Monday, December 11, 2017

Cross-Cultural Wedding Anniversary

At first glance, it would seem that a Czech and an American would have plenty in common when it comes to culture and society. Wrong! Think about it for a minute. My Czech husband grew up under the communist regime, while I grew up under capitalism. Not only that, we have the “East/West” cultures to deal with, along with many other differences. 

Now don’t get me wrong—Jiri and I had plenty of things in common from the beginning, but we didn’t really “get” many differences until two years after our marriage, when I moved to be with him in the Czech Republic.

Our Language Differences
Over the years, we’ve regularly faced language issues. Our relationship has been mostly conducted in English. One of the biggest problems we faced after I moved here was with my use of American slang.

We’ve also developed our own form of “Czenglish”—not proper Czech and not proper English—that we understand most of the time. However, when I through in some American slang, and all bets are off. 

Funny Arguments
Jiri and I would get into an argument and I would burst out with some slang—nothing offensive and no bad words—just normal everyday slang used back home. When that happened, Jiri immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was using bad words and calling him bad names. Nothing could be further from the truth! However, that feeling does add a different dimension to a fight.

So, right in the middle of the fight, we’d have to back track to the slang I had used. I had to explain what it meant, and that it wasn’t offensive in any way. By the time the explanations were over, the fight was forgotten (most of the time!) and we were laughing and making up again. This was just one aspect in our cross-cultural marriage we had to deal with. There have been many more over the years. 

Proper Etiquette & Other Issues
If you want to fit in to a new culture as an expat, then you'll need to try to dress and act like those in your new home country, along with learning proper manners, etc.  

Jiri had a lot to teach me about proper Czech/European behavior, etiquette and other issues. One of the hardest issues for me has been talking too loudly in public spaces. Americans, we don’t know it, but we’re very loud and boisterous in public, compared to many other parts of the world. Here, in the Czech Republic, people are generally soft-spoken in public. You rarely hear anyone raising their voice unless there’s an argument involved, football (soccer) or alcohol. People here laugh and talk, but do it quietly in public areas.

Well, me, I’m quiet by American standards, but Czechs knew right away I was a foreigner--an American or a Brit (they couldn’t tell from my accent)--because I talked and laughed louder than Czechs nearby. This type of behavior’s not appreciated by Czechs. They will give you dirty looks. Someone may make some comment in your hearing or tell you directly that you’re being too loud and unruly. 

I had a really hard time “toning it down” to a Czech level, especially when happy to be with my husband. Nowadays I blend in sound-level-wise, unless I’ve just come back from a visit back to the States. Then I have to “flip the switch” to my proper Czech way of being and doing. J

Home Shoes (Pantofle)
Another issue is removing your shoes when entering your or someone else’s home. This was really strange for me. You’re supposed to take your shoes off to keep dirt and other yucky things from coming into the house on your shoes. Czechs typically take their shoes off in the entryway of a house or flat, then don “home shoes” (pantofle), which are slippers and clogs. You can also choose to go stocking-footed, which is what I usually do.

Most homes keep a set of home shoes for visitors. You just never know how many feet have already worn those slippers. So I usually just stay in my socks, or sometimes even take my own home shoes. I have to say that these days I’m a complete convert when it comes to taking off your shoes before entering a home. It really does keep the dirt and other stuff out and keeps your floors in better shape and cleaner.

One note—if you’re fortunate to be invited to a Czech friend’s home, be sure to wear socks with no holes! Socks with holes will embarrass your Czech friends and you’ll look like a slob who doesn’t care about your appearance in their eyes. J

Wearing Lace in Public
Lace was another issue—it wasn’t acceptable to wear lace in public for a long time. In Prague, this rule has been relaxed over the last few years. But in smaller cities and villages, don’t wear lace when out and about. It’s seen as something provocative and attention-getting.

The first time I wore lace it was to a party at Jiri’s office. I had on a nice shirt that had Battenburg lace on the collar and it was cut out, just showing the collar bone. Nothing else was bare. Even so, that lace drew a lot of attention and I was pretty embarrassed. I have never worn lace in public again. J

As I’ve said, these days, especially in Prague, the dress code as broadened to include lace. I don’t think many, except maybe some older people, would find it any strange now. 

Although, I have to say it's still awfully confusing on why it's OK to sunbathe naked in public spaces, but you couldn't wear lace. It boggles the mind.

Today’s Our 13th Wedding Anniversary
On this day 13 years ago we became husband and wife. The years have proven there’s still much to learn about one another. Each new life experience we face together means having to find that common ground that brought us together in the first place. We’ve managed to successfully bridge the gap thus far and continue to work together to forge our love in this most intimate of cross-cultural exchange called marriage.

That’s all for now! Have a great day!

God bless,

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