Reactions: Americanization for a Czech in 2 years?

Discussion in 'Culture' started by BMoody, Dec 21, 2006.

  1. BMoody

    BMoody Well-Known Member

    For those who haven't read what I've been up to before, here is the story. I'm going to the CR from the first of Jan. to the 14th. My girlfriend, a Czech national, has been there since the 8th of this month, and we coorespond through Skype.

    The past three times I've talked to her she has been bummed out. She has always been so excited to go home after being gone 2 years, but now that she is there she is seeing it in a whole new way. Here are her positive and negative reactions:

    "Prague is so gray and dirty..."
    "People dress in wierd fashions that don't work, and their clothing looks 'worker.'"
    "There is no customer service and people are rude."
    "I'd never drive here! They are crazier than in Las Vegas!"
    "My father got on my case for buying clothes and presents here. He complains that I don't spend my money well even though this money is for material stuff. 20 dollars doesn't mean much to me anymore I guess."
    "People's faces are so... I don't know... worn and old. They don't smile that much."

    "I love the food! It's so great to not have to worry about preservatives or bad food!"
    "The air is so clean! It's nice to have humidity and fresh air."
    "It's great to see my family. The relatives always ask me "so what," about my stay in the states and I don't know how to answer."
    "Everything is so cheap!"
    "We actually have a garden out back now, and it's beautiful!"
    "Everyone is excited to talk to me about America!"

    *** I think my little Czech girlfriend has been Americanized. She said to me over Skype the other day that after we graduate from UNLV, she wants to stay in America, or work in Western Europe somewhere. She says that there would be no hope for us career wise in the CR, and that she doesn't want to end up with one of those drawn faces. Before her trip, she loved the idea of moving back home after college, but I guess she just got a reality check. She has lived in the U.S. for 3 years in all since she was 16, and she probably has yet to realize how much our culture has effected her. Here are some factors that I think she struggles with:
    1. Americans often smile to greet even passerbys, or in stores or resturaunts. Just about anywhere. Grimaces are frowned upon... get it? lol... anyhow...
    2. Americans often have a lot of money for cars, phones, computers, and clothes compared to Czechs. Her idea of the necissities of life has changed since she was younger.
    3. America offers more educational and occupational oppurtunity. Here, when we graduate (MA history, and BA Italian/French), we both will make around 45,000 a year at least. That's 90,000 a year! In Czech, as I've seen, we would make around 24,000 together at the most! *taxes would butcher that number a lot too.*
    4. America is such a blend of fashions and peoples that you can really fit in most anywhere you go. Perhaps she stands out like a sore thumb with her American clothes in the CR.
    5. Drivers are awful anywhere in the world, so no comment there.

    Just looking for reactions. I was just thinking about it all and thought you all might find it interesting. I'm still excited to visit and will draw my own conclussions... I still think I'll rather like it ;-), but it's compelling to think that my little Czech has changed her views so quickly.
  2. wissy

    wissy Well-Known Member

    This is a great post. I'm neither American or Czech so not really qualified to make a comment but here goes anyway.....
    I find it sad that your lovely girlfriend has become more negative about CR and has gradually become Americanised (please don't don't take offence at that). I suppose that any young person would be drawn to materialism, fashion and financial ease so i can't really blame her for that. She must be encouraged to feel proud of her country, history and heritage and to not loose her sense of belonging to CR. She has something that many people on these boards are searching for.
  3. IvanRu

    IvanRu New Member


    Your post is interesting.
    My experience: I'm Italian and I live in the north-east of Italy with my beautiful czech wife. She has been living in Italy for ten years so it is quite a long time.
    We normally come back to Czech Republic once a year and we stay there for three weeks.
    Anyway during the past years she has gradually changed her way to see the Czech lifestyle which now she defines as "awful".
    I think that if you live for quite a long time in a foreing country you adapt your mind to the local way to think and to act.
    It is normal.
    I think that the only way for your girlfriend to not get alienated to Czech things would be to stay in touch with Czech people and things, but I understand that California is quite far from C.R. then it is much more difficult than being already in Europe as we are.


  4. kopretinka

    kopretinka New Member

    My husband is a Czech national and just recently returned to his village after being gone for 8 years. 8 years he lived in America, 8 years gone from the country he spoke so much about.
    I told him before we got there that he'll see his country in a different light, he said no. I said he may be shocked, he may not be as proud of it as he once was, he said no. Within one day of being back in his country, he agreed with me. You really can't go home again.
    Everything your girlfriend said.. my husband said. Even if she went to a different country, I think that would shine a different light on Czech. But when she gets older (I'm assuming you all are in your early 20s?) and has children, Czech will seem a lot better. For now, as young people it's not as shiny and new as America, but when you have kids and become settled in life.. you want that stability, that earthiness, that living history, and the strong tradition. She'll feel home again.
    That's just a personal experience though. My husband had a hard time seeing how poor people were, but I told him how rich they are in life. Every time he had a negative, I came out with a positive. I know he loves his country, but it's so hard to go back home.. you see things with different eyes. I feel (as a wife) it's up to me to love it for him even more than he does.. to make sure he never loses sight of where he came from.
    Sorry I got off on a tangent there, there's just not many people that I can say this to that would understand.. or even care.
  5. IvanRu

    IvanRu New Member


    I disagree. I do not think that BMoody's girlfriend will feel home again when will be older. You can feel home in a place only if you constantly keep in touch with that place. And if you live abroad for such a long time it is normal that your mentality will get adapted to the local one, this is the natural process of integration.
    The more you get integrated in the new culture, the more you get detached from the previous one. I do not know if it is easy to allow the coexistence of different minds in one person.
  6. BMoody

    BMoody Well-Known Member

    Wissy- She is attracted more and more to those material things as she moves out into the workforce. She makes $9.50 an hour at her part time job, and she is figuring out that one really needs much more money in life. She works her butt off with 15 credits of school too, and pays for it all herself. Because she works so much and has access to convenience, she wants her highspeed internet, her 24 hour markets, her fast car, and free cell phone use. It takes the edge off a faster lifestyle. She is used to these things now, and her once familiar home probably is seeming strange and very uncomfortable because she has had such an intimate memory of home.
    I do agree that she has that something that the people on these boards are looking for, but I think she carries it with her whether prideful or not about the CR. She has a Czech attitude that will always influence her life. Moreover, she still wants to visit the CR as much as possible (which would keep her roots), yet she wants to live elsewhere because of the economy I'm sure.

    Ivanru- Interesting that our situations are so similar. I hope my gf has the chance to visit home more often... I'll probably drag her off to museums and castles, and give her speeches about this historical person and that, and perhaps her interest will tinge again. She is nationalistic, but I think she suddenly has forgotten the good things that make her so prideful. Perhaps she just has to rediscover it in something?

    Kopretinka- I always give positives when my girl gives negatives as well. It's in my nature to be combative, lol. I do agree that it is very hard to go home again, and I really like your idea that it's our job to make sure our partners don't lose sight of their heritage. I will definately keep that in mind! And yes, we are 21 and 19, however we think of our futures more than most at our age. We think of healthcare, insurance, housing, autos, wages, location, children, and education. We've had to struggle with many of the said things before, and they are not distant issues to us.

    The stability and oppurtunity America offers is prime. You suggest that later we will want that "earthiness" and "living-history," but I'm inclined to say that we want that right now. Nevada's desert and casinos aren't our way, but Oregon's mountains, trees, and rivers might be! Living-history applies to us everywhere we go. America is rich in the past, and in the making. I can attest :-]. You just have to know where to look! And have a plane ticket to Italy of course ;).

    Ivanru- Speaking of Italy, I meant to mention that Italy is our ideal spot to live someday. Once we have retirements and all that, we dream of a quaint little house on the beach somewhere in Italy. Some wine, some pasta, and some music... peaceful and full of the richness of life... This life could be quite wonderful if we pull it off.
  7. gypzy

    gypzy Well-Known Member

    You could also send a letter to "ask Ivana", Ivana Trump the first wife of Donald. She has an advise column in the Globe tabloid. Not that I read tabloids much :wink: lol. Not only does she have an advise column but she is also Czech who became a model at a young age and traveled the world as a young girl and married an American. Who knows you could get your letter in the Globe!
    As you say your gf was 16 when she came to the states, now 19. She was a teenager when she left, now she's a young woman. I recall my personal difs 'tween 16 and 19. I saw things differently at 19 then I did at 16. I think that is the same for most people transitioning between teen and adulthood. Even if they don't change towns, states or countries. Possibly the differences she's noticed now in her hometown aren't any different than when she lived there. Just that all teenagers live in there own world. Of course I don't know her or you, so I'm just making generalizations.
    Help her see the good things about her homeland and the good/bad things about the US. I'm sure there is no perfect place in the world. Only in heaven.
  8. wissy

    wissy Well-Known Member


    Just curious. How come she came to the USA at 16? :shock: Such a young age (pre-university). Did she come alone?
  9. EmcaTanecnice

    EmcaTanecnice Active Member

    It's true what they say, you can never go back. I spent a year in the Czech Republic as an exchange student, and it was so much different then how I'd spent the first 18 years of my life. Mostly things like school, family, and such. I'm from a small town (ok, ok, a "village" of 2,000) and I moved to Olomouc (105,000). Only after moving back to the US for school, and being in yet another new "home" for six months, have I really come to accept many of the differences of my two lives. American, and Czech. There are many things I love about the czech republic, and many things that I don't love so much. Just like with the states.

    Anyways, my point was that she can't be very objective right now, becuase it's so emotional for her to be "back" and see things through different and older eyes. I'm going back (but not really?) in March for maturitni ples (umm, Graduation Ball? that doesn't translate well) and I know that I will be different, and my friends will be different, and very little will be the same...but that doesn't mean I still won't be shocked. =D
  10. JJJ

    JJJ Member

    What the OP describes happens quite often.

    Sometimes it is justified but more often it is just a sign of the lack of mental stability; maybe some complexes involved.

    You can often detect this attitude among emigrants - many of them really nurture their hatred towards the country of their origin in order to justify (sub-consciously?) the fact they have left. But at your GF's age I would not take it very seriously. Lot of simple-minded au-pairs feels the same after they see the shopwindows at the Oxford Street or Champs Elysees.

    Btw, this story about returning from "rich" USA into the "poor" CR, repeated here over and over, sounds sooo obsolete.

    It was maybe topical some 10 years ago but it is a bit worn off today, especially after the dollar sank so substantially. I am quite sure my (material) standard of living is way above that of an average American, despite my income is not really tremendous by contemporary Czech standards. When I travel to the USA, I can live there like a king with my Czech salary, taking into account the current exchange rate and the fact many products are much cheaper in the USA than in the CR.

    PS: I fully respect when an Italian criticises Czech fashion. It's completely understandable as the entire world must bow to Italians when it comes to style, fashion, food etc. But it's a bit funny when an American (or an "americanised" person) sees ANY other nation's fashion as inferior... It's a bit like Brits criticising Czech (ore any other, for that matter) cuisine...
  11. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Wow JJJ, perhaps you don't mean it this way, but your last two post, (the one above and the one about the golden piglet) give an impression of judgement and superiority.
  12. JJJ

    JJJ Member

    And what's wrong with judgement? Not appropriate for our brave new post-modern world????

    But to say that judgementalism is bad is rather judgemental, isn't it?
  13. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    I think it'm more ancient bible thing ;)

    Anyway, there is nothing bad on judging if you stand your own judgement from others.
  14. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    One can make judgements. However, when combined with superiority, it tends to alienate those around you. If one is looking to be alienated, then I suppose it is a good thing for them. However, one usually joins a message board to make connections.
  15. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    I've never met a Czech who has comes to America and lived like a king on his Czech salary. As far as I can tell, the average wages in the Czech Republic are about 20,000 ČK (source) , with the current exchange rate at about 20 ČK to the dollar (source). That comes out to roughly $1000 US/month or US $12,000/year. From another source, I found that the average American's annual salary is about $40,400, with a worker at minimum wage making about $10,700. So it would seems that the average Czech makes slightly higher than the US minimum wage.

    So to live like an "average" American, it would seem that you would need to make over 3 times the average Czech salary. I'm curious what contemporary Czech standards consider "really tremendous" with regards to salary, and what part of the USA you are able to live like a king in.
  16. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    I know some people on top manager positions, who have sallary between 100-200 thousands Kč per month, but it's definitelly rare.

    Good programmer can get sallary up to 60 000 Kč

    Of course, successful enterpriser can make much more that employee.
  17. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    Okay, so maybe that isn't so rare now. I guess I've been gone from the Czech Republic for too long.
  18. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    There are of course quite big differences between - for example - Prague and Ostrava.
  19. Polednikova

    Polednikova Well-Known Member

    This has all been very interesting - thanks everyone.

    My vote definitely goes to Prague. My father was Czech who escaped to Britain in 1940 and joined the RAF. He met my mother and stayed in the UK until he died in 1982. I suppose this is what was behind my partner and I moving to Prague from London a month ago and already, I don't think we'll ever go back - I feel as though I have 'come home'.

    We have a lovely flat - much larger than we can afford in London and enough money to live reasonably well. London has too many people; the public transport is dire and although I'm only too well aware of ex-pats complaining about 'rude, unsmiling Czechs', at least on Prague public transport, you don't have to put up with badly behaved teenagers, screaming children whose mothers don't care about the disruption they're causing, people eating fast food and just dropping the wrappers on the floor... I could go on and on.

    And actually, I have encountered more genuine kindness in the last month from Czechs than I would have done in London.

    Finally, admitedly I am not 19 but I have found it very liberating not to have to 'dress up' all the time, and in particular, not to have to wear high heels! It's nice to know that you are not being judged by your clothes and how fashionable you are.

Share This Page