Češi, máte pravdu! Six Things the Czechs Are Right About

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– God, has it really been over a week since I lasted posted? Damn. Better come up with some of my usual, witty, whimsical observations about life and love in Czechland or else my readers will forget about me.

– Forget witty and whimsical! They’re so last Tuesday. When are you going to stop writing about trivial nonsense like failing to bake a cake in the shape of a lamb and flowery gilded plates? Why not try addressing a really important topic for a change, say racism?

-Done that.

-Or the Czech inferiority complex?

-Done that too – wished I hadn’t.

-Or how about the legacy of Communism? Can it really be blamed for all contemporary Czech society’s ills?

-Hmm, sounds meaty. But today I’m in the mood for frivolous. How about one of those ’10 things’ posts that are contributing to the death of journalism?

-Suit yourself.

Greetings readers! Today’s post has been inspired by another Brit expat writer, Stephen Clarke, and his hilarious book, Talk to the Snail in which he outlines “Ten Commandments for Understanding the French”. According to the first precept, to be French is to be always right. This rather extreme self-confidence might be an explanation for the legendary alleged Gallic rudeness. I am French, therefore I am right – and also superior to you.

While Czechs can be rude, this does not in my view originate from arrogance or any in-built sense of cultural superiority. Now I don’t want Czech readers to start getting big-headed but I think perhaps you could do with reminding about all the things you are right about.

Six Things the Czechs Are (or Were) Right About

1. Eating your main meal at lunchtime

It’s better for your digestion! It’s a decent excuse to escape the office! It saves you having to cook in the evening! It’s more social than shovelling down a sad pre-packed sandwich in front of your desk! Embrace this Czech tradition! (hold off on the exclamation marks in future paragraphs but talking about food gets me excited).

2. Jak to řekne ‘credit crunch’? Or The Art of Frugal Living

Can you imagine Czechs taking out 110% interest mortgages and juggling repayments on five different credit cards? No, because unlike their British and American cousins, they aren’t idiots. If you want to buy something, you save up for it and as far as is humanly possible, this also goes for large purchases like a flat. While I sometimes get sick of the petty penny-pinching of Czechman and his compatriots (‘buy soap instead of shower gel, use one teabag for three cups of tea, blah, blah, blah) when it comes to the big financial decisions, you can’t fault their approach.

How do you say ‘credit crunch’ in Czech anyway? Is this a term that’s bandied about in the media constantly? I suspect not but correct me if I’m wrong…

Here it is. That piece of paper that meant the end of Czechoslovakian democracy.

3. 1938

Chamberlain. Appeasement. That piece of paper that was supposed to secure peace in Europe but didn’t. You were right. We should have defended you, Czechland, but alas, instead you were sold down the river. In my history lessons we were taught we didn’t have a choice – apparently Chamberlain followed a policy of appeasement not to avoid war but to give England much-needed time to rearm – but whatever the reason, it meant the end of Czechoslovakian democracy. Consider this an apology. Sorry chaps.

4. Cubist architecture

Did you know that Czechoslovakia was the only country to construct buildings in a Cubist style? Well you do now. Quirky, eye-catching and timelessly stylish, Cubist architecture is something the Czechs were definitely right about.

Now that's what I call a lamp post!

5. Being a stay-at-home mum: the option of lengthy maternity leave

I don’t say that juggling career and the responsibilities of motherhood anywhere in the Western world is easy. However, at least in the Czech Republic, you have the option of remaining at home to look after your child for an extended period, even if the level of maternity pay offered is no king’s ransom. In the UK, the financial assistance offered by both employers and the state is of a minimal duration, leaving women no option but to head back to work asap. I know this is a complex issue (perhaps even more so than the impact of Communism on contemporary Czech society) and I don’t believe women should be forced to take three years out of their career but at least in the Czech Republic it seems that the state acknowledges that mothering is an important job worth giving some financial support to.

6. Table service in pubs

Why do we Brits think that being sociable in a pub has to involve crowding around the bar in a mock convivial fashion? Having table service – and a seat – makes the whole pub experience so much more pleasant.

More evidence of Cubism's impact on the buildings of Prague

37 Comments

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37 Responses to Češi, máte pravdu! Six Things the Czechs Are Right About

  1. Mike in Bohemia

    I couldn’t agree more 🙂

  2. Mike Williams via Facebook

    I couldn’t agree more 🙂

  3. They were also right to stick hops in beer. And they were right to check out the Baxters avian flu jab, and not take that at face value. And they are right to have a load of ecological food stores and plenty of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. And they are right to have a lot of South-East Asians in Prague, which gives the place a certain east-meets-west character. They were right to not join the Euro and they were right to be the most reluctant country to sign the Lisbon Treaty. Just my handful of things I think they are right about also.

    • girlinczechland

      How could I have only stopped at six reasons Jerzy? Thanks for adding a whole bunch of extra ones I somehow missed!
      GIC

  4. Glad you liked it! I may get around to writing that post on Communism one day you know…

  5. Mike Williams via Facebook

    Great. Look forward to it 🙂 That should put the cat among the pigeons 🙂 Everyone naturally has different views on that 🙂 Enjoy the sun.

  6. OK, I’ll grant you five out of six, but that Cubist architecture is uggly with two Gs!

    • girlinczechland

      Noooo! I love the Cubist architecture – I even used to have an example of it as my blog banner! Still, I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or the beer-holder as the old joke goes :))
      GIC

  7. Sarka

    Nice job, flattering. Thank you 🙂

    From what mentioned Jerzy I would definitely agree with that Euro thing. I hope we will never join Eurozone (economical reasons and because we have such nice banknotes).

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Sarka,
      I’m annoyed with myself that I didn’t come up with the Euro point – it’s such a good point and a really obvious one! Still, I suppose that’s why I should be grateful I have such smart readers who bother to take the time to point these things out to me 🙂
      GIC

  8. 5) The problem is , just right now we are forced to stay at home;) We can choose, if we stay at home with our child 2, 3 or 4 years – but the child can go to the nursery at 3 (yes, it is a little bit more complicated, but let´s say at 3). As there are many children these days and not enough nurseries (because nobody noticed that there is some babyboom – or they´re just waiting, when it finally stops), most of the 3 year olds just aren´t enabled to go to preschool. So the mother has two options – to stay with the child another year at home (with no income), or to choose some private nursery. These cost around 10.000 CZK per month – so it´s basically the same: or you work and pay almost everything for the nursery, or you stay at home and wait if you get lucky the next year.

    It´s a bit easier with two children, because if you have one child in the nursery, the second will probably get there too and you can go back to work when the second one is 3. I wouldn´t appreciate to have to return after 6 weeks or 6 month, but this isn´t much better:))

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Havana Blues,
      I felt a bit hesitant commenting on this one as I have no direct experience of either system. I suppose also perhaps there is a social pressure too to stay at home longer – the Village People have expressed quiet dismay that my sister has returned to work only six months after having her baby opting to leave her with a ‘pani na hlidani’ – in other words, a stranger! Who would do such a thing?
      As I said, I don’t believe there is a country in the Western world that has really got this one completely right. Let’s hope the government put more money into opening new nurseries soon – and that the UK consider following suit.
      GIC

      • Sofia

        Ciao,
        I discovered this blog today … Gosh, now I am stuck to my chair doing nothing but reading (and smiling …).
        But to this one I’d also like to reply, especially because I had a son here in Czech Rep.
        There is a strong pressure to keep women at home with their children. It is a social pressure but also political and economical. All women home in maternity leave are not included in unemployement statistics. If you search a bit you’ll see that, ironically, women in Czech Rep. are among the most present in the work market in Europe, placing them on top of the women’s emancipation. And yet it is quite the opposite.
        Unless you have strong ressources either financial or personal (family helping for ex.) you do not have the choice.
        Among all european social maternity systems I know (I am italian and have lived 15 years in France and 8 in Czech Republic) this one is among the worst for women.
        This is certainly NOT something the Czech’s are right about.

        I love your blog. Sofia

  9. Sean Mark Miller via Facebook

    I was just reading an article on the differences between political parties in the CR where the author states that the differences are not ideological but rather based on different interpretations of the past (recent post-revolution as well as communist past) often based on who sat in an office with whom or in prison with whom while he admits some decisions have pragmatic political reasons. All the more reason that your post will raise someone’s hackles.

  10. every time someone talks about cubism, I turn onto rondocubism and think of the local crematorium, so I guess cubism is the most sorrowful architectural style (http://www.archiweb.cz/Image/zpravy/2010-06/pardub.jpg)

    to the 1938 note, I personally prefer to blame Daladier than Chamberlaine, not that they both messed it up for Czechs and Slovaks (who left Czechs and mated with German 6 months later like no war was about to start) but because the Czechoslovakia was a bit more dependent on the French side (they had a treaty with France and USSR and Stalin wanted to help Czechs but the treaty of alliance said Soviets could only help if France did and now we know that France did not) .. but still, I think appeasment was the reason for all the deaths in the WWII, not Hitler, not nazis, France and GB (as two strongest countries in Europe) had many chances to stop expansion of the Third Reich years and years before the war started (and not that I agree with all that he did but Stalin himself said he was suprised why France and England did not to anything before Hitler got his army and strenght.. in 1938 when he moved his corps to demilitarized Maginot Line, he was definitely not that powerful for France and GB not to stop him… not to mention /what we know now/ that the corps were told to withdraw if Frenchs started an attack)

  11. john smith

    Thanks for another interesting article.

    Slightly off topic, but while we are in a positive mood : which is the best mountainous area of the Czech Republic to visit?

    Something is drawing me back to Czechland – perhaps the lay-lines are reaching across to me and drawing me in!

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Mr Smith,
      As for the answer to your mountain question, I don’t have a lot of experience in that regard. Can anyone help?
      GIC

    • I can recommend Jizera mountains, Krkonose, Jeseniky and Beskydy. I’d say it’s worth going to as many mountain areas possible, as each of them is different. I’m still due to visit the rest. 🙂

      • john smith

        Thank you Lenka – I will research those on google.

        I would like to do some walking (but not camping).

      • Well, you can’t really camp much in those places anyway, a lot of them are National Parks or Reservations. The Czech mountains are perfect for walking – there are even buses that take you up and you can then walk across the mountains.

  12. Honza

    Thanks. I immediately feel a little better about myself!

    I can confirm the part about the pubs from my experience with British pubs. On the other hand I prefer the way you give tips in the UK.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Honza,
      I prefer the way we give tips too – of course in an ordinary pub without table service in the UK you usually wouldn’t!
      GIC

  13. Ah well, I love to stir up a bit of controversy 😉

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  15. Zita

    That was beatiful! 🙂 I would just add Poetism – literary avantgarda movement… One of my favourite:-) But that’s probably difficult to appreciate because of the language…
    About maternity leave I absolutely agree. Here in Copenhagen are women forced to go to work after 11 months and there are not enough places in daycare or nurseries … So, many of them have to put their child anywhere, where is the place although they don’t like it or have to travel through the whole city everyday. This is also for women who don’t have any job to go back, if they want to get unemployment benefits… And I’m not talking about general criticizm of the quality (very often very bad…)… crazy world:-)

  16. Hi GIC! Like Mike in Bohemia, I couldn’t agree more – with the exception of point 5 as I’ve had no direct experience of the issue, nor am I likely to 🙂 Like you, I’m a great fan of both cubist architecture and table service in pubs.

  17. What a nice read! And I can’t but agree, that there just are things that are good in Czech. I didn’t see it till I left (I lived in USA for some time and now I’m living in UK, yet leaving soon) and only counted the bad things. But what I’ve learned is that no country is perfect, there always is something better and something that is worse than in your homecountry.

  18. Bradold

    Great blogpost, such a pitty you are not using Flattr, I would have supported you.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Bradold,
      Umm, I am a Flattr user! I don’t have a button in my sidebar yet but there’s a small one at the top of every post on the left 🙂 Flattr away!
      GIC

  19. Awesome, awesome and awesome…… 🙂

    Is Czechman a Rybarstbvi by chance? Struggling to get the bottom line on access to those lovely Czech rivers, possibly the final thing stopping me heading out permanently. Love my job, would love to do it in Czech even more….. 🙂

  20. LukyBuky

    first, excuse my english.
    ad 1938: Check out part of the poem from czech poet František Halas referring to Munich dictate in 1938:
    “Zvoní zvoní zrady zvon, zrady zvon / Čí ruce ho rozhoupaly / Francie sladká, hrdý Albion / a my jsme je milovali /”
    Czechoslovak nation really loved Britain and France back then, they were role models of democracy for us. But after the Munich Agreement came to a big disillution, we couldnt understand why the western democracies abandoned us, left us in the hands of nazi Germany. We have done nothing wrong and still were thrown away. After this event it was very easy for the communists to say that the West is not worth to trust and that the Soviet union and its Red army are cool. And people had no trouble to believe communists. Consequently the communist revolution was only matter of time and piece of cake for them.

  21. Pingback: Holka v Česku nebo česká holka? 6 způsobů, kterými jsem se stala Češko/Girl in Czechland or Czech girl? 6 ways that I‘ve become Czech | GIRL IN CZECHLAND

  22. Czecharev

    A few more things to add to your list (or comments on the points you already mentioned):

    1 .Plumbing – when I lived in Czech lands, it seemed normal to have a mixer tap, properly working shower and soil pipes hidden within the house. Having lived in the UK for 9 years, I have come to appreciate these more.

    2. Materska dovolena. I know it can be hard to find a nursery place in the Czech Republic. But at least you have the choice to stay home. For me, it was really hard to find a nursery place in the UK and I DIDN’T have the option to stay at home. I HAD TO go back to work. Luckily my employer was good enough to let me job share, otherwise I don’t know what I would have done. My son went to nursery and I had to pay £380 a month for just two days a week at the nursery. I believe the situation in the Czech Republic is not ideal but it is absolutely AWFUL in the UK. I’m glad my son is at school now, as we were virtually poor when he was little – so hard was the financial strain on the family.

    3. Medical care in general and neonatal care in particular. Neonatal care is soooooo much better in the Czech Republic that it is even reflected in WHO statistics – infant mortality has consistently been higher in the UK than in the CR. Mortality of new mother is 2.5 higher in the UK than in Czech. And I completely understand why. My gynaecologist in the Czech Republic was shocked by my experiences in pregnancy and giving birth in the UK and thought my care was seriously neglected. But I didn’t experience anything unusual compared to my Czech friends who also live in the UK. It’s just that the standard of obstetrics is really bad.

    Now a few things that we are NOT right about:

    1. Banks – I have had current accounts for 9 years in the UK and have not paid a dime on fees yet. I think Czech banks charges fees that are criminal. I have read somewhere that Czech banks charge the highest fees in the whole of Europe not only in relative terms (e. i. in relation to income) but also in absolute terms. Shame on the Czech banks!!!

    2. Customer service – the British often complain about customer service in shops and pubs. I always tell them – you’ve seen nothing yet! Go to the Czech Republic and you will learn something about grumpy shop assistants and indifferent waiting staff. I know things are changing for the better but we’ve got a long way to go yet.

    3. Support for single mums. I’m a single mum now and would find it nay impossible to survive on a part-time salary in the Czech Republic. Here in the UK, my earnings are topped up by tax credits so we don’t starve. (Dad is English by the way and contributes very little financially, so thank goodness the state contributes.) I should note that I my son is autistic, so I can’t work full time (even if I wanted to, that is, which I don’t).

    Anyway, that’s it for now. If I think of anything else, I will add it later.

    Hope my extended contribution will be of interest to someone 🙂

    Czecharev

  23. Tonya

    I just want to say I love this blog! I am 1/2 slovak America,my grandparents immigrated to the USA in the first part of the 20th century.I have been blessed and lucky to have visited Slovakia. It was amazing and I met so many relatives. I have not been to the Chech Republic yet, but it is on my “Bucket List”I live in a small Louisiana USA village. There is a community here named “Libuse” where several Czech families immigrated to and settled many years ago. They have festivals and lots of other activities which I love to attend. I even met a wonderful lady who is teaching me to make “Pysanky” eggs! I am the only Slovak, but our cultures are so similar that I fit right in! Which is great here in Louisiana, where most people are French, or “Cajun” and other ethnicities, although their culture and food is wonderful too. Not to many “Slavs” here!

    • girlinczechland

      Hey Tonya,

      Thanks a lot for leaving such a nice comment. It’s very encouraging to hear that the blog strikes a chord with at least a few strangers somewhere out there in cyberspace. I’m seriously considering a trip to Slovakia this summer – I *still* haven’t made it there can you believe and I’m curious to see Kosice now it’s been declared the European city of culture! Any tips for must see sights in Czechland’s neighbour?

      GIC

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