i’ve lived here almost two and a half years and i’m sure i have a long way to go if i would really like to be more “czechified”, but some of these things i couldn’t help but notice…
tolerance. you those new yorkers depicted in various films (like this one above, midnight cowboy) that yell at cars and say things like, “EY! i’m walkin’ ‘ere!” that was so me in seattle. four years of working in the heart of the retail downtown (from early mornings and swing shifts) had hardened me. i had seen a lot of things… and dodged a lot of cars. (but nowhere is the driving worse than in my ol’ neighborhood of ballard) and would definitely give a displeased hand gesture or yell at an idiot driver, no problem.
coming here has slowly (slowly, it’s been a process) made me a lot more tolerant. these things happen, but people don’t do anything about it. they just stand here looking nonplussed. if there is an angry drunk yelling in the middle of the sidewalk, people simply walk around him without a second thought. it’s been a nice lesson to learn… to know that i don’t have to react and publicly show my displeasure at everything i find distasteful.
drinking turkish coffee, or beloved turecká káva. i don’t own a coffee-maker; not even a pour-over device. if i drink coffee, i brew the water with the grounds, bring it to a near boil on the stove and strain it out. tastes perfect.
bring my own food everywhere. to be fair, i’ve actually been doing this since my student days studying in germany; a trick i learned from my roommate at the time. i admired the way she made her own sandwiches and food (to save money) and brought them on every trip. czechs are known as a frugal people, so in this regard i have fit right in… except when alex and i are the only ones who want to go out to eat when we are in austria (because duh, austrian food) while everyone else happily munches on their packed lunches.
jay-walking with the best of them. i’ve actually been stopped by a seattle cop for jay-walking. i’ve witnessed my friend get slammed against the wall and then spend a night in jail because he talked back to a cop after jay-walking in pioneer square. jay-walking in the states is nothing to mess with! however in budějovice, there are so many streets that really should have crosswalks (or should i say, zebra crossings?) and don’t. everyone jay-walks together, it’s kind of funny. i just try not to push my luck and cross near where i see a police car.
wearing house shoes. we still are a bit of an uncivilized household having no house shoes to offer guests. but house shoes, they’re a thing, and we wear them.
greet no one in the street, but everyone in the room. i’ve made it pretty clear in the past how unsettling i found the “unfriendly” czech strangers when you walk down the street, but it’s just not something you do (unless you actually know them). however if you’re in an elevator, doc tor’s office, teacher’s lounge, or any other enclosed space with strangers, you best be greeting everyone, even if you haven’t met. happily, something inside me snapped (died?) late last year and i suddenly found i know longer cared about scowling strangers anymore. victory!
beer for lunch… or earlier. at the bi-monthly farmer’s market down the street, there’s a small beer garden which is always full of bros getting their beer while still in the early part of the morning. it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy a beer on your lunch hour before going back to work. one time i was even offered grog on a cold winter’s day right before i went to teach their kids. it was actually not a bad idea… (above, the characteristic round czech mug of beer, via)
spending time “in the nature” on weekends. i’ve become a lot less of a weekend homebody than i used to! many americans, myself included, like to use those precious non-working hours as relaxation time before having to do it all over again the next week, so it’s been really inspirational to see how people in south bohemia really make the most of their free days by heading out skiing, hiking, mushroom collecting, or cycling around the ponds or the busiest cycle path in the country. (below, spring countryside near vyšši brod)
gifting more often. back in the states, i might only receive a birthday drink from my best friend. here, if you attend a birthday party, you really ought to bring something or feel embarrassed about it. i like gifting more often, and it is something i’ve really attached to and hope to bring back home when (if?) i leave. there is nothing bad about bringing a gift for almost any occasion! when in doubt, bring flowers or a bottle of wine or liquor. nobody ever said no to those!
however, despite of all of these adaptations……
i still will not drink my breakfast tea without milk. ever. milk with tea is almost unheard of in czech republic and most prefer a slice of lemon, if anything. (to that, i say phooey!) also, take in the glory of my no makeup sunday brunch face.
what have you compromised (or not compromised) on while adapting to a new place or country? any of these?