There's a lot of problems with this sentence. You ought to be able to say "next to us" because that's just idiomatic for "compared to us" in English and, according to duolingo, is the same in French.
Furthermore, I wrote "mauvaises" because I had the listening for this sentence, and that should definitely be accepted. Who's to say it's not a group of ladies?
F.W.I.W. .....My view is that compared to us draws attention to a contrast. Next to us draws attention to a similarity not quite complete.
Others would feel that is not how they use the term. As a result, while compared to us is clear using next to us can carry more than one meaning for some.