From Prague to Michigan

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by Dannae, Jan 24, 2008.

  1. Petr_B

    Petr_B Well-Known Member

    I believe that chewing food with an open mouth, to slurp (soup) or to smack is not a normal behaviour here in CZ. A public place or home, such a lack of basic table manners is generally considered to be disgusting and rude to the people you share a table with.

    I don't think eating a dumpling with hands is comparable to eating with chopsticks in a Chinese restaurant. I bet that to many people in Czech Republic, it's more like a Caucasian using chopsticks to eat western food in a western style restaurant in a western country - really weird at least.
    I can easily imagine some other customers staring at the people eating this way, thinking "These stupid Americans really don't have any manners, eating like pigs even in public." and strengthening their view of Americans as obese, rude and loud morons.

    I would be definitely interested in a thread focused on such differences between Czech Republic and other (English speaking) countries. Some are well known - like not taking off one's shoes at home, doors having doorknobs instead of door handles or having a toilet bowl and a bathtub in the same room (which unfortunately seems to have become common even here for new flats). But some things are not that easy to discover.
  2. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Well as much as you all say its abnormal behavior to CR, I've seen a lot of it and like I said, not just with his family, but any Czech people who become close and comfortable with us. Of course, it's not something one can prove because I like said, they don't do it in public, but only with those they are comfortable around.

    About eating bread dumplings with your hands: not to sound defensive but do Czechs not eat a slice of bread with their hands or do they eat it with a fork and knife. I'd dare to say, most Czechs pick up a slice of bread and eat it with their hands. I understand that it's hard for many Czechs to relate a bread dumpling to bread, but to Americans (who are not familiar with Czech dishes, it appears to be a piece of bread. Especially since I serve them dry, allowing others to fix their own plate.
  3. GlennInFlorida

    GlennInFlorida Well-Known Member

    I try not to be rude or loud and I don't think I'm a moron but, I am a bit "round" :wink:

    When I first got to Prague, I was surprised to find toilets (at least water closets) in flats located right next to the front door instead of in the back by the bedrooms like they are here - makes for a long hike if you have to get up and "go" in the middle of the night. It is, however, more convenient when you first get home or just before you leave.

    As far as toilets and tubs in the same room, Ihave one bathroom that has all 3 (sink, toilet, and tub) in one room and the other bathroom (off of my bedroom) has a sink and toilet in one room and a shower in another. But both bathrooms are well back in the house near the bedrooms.

    I have a door handle (well, sort of - it is a levered "knob") on my entry door and knobs everywhere else.

    I go barefoot most of the time at home (even outside - this is Florida) but don't expect anyone to remove their shoes when they visit me.

    Anyway - what other things can we think up? :D
  4. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Americans tell family members they love them whereas Czechs don't usually.

    Americans tell their children they can be anything they want to be (which is a flat out lie) whereas Czechs seem to be more honest/realistic with their children.

    American children tend to do less chores and are more mouthy with their parents whereas many Czechs would smack their child if he got mouthy, even in public.

    Americans usually end a phone conversation with the significant other with "I love you bye" "I love you too bye".

    American couples tend to be more affectionate, holding hands while driving in the car, kissing hello & goodbye each time they separate/come together again.

    Czechs tend to be more crass than Americans in speech - such as "That guy is a moron" or like someone said here "I'd rather have a ton of Czech immigrants than a bunch of Mexicans" Americans tend to sugar coat everything out of fear of offending someone.
  5. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member

    Well, I think that I know why this misunderstanding.

    Because Americans consider bread to be something what Czechs call "toast bread". And even the shapes, which more resemble to "Czech" bread are soooo soft, ouch (99% of cases). If I want to eat "a tasty Czech bread", I have to make one. No offence, that is what I am used to, sometimes I have cravings for "normal Czech bread" - which is not that soft with tasty, crunchy crust. Something you can stirr your butter, jelly etc. on without fearing you will tear bread apart ... Yes, we have toast bread too, but the "regular" one is way more common.

    So Czech cannot mix bread with dumplings, no way. And dumplings are much more known as a side-dish in CR, not as a bread too.

    P.S. as for the table manners in CR: the only thing what is allowed to be eaten with hands is bread (as far as I know). Otherwise you must use utensils. This applies even to chicken (the only exception is when you are served a bowl with water and a cloth napkin to wash your hands). Some people might eat pizza with hands but I do not think this is generally accepted - the majority use fork & knife.
  6. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member

    Nice summary - I just posted my comments some of your statements in italics:
    American children tend to do less chores and are more mouthy with their parents whereas many Czechs would smack their child if he got mouthy, even in public.
    Accurate; but I smack my mouthy son regardless where we are anyways.
    American couples tend to be more affectionate, holding hands while driving in the car, kissing hello & goodbye each time they separate/come together again.
    This - I think - depends more on temper than nationality.
  7. ollie1

    ollie1 Active Member

    One thing i did,t try when i was in Prague was the bread, but i will try this when i go back in july. Can you advise on the recipe for czech bread and can it be made in a bread maker ? :) :)
  8. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    What about french fries, hamburgers, crackers w/cheese & sausage, potato chips, chicken wings/celery sticks, raw carrots, an apple, dried apricots, a bagel...etc.

    Americans don't typically eat with their hands either but there are plenty of things we do use our hands for other than bread.

    I know what you mean about the European bread. While growing up (with only toast bread) I hated sandwiches and didn't care for bread at all until I met my husband. We have a couple of Polish, Lithuanian, & other European bakeries here so we buy good bread. Also, we go to the Czech deli/bakery in Chicago often and purchase many items such as svičkova, bread, & a bunch of yucky stuff only the Czech people enjoy. :wink:

    I'm surprised you don't have a lot of European stores in the Detroit area? :shock:
  9. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member

    OK, but I spoke about table manners. So if you buy hamburger with french fries at McDonalds, than yes, you can eat it with hands. Maybe it can be considered as an exception - I mean when you bring McDonalds home, yes, you can eat it with your hands but the majority of Czechs would at least put the burger on a plate (if at the table). If you eat it outside, that is fine. McDonald is somewhat different, it is very hard to describe it (because this fast food did not originate in my country).

    But if you are eating dinner & you are having french fries as a side dish, you have to eat it with fork & knife. The same applies if you are eating hamburger=karbanatek (but we generally do not use buns at all) so karbanatek is considered to be meat and served with potatoes, fries etc. on the side (with mustard, ketchup, tartar sauce - depends on preference).

    Crackers you can eat like a little snack while watching TV with your hands, sure, but I will hardly serve crackers at the table (destroying the soup by adding crackers is not a Czech habit). Potato chips as a TV snack - eating w/hands is acceptable but I have never seen anybody serving potato chips as a dinner dish nor side dish. This US habit gives me goose bulbs in the same way as eating pizza and drinking pop (pop = Coca cola, ...) does.

    Cheese and sausage (sliced) can be put on top of your bread for breakfast or they can be served on party trays. In those cases yes, hands might be OK but on most parties it is an unwritten rule to use fork or at least toothpick. You put slices on your plate by using special serving utensils (looks like spoon & fork) and you eat it with fork.

    Chicken wings: we usually do not have those as a dish but if those are served at the table, there should be a bowl with water too so you can wash your hands. If there is no bowl, you are supposed to eat them with fork & knife (well, if somebody breaks this rule, it is somewhat accepted; I just state the official table manners).

    Celery sticks: they were driving me nuts, because I consider the top part of celery a garbage - we basically use the root only. Maybe now you can get some celery stick over there, I do not know. On the other hand it took me 1,5 years to find a store where I was able to buy such an essential ingredience for cooking as celery root is.

    Raw carrots etc. - at the table, there are supposed to be eaten with utensils. As a snack, with hands. Similar applies to apple or dried foods - but those are (at the table) mostly served as a dessert and eating dessert has a little bit different rules.

    Bagel (if you mean rohlik, houska) - it is treated like bread. Same with baguette.
  10. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member

    If you buy a baquette in Czech republic, the USA or who knows where - it will NEVER taste as great as an original French baguette does. The same applies to Czech bread. :cry:
  11. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member

    One more thing:

    I just thought about eating/not eating with your hands in my (CR) culture. I might be now mistaken, but I believe that Czech people will much more likely eat something with their hands at home even if they are not supposed to (reminds me Dzurisova husband's smacking lips) but they will never do it when they go to the restaurant (fast food - McDonald, hot dog in bagel=parek v rohliku etc. is somewhat accepted as far as eating with your hands go because we perceive it as a fast food, not a restaurant; but I know many people who would never eat while they are walking on the street).

    On the other hand eating in a restaurant is a public appearance which means you must 'behave'. Unless it is absolutely necessary you do not eat with your hands (maybe today's teens are different, I do not know), you use proper utensils for every dish etc. - O.K., I will try to compare American and Czech restaurant here a bit. American from my perceiving I got mainly from Michigan and a few other states I have been to so far.

    I will not speak about Seros or other family dining restaurants (cheap eatery); let's talk about some average restaurant like Friday's, Chillies etc. (where you pay $50-$100 for a family dinner).
    It took me a while to get used to local way of eating out. It is just different - one thing, that still bothers me a bit is that (except for really fancy restaurants) they do not have tablecloths on tables. For Europe (if it is not a part of the global style of the restaurant) absolutely unacceptable. Another thing is that the waitresses do not wear uniforms but mostly jeans like everybody else (also weird for me). So here you walk in, they have you seated (in many cases they wipe the table right in front of you), girl asks you what do you want to drink. The drink (e.g. coffee) comes in the way like she takes the cup which is already on the table (who know for how long) and pours coffee from the jug. Usually they spill it - or they spill water etc. In some cases they have packed cream in bowls on the table. If they don't, she just brings those small packages it and throw them on the table. Once we ordered a bottle of wine. This girl brought it OPENED (!!!) and poured it right in our glasses (I almost had a heart attack :shock:). In CR, if you order e.g. coffee (well, coffee you usually order when you are done eating, but this is not a condition; also if you offer your guests coffee it means you politely tell them they should leave soon after they drink it), it comes in a coffee cup with cream & sugar on the cup's plate. If you order more, they bring you a new cup. Tea comes in a tea jug & you get your own cup & plate under. If they bring extra lemon etc., they always bring it on the plate. If you order a glass of wine, they bring the full glass (same here), but if you order the bottle, the waiter is supposed to bring it unopened, show it to you and after your approval open it; than pour a bit in a glass of the person who tastes it. And only after the person (usually the oldest man at the table) tastes it and finds it OK, they may pour it in glasses of everybody else. Because if you order a bottle, it means a bottle (if it is already opened, who knows what came in it before they brought it to you ???). In the US there are not many restaurants where you get your coffee or tea cup with a plate under. I know, this is a small difference, but European person it might perceive downgrading.
    I can skip the fact that in many - even average restaurants - they "throw" your utensils on the table (does not matter if they wrap them up in a napkin or not) instead of putting them in the eating place of every person served. On the other hand the waitress in US normally comes 3-10 times while you are eating and she asks you if everything is O.K. Well, in CR, at least a few years ago, you were lucky they even noticed your were there (I do not put all the blame on Americans).
    Another thing what a person from Europe will notice right away is that e.g. sour cream, butter, shrimp dip etc. almost always comes in plastic containers. Again, if I had a restaurant, I would be ashamed to serve my guests food in this way. In my (maybe cricked) mind if I pay for eating outside, I want to feel good, I want to eat in style which means plastics has no space here - because it looks cheap. I can swallow it at McDonald's (even though I know for many Czech families eating at McDonald's or KFC equals to a Sunday dinner simply because "they feel different") but I cannot accept it in a restaurant where I easy spend $100 for one appetizer, few drinks and 3 steaks.

    The last think what comes to my mind ... it took me some time to realize that if you answer to the waiter's question "are you all set?" - "yes", she brings you your receipt in minutes. In CR you must expressly say "I want to pay". And again, in many restaurants the waiter just puts a receipt on the table (well, some have a special folder for it which I find much more proper).

    So my experience from US restaurants is following: they give you much more attention compared to the average Czech restaurant while you are there, while you are eating (and they "kick you out" when you are finished). But they somewhat lack the sense for details as Europeans do and - honestly - even though sometimes in CR I had a feeling that the stuff was not fast enough, the overall cultural satisfaction was much better in CR; simply because the "table culture" and the sense for details is better.

    As far as the details go: once we went to Frankenmuth for a family reunion. My sister in law was all excited and she told me "this place reminds me when I was in Germany, this is a little Germany we have here !!!". :? Fine - from a distance the city somewhat looked like a little Germany. From a distance. But when we got closer, I noticed that buildings completely lacked any details, so typical for Europe. I must admit, in Frankenmuth waiters wore "bavarian" uniforms. But some of the girls had a black skin :shock: (they have many Africans in Germany, indeed :lol:). O.K., I just hope we will meet our family at a different place next time.

    For table manners addendum
    (I hope this is the last think I believe I should compare as far as eating habits go): so far I did not noticed Americans care too much for a meaning of a different utensils used. I do not think they distinguish too much between coffee, tea, bujon (broth) or soup spoon sizes. Or appetizer, entree etc. fork & knife sizes. So far I have not seen "fish knife" at all over here. For instance at home I do not look when my husband eats soup. Because he likes it in a bowl (not in a soup plate) and he eats it with a tea spoon - he says the regular soup spoon is too big for him. Well, I suffer but I keep my mouth shut because this is his way he was brought up and I do not want to hurt him. Unlike my older son (13) who started to bring "American eating habits" home; but he failed because his "crazy Czech mother" simply will not let him eat in the "American" way in her presence. Shame on her, right? :wink:

    P.S. this is not only my husband. We went to Seros' one day. I ordered spaghetti but they brought them with fork only. I asked for the spoon and they brought me a tea spoon - and they said that was the biggest spoon size they had :shock:. Oh my Gosh, they do not know you are supposed to eat spaghetti with fork and a big (soup) spoon ???!!! :roll: HELPPPPPPPPPPP :lol: :lol: :lol:
  12. stepan

    stepan Well-Known Member

    Dannae, you have a real problem - no just kidding. You are correct that ther are things done in the US that are very diferent than in Eurpoe,a nd visa versa.

    Sure do not, unless you go to a more expensive restaurant. Many that consider themselves "European" will have table cloths and some will have a table cloth and cover it with a piece of glass. Table cloths are an expense and washing them is another expense as is ironing them and it takes time to put them on the tables. They are nto used because of the cost.

    Again, some restaurants provide shirts to thei employees with the restaurant logos. However, this is a cost, so many just let the wait staff wear what they want. Also, again, the better restaurants do have the wait staff in uniforms.

    Service is good, but some wait staff OVER do it and others UNDER do it. Not many have a happy median. I don't like to put the last mouthful of food into my mouth, put the fork/spoon down and have the palte whisked out from under me.

    I guess it all depends on the type of restaurant you go to.
  13. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    This is the key! Everything that Dannae complained about happens in more expensive restaurants. I think the difference is in price in the CR and price in the US. Most Americans expect what they pay for and if they are only paying $100 for a dinner for 4 including alcoholic beverages, they do not expect all the luxuries that one would receive in a fancy restaurant.

    Chili's or TGIF's or Red Lobster (restaurants you would spend $100 for 4/inc alcohol) give you shrimp sauce or extra dressing in a glass container. You must go to Long John Silver's to get it in plastic (and pay 1/4 the price for it). If you've gotten in a plastic container it's because the waitress made a mistake and grabbed the "to go" container.

    Perhaps the reasoning for the difference is that restaurants in CR can provide these luxuries (table clothes, plate under coffee cup, cloth napkins) at a cheaper cost than in the US, therefore one can have them and still keep the prices to the same as Chili's or Red Lobster or even cheaper. For example: Perhaps paper napkins cost more in CR than it does to have them dry cleaned or hire someone to wash them or even the restaurant owner would wash them himself -- if there's one thing I've noticed about Czech's, they don't mind more work if they save money; whereas most Americans would rather spend the extra money for convenience.

    When it comes to Chili’s and table cloths, the owner isn’t going to give it to you for nothing. You’d just pay $110 for your dinner instead of $100.

    Either way, it boils down to the fact that you get what you pay for. Here in the States $100 is an acceptable cost for a going out to a dinner (non fast food) for 4 including alcoholic beverages. If you want more, it's not that American's don't have it or don't find it desirable, it's just that it cost more and you must pay for it.

    Also the restaurants you were referring to such as Chili’s, TGIF’s, or Red Lobster are also catered to young adults which is why the staff wears jeans and the waitress didn't know that she is suppose to wait to open the bottle of wine at the table. The type of people who eat at these places, don’t usually order a full bottle of wine. Those restaurants are catered and designed to reach young people who are looking for a COOL place to hang out and eat with friends before they hit the bar.
  14. gementricxs

    gementricxs Well-Known Member

    It's interesting how the two cultures differs in detail. It's also about tradition. You can find the tablecloth in even the cheapest restaurants or restaurants in countryside and so on. People are used to have tablecloth, sauces in glass containers, waiters in "some kind of special cloth" and so on. People are used to it and expect it, so the restaurants do it, even though it could be more expensive. People wouldn't want to go to restaurants without tablecloth, with plastic containers, ...

    It's also interesting how waiters treat customers in CZ and US. As you said in US waiters come to the table pretty often and ask if you are okay. In Czech, waiters do watch you, but come to the table only if you seem like you've finished your meal or need another drink.

    Interestingly enough TGI Friday's took the american customs to the Czech Friday's. I've been few times at Friday's at Anděl and it seemed to me really annoying that the waiter would come to the table and ask me if I like the food and so on.
  15. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Most Chinese restaurants, no matter the price, only give you a fork. To get a knife you must ask for it. I always find myself searching & wondering where my knife is before it dawns on me that I’m in a Chinese restaurant so I’m not going to get one unless I ask.
  16. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member

    To dzurisova and stepan: guys, I know that everything here in US, depends on money you spend - BUT - this was NOT my point. My point was in CR it is a standard; in the US a matter of money = matter of how much I am willing to spend. But this attitude is not ok in my book, sorry. Customer should be treated in the same way if he spends $0.50 or $100. It just gives a good name to the business and it shows the level of the business too. Good level, good reference.

    Sorry, my point was that regardless how much you spend in CR, you still have a standard - but the same does not apply in the US and this is not OK in my book. You are a CUSTOMER even if you spend $5 and YOU deserve you cup of coffee with a plate under. Definitely and no discussion about it.

    I understand, you are both Americans - but European sense for details is very appealing to us. Believe me

    And if some restaurant hires a waitress who does not know how to open a bottle of wine, it is the risk for the restaurant. Because next time I will send it back (I already feel sorry for the girl). But my point was elsewhere - girls working in the area they do not have a clue about ...

    P.S. to Stepan - I do not have a problem; that bottle of wine I sent simply back :wink: .
  17. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member

    I Chinese restaurants I ask for chops sticks right away; I cannot eat Chinese food with fork & knife.
  18. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    To be treated with the same respect yes, but to say that everyone should receive the same goods (ie table cloths & linen napkins vr paper) without paying extra for it doesn't make sense. Not even in communism do I think that everyone got the same goods regardless of $$. You get what you pay for in all respects.
  19. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member


    Perhaps your complaint is not in that America doesn't have these luxuries, but the how much they cost. :)
  20. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member

    Here we go - sorry guys, you are wrong here. In CR it does NOT depend on the type of restaurant you go to because all maintain a certain level of cultural standard (costs are not the priority). But since Americans are not perfect in details or they are annoyed by them (not sure) they transform this into a statement "you get what you payed for". In my book this is a bullshit.

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