Saturday, March 28, 2009

Living as an American in the Czech Republic



Hi Everyone,
Welcome to Czech Off the Beaten Path! Today this blog is one of the participants in the World Blog Surf Day which is being sponsored by Golden Prague. Thank you, Golden Prague, for organizing this blog hopping around the world!! There are many expats who are participating--it will be fun to read all of the posts! We are supposed to talk about what it means to be an expat living in our new homes. So, here goes...at the end of this post I'll give you a link to the next expat blog!


Living as an American in the Czech Republic has been a very eye-opening experience for me on so many levels. I remember when I first came to visit my then future husband, Jiri. I was so excited, but also nervous to be visiting a former Soviet bloc country--and a place where my own great grandparents had come from! That trip was my third outside of the US...so I was not as new to traveling, but to be visiting an Eastern European country (as we called it then--now we know better and say "Central European" country!) was quite an adventure. My parents had visited just after the Velvet Revolution and they had a wonderful time here. They loved the people and the country. So, from their visit I knew a little of what to expect, but it was still more of a mystery and an adventure for me! After that initial visit, I made several more, including the trip here for our wedding--in Prague.

I learned that the Czech people (such as my husband's family and friends) were just as curious about me as I was about them! We all had some misconceptions to get over. I think everyone expected I would be one of those "ugly" Americans--the kind who give us all a bad name and don't make for very good travelers or expats! I know some of our guy friends were afraid I was going to turn out to be a feminist! Czech men are very intimidated by Western feminists! Czech guys were at one time told all American women were feminists!! And me...I wasn't sure what to expect, except that this was a very male-dominated culture--so wasn't sure what that would mean for me! Well, they were surprised...I'm not so much of a feminist...and this male-dominated culture is just that, and Czech men have a certain amount of gallantry that is really nice! So, things have worked out in that way...no problem.

Living in a foreign country tends to have a big effect on a person. You learn more about the country you are living in, but you also learn a lot about yourself. You see your own prejudices from someone else's perspective, you learn just what you're capable of doing (you can gain self-esteem), and more. I'm not sure how the experience of living as an expat will change me over time. My basic selfhood will not change. But I do believe living outside of my own country will broaden my thinking on many subjects...and might lead me to some surprising conclusions. Who knows...I feel the changes happening, but am not yet able to see just how I've changed...or how I'm changing. I moved here just over 2 years ago...so I'm still fairly new at this expat life!

This has been and continues to be a great adventure--one I'm happy to be having, in spite of being a reluctant expat in the beginning! I want to see and learn more about the Czech Republic and Europe...and other countries, too...I want to learn more about the world we're all living in...and more about you all, too...my fellow expats!

Speaking of that, it's time to close this post and hand it over to Roz at ! Roz is an expat from the UK who has moved to Australia. She shares about her life and experiences in a fun and insightful way! So, here's to you Roz...your turn in our World Blog Surf Day!!


You all have a great day!!!

God bless,
Sher :0)

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28 comments:

Rebecca said...

I really like your posts. I love learning more about life in other countries, and it's neat to see it through the eyes of a fellow American.

Sher said...

Hi Rebecca,
Thank you...Being a part of this World Blog Surf Day has been really fun...and interesting. The others who are participating have done such a great job...everyone's post is different and very insightful.

Sometimes being an American overseas is a real "job!" We are representing our country...and people are interested in our perspectives and how it falls in line with their own ideas about the US. There is a love/hate relationship between the US and the rest of the world...it's really been an eye-opener for me living in Europe--and seeing and hearing the different views people have about our country and about Americans!

I have been one of those very naive Americans...but am learning a lot on the "outside" now!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Romancing Italy said...

Hi Sher,
Wow, I am sure it was not an easy task moving to a place like the Czech Rep with only a little travel experience. The differences are very evident. You are always upbeat so it seems you have been adjusting just fine. Besides, having a wonderful family makes a HUGE difference.

Hugs,
Bev

Sher said...

Hi Bev,
Yes...it was quite an undertaking and I was very reluctant when I first moved! All of my family--my kids, parents, brother and grandmother are all back in the US...so is my dog, Pal! I miss them all very much! We stay in touch on a daily basis (via Internet) which helps alot.

This blog was really to help my mind-set after moving--to help me focus on my new place and what it had to offer. It's been great therapy! :0)

I still get homesick sometimes and miss everyone back home, but I've made a home here with my husband--including a couple of gerbils--and this is where I live...for now! Who knows what the future might bring! :0) But one day I would like to move back to the US.

Anyway, thanks for visiting...I was finally able to leave a comment on your blog via IE rather than Firefox!! I've wanted to leave comments several times...but only today tried the other browzer...and it worked just fine!

Have a great day!
Sher :0)

Golden Prague said...

There is an old saying "Home is where your heart is." Perhaps we just have to get our hearts to settle happily in a new country and the rest will follow?

Sher said...

Hi Golden Prague,
Yes...that saying says it all!! There's another one, "Home is where you hang your hat."

Both of these apply...and that's what has happened to me. I'm happy living in the Czech Republic...this is where I hang my hat! My heart is in both places--here and in the US--but that's OK...I'm not feeling split in two!!! :0)

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Garry said...

Hi, I enjoyed reading about the adventures of another expat, who is clearly enjoying her new life in a foreign land.

Internation Musing said...

Sher, I bet you, living in a foreign country will broaden your horizon. In fact: all Americans must be send 1 year abroad after highschool (not through the army..)).
Let me recall where I lived:
Amsterdam, Irvine-California, Amsterdam, Turnhout-Belgium, Amsterdam, NYC, Amsterdam, La Spezia-Italy, Paris, London, Waldorf Germany, Amsterdam, Prague, Amsterdam, Miami, Istanbul (I also stayed for a while in Greece and Portugal but didnt live there, and visited 42 other countries..))
and i was 44 when I moved to Istanbul...need to travel again..))
kindest
hans

Martin In Bulgaria said...

Hi Sher,

I agree totoally that moving to another country is where you find out about yourself and what sort og person you are. This sometimes is hidden in familiar territory and tiral and tributlations are never have to be dealt with and that is part fot he adventure disocvering yourself.

Keep the flag flying high Sherry

Journeys and Adventures said...

I agree that there is a bit of pressure as an American overseas--and as an American that's lived overseas for more than twenty years, I feel it's gotten harder. (But, I was also a kid for many those of years and I may just be realizing it more now--as I learn more about myself, like you said in your post).

This has been fun...

Sher said...

Hi Garry,
Thanks and I enjoy your blog, too! We're definitely on an adventure--all of us!!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Hans,
Yes...I wish that was required, for sure! I would want it for my own kids if the money were available to do so!!

Wow...you've lived in so many different places! That's great..and I'm sure each place has taught you something different...it can't help but be the case!

Where would you like to go next if it was time for you to move again?

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Martin,
Yes...you are so right! I don't think you necessarily have to be an expat to have all the ups and downs and trials and tribulations...but the ones encountered outside of our home countries are surely different than what we would experience if we had never left!

I'll work on keeping the flag high...I'm not along in this...we all work on holding the flag high!

Have a great day!
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Journeys and Adventures,
I hope it didn't sound like it was a horrible job to be an American overseas! It's not...but it is definitely challenging. I've had friends here, Czech friends, who have said that many around the world have always looked to the US for guidance and to be an example...wow...that's a huge burden for the US to carry!

Anyway, I'm glad I mentioned this and you have confirmed it, too. It's not just my inexperiencedness showing through! :0)

You have a great day,
Sher :0)

Internation Musing said...

Sher:
Back to Italy, where i'm made.)
kindest
hans

Roz Andrews said...

Hi Sher

Thanks for a very interesting post. I didn't know that the Czech Republic was a male-dominated society!

What you say of the American stereotype is interesting. As with all stereotypes, there is perhaps a grain of truth in it. I have heard Brits being referred to as either 'rude and arrogant' or 'quiet and reserved.' Although most of us are somewhere between those two extremes, perhaps it is Brits in those two categories who have been more noticeable abroad and that is why these stereotypes have developed.

Best wishes,

Roz

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

An excellent post, Sher! I love how you've embraced your expat life and your new family in CZ. I can't wait to read more of your posts, too! I agree that expat living has totally broadened our view of the world. I can't wait to learn and see more!

Sher said...

Hi Hans,
That's also a dream of mine...just a dream...but sometimes dreams do come true! :0)

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Roz,
Yes! The Czech Republic is very male-dominated. You can see this in business--there aren't many women in high positions within the companies. This is slowly changing...but emphasis is on the slow!

However, this being said, the women here do have a way of overcoming this! Did you ever see "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"--where the mother was giving advice to the daughter about marriage. The mother said that the husband is the head of the household, but the wife is the neck--that turns the head! I love this analogy...and this is apparently how Czech wives are with their husbands. It's pretty interesting! :0) So, while the country is male-dominated, the women have their way of dealing with the situation!

About being an American overseas--it is interesting. I have not had anyone treat terribly for being an American here, though. But people here are free with telling you how they feel about the US...I heard soooo much against Bush when I first moved here! People are happy that Pres. Obama is now in charge, but they are a little wary--they don't know what to expect from him, though they do have high hopes!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Just a Plane Ride Away,
It's definitely an adventure...and if you can survive the initial time of adjustment, it becomes a little easier...and very enjoyable!!!

Good luck on your journey!!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

American in Britain said...

Sher,

You are leading quite an adventurous life and your post is enlightening. My brother visited Czechoslavakia, back when it was Czechoslavakia, and loved it. When I took a European tour over ten years ago, we did not include any Eastern European countries (both Americans and Brits still refer to them as Eastern rather than Central). In books, this Eastern/Central European area is described in such glowing terms that I do regret not having seen it. But, if we stay in the UK, it will be easier to visit many parts of Europe.

Sher said...

Hi American in Britain,
That's one of the best things about living here and in the UK! It's not so expensive to visit another part of Europe...and not such a long trip as it is from the US!

I'm happy that my husband is able to take me with on some of his trips! I enjoy it so much...getting to see things I've only dreamed about seeing. I'm hoping one of these days to get to the UK, too!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

*lynne* said...

hi Sher,
That's quite a leap you took, heading to the Czech Republic with not too much exposure to the country, to travel, etc. So now you've got to fill in the blanks - how did you meet your hubby? :)

Addressing or dispelling the Ugly American perception is a little difficult, isn't it? It takes just one obnoxious person to spoil it for the rest. But it's good to do what you can in your own sphere of influence :)

I enjoyed reading your post. Sorry it's taken me this long to sit down and officially comment on it. I'm only now managing to follow the chain of blogs. Better late than never?! :D

Cheers,
*lynne*

Sher said...

Hi Lynne,
It's never too late!! :0) I'm a bit late with this comment moderation, too, due to yesterday's ordeal!

Yes...that's the thing--trying to dispel some of the myth of the "ugly" American in our realm of influence...I just hope I'm not being an "ugly" American and no one's telling me!!!

And yes, moving here was quite a leap for me...at this time of my life!! I'm not what we call a "spring chicken" (I'm not so young!)!!! Midlife presents it's own perspectives and experiences...so does being an emtpy-nester--and then to add in a move to a new country...Ach jo!!! What was I thinking????!!!!!! :0)

Well, so far, I've survived to tell the tale...it is has been great therapy to try to cope with becoming an empty-nest mother! :0)

Have a great day!
Sher :0)

dayflyer said...

Hi Sher

I enjoyed reading your post as I'm catching up with the World Blog event. We moved to Greece 15 months ago and it feels like we've been here forever. This too is a male dominated society which, as a woman used to taking responsibility for lots of things, both personal and work related, I find both attractive and frustrating at times.

Having said that I've met some pretty feisty Greek women. No doubt you and I'll both survive the experience!

Sher said...

Hi dayflyer,
Yes...I agree with what you've found there in Greece! Being an independent woman in a male-dominated culture has it's charms! But at the same time, it is a bit of a challenge to find the right way to manage when you're used to our American culture. Maybe you can give me some tips on how you make it work! Truly! :0)

I'm sure we'll both survive to tell the tale...and have everyone laughing when we do tell it! :0)

It's great you found World Blog Day!! We had a lot of fun...I think we're going to do another one...you should check out Golden Prague at http://prague.today.com for more information. You should add your blog to our next surf day!!!

Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend!
Sher :0)

r. huynh said...

I know this is an old post, but I stumbled across it as an American who has just moved to the Czech Republic with the intention of being an expat (attracted here by the vibrant arts scene).

I was preparing to get harsh treatment as an American abroad, and then I found out it was just the opposite. Too much the opposite, in fact—when people find out I'm American, they start saying all these things about how America is great, how they want to visit NYC, or showing me how many of the 50 states they can name. It's not that I hate America, but I'm aware of its flaws and sometimes this reaction makes me uncomfortable.

I was going to just chalk it up to the after-effects of lustrace, and maybe people seeing America as the opposite of communism.

Sher said...

@r. huynh: It's great to hear you're having a wonderful experience here, in the Czech Republic as an American expat. Czech people are warm and friendly once they see you are not a "dangerous" American. It also helps if visitors to this country are respectful of the culture and people here. That goes a long way to opening doors with the locals.

I wish you all the best with your adventures living in the Czech Republic!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)