Thanks a lot for all your comments to my last post on the issue of spoilt and Western behaviour. Rather than trying to reply to them all, I thought it would be easier to write a new post.
Just in case I didn’t make myself clear, I don’t think Czech thriftiness is a bad thing. Far from it. As one of you already said, what’s so impressive about the way Czechs save money is that they manage to do it so instinctively. It is rare that Czechman would forget to prepare an adequate amount of sandwiches and other provisions to take along with us on the train or plane and why not: they’re cheaper, tasier and being wrapped up in tissue paper, better for the environment too. However, what I do find funny (in both senses of the word) is that now I’m in Czechland the way I handle money marks me out as prolifigate while in British terms I’m considered to be what is euphemistically termed ‘careful’ (i.e a bit of a skinflint) .
You should have my sister’s reaction when I made her have lunch in St Barts Hospital canteen (cost £2.50) rather than splashing out on poncey-nouveau-fusion-grub at a restaurant (potential cost £10+).
‘I come here sometimes with Czechman,’ I explained by way of justification.
‘You deserve each other,’ she replied, looking up from her burger and chips with a contemptuous look.
Anyway, in the interest of balance and for the benefit of my sister, here are some valuable tips in the art of financial management I have learned from the Czechs. None of them are going to make you rich overnight but hey, there’s a credit crunch on so every penny (or crown) counts…
1) Grow your own. Not a practical option for city-dwellers but this is something the Czechs excel at. A weekend with Czechman’s family always means returning back to Prague with a sack of potatoes big enough to see us through a nuclear winter. I guess since they knocked down the Berlin Wall there’s less chance of that actually being necessary.
2) It is possible to make two perfectly good mugs of tea with just one teabag. I was shocked when Czechman first attempted this but provided you avoid the horrible Lipton rubbish and stick to the Tesco Red Label builders kind, the results are perfectly drinkable.
3) When buying for any Czechs in your life, remember that inexpensive but thoughtful gifts will be probably be more appreciated than they would in the West. For example, one Christmas when I was particularly short of money I managed to buy a copy of the Independent newspaper from 1989 featuring the Velvet Revolution on the front page. It only cost me £3 including postage but he loved it. Job done.
4) It is also possible to knit a bathmat out of old rags. There’s nothing Czech about this but I think it’s the strangest thing I’ve ever done to save money. Czechman was very impressed by my ingenuity though.
5) The main lesson to be learnt from the Czechsters is this: you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a good time. During my long weekend at Czechman’s brother-in-law’s family cottage thanks to some clever budgeting we spent the grand total of 180Kc (£6) on food each. This covered all our meals for three days. Yes, we did eat some rather suspect pink luncheon meat but we didn’t resort to boiling any rabbits’ skulls or consuming any offal.
My next post will steer cleer of matters financial and will not include a list. Instead I’ll be writing about another Czech cultural institution: the summer film festival…