Holka v Česku nebo česká holka? 6 způsobů, kterými jsem se stala Češkou/Girl in Czechland or Czech girl? 6 ways that I‘ve become Czech

Flattr this!

Flag-Pins-Czech-Republic-Great-Britain

[Non-Czech speakers, don’t be scared! This post is bilingual – scroll down for the English translation]

Možná si pamatujete, že minulý rok jsem poskytla rozhovor časopisu Čilichili. Byla to celkem zábava: na focení jsem si vzala paruku a sluneční brýle. Pamatuju si na poslední otázku, kdy se novinář ptal, jestli jsem se stala Češkou. Dala jsem nějakou praštěnou odpověď, ale v duchu jsem si myslela, „Já jsem Angličanka! Vyhovuje mi bydlet v Čechách, ale nikdy nebudu Češka. Můj cíl to není.“

Potom, před asi dvěma měsíci jsem četla hezký článek od Elizabeth Haas, Američanky, která už tady bydlí sedm let. Rozesmála mi a taky inspirovala. Češka určitě nejsem, ale je možný, že jsem si osvojila nějaké české návyky. Tak tady je můj seznam návyků, kterými jsem se stála Češkou.

Musíte pozdravit!

Jeden velký kulturní rozdíl, se kterým jsem se setkala tady v Čechách, je povinný pozdrav. Potkáte souseda na chodbě, když jedete do práce? Tak musíte říct „Dobrý den.” Na začátku to bylo pro mě divný, ale v současné době jsem připravená pozdravit kohokoliv kdykoliv.

Praktická vs. stylová obuv

Když máte venku v Anglii v listopadu balerínky, nikdo na vás nekouká jako na úplného blázna. Ale v Čechách, mít suché nohy je důležitější, než vypadat zajímavě. Snažím se pořad mít něco na sobě, co je stylové, ale přemyslím víc o počasí, když ráno vybírám boty.

Umění dát spropitné…

Když jsem bydlela v Anglii, dávala jsem vždycky minimálně deset procent jako spropitné (kromě v hospodě, protože tam v Anglii nikdy nedáváme víc než je cena pití). Na začátku jsem dělala stejnou věc tady, ale za nějakou dobu jsem začala zaokrouhlovat nahoru jako Češi. Na oběd je to asi v pořádku dát tak málo, a nechci vypadat jako rozmazlena a bohatá cizinka. Presto ještě občas mám pocit viny, že dám servírce tak málo. To je dilema.

Cítit se jako cizinka v anglickém obchodu

Když jsem slyšela, že Marks and Spencer, anglický obchod na Václaváku, začal prodávat čerstvé jídlo, měla jsem velkou radost. Výběr anglických sýrů! Pravá anglická slanina! „Hummous”! Skvělé! Ale když jsem tam šla poprvé, cítila jsem se víc jako cizinka než skutečná Angličanka. Malinký salát z těstovin za kolik? Sýrová pizza za 150 kč asi není tak drahá v Anglii, ale tady v Praze platíte stejnou cenu v restauraci. A používají hodně plastický obalový materiály. Zkrátka a dobře, kupuju tam každou chvíli nějaké věci, abych vařila anglické snídaně, ale nemám zájem o drahé polotovary.

Užívání si volné přírody

Česká pohoda znamená být ve volně přírodě. Nevyužívala jsem sto procentně tenhle způsob života – například musím zlepšit své houbaření – ale snažím se být víc venku.

A konečně…

Jak už jsem řekla, Češi mají pravdu, že je to celkem lepší mít hlavní jídlo v poledne. Tečka.

Na závěr: Češka nejsem – ale mířím tím směrem…

*                                                                    *                                                                   *

Girl in Czechland or Czech girl? 6 ways that I‘ve become Czech

Perhaps you remember that last year I did an interview with Čilichili magazine. It was fun overall: for the photo shoot I wore a wig and sunglasses. I remember the last question that the journalist asked – if I have become a Czech girl. I gave some silly answer but inside I thought to myself “I’m English! Living in the Czech Republic suits me but I’ll never be Czech. That’s not my aim.”

Then about two months ago I read a nice article by Elizabeth Haas, an American lady who had lived here for seven years. It made me laugh and also inspired me. Of course I’m not a Czech girl but it’s possible that I’ve picked up some Czech habits. So here is my list of ways in which I’ve become Czech…

You must say hello!

One big cultural difference which I met here in Czechland is the compulsory greeting. Bump into your neighbour in the hallway on the way to work? You must say “Dobry den”. At the beginning this was strange for me but these days I’m ready to say hello to whoever, whenever.

Practical vs. stylish footwear

In England if you have ballet shoes on outside in November, no-one is going to look at you like you’re completely mad. However, in Czechland, having dry feet is more important than looking interesting. I still try to put something on that’s stylish but I think more about the weather when I choose my shoes in the morning.

The art of tipping…

When I lived in England, I always gave at least ten percent as a tip (except in the pub because in England no-one ever gives more than the price of the drink). At the beginning I did the same thing here, but after a while I started to round up like Czechs. At lunchtime it’s okay to give that little and I don’t want to seem like a spoilt and rich foreigner. Even so, I still sometimes have guilty feelings when I give the waitress such a small amount. It’s a dilemma.

Feeling like a foreigner in an English shop

When I heard that Marks and Spencer, an English shop on Wenceslas Square, started to sell fresh food, I was delighted. A selection of English cheeses! Real bacon! Hummous! Fantastic! However when I went there for the first time, I felt more like a foreigner than a real English lady. A tiny portion of pasta salad for how much? Uncooked pizza for 150 crowns may not be that expensive in England but in Prague you’d pay the same price in a restaurant. And they do use a lot of plastic packaging on everything. To cut a long story short, every now and again I buy there a few things so I can cook up an English breakfast but I’m not interested in expensive ready meals.

Embracing the great outdoors

The perfect Czech experience means being in the great outdoors. I haven’t completely embraced this way of life – for example I must improve my mushroom hunting skills – but I do try to spend more time outside.

And finally…

As I’ve said before, Czechs are right – it’s better to have your main meal at lunchtime. End of story.

 

In conclusion, I’m not Czech – but I’m heading in that direction…

 

24 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Britpop nostalgia and Anglo-Czech cultural exchange

Flattr this!

different for girls

Recently, I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic for my youth. This has manifested itself as a sudden desire to read the autobiographies of various stars of the Britpop era: Louise Wener’s Different for Girls (charming and very funny) and Luke Haines’s Bad Vibes (quite funny but also quite nasty).

I found myself trying to explain the whole Britpop phenomenon to a somewhat mystified Czechman.

“Well, there was Oasis, who were from Manchester, then there was Blur – ”

“Yes, Blur. What’s their most famous song? That one that goes WOO-HOO?”

Song 2? No! Of course not!” As far as I’m concerned, this kind of musical ignorance is on a par with Czechman’s belief that Jim Morrison was black. “It’s Parklife! Or maybe Girls and Boys…

I get straight onto Youtube and begin filling in the gaps in Czechman’s knowledge of English popular culture. We spend a good couple of hours showing each other the music videos of the tunes we used to like back in the nineties. Czechman regales me with lots of rock bands with big hair. Despite being subjected to this Dad-Rock-fest, I thoroughly recommend this sort of evening in of cultural exchange to any other Anglo-Czech couples out there – and if you happen to be the English one, you know that your tunes are bound to be the best.

Sorry Czech readers, but you know it’s true.

Czechman and I don’t just spend nights in messing around on Youtube. We’ve also been known to watch the odd old TV series or film.

Again, there’s been something of a nostalgic theme to our viewing choices of late.

Back in Czechman’s youth, there weren’t many foreign programmes which met with the Communist seal of approval, but one British cop show made it onto Czechoslovak TV screens: The Professionals.

Czechman was, of course, a fan of that bad boy pair of crime fighters who bend the rules to get the job done, Bodie and Doyle. I’d never seen it before so we decided to watch the first four episodes together: here’s a taster for those of you who also missed out:

Czechman and I are also rather fond of more recent British TV offerings. BBC spy drama Spooks is something of a mutual favourite. One episode in an early series revolves around the shenanigans of some rather nasty Serbians. It’s then that we spot him.

“Hey, isn’t that bloke actually Czech?”

Yes, I’m right. I’ve successfully spotted a certain Karel Roden, who is playing an Serbian arms dealer. If memory serves me, he also pops up in one of the Bourne films as a Russian baddie. How very versatile.

I love it when I see a Czech actor in an American film or come across a Czech-related reference in a novel or short story or song.  Somewhere in the vast novel Middlesex there’s a one-line mention of a Czech friend of the protagonist. She’s never referred to again, but for as far as I’m concerned, it was still a pleasure to meet her. Then there’s the unfortunate Czech gangster who is particularly proud of his nation’s sausages and comes to a nasty end in an early episode of The Sopranos. Nothing else springs to mind right now but hopefully you see what I mean.

I’m always thrilled when I come across these little Czech references. For me, coming across a mention of Czechland in an unexpected context is pleasing, surprising and a tiny bit exciting. Do other Czechophiles out there who feel the same? What Czech cultural references have you stumbled across elsewhere? Do share them in the comments section!

karelroden

Am I Serbian, Russian or Czech? Depends what it says in the script…

65 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Village People and the Weapon of Mass Destruction: Easter in Czechland 2013

Flattr this!

easter stick

A Czech lady getting what she deserves this Easter

Following last year’s rather unsuccessful attempt to introduce Czech Easter traditions to England (remember my beranek baking disaster?), I decided to spend Easter in Bohemia – and who better to celebrate with than The Village People?

So, as the lovely Village People have been somewhat absent from the blog of late, I thought I’d regale you all with the highlight of my long weekend with them: the Big Easter Stick Ritual.

One of the first quaint Easter customers which foreigners are a little taken aback by – especially if they happen to be women – is this whole business of being beaten on the behind with a big stick first thing on Easter morning. No, this is not an April Fools Day joke, I’m afraid, but a bone fide Czech Cultural Difference (or CCD for short).

This morning I was chased around by Czechman’s dad who delighted in whacking me on the behind with the big Easter stick which apparently ‘shouldn’t hurt really because of the ribbons tied to the end’. Yeah, right. I always squeal my head off when being chased around – God only knows why as it’s not as if I don’t know what’s coming – but I become so distressed it becomes almost impossible to locate the painted egg I’m supposed to give to my torturer to make the pain – sorry, ‘fun’- stop.

I’ve heard a rumour that women are allowed to throw cold water over their menfolk as part of this bizarre business, but it’s something I’ve never dared to try.

Who was responsible for the creation of the Czechmanovi’s Easter weapons of mass destruction this year? That’s right, Czechman’s mum.

At this point I’m tempted to say feminism never happened in this country. However, as Czechman rightly points out, in our household, feminism means that he has to do the man’s work (i.e anything with tools) and the women’s work too (anything involving cleaning). At least I like to cook, even if I’m not so keen on the clearing up.

Anyway, Girl In Czechland would like to wish you all a very Happy Easter and a fertile 2013! Roll on Spring – I can’t be the only one who’s sick of the snow…

24 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

99 words about Prague, Ms Girlova style

Flattr this!

 

charles bridge postcard

charles bridge postcard reverse

 

Cobblestones.  Clocks on every lamppost. Trams.  Thick snow or strong sunshine. The Castle is really a cathedral. Spires. Gruff-faced folk demand the right change. Ankle-snapping dogs – never on a lead. Crazy coloured panelaks the size of Lego bricks. Endless escalator rides underground. The Vltava (sounds like vulva). General Žižka sits astride his horse surveying Bohemia with one good eye. Soot-covered saints on Charles Bridge. Segways. Smoky pubs. A tea room in the sky. Secondhand shops full of English fashions. A giant red metronome swings where Stalin once stood. The devil’s in the detail – but so is the delight.

Those were my ninety nine words about Prague.

They were inspired by the regular column in Czech national newspaper, Hospodářské Noviny.

Ever since I wrote my first blog post featuring a man being surprised by a sausage, I’ve made it my mission to see Prague from a sideways perspective.

However, writing about this super famous tourist hotspot of a city means negotiating a cliché ridden minefield.

How to describe the Golden City without gilding the lily?

Now you’ve read my attempt at capturing Czechland’s capital in just ninety-nine words, I’d like to read yours. Leave your own verbal picture postcard in the comments section: entries in English or Czech most welcome. I might even rustle up a special prize for my favourite.

prague castle postcard

 

 

 

21 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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

Flattr this!

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

Filed under Uncategorized