The Duality of the AmeriCzech

Czech Republic Grunge FlagEver since attaining my Czech permanent residence last month, people have been asking me, “So, do you feel more Czech?” And though I’ve been blowing this off with a laugh, I have to admit that the question did intrigue me to my sock-and-sandal wearing core.

It’s hard to live in a place for a decade and not take on some of the customs and habits, right? So, last night, as I partook in an age old Czech custom (sitting in a pub) and an American one (hating soccer) at the same time, I was inspired to jot some notes on the battle that is raging inside my torn body.

The battle of the Czech vs The American


My daily diet now involves pickled things: pickled sausages, pickled herring, and pickled cheese. If it’s not pickled, then it’s in oil and has peppers and onions. And every time I eat it, the American side of me says: Dude, that’s like totally gross. And then he suggests that the Czech part of me uses Listerine.

When I first came to Prague a thousand years ago, I had a steadfast dislike of all things frou-frou in the world of morning food, namely Muesli and yogurt. I viewed these things as the rabbit breakfasts of tree huggers, vegetarians, and Czechs. And now I can’t go a day without them. Sometimes I eat them while singing the American National Anthem through a waterfall of shamed tears.

However, I have still resisted a lot of the Czech dining habits. I still cut bread and put the meat inside of a sandwich. The Czechs don’t cut bread; they simply place meat and cheese on a roll and tuck in. This is a travesty against the tradition of sandwiches, but then again I am in a country that knows nothing of the Reuben, the Corned Beef Special, or the Turkey Club. It’s amazing that they still have a will to live.

Moreover, I can’t seem to drink beer at lunch. Yes, I know. The Czechs love their beer and a typical Czech lunch will involve some sort of fried meat, a lot of potatoes, and a small (or a not so small) beer. Initially I found this too good to be true, but soon found that the combination of meat, potatoes, and beer put me in a grumpy afternoon coma. Also, I associate beer being done with and relaxing, so to have one beer and then back to work was just a tease

Public Enemy Číslo Jedna

Something has occurred to me recently: I have become a starer. I don’t always stare for the same reason. Sometimes it’s a pretty woman, sometimes a guy has a mole that looks like Fred Sanford, and sometimes you just want to connect the dots with someone’s face acne. But one thing is for sure, this is a Czech thing. The Czechs love to stare at people, long and hard. There is no shame. Though it’s a bit disconcerting if you’re not used to it, you soon realize it’s not an aggressive thing. If you live here long enough you come to accept the fact that people are going to state at you.

And now, that people is me.

I may stare, but I smile at strangers. This is the American in me, because as anyone who has ever been to the Czech Republic will tell you, smiling at strangers is most definitely not a Czech thing. I do this because it is always been my nature to smile at someone rather than scowl. In addition, there is nothing more fun than watching a Czech person collapse into a state of horror when someone they don’t know smiles at them in public.

And yet my smile disappears on public transport. Instantly. I roll my eyes at those having loud conversations and grumble when an old person gets on. I judge everyone for their inability to exist on public transport without pissing me off or stepping on a part of my body. But this seems to be localized to public transport, because I now greet everyone everywhere. When I walk into a pub, get on an elevator, walk into a shop, I say dobrý den (hello) and when I exit I say naschledano (goodbye).

In the end, I still understand how to walk in public without getting in everyone’s way, so I think the American is winning this section of the battle.


As far as the Czech customs go, I am not completely Czech yet…but I am getting there. I haven’t killed a spider in five years; even the ones I find near my bed. I name them and ask them to leave me alone and bring me money. Spiders are considered financial good luck and as an educator in the Czech Republic I need to bolster my fortunes in that area as much as humanly possible.

That being said, I don’t walk under ladders, even though Prague construction workers love leaning them against buildings I am walking along. I also do not open umbrellas inside, though the most common way to dry a wet umbrella seems to be opening it and then sticking it next to my desk. I still avoid dog shit as though it’s a shoe born plague.

I met a chimney sweep once and felt as though I was kissing the Pope’s hand. If you’re Czech, you understand. If I ever avoid drinking water after eating cherries, I am buying a cottage and renouncing my American citizenship.

In agreement

The Czech and the American in me seem to agree on the fact that women are fantastic, that beer was created on the 8th day, and that Vladimir Putin is a total jack wagon.

Final Note

I do feel happy and proud to have been immersed in a totally different culture for a fourth of my life. It’s allowed – and sometimes forced – me to take a different point of view in areas in which I had become set in my ways. It’s been at once a pain in the ass and a unique gift. And though I make fun of the Czechs at times, it is done with love. Whether thinking as a Czech or an American, I consider myself a very lucky man.

But soccer still sucks.

  1. #1 by greg galeone on April 18, 2014 - 6:52 pm

    They do stare at you. I can remember thinking “What is the problem with this clown” as he seemed to be trying to stare me down. I may have to go back and apologize to the guy for my thoughts Damo.

Comments are closed.