Czech vs American 'Personal Space'

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

  1. Martina

    Martina Active Member

    Hi everyone,

    I agree with Dana, hugging and saying "Mam te rada" is not common, and when its used it has a meaning. I do hug with my best friend of 10 years, and I tell her sometimes "Mam te rada" and that is when I haven't seen her for longer period, or when I am leaving for longer period. (Same with family, mostly closest family.) And I do it because I mean (I love you as a friend, you are very close to me like a sister, we understand each other well), and because she's been a great friend to me for a long, long time. So Czech people don't hug often but when they do, it has a strong meaning. However, in Slovakia is hugging a lot more common than in Czech Rep.
    I think most Czech people don't like the hugging, because it just seems phony or fake . When you first meet person I don't see reason why should you hug them? You don't know them and it just is really awkward to hug a stranger. Maybe you won't like them after talking to them and never see them again. Most common is just to show respect by shaking hands while introducing and to smile. Some people will remain strangers to us or distant for a long time or even a lifetime because you know each other only casually and neither side is interested in becoming close friends. As for running to the table, it depends what is the occassion for the meeting, if it is a dinner meeting between close family and friends etc. and they are maybe hungry, that's why they run to the table. :p However, it is impolite to leave too soon after the meal. But even if they go to the table it doesn't mean you have to serve them right away. You are the host and you decide when you are ready to serve the meal to your guests. Most people though eat first because they have the meal hot and ready and don't won't it to get cold. We don't use microwaves in Czech Republic as much as in U.S.A. and mothers call us to table when meal is hot, and get angry when we don't come and it gets cold as it is extra work for them to warm it up. However, some things are changing as people more travel abroad and become more adjustable to the american or other way. And then it will just become a personal preference. After all you can always ask.
  2. Martina

    Martina Active Member

    LOL, yes, why to waste napkins when you can wash your hands!!! :lol:
    Same with food, we are not raised to waste anything!!
  3. SMZ

    SMZ Well-Known Member

    This issue of using paper napkins is very interesting. I've never thought of using them as a replacement for hand-washing and doubt that many other people in the US would, either.

    I was raised that you wash hands prior to eating and use a napkin to wipe your mouth or hands during eating -- for example, if you are eating something like a sandwich and get mustard on your fingers or mouth. I suspect that most people in the US would consider it bad manners to lick the mustard off their fingers; you use the napkin to clean them off.

    In addition, the napkin lies on one's lap to protect clothing from crumbs that may fall from a fork or plate.

    It's funny how something so commonplace in one country is seen as unneccessary in another -- and makes travelling and learning about other places so interesting.

  4. maruska

    maruska New Member

    This is a fascinating topic. I am half czech and wow, I had no idea that my little differences from others were based on culture. My mom is one of the Texas Czechs and 1. no hugging, 2. no napkins, 3. kind of stand-offish to outsiders, 4. no waiting around for food, 5. no food wasted. I am the same way. My family came to the US in the 1870s and still there are so many similarities with Czechs in the Czech Republic today!

    I have a note about the food wasting topic: I remember one time watching my aunts and my grandmother at a family gathering eat every single crumb off their plate sometimes using their pinky finger to get every last bit and noticed myself doing the same. I think we do it, yes, out of respect for the cook, but mostly because food is really good and we like to eat!

  5. GlennInFlorida

    GlennInFlorida Well-Known Member

    All I can add on the subject (of napkin use) is that if Czechs ate bar-b-que like we do here in the South, they probably would sure enough use napkins. Ain't no one can lick fast enough for a full plate of ribs. :wink:
  6. Shyamal

    Shyamal New Member

    This is such a pertinant question, because I had this very conversation with a Czech girl that I met in the UK. First of all, she said it was not normal for a "boy" to randomly approach a girl (referring to how I introduced myself to her). Apparently girls meet their boyfriends through family and friends. Secondly, with regards to the specific issue being discussed, she said that it is not normal to hug friends (as we do in the UK or US) and people might get the wrong idea. Having said that, it didn't stop me being affectionate and she seem to appreciate my warmth.
  7. Eva2

    Eva2 Well-Known Member

    This debate makes Czechs appear like cold fish. Being shy of hugging and kissing doesn't mean that there are no warm feelings underneath. This is nothing but cultural conditioning. I have a friend here in Canada who is Franco-Ontarian which means that she was brought up in both cultures. I could observe her many times as she greeted either French or English friends. With the French it was a smile, a handshake and, at the most, tame kisses on both cheeks. With the English (especially Americans) it was hugging and squealing with joy. She was equally glad to see both sets and simply followed the established protocol.
  8. magan

    magan Well-Known Member

    probinso: you can order 1/2 portion, if you cannot eat it all. You won't waste money or food. (and Yes, I am Czech by birth).
  9. Ziggles

    Ziggles New Member

    I would like to thank everyone who has participated in this discussion!

    I’ve learned a great deal about

    (1) Czech values (introverted versus extroverted),
    (2) Cultural differences (in regards to displays of affection),
    (3) The importance of napkins,
    (4) How napkins are not important, :p


    (5) Why I should always clean my plate! :wink:

    Seriously, I appreciate all the viewpoints and information shared here. This website is a tremendous resource.

    Thanks to you all!

    -- Ziggles
  10. Luciaviolin

    Luciaviolin Member

    Hi CZfan,

    Czechs don't use napkins (no reason that I can think of) but they do use forks and knifes. Here in America, everyone seems to be fine with just a fork, unless they have a steak. My dinner hosts find me a bit excentric, because I just can't eat without a knife! Isn't that funny how your upbringing betrays your origin.
  11. Qcumber

    Qcumber Well-Known Member

    I spent a summer with three US families in Pennsylvania and in the Washington D.C. area at the beginning of the 1970s. I spend two weeks with each of them. In two of these families, everybody ate with their fingers. As a European brought up to use a fork and a knife, it was extremely embarrassing.
  12. pedro33

    pedro33 New Member

    Hi Jonathan,
    You can actually find some czech tutors right here on this website under language section. There are few tutors in Brno with contacts too.
  13. petri

    petri Well-Known Member

    "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."

    This could well happen with finnish guests! :lol:
    This one is a example why I feel so connected to Czechs! 8)
  14. Eva2

    Eva2 Well-Known Member

    Being a true Czech I still can't handle the social preliminary to dinner. Being both hostess and cook is exhausting. I hate handing out drinks and indulging in strained conversation while the soup is thickening on the stove, the meat is drying in the oven and the salad needs to be tossed. I follow the social rule but I can't help thinking: Can't we just sit down and dig in, for heaven's sake! The company thaws faster while eating anyway.
  15. magan

    magan Well-Known Member

    Eva, I feel exactly like you do. (I am born Czech living abroad). I have trained my daughters' family enough that when they come for dinner, we get to it soon after their arrival. We can talk over dinner much better than when I have work in the kitchen. They have small children and cannot stay long into night.

    However, with our social circle, I find it difficult to be at two places at the same time and wonder how other women do it if they don't have a spouse to entertain in the meanwhile. We have our chored divided and my other half always takes care of the guests before and after dinner. While drinks are served and they get into talking (for ever) I have nothing else in my mind overcooked/cold dinner. I wish I have a maid to serve, but my time is in the kitchen and I miss half of the conversation which nobody ever repeats to me as they think "I was there".

    My preference would be no drinks and talk before dinner and dinner served just 10 min after arrival. If I would be late and need an extra time, before dinner drinks would be served.
  16. Eva2

    Eva2 Well-Known Member

    Quite so, Magan. I too resent being excluded from the conversation while I'm attending to my kitchen duties. Once everybody is seated, I can truly relax and enjoy both the meal and the company. I think that the main difference is that in our system the guests are allowed to linger after the meal, satiated, in mellow mood and inclined to develop topics of conversation that began at the table. In short, we take time after the dinner rather than before it. Serving coffee an cognac is not a signal for the guests that the evening is over. Quite the contrary!
  17. magan

    magan Well-Known Member

    Quote: "I spent a summer with three US families in Pennsylvania and in the Washington D.C. area at the beginning of the 1970s. I spend two weeks with each of them. In two of these families, everybody ate with their fingers. As a European brought up to use a fork and a knife, it was extremely embarrassing."

    What were they eating?? Truth is that we have lots of "finger food" on this continent. BBQ ribs, chicken (any parts), fried chickenm, french fries, corn on the cob, PIZZA, etc. etc. It could be something to be discussed.

    My Czech friend, on other hand is using fork and knife eating pizza, looking like some surgeon disecting it. I wonder how would she eat BBQ ribs and other food common in North America.

    Here in Canada: When I am am dining in good company and place cloth napking properly on my lap I always feel like it is expected that I would be dripping gravy down to my lap. Why do we do that??

    Oh these social and cultural differences... :roll:
  18. Qcumber

    Qcumber Well-Known Member

    Magan, I don't remember the food served, but whatever the food, they ate it with their fingers. Watching them handling tomato slices was big fun for me.

    The worst case, but I suppose it was unusual, was this mother who poured her baby's food directly on the dirty tray of her baby's chair. She explained me the little girl loved to play with her food. When I asked why she didn't clean the tray, she said it was clean enough! I told this to the other families, and they said they'd never do that.
  19. GlennInFlorida

    GlennInFlorida Well-Known Member

    ugh! I can't imagine anyone doing that (baby food on a tray). You say it was the early 70's - are you sure they weren't latter day hippies zoned out on acid?
    We do have a lot of finger food here in the US, but some things are never eaten with fingers (can you imagine eating soup with fingers? No way). I will admit to having gnawed on a pork chop bone or two but only after eating virtually all of it with a fork and knife and never if the chop was served with gravy.
    Such generalizations don't serve any of us well. I had always heard that the French were aloof and condescending but, I now have a friend who is a Paris native and he completely contradicts that stereotype. He is and was outgoing and friendly from the moment we met.
  20. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    Tomato slices...if they were eating salad with their hands, that is definitely bizarre. And pouring food right onto the babies tray?? BLECH! How hard is it to put a little plastic plate on there for the food?! I think you just had bad luck with host families, Qcumber. Like magan said, there is a greater variety of finger food on the western side of the Atlantic. I think almost anything with bread is generally eaten with the hands, unless it's very drippy or crumbly - hot and cold sandwiches, tacos, pitas, hot dogs, etc. And of course pizza. As foreign students in Europe my friends and I used to snicker at the Europeans daintily cutting their pizza into little bite-sized pieces. :lol: But it is normal for Europeans in general to use bread to clean their plates after eating something with lots of sauce, isn't it? It's certainly normal in Spain, and they have no problem using their fingers for that.

Share This Page