Top eight symbols of America that did not catch on in the Czech Republic

In Culture, Czechs, History, Life on March 13, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

Some pessimists say that with the fall of the Iron Curtain we immediately discarded everything Russian and started to adopt everything American with no critical thinking involved. Like language, food, mass culture…  If you think about it, there are a few symbols of everyday America that did not become a part of our lives…

#1: Checks

sb10066182b-001We do not use checks to pay for purchases. Nope. We do not have the oblong diary-like checkbook in our bags and purses. We do not use the term bounce. Well, maybe when talking about breasts, but not checks. Czechs don’t use checks. We have our cash and credit cards, whereas “credit cards” refers to cards to an account where there actually IS money.

#2: Drinking fountains

With a very few exceptions, like airports or some new sports centers you are not going to find drinking fountains anywhere. School kids have vending machines or store-bought soft drinks, and if they really want to they can drink tap water. Also, drinking fountains will probably never be installed at or near places that make money by selling drinks (cafés, bars…).

#3: Boys sacking groceries

75043284Czechs’ shopping habits are incompatible with this part-time profession. Many people have their permanent shopping bags (cloth-made), and there are people who like to have their groceries arranged because they often have to carry them home, usually on foot or on the bus. In the U.S. you would not expect a shopper to walk one mile with their grocery bags. In the Czech Republic many people stuff their plastic bags and walk home.

#4: Automatic transmission

There ARE cars with RND12 transmission in this country, but just like much of Europe, people like their stick. Many students or season workers who spend some time in the U.S. and come home sing odes about driving with only one hand and one foot, but then time passes and they get back to their manual transmission and everything is back to normal.

#5: Pagers

top8_3This used to be a huge surprise. Pagers were making their way onto the telecommunications market back in 1990’s. Telecom providers felt people would want to be reachable everywhere, just like doctors and FBI agents from then-favorite TV shows (I have my pager with me so if you need anything just page me…). Nope. Czechs skipped pagers and went straight to cell phones.

#6: Shoes in the house

All Czechs have hallways in their apartments and houses. When they come home, they lose their coats and shoes right there so that they don’t make a mess throughout the house. How can you walk on your living room carpet wearing the street shoes? they would ask. Take Friends, for example. Chandler comes home from work and he walks right into the living room – and bedroom. Even in winter. And I find it hard to believe that Monica would not have a doormat when there are two feet of snow outside. Yuck. Weird. Czechs like their carpets and parquets clean.

#7: Paperboy deliveries

top8_7Newspaper delivery used to be a huge business and if I recall correctly there used to be a huge anti-monopoly dispute when some newspaper publishers established purpose-made company that would muscle out the already established ones. Either way, boys on bikes throwing rolled-up dailies on front lawns? Nope. There are news stands virtually everywhere and people like to purchase their paper on the way to work — and to read it while riding trams and buses. Subscribers get their paper in their mailbox as a part of mailing service they paid for…

#8: Flag pride

We do not display flags on regular basis and we do not “have it everywhere”. We will wrap in it during international soccer events, and during some soccer league matches you can even see the flag with the name of the fan club and city written in bold letters in the white part of it — but even people who are “proud to be Czechs” will not have a flag pole in front of their house…

→ Any other examples?

13 Responses to “Top eight symbols of America that did not catch on in the Czech Republic”

  1. […] Top eight symbols of America that did not catch on in the Czech Republic « The Czech Daily Wor… […]

  2. I love this article! I am going to link to you tomorrow! I was really fun for me to read all this since I have not lived in Czech for so long.
    So checks never really made it to the Czech Republic, huh? That’s OK, I don’t like them anyway 🙂

    And no drinking fountains? Not even in the parks?
    That’s too bad…they have saved my life more than once 🙂

  3. […] don’t use checks” – and seven more “symbols of America that did not catch on in the Czech Republic” – at The Czech Daily Word. Cancel this […]

  4. […] ‘novelties’ cought up very quickly (the good ones and the bad ones) but some did not. The Czech Daily Word did a whole article on those items which did not do so well in Czech. One of them is a drinking […]

  5. I have to say, that I could not agree with you in 100%, but that’s just my opinion, which indeed could be wrong.
    p.s. You have an awesome template . Where did you find it?

    • HJ: It is one of the templates offered by WordPress, it is called Pressrow…

      Tanja: ‘Fraid not… you have to be prepared and carry your own.

  6. I was just wondering about #1. We also have our “cards to an account where there actually IS money”, we call then “debit cards” because money is debited directly from it. Credit cards are called that way because the credit company lends you the money until you pay it back.
    As for #6, that actually puzzles me. I grew up in Europe and we always had our shoes on in the house. It was actually a surprise to us when we arrived to America 35 years ago and everybody expected us to remove our shoes when we visited them. Now we are used to it. When my cousin visited from Germany last year and she refused to take her shoes off saying that removing one’s shoes is a “peasant custom”, it actually bothered me. It looks like the Czechs are the only ones in Europe who do it. But I can reassure you that here in America we also leave our shoes in the hallway. As for TV shows – you can’t expect the actors to walk around on the dirty studio floors barefoot… 🙂

    • Aaha, my fault with number 1: that is probably because we are used to say “kreditni karta” to refer to “debit cards”. I was meaning to say that CREDIT cards are almost nonexistent here and people use DEBIT cards and they can overdraw the account for limited periods of time

  7. #3: Boys sacking groceries
    You never had boys sacking groceries, but for a while the Czechs had a boy watching the fruit scale to make sure no one stole anything. Some Czech supermarkets adopted a system that worked well in Germany, in which a scale was placed next to the fruit. The customer was supposed to weigh the fruit himself, and the scale would spit out a barcode to stick on the bag. This was brought to the Czech Republic in the mid-1990s, but unlike Germans, Czechs would weigh the fruit, stick the barcode on the bag, and then steal a few more pieces and throw those in the bag too. It was a horrible failure, and a year later the stores would have a kid standing next to the scale at all times just to weigh people’s fruit and stick the barcode on.

  8. #5: Pagers
    Pagers were a mid-step between landlines and cellphones. After cellphones shrank down to pocket size, pagers almost completely disappeared from the US, and it’s rare to find one now.
    The reason Czechs went straight to cellphones was that they had a 1908-vintage telephone system until after 1990. Their state telecom company was so slow at upgrading phone service that the foreign-backed cellphone companies beat them to it. You entirely missed the time in the 1980s, when cellphones were the size of a small loaf of bread, so there was no need to bother with pagers.
    So, the reason you skipped pagers was that you stuck with primitive, 100-year-old technology until foreign companies were finally allowed to bring in theirs. It’s no sign of virtue or modernity on the part of the Czechs.

  9. #1: Checks
    Czechs did not have checks because their system for individuals to make long-distance payments remained primitive for a very long time.

    The whole thing was based on something called a složenka, which was a perfect specimen of the Czechs’ love of inefficient systems that make people do unnecessary work and then wait in long lines.

    A složenka was a strip of paper divided into four or five sections. When you wanted to send payment for some item or other, you had to fill out your name and address, the recipient’s name and address, and the amount to be remitted in each section of the strip. That meant writing all that information at least four times for each payment you wanted to make. Then you had to stand in line at a post office window to give some lady the payment money in cash. She would then tear off the first piece of the složenka and give it to you.

    The složenka went along on its travels, getting pieces ripped off it along the way, until the last piece ended up in the recipient’s mailbox. That person then had to go to the post office, wait in line with that stub, and pick up the cash.

    It was an idiotic, time-consuming system — much, much worse than using checks! The only reason Czechs never adopted checks was that they didn’t enter the modern world until the West, including the United States, was already moving from checks to electronic transfers and online banking.

  10. JAIME: Brilliant analysis…I must say I totally forgot some of these issues when I argued my case 🙂 I do remember the “slozenka” thing. I have never seen a boy watching the scales, though. At least not during the last ten years… maybe people have stopped doing this AND nowadays some supermarkets have scales at the checkout counter that can verify the amounts and weights…

  11. Lovely article! Czech don’t use checks–very clever. They’re nonsensical anyway now that debit cards are used and accepted everywhere. I must wonder about the shoes in the house thing though. My family emigrated from the Azores to the US and one thing that irritates Mom is anyone taking their shoes off in her house (I blame her for my shoe addiction). She thinks this is an American custom because she never heard of such a thing (that and eating food with hands vs. utensils). Perhaps there are many more lighter colored carpets in the CR? Pagers are obsolete now that cell phones are everywhere–waste of time. You Czechs are a no-nonsense bunch!

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