Archive for the ‘Czechs’ Category


Spring and the cottage nation

In Czechs,Life,Nature on April 27, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , ,

During the dark times of communism Czechs had only a few genuine “free time” activities. They included gardening and spending weekends (and sometimes the whole summer months) at cottages. These two activities have survived. And since it is spring, most cottages have been “woken up”.

Basically, there are two basic types of said real estate property. One, a little garden: it is a piece of land usually surrounded by many many similarly sized pieces of land. On this piece of land stands a tool shed or maybe a small hut that offers the most basic features. People grow their own produce, mostly for their own consumption. Especially pensioners like to spend free time there, making nice flower beds and vegetable patches. These small gardens are usually located in the same town as the owner’s permanent residence address.

Cottages, on the other hand, are weekend getaway houses many Czechs head to on Fridays. Friday afternoon traffic jams are largely caused or created by weekend drivers (people who do not use their cars on weekdays). There are many levels of luxury when it comes to Czech cottages. Many of them do not even have permanent water supply and heating (they are not used in winter, as mentioned above – see photo), while some look like regular houses that people live in all year long. In fact, many people, having retired, move to their cottages (if they offer wintertime comfort) and leave their regulated-rent apartments in cities to their adult children (some cities have recently adopted regulations forbidding this practice).

People who live permanently in small villages often dislike their weekend neighbors. Mostly due to the fact that while they want to rest after a long week at work, the cottage-goers like to spend a day mowing their lawns or burning grass or leaves. They also excessively use the local infrastructure for which they do not pay (as they are not permanent residents). This is why a regulation exists that became known as the “lawnmower regulation” – it forbids the use of motor-operated mowers, saws and other machinery on Saturdays and Sundays.


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?


No. We don’t do the “quote” gesture

In Czechs,Life,People on January 10, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka

Non-verbal communication is a very interesting thing and if you are not careful enough in some countries, you can offend your business partners, you can make enemies, or you can be put in jail.

In the Czech Republic we do not have culture-specific non-verbal communication elements that are frowned upon or borderline-illegal. There are just things we just don’t do and if someone does, you can tell they spent some time living abroad, especially in the United States.

Of course. I am talking about managers, team leaders, advertising executive who often hold brainstorming meetings. These are situations in which people do this:

Yes, the famous quote-unquote gesture that Americans use to say “so-called”, or “let’s say”. Like in one scene in the sitcom Friends where Ross says something like: This [quote fingers] actor [unquote fingers] is taking her on a date and  Joey replies: Hey, I am an [quote fingers] actor [unquote fingers] too.

In the Czech Republic, according to my experience, people who are exposed to this kind of speeches from their superiors tend to think that their boss is being over-dramatic for purpose, which does not usually work around here. Not even in advertising. The people think that if they mess up there will be no high-five from the boss, so their attitude is largely limited to “tell us what the task is and let’s get the hell out of here so we can go and start working”.


Why So Many Czech (Pre)Teens Like Miley Cyrus

In Czechs,Entertainment,Media,Music on September 28, 2008 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

Several Czech music hit charts place Miley Cyrus’ hit Seven Things second or even as Number One. And since it is a generally known fact that Czech teen boys would not bother sending votes to a chick they do not know (and will never meet in person), I think it is safe to say that 99 percent of the votes come from girls aged 12-17.

Being a rebellious teenager is very hard in this country. If you hear life stories of celebrities in the U.S. who “left home when they were 16 and have been on their own ever since”, that can never happen in the Czech Republic. And 99.9 rebellious girls are half brats, half bitches. Czech teens can only dream about the level of independence (not the actual one, but the theoretical one).

It is a combination of many factors that makes families closer even after kids graduate from high schools. A rebellious teenager who acts like a big mouth when taking to her father/mother [depending on whom she hates more] can graduate from a high school, but then she either goes to a university that is heavily funded by the people she hates, or she stays home, having found a job that no way in hell allows her to find her own place to live — considering the recent development on the real estate market.

Miley Cyrus is everything Czech girls are not. Sure, the question is whether she would be Miley Cyrus the star, had there not been for the Achy Breaky Guy Billy Ray. I dare to say that given the she is an American and she has a pretty good voice and looks, she would succeed anyway.

A typical Czech teen rebel would bitch about her parents and curfews and related issues [teens are not allowed to drive here…], but she would not find a part-time job and she would always beg for more money beyond her usual allowance on the same day… Miley is a “perfect” opinion leader for such girls. Please note I am not saying “role model”, because that would be inaccurate, considering Czech girls…

They might JUST like the music…somebody might argue. Nope. When it comes to U.S. stars and their Czech teen audiences, nobody JUST likes the music.


Seven ways to say Secretary

In Czechs,Language on September 22, 2008 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

If English has taught Czechs anything, it is that one can make things sound “better” than they would in Czech. Names of professions and corporate speak are a perfect example. HR specialists, I am sure, know best.

Take secretary, for example.

During the pre-1989 communist Czechoslovakia, a secretary was a girl, or a middle-aged woman, whose primary task was to prepare black coffee for “mister director” [pan reditel]. Oh, and she had to know how to type.

2008 secretaries run entire offices and they have way more sophisticated tasks. Please keep your blowjob upon request jokes to yourself. 🙂 Many secretaries these days hold B.Sc. or M.Sc. degrees in (macro/micro)economy or business administration.

And the job ads have to appear accordingly…

So we no longer say secretary [sekretarka]. We use English terms instead:

  • Executive Assistant
  • Chief of the Office of the General Manager
  • Personal Assistant
  • Main Office Assistant
  • Assistant to CEO
  • CEO Office Manager
  • Front Office Executive

Please note these terms were seen or heard in the Czech Republic and some of them might have been make up, by literally raping of English. If you think some of them do not exist in native-English-speaking countries, I think it illustrates the absurdity even more…


Former Cemetery: A Place For Dog Lovers And Drug Users

In Czechs,Life on August 11, 2008 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

There once used to be a cemetery and there are still people buried there, although the whole place was, well, re-cultivated. But now it is a park where people walk their dogs and where drug users meet, the Brnensky denik daily discovered.

One can find the place in Bystrc borough in Brno. Some locals formed a committee that wants to solve the problem. Since there are still people buried there, they would like the the place to serve at least as a regular park, not as a dungeon with overgrown trees and bushes.

Satellite map here…as you can see, it is located among the famous ugly concrete panel apartment buildings…

What I don’t get is why liquidate a cemetery in the first place… Once it is “full” and no longer used, it can remain where it is…


They Helped A Car Accident Victim. Now They Might Be Sick

In Cars,Czechs on July 29, 2008 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

The police from a town near Brno are looking for people who were witnesses to a car accident in which a car hit a man who was jaywalking in the middle of the night. The man sustained serious injuries and was even unconscious for a while.

Doctors in hospital found out he suffers from a serious disease and people who were trying to save his life might have become infected.

Many Czechs don’t know the names of their MP’s but they will remember THIS for the rest of their lives and the next time they see an injured car accident victim, they will stay way back…or just walk away. One of the reasons is that most Czechs are mad about the healthcare reform that includes “hospital fees” for every day spent on a hospital bed. And ironically, even victims have to pay… I am a supporter of this reform, because without it the system will collapse soon, but this sucks…


How Czechs Live (8): Without ATM’s and Pay Phones

In Czechs,Life on July 23, 2008 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: ,

Sometimes you never realize how important some thing is until you really need it. Czechs in the 21st century living in villages or smaller towns know.

Example: a bank operates an ATM in a small town. According to a cost and profit calculation, the machine is not making profit. And the bank is losing money. It demands that over 200 withdrawals a month be made, otherwise the municipality that ordered the installation would have to compensate the charges. So the bank decides to shut it off, making locals and summer-season tourists having to travel 20 kilometers to the nearest one.

Similarly, not so long ago municipalities would fight with the landline phone company. There is only one in the country, having monopoly, so in a village with population under 1,000 those three grandmas making two-minute calls a week was not enough to keep a public payphone there. And villages that are so small would not have enough money to compensate the costs either.

I must say I haven’t heard of a similar case for a while. Must be because now there are more active cell phones than people (!!!) and even the careful grandmas realized it is better to be in permanent contact with families and if something happens to them it is easy to call an ambulance from a cell phone.

I know a 90 year-old lady who still goes picking mushrooms in the forest and her neighbors know it. So if she gets missing, the rescuers can always track her by her cell phone signal… It happens over here all the time.


Czechs, Behave

In Czechs,Economy,Travel on July 2, 2008 by Petr Bokuvka

A sign in CZECH in my hotel restaurant:

Dear guests, please be advised that no takeaway is allowed. If you are seen doing so, the hotel would have to insist that you pay for what you have been attempting to take out.

Haven´t we learned already?


Buy Today, Leave Tomorrow. Czechs On Holidays

In Czechs,Travel on June 20, 2008 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: ,

If you are a no-strings-attached person like yours truly, you would enjoy a relatively new way of buying your summer holiday. I am sure it is not specific to the Czech Republic, but I am also sure that in some countries this way of vacationing is impossible, due to labor laws, lifestyle(s) etc.

It is called buy today, leave within 48 hours. Some travel agencies call it Click And Get Outta Here, which means if you buy it on-line you have a huge discount.

All you need to do is make some primary selection, pack your suitcase and then wait for some hot offer.

BTW Czechs generally have 4 weeks of paid vacation and some companies offer one extra week in order to attract employees.

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