A post in which my love of Czechland is explained

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underdog:
1.  a loser or predicted loser in a struggle or contest
2 .a victim of injustice or persecution

I always side with the underdog.

Perhaps that’s part of the reason I instinctively love Czechland.

It’s a small nation which has been trampled on by various sets of invaders since time immemorial. Even the Swedes managed to come down from the frozen North and kick their asses. Sorry. But it’s true.

It’s about more than a livelong habit of siding with David rather than Goliath. Loving Czechland is part of a lifelong project to embrace the quirky and thus live a life less ordinary.

There’s nothing wrong with ordinariness of course.

That’s not exactly what I wanted to say. Let me try again.

Loving Czechland is like supporting your local football team: you don’t do it because they’re the coolest or the most likely to top the Premier League, you do it because to pretend to love Manchester United just because they win all the time (do they still win? I don’t follow such matters) would mean you were silly and vain and fake. Instead you make an arse of yourself but maintain your integrity by putting on that geeky green and yellow Norwich City kit with the picture of the canary on it.

And you thought socks with sandals were a style crime.

When I lived in France, there would often come a point in the conversation where the French person would fold his arms complacently. A smug smile would creep across his face and he would utter the following words:

“But of course! You fell head over heels in love with France –  our wine, our cuisine, our language – and you just had to come and live here!”

Falling in loving with France is easy. I should know; I did it. But my love affair with France was something akin to a fling with a Moulin Rouge chorus girl: intense and exhilirating while it lasted but ultimately doomed.

Loving Czechland is different.

I know I once said you shouldn’t move abroad as an attempt to make yourself more appear interesting. But settling in Prague has made my life more exotic and given me more stories to tell when I go back home. How many English ladies know that the bar snack of choice in Czechland isn’t pork scratchings but utopenci: a pickled sausage known as a drowning man? I’m sure that little fact will eventually come in handy in a pub quiz in the future.

Exotic and yet familiar: perhaps that’s the winning combination that ensures my happiness here. I’m proud to have firsthand knowledge of life and love in Czechland.

This post was supposed to be about the joys of stumbling across a Czech cultural reference while reading a random novel or watching a TV show. Oh well.

44 Comments

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44 Responses to A post in which my love of Czechland is explained

  1. I don’t mean to be a needy blogger but no-one’s commented on this post! Perhaps it isn’t controversial enough…

  2. Stanislav Ryska

    Hi GICL,
    it is a long time ago,wenn I commented some your post.
    It was partly because of shortage of time and partly and mainly because of
    my bad english. But I am still your regular reader. I like your blogg because it
    is very clever and your favour to Czech lands ist truly genuine and it is nice….
    So hold on.

    Standy

    • girlinczechland

      Ahoj Stando,

      diky moc za hezka poznamka (nevim jestli je to spravne slovo). To mi moc libilo tak ja se snasim ti pisu neco v cestine 🙂

      Jsem rada ze ctes moje blog pravidelne. Je to velky kompliment ze Cesi zajima o co mam rict.

      Moje ucitelka cestiny mi rekla tento tyden ze mluvim lepsi nez pisu tak mozna napisu post v cestine abych to trenovat – a vsichni prekvapit!

      Mej se,

      Holka v Cesku

  3. No one comments on mine very often these days either. One problem may be technical. I knew about your new post from this FB posting. But I didn’t get my usual email notification even though I’m signed up to receive it.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Ricky,

      I didn’t realise that there were issues with the email sign up: thanks for the heads up, I’ll look into it.

      As I said, I just think this one wasn’t so controversial – although I thought suggesting that Czechs are underdogs might cause something of a minor stir!

      GIC

  4. Lada

    Hi, I dont want to be impertinent, but last your “controversial” post was about racism in CR – and it wasnt controversial for me 🙂

    I love read your blog, its funny see us using your eyes.
    Did you fall in love with Czechs? Good for you! What else should be said ?

    • girlinczechland

      Ahoj Lado,

      awww, diky moc 🙂 Ja vam miluju vschni (krome pracovniky v supermarketu ktere nikdy se nesmeje…)

      Holka v Cesku

      p.s How do you say supermarket checkout person in Czech?

      • Sarka

        prodavač/ka v supermarketu 🙂

        Why would she or he smile? Working there must be demanding. It’s understandable they don’t smile 🙂

      • girlinczechland

        Hello Sarka,

        Yes of course, prodavacka! And I knew that word!

        I agree about the smiling issue actually – most of the time – but I do get a bit fed up when I’m growled at for not having exactly the right change… It’s not my fault that the smallest denomination which my bank dispenses from a cash machine is 1000kc…

        GIC

      • tereza

        Pokladní is better expression 🙂

      • Sarka

        It seems like those service people pick on foreigners when it comes to paying. Even though I quite often pay with high denomination bills they have never pulled a long face.

        Meybe you could add another useful phrase to your list:
        “Bohužel nemám menší.” (Sorry, but I don’t have smaller one.)

        How to handle these situations:
        stand at a cash desk, open your purse, put on an apologetic and kind face at the same time and (with a look straight to their eyes) say: “Bohužel nemám menší.” and handing them the (big) banknote with self-confidence (because you are the customer – you are the boss). There should be a mix of thoughtfulness and self-confidence in your appearance.

        That’s how I do it. I feel with them. It’s a compliacation for them to deal with big banknotes. But still, it’s their job. They are paid for that. So come on, don’t dare to be mad at me, I’m the client.

        Well, this is probably a higher level of the game Dealing with the Czech service people. Good luck 🙂

      • girlinczechland

        Hi Sarka,

        Great advice! As you say, we are the customers and that should mean that we are the boss. “Bohužel nemám menší” is a phrase I use on a regular basis – I think I’ve included it in another post somewhere so I didn’t mention it here but otherwise it deserves to be on the list.

        Service isn’t always terrible here in Czechland but every now and again something really terrible happens. Still, on those occasions, at least I have this blog as an outlet for my frustrations…

        GIC

  5. Kazimir

    Actually, Swedes did not „kick our asses“ – simply because in that time there were many assess to kick around here. Czech cause was lost in battle on Bílá hora and after that there was a 30 year war and Czechia, Moravia and Silezia became just one large battlefield were different foreign armies clashed without any real interest on Czech side (of course, ordinary people suffered all usual war conditions). But there were some heroic moments though – 28 000 Swedes were not able to capture Brno with just 500 armed defenders. Swedes captured Prague castle (and stole collection of Rudolph II) but at again – were not able to take the whole town because of brave resistance of Prague people. :o)

    • Kazimir

      Correction: “there were not many asses” 🙂

      • girlinczechland

        Ah, I see you’re a perfectionist – a man after my own heart 🙂 Please don’t be offended by my Czech reply to your last post – your English is very good but I’m trying to extend my language skills…

        GIC

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Kazmir,

      I stand corrected 🙂 I knew that the Czechs wouldn’t let themselves be walked all over by a bunch of meatball munchers who happen to be very good at making flat pack furniture.

      Mějte se,

      GIC

      • KAnna

        VERY FUNNY!!
        ..a bunch of metball munchers who happen to be very good at making flat pack furniture….that’s a similar style to Charles Dickens’ creative use of English.
        I like it very much.

    • Magda

      Ahoj,

      Kazimir is right. Brno has never been conquered by the Swedes and if you ever plan on going to Brno it is a piece of information that you should know. We, Brňáci, are very proud of this fact and have a lot of stories and legends about why the Swedes withdrew:-) It’s sth that every little kid knows here even though, noone really remembers why and when the Swedes were here 🙂

      I’ve just discovered your blog and I have to say that I really like it.

      Magda

  6. Vendula

    It’s nice to know, that some foreigners can fall in love with czech republic 🙂
    And I did wonder sometimes, why utopenci are called utopenci… It’s a bit morbid 😛

    • girlinczechland

      Hey Vendula,

      Yep, utopenci – both the name and the object are, well, frankly a bit weird. Still, there are pubs in England which serve pickled eggs as a bar snack so both nations have their idiosyncrasies when it comes to food. Arse soup anyone?

      GIC

  7. Presle

    To tell the truth noone understands it even now. Czechs think that such a person is crazy though they do feel a bit flattered. Noone is likely to tell you. “Yes, it’s obvious why you had to fall in love with Czechland,” because noone truly understands how is such a thing even remotedly possible. 🙂

    • I feel offended in my Czech patriotism. 😀 But seriously: I can actually easily see someone falling in love with this country. But only someone who likes the underdog, because we Czechs tend to see ourselves as the underdog the most of all!

  8. Veronika

    Hello Girl in Czechland,

    ok, I will comment this one 😀 I just discovered your blog and I have to say I absolutely love it! I know that I will spend my evening today reading all your past posts .)

    My boyfriend is from Venezuela and he lives here almost 6 years – sometimes you sound just like him and I was laughing out loud reading the discussion about what we mean when we say “no” 🙂

    You are absolutely right about Czechs complaining about living in Czech but not being able to explain why. I was the same until I met him and I realized that there are worse places in the world then Prague :)) So there is nothing bad about Czech, but… is there something really good? Don´t know.

    Sorry for long comment, just wanted to say hi and that I love it here 🙂

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Veronika,

      Don’t apologise for leaving a long comment! It’s lovely to receive positive feedback from anyone but especially from Czechs – it means that I must be doing something right…

      It’s funny that Man from Venezuela has a similar perspective on life here to Girl in Czechland. I hope that the blog will give you both something to talk about tonight over dinner 🙂

      Ahojky,

      GIC

  9. Deny

    I wouldn´t translate utopenec as a drowning man, but a drowned man. Dead. Bon apetit 🙂

  10. Jižík

    Nice post, but i think you should try write a post in czech. I could be short not long as this post. It will help you practise and maybe it will be fun for you ( I hope it will).

    • girlinczechland

      Ahoj Jižíko,

      četl jste moje myslenky! Máš pravdu: musim trenovat moje čestina tak mozna moje dalši članek bude v čestině 🙂

      Hezky večer,

      Holka v Cesku

      • Mikeowka

        Už se těším! 🙂

      • Karel

        You’re getting better with each post, keep up! And big kudos, I can imagine how difficult it is for a foreigner to learn Czech (I’ve got quite a few friends of different nationalities, most of them trying hard to learn Czech, some have given up though).
        Your blog is great, thank you very much for your great (and VERY kind) observations.
        All the best
        Karel

  11. Girl in England

    Loving your blog. I find it very witty and amusing! Only discovered it through Ada’s modni peklo. Enjoy the autumn in Prague. 🙂 I look forward to reading future posts. 🙂

  12. love your blog, so funny! Jana

  13. Czech girl in Italy

    Nice blog, I will follow you. My friend who lives in London has a similar blog about living in England:-). I live in Italy but I have no blog (for now). You just gave me little nudge, maybe I can think of something (and I have to improve my poor english:-).

    • Laala

      Could you please add the address of your London friend´s blog. I also live in England now and thought of writting of something like this many times. Thanks

  14. Zuzana

    Hi there!
    I´ve been following your blog for quite a while now and I´m so glad that you didn´t give up writing it like so many other English bloggers (I still mourn the loss of Ms. Knedlikova!). I guess that´s also because their time here was limited, but still.. Anyways, enough of rambling.
    I´m a normal Czech commoner girl – check out Czech Statistical Office data about average Czechs and you have my life in a nutshell.. It´s almost scary. But ever since I´ve moved to Finland I started to appreciate your posts even more – because where we Czechs just ´do´, you ´think´.
    Thank you for that and keep up the good work!

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Zuzana,

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog 🙂 Ms Knedlikova is a friend of mine (the world of Prague based British lady bloggers is indeed a small one) and she’ll be delighted to hear you haven’t forgotten about her – I’ll make sure I pass on the positive feedback!

      GIC

  15. Bety

    Hi, I just discovered your blog and I love it!
    I am going to be your regular reader, I prescribed your articles via Google reader. 🙂
    It s very interesting to read about ourselve from a “foreinger”.
    And your czech with the little mistakes is totally cute and lovely and I love to read it. (sorry for my english :-DD )

  16. Pavel

    First dogs are most hihg – principed mammals on earth, so any other mammals are underdogs include humans (exactly humans are under squirrels), and dogs know about it .
    Second if you were betting to Manchester United from 2006 to today the same suma on every match, it is the only bet on premier league where you are profitable(bet rates are from average betbrain.com, math is from secret software ).

  17. Yankee in Prague

    Ahoj Girl in Czechland,
    Miluju tvého blog. 🙂 And that’s all the Czech I can muster at this hour. I’ve read several of your past posts and enjoy hearing the “foreign” insights, since I’ll be moving to Prague early next year. I hope by then I’m not pausing before the ending of every noun (vedle hospod… hospoda… hospody!) Everyone can dream, right?
    Měj se hěžky!

  18. Violette

    Dříve by mě nenapadlo, jak mohou být utopenci vtipní 😀 A také je zajímavé vidět čechy z druhé strany.

    Nevadí, že píšu česky? Moje angličtina je pravděpodobně o dost horší než tvoje čeština 😀

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