Death to Dishonesty: 3 ways Czechs Reject the Fakery of Modern Life

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Czechs are a disarmingly honest bunch. As I’ve mentioned many times before, they don’t sugarcoat things for you. Don’t ask if that dress makes your bum look big or whether you look a bit tired today unless what you’re after is the truth rather than a morale boosting fib.

I may poke fun at being called spoilt and western by Czechman but I’m still impressed by the many ways in which Czechs see through the fakery of modern life. Here are some of them.

Jak se řekne ‘The Property Ladder’?

Of course buying your own flat/house/cowshed to live in is better than chucking money away on rent – if you can afford it of course. What Czechs have so far avoided doing is getting sucked into the whole concept of ‘The Property Ladder’.

1-wedding-barn-cow-shed

Look, we’ve made it onto the property ladder!

As a young twenty something in England, you have it drilled into you by the grown-ups that you should save up as much cash as possible for a deposit on a shoebox flat somewhere so that you can ‘get on the property ladder.’ The implication is, if you don’t get your foot on the first rung a.s.a.p, you’ll never get to climb up to the top of the pile and own a flash pad that Victoria Beckham/The Duchess of Cambridge/Karel Gott might be envious of.

Because the idea is, in the UK at least, that once you’ve bought your first home (with the bank’s money no doubt) that you won’t stay in it for long. Oh no. Once your income increases the idea is that you take one step up the property ladder and buy somewhere with more bedrooms/a garden/in a nicer area.

In Czechland, however, if you’re fortunate enough to become your own landlord, the expectation is that you’ll stay in that home until the day you die. Which may go some way to explaining why Czechman insisted we look at so many flats before signing on the dotted line. Anyway, this might sound a boring and unambitious way to live – until you remember that it was artificially inflated housing prices (in the US admittedly) that caused the current worldwide economic downturn. You don’t catch many Czechs saddling themselves with a ridiculously huge mortgage to keep up with the Joneses or the Novaks.

Stupid cupid: Czechs say no to fake anniversaries

You’ll be aware no doubt that February 14th is Valentines Day. While it would be nice if Czechman at least attempted to do something romantic on this date, I do secretly admire his reasons for not doing so. He rather convincingly argues that it’s all just commercial nonsense imposed on the Czechs after the Revolution as another way to tap into the post-Communist emerging market.

Back in England, we’re suckers. These days on Mother’s Day we’re not expected to splash out on presents and cards but Kindles and I-Pads too. And then there’s Father’s Day to think about too. Google confirms a Grandparents Day also exists. Don’t get me wrong: our nearest and dearest deserve recognition for all the support they’ve given us over the years but creating these artificial anniversaries just seems like a cynical way for the capitalist machine to rinse more cash out of us.

Spoil your mum: but how much?

Czechs wouldn’t fall for this nonsense. I do hope that I get a kiss under the blossom from Czechman on May 1st though: that will only cost him his dignity.

Hands off our Becherovka: Booze = national identity

Drink Becherovka! Or not...

Drink Becherovka! Or not…

I’m probably going to get into trouble with this last one but hey, sometimes it’s fun to court controversy.

I don’t really like Becherovka. Yes, I know that this particular form of alcohol is as much a part of Czech national identity as that world famous beer, Pilsner. It’s been explained to me that it’s made from a secret family recipe and that it can cure every kind of ailment from a tickly cough to an itchy leg. Still, the way the Czechs hang onto it is perhaps another sign that they refuse to compromise their national identity, in the same way that a recent advertising campaign for Irish whiskey associates a rejection of all that’s dishonest in the modern world with the authenticity of their tipple.

Death to Dishonesty – drink Becherovka! Would it work? If it’s good enough for the Irish…

death to dishonesty

43 Comments

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43 Responses to Death to Dishonesty: 3 ways Czechs Reject the Fakery of Modern Life

  1. Richardinprague

    …… but were you given a flower on International Women’s day, GIC?? My wife (Czechwoman) would hit me if I had given her one!

    ….. and in the UK, when we are asked how we are, we will say something ranging from “Very well, thank you” (quite often) to “Can’t complain”.
    In Czechland, in answer to “Jak se mate/mas?”, you’re more likely to get the more honest “jde to” (= so-so) than “Mam se dobre” (= I’m ok)

    Take care!

  2. Miroslav

    I feel I should just point out that your link in the end is broken (there’s an extra h in the beginning, I believe).

    And honestly, I didn’t completely your point. That czech people only drink Becherovka and local made alcoholic beverages?

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Miroslav,

      Thanks for spotting the broken link (fixed now) and your brutal honesty!

      I think what I was trying to say is that the fact that Czechs hang onto Becherovka even though it tastes, erm, horrible (sorry) is just one way in which they hang onto their national identity. However, I suppose that most Czechs don’t think Becherovka is unpalatable and aren’t drinking it merely to assert their Czechness but because they like the taste. Or maybe they do believe in its medicinal powers…

      Still, I do think that alcohol and national identity are mixed up together somehow and this is taken advantage of by advertisers as in the example I gave. Still not sure I’m being 100% clear but hopefully you see where I’m coming from…

      GIC

      • Ondřej

        No need to be sorry, you are not alone who does not like Becherovka. Me included.
        Becherovka is also not the medicine, there is also slivovice etc. ;-).

      • girlinczechland

        Hello Ondrej,

        Eek! So it’s slivovice that’s medicinal not becherovka. I stand corrected. Unfortunately I don’t like that much either. I guess I’ll stick to the beer for now which thankfully is pretty tasty…

        GIC

      • Miles

        They’re both supposed to be medicinal. Slivovice is more “true”, though: clean, shiny and tasty, made with only one ingredient. Becherovka, on the other hand, is essentially an industrial bastard child of traditional homemade herb liquors. While slivovice is essentially a Czech cousin of cognac, Becherovka is a snake oil with a trademark.

      • girlinczechland

        Hello Miles,

        It certainly tastes vile enough that it ought to be medicinal! Sorry to seem so harsh but I doubt that I’ll ever be a convert 🙁

        GIC

  3. Great article and very relevant for my current situation of trying to purchase a house and being somewhat confused by the “early payment fee for the lifetime of the mortgage” situation. This puts me in the situation that I should indeed be living in this house until I die because otherwise if I sell I’m going to be smacked with a large penalty. Oh well, at least Prague is a nice place to end up instead of South Yorkshire 🙂

  4. Opět hezký článek. O tom “Property Ladder” slyším poprvé. Chápu to správně, že tam není ani moc tendence nejprve splatit předchozí hypotéku a až pak se posunout o příčku žebříku výš? Místo toho ale při zvýšení příjmů si raději vzít vyšší hypotéku a stěhovat se do lepšího bytu? Tedy neustále kolečko refinancovaných a vyšších hypoték? Díky.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Ondrej,

      I hope you won’t mind me replying in English: my brain is only half switched on today…

      I’m not really an expert on how exactly the Property Ladder works but my understanding is that you buy somewhere small, it increases in ‘value’ over a few years and hopefully your salary goes up too, which means that you can sell it, make a small profit and get a bigger mortgage (thanks to your bigger earning power) which allows you to move up the ladder.

      Others can correct me if I’m wrong…

      GIC

  5. Kačenka IsAinm Dom via Facebook

    Thanks for flattering us Czechs by comparing us to the Irish with their pride of their local goodness… Although sadly, we still have a long way to go when it comes to proper national pride…

  6. Martin

    Nebylo by možné vyložit gramatiku věty z Facebooku: “Having recovered from my sports injury”?
    Předem děkuji 🙂

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Martin,

      I hope you won’t mind if I explain this one in English 🙂

      According to Total English Advanced, ‘Having + past participle’ shows the cause of or reason for a second action eg.

      Having missed the last tram, Girl in Czechland was forced to get a taxi home.

      Or…

      Having psychologically prepared herself, Girl in Czechland drank the disgusting shot of Becherovka.

      Hope that makes sense now!

      GIC

      • Martin

        Aha, to jsem vůbec neznal. Ještě jednou děkuju!

        Moc mě baví psát česky a dostávat odpovědi anglicky. To se může stát opravdu asi jenom na tomhle blogu 🙂

        Hezký den!

      • girlinczechland

        Hello again Martin,

        I’m happy that you’re happy with our linguistic arrangement! Of course, hopefully one day I’ll be able to effortlessly reply in Czech (but don’t hold your breath…)

        GIC

  7. But one thing you have in common is that you are both small nations who have suffered at the hands of bigger ones…

  8. Stepan

    But becherovka is great in cocktails! For example a shot of becherovka mixed with second shot of becherovka. Believe me! 🙂

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Stepan,

      This made me laugh out loud! I don’t think I’ll be trying it any time soon though: I might go out and trash a telephone box like a British male in Prague on a stag do 😉

      GIC

  9. Kačenka IsAinm Dom via Facebook

    indeed so!! I’ve always said, this similarity is totally a subject for someone’s thesis…

  10. Hi GIC! nice post, as usual. I guess the ‘honest’ roots come from the former austrian empire. About bekerovka, as italian, I can say that is really tasty (even my mum, not a drinking person at all, liked it).
    In my opinion czechs can feel that they are a small country, not wellknown (despite many good reasons to be) and tend to be proud of what they have. And in alchool’s topic they have some right to be confident on their ability 🙂

  11. Both drinks are meant to be medicinal. Becherovka is for settling the stomach after eating too much. Slivovice cures colds, sore throats and can be put on cuts. Ive acquired a taste for Slivovice but it used to give me the shivers.

  12. Sarka

    Yeah, we have our own love day (1st May) why to celebrate a foreign one created only for taking money out of pockets of those poor people who are too weak to give in to commercial massage 🙂

    1st May is another reason why to go out “in the nature” or in the parks and somehow celebrate spring and future summer (or this could be just my perception).

  13. Great post as always GIC. However, like several others, I didn’t totally understand your last point. But the first two are very true & apposite.

    The Czech people tend to save for something before buying, rather than spending money they don’t have. Yes – you can take out a mortgage to buy a property, but the sum borrowed will be vastly more proportional to your income than is the case in the UK.

    And Valentine was a Christian saint rather than an commercial opportunity to make money. Instead, I do hope Czechman does give you a kiss, or even a decent snog 🙂 under the blossom on 1st May. And may I highlight another commercial import from the USA which has no part in Czech culture – the stupidity of Halloween which we can well do without.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Ricky,

      Glad you enjoyed the post: I always enjoy hearing your feedback 🙂

      I’d forgotten about that US import Halloween. Of course, the Czechs have their own version – the Witches’ Night which is coming up at the end of April. Here’s a link to a Guardian article about it: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/nov/02/prague-witches-night-culture-festival

      I’ve never actually been to a Witches burning festival myself which apparently take place all over Prague and the rest of the country: can any of my readers recommend one?

      And as for my last point, I’m not too sure exactly what I meant now either! Small nations hanging onto their authentic cultural identity through an attachment to a particular brand of strong booze I think was meant to be the general idea. And of course, both the Irish and the Czechs are small nations with a long history of being oppressed by larger ones (although that connection only occurs to me now!)

      As for Czechman’s actions on May 1st, I’ll keep you all posted 😉

      GIC

  14. A thought provoking post there GIC and I am sure Hubby and I will be discussing it for several days. I do have a problem in that I am a Baileys-a-holic and I don’t like Becharovka but we always have some in the house, along with slivovic (excuse spellings) just to give a taster to unsuspecting house guests!!
    I do agree with the Grandparents day thing – that is American though and we all know how the Americans like to fleece the fillings out of you!!

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Hettie,

      I’m not much of a Bailey’s fan either (possibly because of a bad memory of a teenage drinking experiment which went wrong) but I’d rather drink that than Becherovka any day. Apologies again Czech readers but I don’t think you’re ever going to convert me. Still, at least the beer here’s decent!

      GIC

  15. Zdenek

    ” The Property ladder” exists here, just in more primitive fashion: cars and electronics.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Zdenek,

      “The Property Ladder” is still a bit of a different thing though: while lots of people might be addicted to buying the latest car/gadget they don’t see those items as investments that they’ll be able to sell for a higher price later. In the UK it’s not uncommon for people to buy a second home and use the rental income instead of/as well as a pension for example.

      GIC

  16. Jana

    Hi GIC!
    About the Becherovka… I’m studying in US for a while now and I always bring Becherovka with me from Czech and everyone loves it here 🙂 Absinthe wasn’t such a huge success…

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Jana,

      Never tried absinthe but perhaps I should… Perhaps if I had a few more creative visions I would update the blog more often 🙂

      GIC

  17. Michael

    GIC,

    Another great post. While the Czechs may, indeed, not celebrate some of the commercial holidays like Valentine’s Day…they do have that wierd beast called Name Day…God forbid I forget when EMILIE has her name day and I don’t bring her flowers. Also, when Czechs come to the US they often pick up the habits of us capitalists…like Valentine’s Day and the property Ladder. On behalf of the U.S. I would like to apologize for sinking the housing market a few years back and throwing the world into turmoil.

  18. Wendy A.

    Hi I’m mexican and I have to say relationships especially the native/foreigner relationships are fascinating to me especially with the europeans because they seem a little bit umm drier than the rest and I have to say I am really enjoying your blog, keep at it.
    Oh and by the looks of it send some czech’s to Mexico, Brazil and Argentina and well get rid of some of there ways, I told my spanish boyfriend once- you’ve fought with girls before never with a latina, good luck man! jajaja.
    Hugs from Mexico.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Wendy,

      Thanks a lot for your comment. It’s nice to know that the subject matter of the blog isn’t only of interest to expats living in Prague and their Czech partners! And never mind the Czechs: I personally would *love* to go to Mexico. I believe it was one of the destinations I had in mind when I tried to propose a winter sun holiday to Czechman – an idea which was swiftly rejected in favour of the ski break.

      Perhaps I should try some emotional blackmail on him to get the holiday I actually want…

      GIC

      • Wendy A.

        I would be happy to be your tour girl, he can go on vacation to the snow we will have fun at the beach!
        You don’t need to resort to emotional blackmail just say 23 degree sunshine in february, nothing showed me how lucky I am to live here like my cousin from the midwest (Minnesota) saying that the snow was beautiful and my reply: So is a heat wave in the dead of winter!.

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