Czech vs American 'Personal Space'

Discussion in 'Culture' started by Anonymous, May 17, 2002.

  1. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    I have a question about Czechs and their 'personal space'. I read from another site that "Czech private space is smaller but its boundary is firmer. This is especially obvious when compared with Americans who require larger personal space but are much more willing to let people get into it." Could any of you Czechs out there give me your opinion of whether you think it is ok for a woman to give a Czech man a hug when greeting and departing if we are just friends. Would this be weird for him? Thanks for any help!
  2. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    I have a question about "personal space" and expressing feelings too.
    I read in a message posted here that saying to a Czech girl that she's beautiful is often considered "straightforward and exaggerating". That has puzzled me a bit...
    I was wondering if saying to someone "Mam te rada/rad" as a sign of affection is also considered "overstepping the mark".
    Is it something only lovers say? Or do Czech people also say that to friends and peope they care for? I think that depends a lot on people's sensitiveness but i was wondering it there's any sort of "unwritten rule".
    Thank you
  3. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Hi Country Girl,

    in my opinion Czechs really rather protect their "personal space", especially when compared with Americans. Also we are commonly more formal in manners than Americans, young people of course less than older, but the manners are quite similar to that in Austria or Germany.
    So, to answer your question: If I generalize, I would say an average Czech woman wouldn't give a hug to a Czech man unless they were VERY good friends. I think a Czech man would see it as a kind of "bigger affection". But this is generalized enough and of course it depends.
    Anyway, I guess it won't be anything bad if you give a hug to a Czech man; and if he would be suprised, don't worry to tell him it is normal between friends in your country.

    Good luck!
  4. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Ahoj Lorenzo,

    well, I don't thing "Mam Te rad(a)" say just lovers. For lovers (and mothers ) is reserved just "Miluju Te". However, even "Mam Te rad(a)" is not something what is quite commen to say often. I think generally Czechs say it (besides lovers) as a kind of affection to the best friends and in their family. So, actually it is used between people who are close to each other, who know very well each other and who really care for each other.
    As far as I remember I have heard "Mam Te rad(a)" just from my boyfriend, my best friend, and my nearest relatives.

    Have a great time!
  5. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Ahoj Tereza!
    Mockrat dekuji za tvou pomoc!
    Thank you for shining some light on this subject! :)
    So I think it's a bit like in Italian where we have an expression similar to "Mam te rad(a)" which people use to show their affection to their close friends or parents and lovers too.
    Thank you again
  6. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Ahoj! I agree with Tereza. Hugging or kissing when greeting and departing is not very common between casual friends and certainly not between people who had just met once or twice before or who see each other often. Sometimes you can see it happen between close and long-time friends (two girls or a girl and a boy, never two straight men) who haven't seen each other for a while. Generally, giving your Czech friend a hug may be quite surprising and awkward for him/her. Czechs are not used to expressing affection this way.
    It is similar with expressing affection verbally. As Tereza said, "miluju te" (I love you) is used only between lovers. "Mam te rad(a)" (I like you) is not as strong and can be used between friends or family but even that is not very common. If you say that to a Czech friend, the effect may be similar to giving him/her an unexpected hug.
    Czechs usually look upon the American custom of hugging and the frequent use of "I love you" between friends and family members as unnatural and exaggerated. A Czech friend of mine told me once that she was convinced these things only happened in American movies and couldn't believe it when I told her that Americans are like that in real life! [​IMG]
  7. Diamond

    Diamond Member

    You know Dana, as a man, I don't think that giving someone a hug is a proof you love him. I usually give/get hugs to/from both women and men but generally I think that giving someone a hug means that you really value that person and nobody who I had give a hug considered that as an act of love, though. And bloody nobody even thought about me as a homosexual! Perhaps you pay too much attention on what the others say and haven't tried to figure it out yourself, bye.
  8. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Hi Diamond and thanks for joining in the discussion!
    First of all, I'm not sure what you mean by me paying too much attention to what others say (if you meant Tereza, I simply expressed an agreement with what she said) and suggesting that I should try to figure things out myself (figure what out and how??). In my last posting, I was simply describing things the way I've seen them. I lived in the Czech Republic my whole life until 5 years ago when I moved to the States and the issues of personal space and social behavior were some of the first striking differences I noticed.
    I also never said that giving someone a hug is considered an act of love in the Czech Republic. I merely meant that it is not very common between Czechs to hug each other, certainly far less common than in the USA where it has basically been accepted as common behavior when greeting and parting.
    Maybe things have changed in the Czech Republic since 1997 but when I lived there, I almost never experienced or even saw friends or family members hugging each other routinely. They may have shaken hands or (family members) kissed each other, but hugs were very uncommon. Even now, when I'm used to exchanging hugs with people in the States, I still don't do the same in the Czech Republic or, when I do, I do it for fun and always explain that "this is the American way of greeting". I certainly respect that you've had a different experience - it just isn't the same as mine.
  9. Diamond

    Diamond Member

    Hey, as you say, Dana. I'm not here to judge you. I just rather think that people here in this god forgotten country needs to take their thinking to a higher level. Frankly, I'm disgusted by the way local people behave. Can't wait to disappear from here A.S.A.P. and believe me, I will.
  10. CZfan

    CZfan Member

    This is so funny! I had an experience with this and I still have to laugh (partly because I was so embarrassed!) I am American and my boyfriend is Czech (here for four years) Well...he had some friends come over for a visit that I had met once before. The first time we all met we all had a great time and were very friendly, drinking and eating and laughing until the dawn hours. So for this second visit my boyfriend quickly says to me as we were walking out to greet them. "Please honey, just shake their hands and NO Hugging!" I just about died! How funny that this was so important to him to not be possibly embarrassed by the "American girlfriend"...So as I walked out to greet them trying not to giggle and shake hands!
    This doesn't bother me so much as amuses me...However one thing does (ok maybe two) bother me big time and that is...When our Czech dinner guests come over (they are always on time) but there is NO chatting or cocktail hour upon their arrival. They run right to the table and sit down and are ready to eat. My boyfriend (the cook too)doesn't seem to think this abormal and starts putting the food out! And they never use napkins and certianly never put them on their laps! Why is that? He may hate the hugging but I hate the run to the dinner table! Hope you enjoy this story and make you smile like it does me. In conclusion, this Czech man is the kindest and most thoughtful man ever so that the little things are merely amusing and not issues.
  11. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Diamond, I'm sorry you have such strong negative feelings about Czechs and the Czech Republic. I think you should definitely go live in another country for a while to see if you'd still feel the same and to find out if the grass really is greener on the other side.
  12. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Hi CZfan! Your story really was funny, especially to my husband and I who know exactly what you're talking about! [​IMG] I guess you're right about the dinner - Czechs are not big on cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and before dinner drinks. Why beat about the bush? We're hungry, let's eat! But then again, isn't it the case that in the States dinner and dessert usually end the visit, whereas Czechs tend to hang around and chat after dinner? What's your experience with that? Did your friends leave right after dinner?

    Now, the napkins... Czechs are not big on those either... My American husband still doesn't understand (having been visiting the Czech Republic for some 10 years, including living there for 4 years) and in an effort to explain this strange behavior (or rather lack of one) to himself, he's concluded that Czechs simply must not be as messy as the Americans. Which he means as a joke of course. Anyway, whenever he's coming to visit my Czech parents, my mom already knows what to go shop for to be ready for him. She goes and buys a package of napkins and a carton of 100% orange juice.
  13. Diamond

    Diamond Member

    You know Dana, I was. I mean living on the other side. And found some negative customs of the other countries, so I know what I'm saying if you mean this. I have met a lot of foreigners including German, British and, of course, Americans right here in CZ. I've been living in their countries also. Three weeks in Germany, five days in England and a week and half in USA. Not much time, though. But it was really great experience, I must say. Now I know most of cons and pros. Still my mind hasn't changed. And I really don't know why are you defending Czech Republic even if you don't live there. I definitely wouldn't. Tell me one positive thing about this place.
  14. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Well Diamond, I meant that you should live in a foreign country for a few years - rent/buy a place, get a job, get insurance, find doctors, pay your bills, do your shopping, watch local TV... do all those things that are part of one's daily life. I've been living in the States for five years and only recently started to feel like I know the country and its people pretty well - not very well, but I'm used to the differences and know what to expect in various situations. And I still feel like a visitor even now and am still discovering new pros and cons of both countries. It's very different to stay in a country for a few weeks when you know you're going back home, and to go and live there for years, or for life.

    You asked me to tell you one positive thing about the Czech Republic. As a matter of fact, here's a whole list:
    - Czechs are generally easy going and have a sense of humor; they're sincere and open-minded; they're curious and eager to learn
    - Czechs are not yet a very commercialized nation
    - There are beautiful historical towns and very pretty countryside
    - You can easily get to most places on foot or by public transportation
    - Prague is an architectural gem and has a great cosmopolitan environment
    - There is very little violent crime so you can safely walk around town at night
    - It's a short distance to other European countries
    - The level of customer service is steadily increasing
    - The education system is excellent
    - People get a minimum of 4 weeks of vacation time per year
    - Most Czechs work to live, not the other way around
    I could go on if you'd like me to... By the way, do you expect me to not defend the Czech Republic if I'm running an entire website about it? [​IMG]
  15. Diamond

    Diamond Member

    Pretty good, Dana. All these elements you named are mostly the reasons why I dislike or am not interested in this country, except for education system which I must admit is excellent indeed. If you like Czech Republic so much maybe you shouldn't have left it and if you feel like a visitor in your current country, I suggest you to cut your ties with CZ definitely and enjoy :]
  16. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Hmm, so you dislike the Czech Republic for its beautiful architecture, pretty countryside and low violent crime... I don't know how to react to that... Just so you know, the reason I left was not to escape but because I married my husband who is American. We had to choose one place to live and we chose the USA. Still, we're not sure we made the right decision and we're leaving our options open for the future. I do not want to and am not able to cut my ties with the country where I grew up and where my whole family and best friends are living. Although I do not feel completely at home in my current country, I never said I was not enjoying myself. I'm not the one complaining, remember?
  17. Diamond

    Diamond Member

    Then we are quit with our crossover. See, I'm just not built for this country, that's all.
  18. czechmoviehouse

    czechmoviehouse New Member

    Czechs are anti-hugging? Having a Czech grandma and an English grandma..I had inherited the coldness of the English side, and despised hugging and showing affection in public unless it was with my boyfriend (or my pets). However, when I met my Czech relatives for the first time I was getting squeezed to death, kissed, grabbed, and hugged to death by everyone. Finally, I just gave up and let them do what they wanted to. At least in Czechia, it seemed to be common to be offered alcohol when visiting a home of a relative..or at least it was in my case. Im not saying that all Czechs indulge in drinking, however, all the ones related to me seem to be, making them one happy and affectionate bunch.
    Also, I have been told by many expats that Czechs are very secretive bunch and do not show their true selves to outsiders. I can't tell you how many times I have heard this. It sounds like rubbish to me. Again, I have never seen this side, and I have been welcomed everywhere, and have been included in everything. Maybe the problem is that the expats act like spoiled tourists (not one of them has even tried to become fluent in Czech, but expect the Czechs to learn English???) and have moved there to take advantage of such a wonderful country, rather than moving there because it was their lost heritage. Since I was a child, I have bragged about my Czech heritage, while never mentioning my English heritage. My czech grandma was a one of a kind nanny. Ive seen her break a knife fight between to guys with a baseball bat, and stop a burgular from coming in her window by beating the snot out of him with that same bat. All five feet of her. The Czechs are from very hardy stock...and I miss her every day.
  19. Betts22

    Betts22 Member


    This is my first time on your website and I have to say I really enjoy it and am enjoying the posts but am actually surprised at some of the comments made by some of the people.My question to Diamond is why are you still in Czech when you dislike it so much and have so many problems with the country and why do you frequent this website?I mean no disrespect but honestly why would you stay in a country that you don't like?
    I was born in Czech and am currently living in Canada
    andhave lived in the US as well and I can tell you that these countries have their problems as well.I have had my share of problems in Czech, but they aren't any different from the problems that I have had in North America. I personally love Czech all my family and husbands family is back there and I visit quite offten. My question to you is what is it that makes you dislike Czech so much? Personaly whenever I go to visit my family I'm I leave there feeling almost jealous in a way. Not that I'm missing anything here material wise but I think over there people appreciate things a lot more then here sometimes.
  20. Lori

    Lori New Member


    I live in America and have all of my life. My friend from childhood, Lee, just returned from Prague after visitng his mother there. Lee's mother has lived there now for a number of months although she was raised in the United States. She truly appreciates Prague from what I am told. Lee would be more than happy to live there himself. He is very impressed by the transportation system, the people, architecture, history, work environment and many other aspects of the Czech culture. I wanted to see pictures after hearing so much of it but Lee did not come back with any...

    This all had brought me to search "Prague" out of much curiosity which has brought me to this site.

    I have a few thoughts to convey after reading these past few message. I believe it may be of interest to you to hear from a 39 year old, American born female.

    How I wish to travel and see other places in this vast world of ours. My funds do not allow for me to go to other countries as it does most Americans. My younger sisters have been to Europe and traveled as college students and now a close friend who is my age. My friend was much more selective and visited only two cities, Hamburg (to see an old friend who was once an exchange student in Lee's family over 20 years ago) and Prague, ( Lee visited his mother a woman over 50 who is a teacher here in the U.S.) From the pictures I had looked at, so far of Prague only, I must say that it is truly beautiful. I can tell how appreciative and proud the people of Prague are just by looking at the buildings there! Here, we have trash on some streets and highways. that consists of maybe a cup and a straw from some fast food establishment or a soiled diaper thrown out a car window onto the street. This is not to say that I see this every day here...but 3 or4 times a year is enough to disgust me. It shows such a lack of respect. There is a lack of respect showm by many here and it may be because generally, a large number of Americans (particularly in thier 30's and 40's) are are not respectful of the way our elders have run our country. Most of us in this age group have issues with the lies we have been told, our President (I and many others olld and young alike particularly embarassed to have such a man run our country and at times, am appalled at what I hear him say. Many comics here joke and write about the things he says and the way he says them...what he finds to be funny, etc. It shame s me to liste3n to him give a news conference or speech because I know that foreigners are watching him too. You may possibly think that we Americans are stupid for electing him, when in reality...we don't think we really did. Money did. Money has made this country un-appreciative and dis-repectful. It seems to control our every morsel of living here and I for one and not proud to be American in this aspect. It is destroying our nation and sickening many who are stuck living here.

    so what do we do for fun here? There are many of us who try to keep in touch with our land. We hunt and fish, camp take pictures, go to the country to be with friends rather than stay in the city. By land, raise animals garden...generally, we work to ty and get away from the fast-pace of our every day lives and try to enjoy the simple things. It can be a struggle to do all of this with not much o live on so we work for our ONE week vacation. Only one week and that is if you have worked for your emplyer for a year or more...5 years of emplyment may get you and your family 2 weeks off of work per year. Sound like the American dreaam? Really, a huge percentage of Americans work their fingers to the bone and the rest seem to have inherited the buisiness and the money . the sweat they put out is from the stress of trying to make as much money as the next person so they can have a new car every year. new house, a boat, a cell phone and of course new clothing whenever possible.

    To all of those who visit one's country, I hope that you learn from the culture you are visiting and try to appreciate the fact that this is a bid world and we are NOT all alike. I found it fascinating to hear Cxech's do not hug just anybody that they may meet. I understand how that space can be invaded. a co-worker of mine is very huggy and it is annoying much like a dog that licks you to much because the owner did not train him/her properly.

    The person having the discussion with Dana, is probably young or has a spoiled mind. Maybe something else is bothering him or her, somethting much bigger than just the fact that him or her does not like Czech Republic. My message to this person is to just dealy with your issues silently for awhile. Ponder your thoughts and respect your surroundings. Take a walk and learn to appreciate where you are. Do something that does not cost money to do and do moneyless tasks often. Spend very little on entertainmet so that you may learn to appreciate and respect. Too bac you hadn't grown up here in the U.S. glad that you have been surrounded by much beauty in your surroundings and environment....Search these things out every day! No matter where you live or visit. I have found that visiting an area here in my country is an adventure. I search out my surroundings in the countryside of the town I visit and leave much more enlightened than if I am giving in to the commercialism/tourism part of the area. In other words...I seem to be living at my points of interest for a week or two...

    I am quite chatty here but feel as though I could write a fourth chapter to this book I seem to have started in this reply. Maybe some day I may respond here again.

    Good night all...

Share This Page