A weekend with the (Bohemian) Village People

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I have just spent a weekend with the Village People.

Not the 70’s pop group responsible for wave-your-hands-in-the-air disco classics like YMCA you understand. The Village People is my nickname for Czechman’s family.

It’s one of those jokes that’s only really funny when you tell it to other native speakers. Like when I christened my previous employer ‘Bell-End School of Languages’ and received only a mystified look from Czechman when I couldn’t stop giggling at my own comic brilliance.

It’s sad when you have to resort to laughing at your own jokes. And don’t ask me to explain ‘bell-end’ – one of my subscribers is a man of the cloth. He might be offended.

Going to the village means being spoilt. Just in case you don’t believe me, here’s a list of items we brought home with us:

two jars of homemade marmelade
one large jar of cooked pumpkin chunks
organic goat’s cheese from the nearby goat farm
two giant homemade kolaches
two portions of chicken in red pepper sauce complete with homemade dumplings
two portions of potato and mushroom soup (homemade obviously)
a brand new cake tin (I mentioned that I wanted to make a cake for Czechman’s birthday)
twenty eggs laid by Babička Jedná’s hens – and therefore organic of course
four rohliky (white bread rolls) “because we already have bread and otherwise what will you eat this evening?”

What would we eat indeed.

The Village People ask for little in return for all this five star treatment except our presence. They are patient with my rubbish (but improving) Czech. When I bring a little ringbinder with copies of the articles I’ve recently had published, they ask lots of questions and try to understand the headlines and say I am ‘šikovna’.

This is becoming one of my favourite Czech words. It roughly translates as ‘skilful’ or perhaps ‘talented’ but you don’t have to do a great deal to gain this accolade. Czechman’s infant niece is described as ‘šikovná’ because she can roll onto her belly despite the fact she can’t manage to get back up again and starts bawling. Czechman has failed to bake the pernik (a sort of gingerbread) his Mum showed him how to make but according to her he is still ‘šikovný’ because he managed to buy some from the shop instead. I am also ‘šikovná’ because I can speak Czech (badly), French (well, I could at least) ‘and you also speak English!’

Czechman claims I am an arsekisser. He even taught me the word in Czech for this but now I’ve forgotten it.

It’s true of course. I bring a scarf I am knitting for his Lord Czechness – it’s very long – and receive crochet lessons. Czechman’s mum and I discuss the merits of knitting baby clothes versus adult garments (quicker to finish, more economical) and she is amused (or bemused) that I used to knit on the Tube in London, much to Czechman’s chagrin and dismay. I say how pleased I was that Czechman’s little niece wore the cardigan I made her to her citizenship ceremony. Apparently, they didn’t have anything else equally ‘nobl’. In contrast, I think the things I knit for my English nephew get shoved in a drawer somewhere.

It was a lovely weekend. Ordinary but lovely. My favourite memory is sitting on a bench next to Babička Jedná in her garden in the sunshine while Czechman was sprawled out on the lawn having fed the chickens freshly cut grass. I made Babička laugh by saying what a pale Angličanka I was. I don’t think that’s likely to change soon, given the fact it’s done nothing but rain ever since we got back to Prague. At least if the floods make their way here from Moravia and we’re trapped at home, we’ll have plenty to eat.

The village zámek (castle or stately home)

Feeding goats at the goat farm. 'Kozí' (goat) has a cheeky double meaning in Czech...


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28 Responses to A weekend with the (Bohemian) Village People

  1. I’m glad you’re back and that you spent such lovely and very typical weekend 🙂 The Czech word for arsekisser is “vlezdoprdelka.” And congrats on being “šikovná”!

  2. I laughed!! And I also want to go to the village now as well :-))

  3. Lovely posting, Girl in Czechland! I always enjoy reading your notes … the stories sound so familiar.
    I am richardinprague, because I, too, followed my heart and followed my own CzechGirl to Prague about 8 years ago. By now my Czech should be brilliant, but it is not, however, “my” village people (near Krusovice, in the heart of the Czech hopfields) are also very patient with me and my appalling attempts to improve my language skills … though I am certainly NOT “Sikovna”!
    There was a “mayka” in our Czechvillage at the weekend, with a Czech version of maypole dancing outside the home of any lady “of marriageable age”, accompanied by a small village band seated in a cart which was being pulled along by a horse which had been looking forward to a restful Sunday! Of course a small sip or two “sklenicka” of distilled plum juice “slivovice” helped bring a smile to event!
    Keep those stories coming, Czechgirl …. I love to read them!

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Richard,

      I’m so jealous! The maypole dancing sounds like great fun. I’m sure you are sikovny really – believe me, you don’t have to do much to qualify 😉


    • girlinczechland

      P.S Another thought occurs to me… If you’ve been here for eight years, presumably the move was a success. Are Czech people surprised when you tell them that you enjoy living here? I think there’s still an assumption that everything is better and shiner back in the West…


      • Yes – I think you’re right; some people are surprised that I like living here. I’ve never thought about it before, but I’ll keep my eyes and ears open, and report back!

  4. Hi GIC,

    ‘And don’t ask me to explain ‘bell-end’ – one of my subscribers is a man of the cloth. He might be offended’.

    On the assumption that I am the subscriber to whom you refer,let me assure you that I am neither easily offended, nor for that matter, do I need an explanation of ‘bell-end’!!!!

    As usual, a wonderful descriptive post and a real cultural eye-opener. As Richard says, keep the stories coming.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello there Ricky,

      You may have been the person I had in mind when I wrote that comment but I never doubted that a man of the cloth might have a sense of humour!

      I really enjoyed your posts on your Royal visit by the way – fascinating stuff.


  5. In Moravia, when you refer to a girl, the word “šikovná” means also “pretty”. So you never know what they actually meant while calling you that way. I guess it’s possible to recognize the right meaning according to the intonation, but I’m not called šikovná that often so I can’t really tell the difference.

  6. I’d say that the double entendre is reserved for “kozy” (noun plural) – really hardly anyone was able to see the title of The Men Who Stare at Goats without unwanted associations – and very weak for the adjective kozí; now that I think of it, I guess it’s because of how deeply the finer shades of meaning of suffixes are ingrained in the thinking of the native speakers of this synthetic language.

    • girlinczechland

      I think Czechman just has a fithy mind but thanks for clearing that up! You should have heard his friends laugh when I said ‘lesbičanka’ instead of ‘lesbička’ (don’t even ask what we were talking about…


  7. Me and Mr K are just reading your blog together and laughing out loud! I think he likes yours more than mine, but with good reason! ;-))

    • girlinczechland

      But yours has more lovely pictures of yummy food! You’ve inspired me to include some food posts here in the not-too-distant future – watch this space!


  8. I came to this blog by accident, but I found very interesting. Greetings to all who visit here.

  9. girlinczechland

    Glad you managed to stumble upon my blog and also of course that you found it interesting. May many others do the same… 🙂


  10. Dianne

    Just stumbled across your blog and it’s great to read about how other ex-pats live their life here. We live in Southern Moravia and our life is probably more like the village life of you in-laws. And yes, after 5 years my czech is still apalling and yes, people cannot understand why we want to live here and really enjoy it.

    And on the subject of double entendre, one of our dogs that came to live here with us was called Peaches, or Peachey for short. Look it up or ask Czechman. We spent at least the first two months calling this across southern moravia. It’s a wonder anyone speaks to us!

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Diane,

      Ah yes, “Peachey” – I already had a reading comprehension text in class starring a Jack Peachey, so I’ve had that one explained to me!

      Sometimes I wonder whether one day I might live the village life full-time – Czechman’s mum already has plans for me to teach in the village school – but much as I love it there so far Prague suits me better on a day to day basis. Still, you must get a very different perspective on the Czech way of life than the one I have which must be fascinating. I’d love to hear more about any funny culture shock type experiences you’ve had.


  11. Ada Petrova

    Hi everyone!

    Were you contemplating the same question? How to translate “šikovná” into English? I have to admit I failed:(. I’m wondering whether a native speaker would say something like “nice, well done or good boy” when thanking somebody for buying a cake. But what about the other examples?

    PS. Hey, GIC, I really like your blog! (I hope I did not sound too grumpy in my last comments)


    • girlinczechland

      Hello Ada,
      Yes, I would like to hear more suggestions for translations of the wonderful ‘sikovna’. And worry not, you didn’t sound too grumpy in your last comment at all – far less grumpy than me in my most recent post!

    • 3boys

      Maybe this post is a little late but I always thought it meant “handy”.

  12. Where do the Czechman’s parents live? I am from Moravia too and it reminds me of my own family. “What are you going to eat this evening?” My babička asks me even “what are you going to eat in the train?” (when I am going to Prague by train). Eating is a huge part of life in Moravia 😀

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Vita,
      Well, I don’t want to give too much away about Czechman’s identity but he’s not Moravian so it seems the Bohemian grannies like to feed the family just as much! I love the five star treatment I get there.

  13. Pingback: A Tale of Two Canteens « GIRL IN CZECHLAND

  14. Lucie

    Hi GIC,

    I think you can translate sikovna as handsome as well, just not in that meaning that somebody is good looking 🙂 I hope you keeping warm there! enjoy Moravia Czechman. Byee. Lucie

  15. I was thinking… ‘sikovna’ is a sort of an equivalent for ‘good girl’ in English, would you agree?

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Jana,

      Yes, I think ‘sikovna’ can indeed be translated in this way depending on the context. It can be a bit patronising sometimes but it’s better to have your Czech greeted with an encouraging ‘sikovna’ rather than incomprehension or indifference I suppose…

      Vesele vanoce!


  16. I think Czechman just has a fithy mind but thanks for clearing that up! You should have heard his friends laugh when I said ‘lesbičanka’ instead of ‘lesbička’ (don’t even ask what we were talking about…


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