic lights you can often see young men doing some acrobatic tricks and trying to collect some money from the drivers afterwards. I feel very sorry for all these people that have to work so hard and so dangerously to earn their living.
  • Taking over other cars/busses gets a real adventure here.
  • Most of the roads have 2 or three tracks, also inside the city. In the city centre all the roads are one-sided, what makes the roads a bit safer.
  • They let the motor run all the time. Even if the driver gets out of the car to buy something in a shop. That I find really bad. Sometimes I think about how at home my mom turns off the motor when the light is red for too long. Here people would find that totally ridiculous.
  • As soon as you get out of town you can see crosses with names written on them along the road a lot. That just reminds me of how dangerous the road is here and that many people have died, travelling by car.

But don’t be worried about me now. The people here have grown up with it, so they know how to handle it. But I have to admit that I’ve been afraid sitting in the car or the taxi quite some times. But there never has happened anything and I’m sure that will stay like that 🙂

The list got quite long. Whoops, sorry for that

On wednesday I’m gonna have my first YFU – trip. We are going to the Amazon. I am so excited for the trip. I’ve only heard good things about the nature there and I’m looking forward to see everyone again, especially my swiss girls. It will be an appreciated distraction from all the stupid things happening here.

So the next time I write you will for sure get to see many photos and hear about my great trip and who knows, maybe I will finally get to tell you something new about the situation with the host family…

Big hug, Annette

Ps: Yes, also I have heard about the terrible attacks in Paris and it feels strange being so far away now. I can’t find words to describe my feelings towards this and this blog isn’t about political happenings, so I’ll leave it here. But I just wanted you to know, that also here in Ecuador people have heard about it and are worried.


  • Si tu sais les plus importants mots et peux conjuger au prĂ©sent et au passĂ©, tu te dĂ©brouille au quotidien.
    Je peux converser un peu, par example raconter de mon jour ou acheter un billet de bus et quand je sais le contexte, je parfois comprend des conversations entre Estoniens. Je parle trÚs peu en anglais, seulement quelques mots, que je ne sais pas encore en Estonien et étrangers répondent à moi au Estonien, pas Anglais!
  • Conjuguer des verbes et former l’imparfait, le parfait et le plus-que-parfait est relativement simple. Il y a pas de forme du future en Estonien.
  • Je dois apprendre beaucoup de vocabulaire! En moment, j’apprend avec un livre et je recherche des mots que j’entend plusieurs fois ou que j’ai besoin de.
  • J’essaie de comprendre “Natuke napakad lood”, audiolivres trĂšs courts Ă  la radio.
  • Je lis les livres pour enfants, mon livre prĂ©fĂ©rĂ© est “Aabits”, ( les Ă©lĂšves jeunes apprendent lire avec Aabits) et j’ai lu quelques contes et en moment je lis un livre d’Atrid Lindgren.
    En Estonien, il n’y a pas de prĂ©positions mais il y a 14 kasus (??) avec des terminaisons, qui fhdsoiĂŒafh9d
    On peut seulement apprendre les trois premiers kasus (??) et on peut former tous les autres. Mais attention: il y a beacoup d’exceptions aux trois premiers “kasus”.
  • Mots amusents :
    Ma nĂ€gin und – j’ai vu un rĂȘve
    Lapselaps – petit-fils ; Lapselapselaps – arriĂšre-petit-fils
    ĂŒleeile – avanthier
    kĂŒsimusi – des quetions; kĂŒsi musi – demander un bisous
    Mul on mĂŒts peas. – J’ai un bonnet (lit.) DANS la tĂȘte.
    Sa oled soe peast. – Tu es chaud de la tĂȘte. = Tu es fou.
  • Quand Estoniens parlent en Estoniens, mais utilisent un mot anglais (Estonglish), ils dĂ©clinent le mot anglais, ce sonne trĂšs amusant !
  • C’est trĂšs utile, que j’apprendais le latin, bien qu’ Estonien ne soit pas une langue romane, il y a queslques paralleles et je sais, comment on apprend une nouvelle grammaire.


  • Mit den wichtigsten Alltagswörtern und Zeitformen kommt man schon sehr gut im Alltag zu recht!
    Ich kann einfache Konversationen fĂŒhren, wie zum Beispiel von meinem Tag erzĂ€hlen oder ein Busticket kaufen, und wenn ich den Kontext kenne, GesprĂ€che einigermassen verstehen und meistens antworten Fremde auf Estnisch, nicht Englisch !
  • Verben sind relativ einfach zu konjugieren und Imperfekt, Perfekt und Plusquamperfekt zu bilden. Eine Futurform gibt es im Estnischen nicht.
  • Ich muss unbedingt noch viel mehr vokabeln lernen. Im Moment lerne ich noch mit einem Lernbuch und schlage Wörter nach, die mir besonders oft begegnen.
  • Ich versuche “Natuke napakad lood” (ein bisschen verrĂŒckte Geschichten), ganz kurze HörbĂŒcher, die im Radio kommen, zu verstehen.
  • KinderbĂŒcher zu lesen ist eine gute Methode eine Sprache zu lernen! Am liebsten lese ich “Aabits” ,das Buch mit dem ErstklĂ€ssler lesen lernen. Ausserdem habe ich ein paar MĂ€rchen gelesen ich habe Karl Robin “Karlsson vom Dach” vorgelesen. Im Moment lese ich “Die Kinder aus der Krachmacherstrasse” von Astrid Lindgren.
  • Statt PrĂ€positionen gibt es ein ausgeklĂŒgeltes Kasussystem mit 14 FĂ€llen. An den Genitiv von Substantiven wird die entsprechende Endung gehĂ€ngt. Das hört sich vielleicht erst schwierig an, aber eigentlich ist es einfacher als im Deutschen, wo zusĂ€tzlich zu PrĂ€positionen noch FĂ€lle verlangt sind. Man muss bloss die ersten drei FĂ€lle kennen, und schon kann man alle FĂ€lle bilden. Aber Achtung: es gibt viele, viele Ausnahmen bei diesen ersten drei FĂ€llen.
  • Lustige estnische AusdrĂŒcke und Wörter :
    Ma nĂ€gin und – ich “sah” einen Traum
    Lapselaps – Enkel ; Lapselapselaps – Grossenkel
    ĂŒleeile – vorgestern (wörtl. ĂŒbergestern)
    kĂŒsimusi – Fragen ; kĂŒsi musi – nach einem Kuss fragen
    Mul on mĂŒts peas. – Ich habe eine MĂŒtze (wörtl.) IM Kopf.
    Sa oled soe peast. – Du bist warm vom Kopf = Du bist verrĂŒckt.
  • Wenn Esten in estnische SĂ€tze englische Wörter einbauen (Estoniglish), dann werden diese dekliniert, was unglaublich lustig klingt.
  • Es gibt viele Lehnwörter aus dem Deutschen, und auch sonst sind sich die beiden Sprachen ein kleines bisschen Ă€hnlich.
  • Latein hilft enorm, auch wenn Estnisch keine romanische Sprache ist, gibt es Parallelen, beziehungsweise kann ich durch das Latein sehr gut neue Grammatik lernen.

First Impressions of School and a New Family

At home, after sitting around for a bit, we all went to sleep as it was quite early on a Sunday morning. In the afternoon after eating I gave my family their presents and we just got to know each other a bit.

For the next three days we were busy getting ready for school, getting my papers and finding our rhythm as a family of five. Since my sister just recently got back from half a year in Mexico, she also needed some things for school and she showed me everything. As you might know, most Chilean school require you to wear a uniform. We bought mine in Pitrufquén where I would be going to school. The black shoes, my sister and I bought in Temuco, the closest city, which is about 45 minutes from Freire by bus.

On Thursday was the first day of school for my sister and I. Our parents drove us there and brought us to the Director’s Office. We were then introduced to all the teachers and then it was finally time to go to class. I remember my first class in Chile being Philosophy. The kids around me, especially the friends of my sister, who was in my class, wanted to talk to me. Me being from Switzerland, was used to paying attention in class and I really wanted to keep on doing that, as I do not want my grades to drop too much. But soon I realized that barely anyone was really paying attention, so I just did the same and tried , as best as I could, to socialize in Spanish.

Having only spent a week in Chile, with no previous lessons in it’s national language, my Spanish was nowhere near to being enough to hold a conversation. But the few words that I knew were, to reply to the most frequently asked questions. And it’s not like I was having deep conversations on my first day of school. I was just trying to get to know everybody and people were also trying to get to know me.

School in Chile is very different from what I’m used to in Switzerland. It’s very laid-back and the student-teacher relationship is very close. Also the feeling of community in the class is very nice. We might not all be best friends but we all get along, which, in my view is quite an accomplishment, as we are around 30 people in my class. There also isn’t this huge division between boys and girls.

Since my school is Catholic, we start almost every morning with a prayer where everyone can give thanks and ask and pray for something that is important to them. I feel like those prayers also bring us all closer together. After that we have 2 hours of classes and then we have a 15-20 minute break where we eat breakfast. After breakfast we have another 2 hours, a break and 2 hours more until lunchtime which is around 1:30 PM. After lunch we have 3 more hours of school until 4:30PM and then we’re set free =). On Fridays we only have school until 2:05PM.

At first the late lunches were something to get used to and also not having a short 5-minute break after each lesson, but now it’s normal for me (even though a 5-minute break would come in handy once in a while). My school also offers after-school programs including basketball, volleyball and music.

At first I joined volleyball, which was super fun. But because music is my priority I joined music, which inconveniently is on the same days and at the same time as volleyball. However, whenever I don’t have music I go for volleyball.

Getting involved outside of classes has been really good for me to integrate myself, meet new people and just express myself. It made me feel more like I was part of the school and not a stranger and with my music group we’ve already had quite a few performances.

After about 4 weeks in Chile I changed my family for reasons I will keep private. I moved to PitrufquĂ©n. My new host family immediately took me in and I feel very at home. They’ve previously had two other exchange students in their home, so it’s very easy to be with them because they already have experience. Since my new parents and my brother work in my school they always drove me there. But now, since it’s not so cold in the mornings anymore, I walk. My house is about 20 minutes away from my school and really close to the main street of Pitru, which allows me to move around very independently and also gave me the possibility to start after-school programs.

If you do go on an exchange year, I highly suggest to really get involved. You’ll feel a lot more at home and meet awesome new people with similar interests as you =)

PAO – 2015

The PAO is the first of three camps, organised on a national level by YFU Switzerland, which are a part of an exchange students’ experience in Switzerland. The PAO stands for Post Arrival Orientation. This camp gives the opportunity to reflect on their exchange year, what have they experienced so far, where do they stand, what do they want to achieve in their year, etc. It is fully organised by volunteers of YFU Switzerland. The volunteers consist of the following, the NECs, National Event Coordinators, Andreas and Laura, they are in charge of all logistical matters. The trainers, Nina and Sandra, prepared the group leader for the week. The weekend before, they simulated all the sessions and discussed the most important points. Last but not least, the group leaders, lead the 9 groups and ensure the well-being of the students. The camp took place from the third of October until the 10th of October.


SATURDAY – The NECs arrived in the morning to prepare the camp side. The group leaders and trainers arrived shortly after to conduct the first training. It was a very relaxed atmosphere. For the dinner, the kitchen crew had prepared a wonderful meal.


SUNDAY – During the whole day the group leaders worked on the sessions for the students, this included preparing flip charts, thinking about who says what and when, getting to know each other better, etc.


MONDAY – Early in the morning the volunteers got up to prepare the last sessions for the coming students. The kitchen crew made sure the volunteers were provided with an enriching breakfast. The kitchen consisted of Sandra and Marion, as the heads of the kitchen, Corinne, Susanne, Robin, and Sebastian supported the two with delivering tasteful foods. Setting the things after lunch, the students finally arrived!! Coming from Broc train station the students were greeted by Jerry, the national director of YFU Switzerland. Afterwards they jumped right into the first session in their groups, which focused on the introduction of the PAO. On the first evening the students went through the camp olympics. They had to compete as a team.


TUESDAY – Blasting with good sounds in the morning, everyone got up at 7:30 and was greeted by the wonderful kitchen crew. After some short speech by the NECs the students started with their first daily session “Culture Shock Switzerland & Family Circle”. The session gives the students the chance to exchange themselves with others and find common findings about Switzerland they have observed. In the afternoon they had the chance to choose from a workshop, in which they can choose from different activities. This ranges from visiting a chocolate factory, plat bakery, etc. For the evening the students were asked to prepare something traditional from their home country. For this we let the pictures talk.

Asia Europe Europe Americas

WEDNESDAY – Due to weather constraints, the planned hike for the afternoon was shifted to Thursday, and instead the second workshop was put into place this afternoon. Starting in the morning of the day, the groups had the sessions “Bedrock” and “Piece of Art”. “Bedrock” does embraces the students to show an openness towards the Swiss culture and teaches them how show respect. “Piece of Art” encourages the students to build artwork based on their exchange experience so far. In the evening everyone enjoyed a walk along the river. To light the way, torches were distributed amongst the students and volunteers.

Workshop II Workshop I

THURSDAY – In the morning the students and volunteers tackled the fourth session block. This one is named “School, Leisure, Friends”. As the name already implies, the focus lays on networks outside of the host family. In the afternoon everyone went on a hike around the Alps in Fribourg.


FRIDAY – The last day with sessions was very tense. In the morning the students set themselves new goals and wrote a letter, to which they will come back later during their exchange year which functions as a motivator in times of doubt. Rounding up the sessions the group leaders and student evaluated the week together and then enjoyed a well cooked meal by the kitchen crew. In the afternoon everyone went to their third workshop. The final evening was packed. First all the student groups presented their presentation of week. Funny, thoughtful, and entertaining it was. Rounding up the week, the students and volunteers had some drinks and danced to different sounds.


SATURDAY – The last day of the PAO, cam faster than thought off in the beginning. The students and volunteers worked hard to get the house clean. In the end the students left earlier and the volunteers stayed longer to reflect on the PAO. On the way back home, the bus had to drive behind a DĂ©salpe.