Czech vs American 'Personal Space'

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

  1. Lori

    Lori New Member

    I have one important commetn to add about hugging and waying I love you....

    Normally, most Americans regard acts of affection such as hugging and/or saying "I Love you" as an occasional occurance also. It is not something we all do to one another wherever we go with whomever we meet. We also save those gestures and comments for those whom we are truly close too. Too most of those who tend to act in this manner often....I couldn't agree more with Dana...or many Czechs for that matter...being overly-affectionate is quite fake and ae like a young puppy. when that woman acts so proud of her licky pet, beware when she says's "Isn't he cute?" as the dog licks your face and arms and jumps to your lap...the dog may be young and well on it's way to being spoiled. Me and 10 of my friends may need a hug, but we don't wish to be slobbered upon.
  2. Andy

    Andy Member

    As an englishman who has travelled to Czech Republic many times over the last 2 years I am suprised by this 'diamond' person's comments...maybe he should look at his username as his abusive comments don't match his name. I have had a Czech girlfriend and visited her family Dana is quite right in everything she has said on this topic. For me it was the hardest area to understand, czech people are more reserved and private with their personal affections whether it be to 'lovers' or 'friends'. In USA and UK people do use the 'love' word too often it is the theme of most 'pop' music and films. At least when a Czech person says it you know that they mean it. The differences Dana mentions why CR is a nice place are the reasons why I am attracted to this great country. It is important for 'foreigners' like me to understand the Czech culture and to respect it...because would it not be a boring place if every country was the same...I prefer many parts of the Czech culture but it does not mean I hate my Country...I am proud to be English and i love the Czech Republic....and don't forget CR is the heart of Europe :) Andy
  3. malastrana

    malastrana New Member

    First of all a greeting for everybody.
    Second of all(is possible this expression in english??!!In italian we tell-Ai posteri l'ardua sentenza!-)I greet my italian compatriot(especially Alberto once living almost near me.Yes I'm living in Cavaria-Varese,fifteen km from his ex town.End of homesick parenthesis...).
    I 've read(pardon,excuse me for my terrible italenglish.It seems a Dean Martin's song"tarantela,mozarela and that's amooreee...-very funny song,really!)about the different czech behavior in some situation respect the standard american way.
    Some people in forum has accused(I seem...Now somebody is going to laugh,but what does "HUG" mean?? Third of all,excuse me for my Jaroslav Hasek way of writing.Hasek great and funny guy almost like G.W.Bush.This is a common point,my dear Diamond,between Usa and Bohemia.
    The Two guys make me laugh very much.Finally politics is not anymore a boring or erotic matter!!).
    But Let's come back to serious matters...
    Some people in forum has accused czech people
    to seem "strange" in some social situation and in particular not to be extroverted,just like czechs don't love to establish new ralationships.
    About the fact they can seem strange this is not valid only for czech people but is valid for italians,spanish,germans,indians,moroccans,
    Every people belonging to another culture different from us has tradition and way of
    life we hardly understand.
    But this situation doesn't mean we necessarily are right and the other wrong.
    It's only a different way to live and receive
    the things of life.
    I think, when we enter in touch with another culture,we should go out from ourselves (so
    abandoning our self-centred perspective-i had found on dictionary "prostate" but is a wrong word-)and trying to see the world with foreign eyes.
    To do this exercise is very useful(for me)to
    study the history of a population(in our case
    czech history).
    The answers for many inquiries are to find only in the past,and the past for czechs has been very very painful.
    Infact,except for Masarik's Republic(1918-1938),some years after the second world war and the post communist period,from 1620 (white mountain's defeat-bila hora)czech people always lived under the tight oppressor's control.
    Every demonstration of indipendence or freedom was strictly punished.
    The main instrument to terrify the population
    was secret police.
    This happened by hapsburgic secret police,gestapo and stb.
    Everyone can understand like in such situation showing real feelings or speaking freely was not only dangerous but senseless.
    Dana maybe can confirm in czech lands there is a saying:"Not to be silent is to be senseless".
    This long situation of oppression certainly
    can having determinated an aptitude to introvertion maybe not belonging to american culture.
    This of couse(for me )doesn't mean czechs are
    unable to establish hot relationships with other people.
    They before have to know you and control if you can be dangerous or not( shadows of the past... ),when they are sure about you they open themselves and you can trust in them blindly.
    Everyone want to be loved and accepted.
    Of course this discussion is about the medium czech or normal czech mentality that
    as everywhere is often a product of particular social and historical reasons.
    Like in every part we can find people inside a nation with different temperament.
    I hope now Diamond can understand more czech people and why not, accept/love them.
  4. Namste

    Namste New Member

    Hi Dana,

    I dont know if this is the write forum to write about this, but i was reading your little excerpt with CZfan about napkins and hugging when i noticed u wrote that your husband had lived in Czech for 4 years, so here's my question.

    I lived in CR for 6 months with my boyfriend who is Czech natrally. Anyhow it seems to me that all the czechs want out of the CR, but what about the people who want in? I have looked up the imagration processes, but the problem really is living. When i was there, i could find no resources to learn the language, except some universites that wanted to charge $10,500 US a year! I may be Canadian but iam not that rich!. If i cant speak Czech i cant find work. I tried while i was there. And dont want to be a English Teacher.

    I loved Czech sooooooooo much when i was there. I though it was way better then here. But moving there seems to be this big imposability.. =(

    Any suggestions, u seem to have previous experience with immagrating. Besides the paper work i mean. And were a gay couple also so getting married isnt an option just so you know.

    Feel free to email me or post here. Thanx!


    What do you think my options are? I
  5. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Hi Jonathan,

    I'm glad you like our country! It is very different from the U.S. (and probably Canada although I've never been there) and I can see how some aspects, such as the lifestyle, history and culture, can seem attractive to people who visit.

    As far as learning Czech, it should be pretty easy if you're in Prague. There are many language schools and private tutors who specialize in teaching Czech and I know that many foreigners learn Czech without ever studying it at the university. If you plan on moving to Prague, I would suggest that you buy a Czech textbook and sign up for a class or hire a tutor, which I'm sure wouldn't even come close to the $10,500 a year. I don't know what the situation is like outside of Prague. It may be harder to take a class in Czech for foreigners but a benefit over Prague would be that a lot fewer people speak English and you would be forced into speaking Czech more than in Prague and may actually learn quicker that way.

    When my husband lived in Prague, he had an easier time finding a job than I think he'd have now. Back then (almost 10 years ago), foreigners were in a greater demand by companies as they were hired to train Czechs in Western-style management. The knowledge of Czech was not a requirement back then. The situation is different now when most management as well as lower-level positions are taken by Czechs and if foreigners are hired, they are often expected to speak at least a communicative level of Czech.

    As far as immigration goes, I think the three ways to be able to live in the Czech Republic (as is the case in other countries) are: marriage, work or study. Since you're not able to get married legally and if you're not considering going to the Czech Republic as a student, your only option seems to be finding a company that would take care of your work visa. I am not sure how best to do that. Depending on your skills, experience and interests, you can try speaking with a recruiting company in Prague or look through some classifieds. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful here, maybe someone else can.

  6. Namste

    Namste New Member

    Hi Dana

    Thanx, Where would I find a recruitment office?
    I have no formal education. U know us Americans, its all Coffee shop jobs and Mcdonalds untill ur 30 and decide what u want to do with ur life.

    And when iam in prague iam in Upice near Trutnov, its a 200czk trip and 4 hours on the train to prague. What about Haradec Kralove, or Brno? My boyfriend has an Aunt there. Where i was live NO ONE spoke english, not even friends of my boyfriend who said they did. I had to scrape by in German! IT WAS SOOOOOOOO FUN THOUGH!! =)

    Like i said, i want to learn czech so i dont care if people speak english or not. I just need an instatution to reach.
    Are these home tutors very reliable? I mean my bf could technically try to teach me too, his family we lived with dosnt speak much english except his dad and his mom, i spent most of the time home with his grandma making Knedliky or knedla, and making home made sour krout. =) She spoke german though from the occupation.

    Wow look at me rample.....

    Like i said i suppose i could go to Brno, but i dont know how to find these services like schools and stuff, what do you think?

    Oh yeah, and for the record, Knedlicky anything is like the best food on earth!!!

  7. Oh no!

    Oh no! New Member

    I need a womens opinion fast!! I got 3 hickies on my neck, those purple things u get like bruses on your neck from someone sucking on it.

    Anyway, I got three, and I have 3 days to get rid of them, is there any special way to do this, make it faster, like ice or something?!!!

    Any czech secrets?!!!

    This is a major emergency!!!

  8. Jaki

    Jaki Member

    All I know on this subject is that my husband had an old friend come to visit us in Canada, and the first thing he did was give me kiss on the lips (which I thought was odd - but just figured it was Czech custom...)
    Now I am really confused!
  9. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    I've heard it said that Americans are like peaches--soft and fuzzy on the outside, but with a hard core. Czechs are like oranges--hard on the outside, but soft all the way through on the inside. Americans tend to make friends fairly easily, yet usually keep a certain part of themselves closed to their friends. Czechs, on the other hand, tend to be more stand-offish at the beginning (possibly why someone said many expats say Czechs are secretive), but once you make it through the hard "peel" on the outside, they usually don't hold anything back and you've made a friend for life.

    Obviously, this is a generalization and not true of all Czechs and Americans, but is meant only as a crude comparison of cultures. I've met many Czechs, whose "peel" was very thin or even nonexistent, and many Americans with thicker peels and no soft, fuzzy exterior.
  10. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    I like the metaphor and I think it's not far from the truth.
  11. stranger

    stranger New Member

    As for kissing: I am Czech, have lived here for most of my life, yet I am sometimes confused and puzzled too. It seems there is no fixed rule that would apply to the country as a whole. Quite differing kissing (and possibly also hugging) habits seem to run in families, seem to differ in regions, seem to have been established differently among groups of friends.
    Often, my sister will not kiss me even on the cheek (or she hadn’t until she moved to France), while a girlfriend of a friend might give me a kiss on the lips the first time we’re introduced. While a girlfriend of another friend might only “wave” a hello, without even shaking hands. Whatever. As far as I can tell, there is no one firmly established standard. Be open for possibilities. It’s more an interaction between the two meeting people and their habits, their more affectionate or more reserved nature.
    Thinking twice, there might be a rule: in case of doubt, it is never wrong to resort to very reserved behavior, perhaps not even shaking hands, just saying hello. Though shaking hands is safe. You’re not really expected to do more most of the time.
    On the other hand, if you’re of a more outgoing nature, you may take your chances to do more. You might actually please the other person, you might perhaps puzzle someone less self-assured, but only a moron would feel insulted. That’s it. Basically, the difference between the Anglo and the Czech societies is in the degree of freedom to express one’s own nature.
  12. racoon

    racoon Active Member

    Ahoj, it is interesting topic , hug and kiss, it is something new in Czech, I mean, when friends come to visit you or you meet them on the street. I dont remember any kissing and hugging 15 years back, boys were saying, cau vole, das si pivo?, and may be few girls huged other girls. It looked strange when you see people hug each other on the street, to see people happy, we were not use to see that. It was little bit sad and unfriendly atmosphere in all Czechoslovakia, and it is not realy common habit for people above their 30-35 age yet. Younger people are diferent I think it is not about nation it is about our style of living last few generations, next 10-20 years and there will not be too many things what we are talking about here right now.
    Im not to use to hug my friends every weekend when I meet them, it is new for me, when Im happy to see them I say that, but I dont feel very comfortable to touch to much other people. But it is better than years ago when I was living in Czech. I hope it is going to change there as soon as possible the Chech country needs more hugging ang kissing.
  13. iluvuma1

    iluvuma1 Well-Known Member

    I am a new member that might have some insight on the topic. First of all- I am half Czech, and my grandmother is an immigrant. Secondly, I am in a relationship (for about 3 months) with a man from Czech Republic. I can say that he has me a little perplexed, and reading the commentary from other Czech people helps. I have noticed he doesn't throw out the compliments by telling me I'm beautiful all the time. I actually told my friends this made me feel insecure because I wasn't sure he found me attractive.... I'm used to being complimented more, and hearing from other forum members that Czech people found flattery superficial and cheesy makes a lot more sense to me now.
    One problem I do have with him is his discomfort of hanging out with my group of friends. He has been in the US for 3 years and only has foreign friends (mostly Czech and Russian). I am the first American girl he has dated for any length of time.... It is new and exciting for both us, I guess. I wish I knew a way that would make him feel more at ease in groups of people. Any suggestions?
    Another thing I have noticed about him- is that from the get go he wanted to be assured he was the ONLY person I was dating. I know he has a perception that American women are loose. (He told me the only other American he went out with asked him if he was gay on their third date because he didn't try to sleep with her.) I find this characteristic charming in him because you usually find exactly the opposite in American men.
    One interesting difference I've noticed, is that after a few weeks together, he was MUCH more emotionally expressive than I was- even being a woman. As soon as he trusted me all of a sudden he was MUCH more romantic than any American guys I am used to dating. He's big on holding hands and is always stroking my hair or using some form of affection. He asks me where I want to have my wedding, what my wedding song will be, etc. He actually had me kind of stammering at those questions feeling a little invaded....
    One thing that threw me off was that he made breakfast for me one morning and I had to rush out for an appointment. I left half of the yogurt/fruit cup he prepared for me.... Later that night he frankly told me that it was wasteful of me to leave that when there were starving people. I was kind of embarrassed and a little thrown off by that comment too. I just responded that I can understand why he feels that way, but I was in a hurry... Sometimes he seems a little cold by his comments like this, but he is very honest and not full of BS.
    One stark difference I see in him from the forum is that he thinks Americans are loud drunks.. I took him to a BBQ where friends hung out, socialized and drank beer- and he commented that at his friends (foreigner's ) barbeques they sang songs and played guitar in a park- NOT sat around drinking. (Also kind of hurt my feelings.)
    All in all, I can tell you I am falling in love with my Czech. His honesty and affection are unparalleled.... I wish you luck!
  14. Petronela

    Petronela Well-Known Member

    "finish your plate….. there are children starving in the world….what would they give to be able to eat like you….”
    I call it the “Ethiopia Syndrome”.
    I grew up in a very small south Moravia town where everyone knew everyone.
    To finish your plate, regardless if you were hungry or not, was a norm. From what I remember all my friends were raised the same way also. Even the dragon-lady cook in school lunchroom had the authority to make us eat everything she loaded on our plate (lol .. how we hated her for it)
    Of course that was good 15 years ago, but I wouldn’t be very surprised if it’s still the same. In small towns at least.
    As for tips on Czech men, sorry I have no experience there, I was 18 and naive when I left Czech and never dated anyone there, not seriously. (“while you at school and living under my roof you will behave by my rules and no boys” that’s basically reason why:p)

  15. iluvuma1

    iluvuma1 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the insight about Czech values in "cleaning your plate." It makes me feel a little better about the admonishment! Although I was embarrassed about his comment, I can't say I completely disagree with the philosophy... Actually, when I think about it, my Czech grandma is the same way. We would never eat dinner there and leave the table with anything on the plate. I thought it was more to do with respect for her cooking, (which is unbelievable) but I guess that's how Czech people are raised.
  16. mariposablanca

    mariposablanca Active Member

    THis discussion is absolutely facinating. I was asking my Czech friend about the napkin thing. He said, you just go wash your hands in the sink. He recently went and visited home after being gone for a long time. He was asking for a napkin and his brother said for what moron, go wash your hands in the sink :lol: He's becoming very americanized I think.
  17. mikebond

    mikebond New Member

    Ahoj! I'm a 21 y/o Italian boy. I'm very interested in the social practise of kissing on the cheeks in Europe. I have created a discussion group called "kissing on the cheeks in Europe", that all Europeans can join (Russians, Georgians, Armenians, Azeris and Turks included).
    A Czech member of this group wrote that people never kiss on the cheeks in Czechia and only close relatives sometimes kiss on the lips. After reading this topic here, I realize kissing practice is still quite confused in this country.
    Anyway, I would be happy if some European members of this site joined my discussion group.
  18. MissBrittany

    MissBrittany New Member

    Hello all!
    I'm new to this list and thrilled to find these kinds of discussions on Czech culture and life!
    My husband and I visited Prague in April of '03 and absolutely fell in love with the city. We plan to take an extended stay next spring, for 4-5 months.

    I found the above comments relating Americans to peaches and Czechs to oranges really amusing! I was born and raised on the west coast of the US, and have lived in and near Seattle for 20 years. Newcomers to our region are always complaining about how emtionally distant and cold we Seattlites appear to be. I think we are the same as most Czechs, in that we're not obviously outwardly friendly, but once you get to know, we are as warm as can be.

    I'm so pleased with this site and hope to glean a lot of information in the next 6 months!
  19. probinso

    probinso Member

    I am an American woman who has worked with Czechs and other Europeans for 10 years, and I've had the opportunity to visit Prague four times.

    The female Czech colleagues I have worked with for a long time and know well have taken to doing the "kiss on both sides" gesture, but that may be because we work with a lot of other Europeans who do that. They generally don't seem to hug. The Czechs I just met on this last trip, particularly men, did not seem interested in the kissy huggy thing; a handshake was just fine. (Unlike one English colleague of mine, a man who has decided that he likes kissing all the women very much and does it at every opportunity!)

    While I find that service in stores and restaurants can be a little gruff, one-on-one I find the Czechs I work with to be unfailingly polite, and a little more formal than Americans. I absolutely cannot go to a meeting in a Czech office without being fussed over and given the best seat and offered drinks, etc., repeatedly -- even with people I have known for years.

    Czechs also tend to be chivalrous -- while I often open doors for myself in the US, it never seems appropriate to do that in Prague if I am with male Czechs. Here's a funny story: I was going around town with three business associates, one Czech man, one Czech woman, one Norwegian man, and me, the American woman. We got on a tram where there was just one seat available. The Czechs immediately waived me into the seat. I sat, but thinking it a little funny I asked them if I maybe looked tired. "No," said my Czech colleague, "but you are a guest!" So I glanced over at my Norwegian colleague, and the Czech immediately said, "yes, Karl is a guest. But Karl is a man!" So, the rules are pretty clear.

    And about that clean plate thing -- it is a constant source of embarrassment for me. I really try, but in Czech restaurants the servings are often so massive I just can't force myself top finish. I have noticed my Czech associates looking askance when I let the server take away a plate with food on it, but I've decided that's the one thing I just have to live with.
  20. CanadianLove

    CanadianLove Member

    Hi all!

    Almost after one year, it is the time to revive this subject, I think :wink: .

    In July I visited my good friends in Poland and coming there I gave a hug to everyone. I guess, in PL people give a hug each other normally. Sorry, is somebody from PL in here to say more about it?

    Hugging in CZ?
    Going somewhere for longer time I hug my parents and after comming back home we do it again.

    And visiting my friends this Saturday, I think, I will give a hug to girls, coz I haven't seen them for months.

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