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Tales of a Serial Expat: Prague Sixteen Years Later

An American writer returns to work and live in the Czech capital after nearly two decades away

Illustrative image
Illustrative image

Tales of a Serial Expat: Prague Sixteen Years Later

An American writer returns to work and live in the Czech capital after nearly two decades away


Published 19.04.2017
Last updated 19.04.2017

I arrived by misfortune. A stay in Venice had fallen through, and with no backup plan, I called a buddy with an Airbnb in Žižkov. Deposited on the corner of Ondříčkova and Čajkovského Streets, late in the frozen morning of January 23, I was given a key and a handshake, and left to Prague.

In 2001, I’d taught English for the Caledonian School, crisscrossing the city to meet with students, like a car exec who made me promise to always always buy German, or a self-proclaimed crazy Russian forcing vodka down my throat while showing me topless pics of his wife under a waterfall in Greece.

Would it still be the same? Had rents and restaurants bloated to New York price points? The new, Twitter friendly name for the country, Czechia, seemed to indicate this direction.

Would that intoxicating mix of history and grit still perfume the air and stain the buildings? Or had Starbucks and IKEA buffed it to sterility?

The author in Prague, 2001.
The author in Prague, 2001.

Of course, my own memories of Prague are admittedly hazy and suspect. Did the announcer’s voice on the metro (Ukončete, prosím, výstup a nástup) actually used to slink from the lips of a Czech Brigitte Bardot when today’s warning seems issued by a ticked-off librarian?

Similarly, had Klub Újezd, once my ideal of Czech barhood, now redolent with stale urine and cigarette smoke, changed or had I?

Certainly my profession in Prague had, arriving this time as a journalist, with only the need for Wi-Fi to make my daily chléb.

Such an arrangement would not have been possible in 2001, when email remained the main purpose of the Internet which was only accessible in scheduled half-hour blocks in the school computer room. Now firmly wired into Prague, it provides sustenance, but sadly not easy conversation in the city’s increasingly laptop-silent cafes.

Bohemian countryside, 2001.
Bohemian countryside, 2001.

Luckily, the new Prague still adheres to the old values when it comes to healthcare.

As an American, the shockingly low $67 bill for a check-up last week was nearly enough to cause a heart attack. OK, the clinic did look as if it could easily moonlight as a ‘70s’ porn set, and my doctor was perhaps not entirely professional—remonstrating “that’s not drinking,” after I admitted to 5–8 beers per week—but it’s nonetheless miles better than the paralyzing fear Americans experience at even the prospect of illness.

It’s also moments like these that remind me why I’ve always preferred life in the former Eastern Bloc: authenticity and humanity. While Western Europe paints the town white, cities like Prague, Budapest, Zagreb, and Tallinn still betray the black soot and brutal reality of the region’s history, keeping them freer from affectation and facades.

This is no longer true of Wenceslas Square, however, which is far more under control today than in 2001, when a boot added a permanent dimple to a friend’s face, a fist took another’s wallet, and both threatened on me by mafia enforcers if payment was not forthcoming.

Prague Golden Lane, 2001.
Prague Golden Lane, 2001.

Today, my money goes to the Ministry of the Interior in pursuit of a visa, as tightened rules make it impossible to simply re-cross the border every 90 days as I once had. In 2001, moving to Prague was as simple as booking a flight; today, it means applications, affidavits, certificates, insurance guarantees, notary stamps, and bank transfers.

But two months into the experience, I’m overjoyed to find most of the changes purely cosmetic and the artistic core intact. This is immensely reassuring among the raging dumpster fires of global politics and means I get to wake every day up with hope outside the window. 

Prague may never appear as magical as when I was 26, but it feels more of a home than it ever did. Let’s hope the ministry agrees.

 

Send your personal stories about life in Prague and the Czech Republic to editor@expats.cz.

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Thanks, no need to apologise. Alltagsgeschichte is more objective approach towards understanding past and present because when the history is usually written by the winners it might not be always objective. I could not find any English expression for it and when it comes to talking about something like it I would use this expression even in Czech.

07.52.06 19.05.2017

Hey D.Brux,
Thanks for your reply and let me apologize for the delayed response. I agree with your statement: "One needs to look at everything, in every part of the world, every part of the history, in the context of the past and recent." And also, I've learned a new thing, "Alltagsgeschichte" (which I immediately had to google - see how I'm completely off topic with these things, thank God this is not a live conversation). Hope to continue this thread or another one as interesting as this one soon. Will follow you now.
My best, Lorena.

20.04.17 15.05.2017

Hey Lorena, it is of course horrendous what has been happening in your country. Let us hope this all shall flow into some better setting allover in the near future. I personally have limited knowledge about your country and can hardly establish what are the main and real reasons for the current course there which is crisis after crisis. I mean what has been why and what the consequence. Would be great to have your point of view. One needs to look at everything, in every part of the world, every part of the history, in the context of the past and recent. Context of ´Alltagsgeschichte ´ within the clashes of superpowers and all that in the climate conditions and available resources. That is what I have been trying to explain in this thread - because the discussion slipped to a superficial thinking about two socialistic and capitalistic worlds. That won´t get you anywhere and you will never understand a single part of the history. If one does not understand where people come from he will have difficulties to socialise with them. So when you take a break from your science few more words from you would be nice.

13.18.37 04.05.2017

Agree. I'd like to add tho, if I may, that I've had to literally abandon my country because it has crashed down economically, socially, etc., mainly due to a falsely-predicated 'socialism' and while this isolated event holds no relation to Europe or any of the topics discussed here, it's caught my attention how two views -capitalist versus socialist- can be so nauseating when taken to the extreme or when discussed in absolute terms. And I apologize for the use of a rude term like 'nauseating', couldn't come up with a nice synonym. The capitalist will always say it's the best system, proven to work efficiently, etc. The socialist will forever deny this and will always believe that socialism is better even though it hasn't always worked out well. The two systems seem to be like siblings fighting all the time, but always close to each to other in a way. For example, my country (Venezuela) embraced 'socialism' (again, not the real thing, but rather a hypocritical attempt) due to the consequences of a previous -brutal- capitalist government. Clearly, a balanced system would be ideal, but I suppose every country needs to find their own formula based on their historical heritage, etc.
Sorry for the long post and please continue with your discussion. I'm a scientist, not a journalist or a political expert, nor I've lived in a thousand countries (which by the way holds no merit to me when such experiences are lived as a British 'expat' with luxuries and merely any real contact with the local society and culture -sorry-), so I'll limit to read.

12.09.37 04.05.2017

>>your best friend sociology.
Sociology is as woolly and as disconnected from the real world as Karl Marx and his idiotic theories.

17.06.39 02.05.2017

Without Karl Marx you would not have your best friend sociology. He came up with most of the terminology you use to express even your praise of capitalism. But I am afraid it is all obsolete today, isn´t it? He took Hegel -
and we all believe in his, put in a simplified way, his dialectics....and implanted diaspora experience on it. It works in times of threads, war conflicts - like in modern Israel, social instability...Look at the new French soon to be president.

16.06.08 02.05.2017

>>All countries in those years, nationalised the remains of their industry.

This is what socialism means (according to your friend Karl Marx): the state owns the means of production. You are right that there was partial socialism in the UK.

15.53.29 02.05.2017

I did not ask for the second time.
I suppose you have got lost somewhat in this thread.

15.49.06 02.05.2017

Socialism after 1948? You must be joking. Ration-cards were distributed, people were still arriving from German and Russian working camps. There were still some rests of Werwolfs in the Slovakian forests fighting back. The country was still in ruins, the industrial sites namely. All countries in those years, nationalised the remains of their industry. Your Labour comrades by the way, handed out one piece of their rolls-royce jet engine to the comrade Stalin so he was able to build MiG 15 from it later. You are right however, that this year means the beginning of the illegitimate communist regime in our lands. But who could possibly know what it would all bring.

15.47.58 02.05.2017

But actually it was socialist from 1948 onwards. The socialists stole people's property and then, over the following four decades, proceeded to destroy it. Just as they have done everywhere else in the world when they have been given a chance.

>>The businesses and the land did not belong to the state, do not make this mistake.

The state owned and controlled the means of production. The people owned and controlled nothing.

15.34.21 02.05.2017

>> I know Czechs and Americans making really good friends, with again, very poor communication skills in different languages, sharing interests in history and local archeology.

That's great, and it does happen - very occasionally. I have come across two examples in almost two decades.

14.58.35 02.05.2017

You asked me that before! Yes, I do.

14.57.26 02.05.2017

I have realised that many people in England currently blame their Labour Party and some minor EU social experiments for their misfortune and their own very personal mistakes.

12.33.37 02.05.2017

Hello, by the way, did not have any chance to respond faster (days off with kids). What is the Czechoslovak ´Socialism´. It appeared with the new constitution in the year 1960. The communist back then using all the skills gained from nazi Germany and Stalin Soviet Union were finally sure they finished off all their opposition: business and land owners, the church, the peers, artists, national minorities (Czech ´Austrians´, Germans, Hungarians), or for instance, soldiers that fought against nazis from abroad - did not need to be England only. They were displaced, made emigrate, locked in jails or simply bone-broken. Some Czechoslovak officers from the Red Army ended up in uranium mines, too. Even people who spent years in nazi camps went for trials. I am no lawyer but I believe the 1960 constitution also prepared the road to federalisation of the country. One appeared in 1969 finally, great achievement for certain ex-partisan Slovakian communist wing that never reconciled with the reappearance of
the Czechoslovakia many of them, including Gustáv Husák, dreamt once of Slovakia being one of the Soviet Union Republics.
What was the difference in 1960: The communist declared themselves to be the ´nation´. They represented themselves as the only tong of the nation. The businesses and the land did not belong to the state, do not make this mistake. They were of ´national´ownership, so again, the party did own the companies. In business, all decisions were made by communists. Their structure allowed them to pass the decision to the party high ranks or when needed, even to Kremlin. So nice system of no personal responsibility. Changing the form from ´national´ enterprises to ´state owned´ companies appeared only in late 80´s, when the communists were trying to catch their last breath. Communists in Poland or Hungary did not make it so far, their republics still remained ´peoples´, with some allowance of the private property. On the other hand Jugoslavia was a ´socialistic´ federal state, despite of which it did allow private ownership, some sort of private business or even capital investment from abroad.
Czechoslovakia did not. If you invested a foreign capital from abroad - you gave it to the local communist party that redistributed it.
So again, there was no socialism in this country even though it was named socialistic. It used to be a dictatorship same like Castros Cuba has. That is actually good example: Castro followed Czechoslovakia very much. We used to have many Cubans in the eighties for work in chemical industry. Ask Zuzana Tvarůžková if you know who she is.

11.15.13 02.05.2017

I have very different experience. Just two examples - I know Czechs and Germans (non of them speak really either language) who are friends because they share interests in local ice hockey. I know Czechs and Americans making really good friends, with again, very poor communication skills in different languages, sharing interests in history and local archeology. So is it perhaps you who is in eyes of the local, worth meeting to practice a foreign language only?

10.51.59 02.05.2017

I have only tried to explain you Mr. Brux' s mistake. I do not exclude that Mr Brux may also be an interesting philosopher, of course.

Nevertheless, I am afraid that Mr Brux confuses idealism with socialism. I think it's not the same.

Masaryk was an idealist as a thinker and he was a pragmatic politician as well. But I would not call him a socialist.

On other hand, Mr Havel may be labeled as a modern socialist, just like Ms Merkel.

09.38.57 01.05.2017

Well, i was referring to where I originally came from: Venezuela. But yeah, that's it. Socialism going bad.

21.44.38 30.04.2017

I hope that you are referring to Masaryk and not Mr Brux in that last sentence.

21.11.57 30.04.2017

>> Came from southern Europe, where there are no jobs
As you point out, because of socialism.

At least, when it all collapses, as is surely will, Southern Europe will still be sunny.

21.10.56 30.04.2017

You are trying so hard to convince people to despise socialism. You must really dislike it, which is understandable! I became an immigrant recently because of 'socialism'. Now I'm in Prague (what are the odds?). Came from southern Europe, where there are no jobs (are those countries also considered 'western'? Cheers.

20.34.08 30.04.2017

This is the best thread I've ever read. You're both well-educated and don't seem to 'lose it', although you do throw in a few rude sentences in almost every reply. This is a tiny, virtual example of how we, as human beings, fail to understand each other regarding the essentials. A glance of human nature. Brilliant. Oh, please pardon my 'broken english'.

20.24.35 30.04.2017

We are talking about the standard of living, not if you like the country.

>>I went to the eurostat web pages for you and got the stats - Prague was there somewhere in top ten. That was the point really, wasn´t it?

As I explained, the eurostats page you mentioned doesn't say this at all. It shows the per capita GDP of even Prague as half that of an equivalent small city in Western Europe. You are confusing the real data with the chart at the top, which attempts to work out the PPP GDP per capita, based on obviously false assumptions about the cost of living in those countries.

Or do you really believe that Belgium and Germany are three times as expensive as Prague?

18.25.12 28.04.2017

>> I would be rather interested in talking to the locals
In some countries they are not very friendly and not very interesting.

18.22.03 28.04.2017

>>But it still had nothing to do with socialism.

When your country was socialist the standard of living was poor. Now that it has an economy which is about 50% capitalist and 50% socialist it is a lot better. Can't you see the connection?

The free market is a vastly more efficient way of producing goods and services that people want than the planned economy you had in the CSSR. Even the Hungarian economy, which was still almost entirely state-owned, was much better, because there were small parcels of private enterprise and because the state-owned companies were separated into units which competed against each other.

18.20.03 28.04.2017

So you move abroad to primarily be in touch with the expats there. That is interesting. I would be rather interested in talking to the locals. Of course only when they would not be bothered by me. Which they have full right to, without giving a reason.

15.43.26 28.04.2017

I do not know, I really do not care for Belgium - I do not find the country attractive for living from my or any point of view. I told you Prague ranks among top ten regions in the EU (that would not be the main reason why we live here of course), you did not believe it, wanted me to show you the stats, I went to the eurostat web pages for you and got the stats - Prague was there somewhere in top ten. That was the point really, wasn´t it?

15.34.12 28.04.2017

No, 5.30pm is not in the middle of the morning. I apologise: I am in another time zone at the moment, and forgot about the time difference.

But what about the statistics which you were quoting? You can see from the tables that the GDP per capita is three times as much in most regions of Belgium as it is in the CR. Even Prague is much poorer.

14.50.34 28.04.2017

There was more going on in the expatriate community here.

14.46.16 28.04.2017

It's not my problem. Have a nice day.

07.59.00 28.04.2017

In doubts people understand you?

07.56.53 28.04.2017

Morbidly = chorobně in Czech. Do you understand me?

07.53.42 28.04.2017

And you checked the online thesaurus what the expression morbidly actually means. If I start any morbid fun on this forum your new acquaintance the austere English journalist is going to report me somewhere. Because such apalling example of lack of correctness would not be acceptable in any of his ´Western´ highly developed countries.

07.51.43 28.04.2017

5.30 PM is a middle of the morning?

07.43.56 28.04.2017

Thank you. You are morbidly funny. You should calm down a little.

07.40.33 28.04.2017

Sure, want to murder a happymeal?

07.29.41 28.04.2017

The 80´s were so, true. And I being a teenager like many other kids apprehended it this way. One felt ashamed of ones own country. 6th class in school and kids talked about emigration already. And it was still ok comparing to Poland or Russia where there was nothing on the shop shelves, not even the rubbish nobody wanted to buy. But it still had nothing to do with socialism. It was no socialism. It was communist party hand in hand with Kremlin hard dictatorship. And their fear. They patrolled everywhere, even the ice hockey matches.

07.28.02 28.04.2017

So why did you end up with Czechs then.

07.08.00 28.04.2017

Don't you invite me to the pub?

06.59.04 28.04.2017

Awesome! Kinder bueno to you for this great homework job, kiddo.

06.48.07 28.04.2017

Definition of bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (such as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

06.05.23 28.04.2017

>>I am sure you spent many many years in the ČSSR

I visited it. It was poor, run down and dirty, like all the other East Bloc countries. People were rude and dispirited and the shops were full of rubbish that nobody wanted to buy. Socialism quite obviously doesn't work.

17.25.37 27.04.2017

>>http://ec.europa.eu/eurosta...

These figures are based on the assumption that the cost of living in Prague is half that of a comparable city in Germany. This is not remotely true. Food, rent and clothes are often cheaper in Germany.

16.08.27 27.04.2017

As I pointed out, I speak Czech so I am hardly interested in seeking out Czechs on the basis of whether they speak English or not.

16.04.29 27.04.2017

The people in Hungary are friendlier and much more open-minded than Czechs. However, the expat community is smaller.

16.01.36 27.04.2017

>>Well the meaning of this sentence stresses the unity of the communist party and the people.
Very much like your slogan.

>>Even a warning, that you, as a foreigner, probably cannot sense.
Oh dear! Your xenophobia is so deep you cannot avoid thinking about how much you despise people who aren't ethnic Czechs.

>>After Brexit it is going to be a minor language in the EU, so you better brace yourself for less and less Oxford style you are of course fully capable of.

I very much doubt that. It will continue to be the lingua franka of the EU, as it is of the rest of the world. It's taught as a second language in virtually every country in the world.

15.32.06 27.04.2017

>>A good party member would hardly be able to have a word in broken English with you, don´t you think?

I don't speak English with Czechs, regardless of how broken or otherwise their English is.

In any case, your slogans and your ideology are remarkably similar to those of CSSR propaganda.

15.26.08 27.04.2017

But you are n´t able to find them. All sofar have been lazy, xenofobic, socialistic, non-English speakers, hating foreigners of course.
Sorry must go now, to do something more normal. (a good auld quick pint with somewhat more normal people. Foreign or local).
Some recent stats if we want to keep superficial money money money talk.
Page Nr. 2, before zee Germanz -
U Jelínků in 30 mins if you want to continue -

15.23.21 27.04.2017

It was just a broken English paraphrase of a 17th century French Royal slogan, but no matter. Why would I agree that some people should be shot or imprisoned. I live and let live. Go to churches. Send money to poor. A good party member would hardly be able to have a word in broken English with you, don´t you think? Because you´re the expert in studies of totalitarian regimes.

15.15.59 27.04.2017

>> for an average Czech person thinking why on Earth they would feel the urge to seek for foreigners and interact with them.

Perhaps not all Czechs are as narrow-minded as you think.

15.15.05 27.04.2017

I think the people here still believe that they have one of the best functioning social system in the world, or wish you, socialism. I would not disagree..Great schooling system,excellent hospitals with service available for all, great standard of public space. And they certainly do not consider themselves as poor. Many actually believe that you, an Englishman, are poor within the society with growing Asian, Muslim, Arab etc. Factor. Now we both of course know you are not poor.
I am sure you spent many many years in the ČSSR and my deep apology if you did not, but the trick was that ČSSR used to be socialistic as DDR used to be democratic. Much better social standards were achieved later. Of course, there are more deprived locations than it used to be. Although life in a Czech ghetto today from the materialistic point of view, isn´t that bad as it was in the 80´s. But we did agree together that material conditions are´t everything in human life.

15.08.12 27.04.2017

Well the meaning of this sentence stresses the unity of the communist party and the people. That was of course an issue, because there were no other parties. That was the message. Even a warning, that you, as a foreigner, probably cannot sense.
Apologies for my broken English. After Brexit it is going to be a minor language in the EU, so you better brace yourself for less and less Oxford style you are of course fully capable of.

14.59.19 27.04.2017

I did not speak for myself, I tried to speak for an average Czech person thinking why on Earth they would feel the urge to seek for foreigners and interact with them. Tourists might not be necessarily foreign people, right? I actually help many tourists. They tend to come to me and ask how-to-get-theres. And I always help blind people, too.

14.54.59 27.04.2017

And it was so better there? (I suspected you lived there and must speak this language. That´s why I apologised in advance)

14.50.59 27.04.2017

You said that you have no reason to speak to foreigners, not that you have no reason to speak to tourists.

14.49.45 27.04.2017

Your comment (in broken English):
"the whole modern Czech nation stands of unshakable pillars of socialistic idea."

contains much the same idea as:

"V pevné jednotě KSČ a lidu za další úspěchy při budování rozvinuté socialistické společnosti".

14.47.44 27.04.2017

Bit hysteric statement. I speak ´foreigners´, not strangers though, which I tend to avoid no matter nationality, about 8 hours a day because I am the only local in the office. I only still do not know how you imagine the path of improvement so you feel better with the Czechs, should there be any least chance yet of course. Something like this 8.00 in the morning, in the metro: excuse me sir, you look quite Anglo-Saxon. May I do anything for you?

14.46.26 27.04.2017

Please give me one slogan from the ČSSR, so I can comment how my thought of course based on my own knowledge of our history, relates to one. Or one from the DDR.

14.36.30 27.04.2017

>>They do but why would they speak to them
Your intense xenophobia permeates all aspects of your relations with foreigners. You have no interest in talking to them and believe that it's their 'duty' to become more like Czechs.

14.22.32 27.04.2017

>>Well there´s nothing such as a state here these days, is it.
Obviously there is.

>>The people are the state.
Another communist slogan. I am sure that you were a good party member.

14.11.01 27.04.2017

>>you have not been in Hungary yet
I lived for several years in Hungary and speak Hungarian. I suspect that I know more about the country than you do.

Your ability to come up with bizarre assumptions about people you have never met is extraordinary.

14.08.08 27.04.2017

>> its just different education system (bad one, levied by heavy and quite often racist stereotypes sourcing from your colonial history.

I have no idea what this drivel is supposed to mean.

>>the whole modern Czech nation stands of unshakable pillars of socialistic idea.

Again, this is incomprehensible, so it's difficult to comment on it. It sounds very much like a slogan from the CSSR.

14.06.59 27.04.2017

>>Your assumption of my assumption is wrong
You said "Are you able to differentiate an Ukrainian from a Czech. I doubt it. " This is a very xenophobic comment because it assumes that, because I am not Czech, I must be ignorant.

>>Danes are all brainwashed.
I didn't say that they are all brainwashed. I said that they were one of the most brainwashed countries in the world. You would need to spend time there (as I have) to understand the way the Danes believe in their government without question.

>>They have built up one of the best functioning societies
It's hard to know what the people really think, since the levels of propaganda are so intense. It was the same during the time of the CSSR: almost all the inhabitants supposedly believed that it was one of the best functioning societies in the world. Or at least, they said so in public.

>> it cost far less resources and human lives than in any neighbouring country
Given that the gross GDP is one of the highest in the world (with very little to show for it), the resources used must be higher, not lower.

>>Idnes isn´t any quality source of information,
I'm still waiting for you to show me anything which supports your belief that the income in the CR is the same as that in Germany. All the evidence I have seen suggests that it is about 1/3.

>>the Czechs really believing in the republic and the country including me, have been trying to achieve something like it.
This is why people are so poor here. Didn't you learn, after over forty years of socialism, that socialism doesn't create wealth, it destroys it? You may want to go back to the times of the CSSR, but many other Czechs, I suspect, would like a more prosperous and freer society.

13.58.19 27.04.2017

>>What has the average nominal salary to do with the living standards?
When we say 'standard of living' we mean the net income in PPP terms (in other words, how much money you earn and what you can buy with that money).

>>Hradecký kraj has for years had higher living standards than Prague and Středočeský, despite the fact of lower average nominal salary.

You are right that other factors are often more important than money. However, this is described as the 'quality of life' rather than the 'living standard'. Most of these indicators are better in Germany than in the CR, but they may well be better in places in the CR outside Prague.

13.47.06 27.04.2017

Well there´s nothing such as a state here these days, is it. The people are the state. Parties that have some kind of deconstruction of the socialist aspects of the republic have only neglecting population support. In fact there has not been any truly conservative or right-wing political party. Where from would conservatism in this society come anyway. There´s only communist conservatism here.

08.30.03 27.04.2017

They do but why would they speak to them. Hey foreigner can I stop you for a minute and talk to you about our cultural diversities? We did talk about it elsewhere, it is the duty of the stranger to make oneself blend in in every country of the planet.

08.18.13 27.04.2017

hahaha, nice one! But the same is Italy, and you have not been in Hungary yet. (sorry in case my rude comment might have touched your minority sensitiveness, and you have been in Hungary of course and they all could speak German).

08.15.08 27.04.2017

I did not address anything towards ´foreigners´. I did towards you. My apology if that might hurt you. Many English won´t find Germany on the map and I still would not call them ignorant, lazy to get proper information or stupid: its just different education system (bad one, levied by heavy and quite often racist stereotypes sourcing from your colonial history.
Many Czechs cannot name or locate a single Bundesland, most I asked if we came across it did not know that Austria was Bundesland either. The schools simply do not teach it. Blesk does not write about it, Nova does not broadcast it.
Generally I do not care if people think nationalistic way with no space remaining for real thinking about the fellow neighbour. I only can address what I think. I also do not plead for Czech socialism. I only admit that the whole republic has and probably the whole modern Czech nation stands of unshakable pillars of socialistic idea. Maybe with the small notion that if you hate socialism, and many people on the planet do, you will not like it here. I can live it that, trying to get the best of it -

08.11.59 27.04.2017

Maybe everyone older than 40 from your perspective, is older, little and ´bigot´ (nice one, can´t remember where I read this expression last). That heals in some cases.

07.48.00 27.04.2017

Your assumption of my assumption is wrong, and it is you, above all, posting here nazi comments about the Danes. I usually refrain from such comments because they are, with no respect, totally stupid. You can of course say that a Danish tourist group wasting themselves with cheap booze, shouting fighting and puking in the streets are brainwashed people but you cannot write Danes are all brainwashed. They have built up one of the best functioning societies and unique culture on the planet and it cost far less resources and human lives than in any neighbouring country. If you did not get it, the Czechs really believing in the republic and the country including me, have been trying to achieve something like it. Just to give it to our kids, ok? So they have better lives than our grandparents for instance. Idnes isn´t any quality source of information, I recommend you checking official European statistics - if you have at least the basics in Economy. No shiny bright statistics however might help you feel better if you live in place that you don´t understand, where you fear the society does not appreciate you, where you do not enjoy the public space and the countryside, where you have no place to go in your free time for just to cheer-up. You live only once so you should not lose time by doing something that you do not like.

07.36.40 27.04.2017

What has the average nominal salary to do with the living standards? High living standards does not mean high salary only, but rather what is available to you (not only for your money). Availability of education, health care, quality of public space, quality of transport, quality of environment, crime rate, quality of food. Hradecký kraj has for years had higher living standards than Prague and Středočeský, despite the fact of lower average nominal salary.

07.18.19 27.04.2017

Mlada fronta dnes seems to agree with me that the standard of living in the CR is much less than that in Western Europe:

http://www.idnes.cz/

"České ekonomice se daří, ale na výplatní pásce to pozná jen málokdo. Průměrná hrubá mzda v Česku dosahuje 29 320 korun, což je zhruba třetina německého výdělku. "

00.28.15 27.04.2017

OK. Older Czech people learned Russian at school. This also helps in the discussion with the Ukrainians.

19.16.22 26.04.2017

I am English.

19.09.31 26.04.2017

May I ask what your nationality is?

Do not worry. If you understand Czech, you will also understand Slovak (95% of the words are the same or almost the same). Just the accent is a slightly different.

19.07.23 26.04.2017

>>We also understand Ukrainians if they try to speak us something in their language as well.

You can certainly get by in Ukraine speaking Czech, but the languages are only about 60% the same. They are not mutually intelligible.

Younger Czechs have difficulty even understanding Slovak (hence the subtitles on television).

18.56.08 26.04.2017

I could almost say that Slovaks are not foreignes for me. Slovak is very similllar language. Except that, in case Slovakian speaks Czech he speaks perfectly. We also understand Ukrainians if they try to speak us something in their language as well. We mostly do not assume that Ukrainian will speak English with us.

18.50.48 26.04.2017

Most foreigners (who are primarily Ukrainians and Slovaks) speak Czech. However, it's certainly less common for foreigners from non-Slavic backgrounds to speak the language.

18.38.00 26.04.2017

However, there are few Czech speaking foreigners. Much less than German speaking foreigners.

18.29.50 26.04.2017

I have heard this excuse from them many times.

It may be true for a Czech living in a village who doesn't speak English. However, anyone living in Prague or any other large town in the CR comes into contact with foreigners constantly.

18.23.04 26.04.2017

By the way, I think that Czechs are a little less experienced in contact with foreigners. That is all.

18.03.45 26.04.2017

This is also quite funny. Have a nice evening. ☺

17.46.53 26.04.2017

Yes.

17.43.31 26.04.2017

Do you speak Czech?

17.38.41 26.04.2017

I think he's an older, a bit bigot man. Take it easy.

17.35.33 26.04.2017

They have a very condescending attitude when it comes to language. No matter how good your Czech is, the moment they detect an accent they try to talk to you in their broken child-like English. If they can't even manage that, they try their broken child-like German. They're not all like that, but it's a pattern that extremely common.

The Germans, on the other hand, assume that somebody speaking their language can, actually, do so.

17.35.20 26.04.2017

This is a somewhat simplified view.

17.26.51 26.04.2017

I have nothing against him. I do think it's hard, though, for Czechs to shed their condescending attitude towards foreigners.

17.23.12 26.04.2017

As you may know, Mr. Brux wrote about the 1st Czechoslovak president, Tomas Guarique Masaryk. It was not only a politician but also an interesting philosopher.

17.23.08 26.04.2017

He is funny in any case.

17.14.13 26.04.2017

You are right: socialism today is the mainstream ideology even in the West.

17.12.24 26.04.2017

He obviously doesn't think that I'm Czech. On the basis that I'm not, he assumed that a) I can't distinguish between Czech and Ukrainian and b) I can't distinguish between different German states.

Earlier, on another thread, he said that the police shouldn't waste time helping tourists.

17.03.01 26.04.2017

Based on Czech Internet discussions, I assume Mr. Brux is Czech. I can confirm that Mr. Brux makes no difference between Czech people and foreigners as regards intellectual qualities.

16.53.07 26.04.2017

>> I doubt it.
Given that Czechs speak Czech and Ukrainians speak Ukrainian or Russian it's not so hard. Your xenophobic assumption that all foreigners are stupid and ignorant is coming to the fore, unfortunately.

>> I have not seen a building crew in the streets composed from Czechs for a decade
I have. Unless you are claiming that there are Ukrainian gypsies who speak to each other in Czech.

In any case, it makes no difference what their nationality is: their low wages are a reflection of low wages in the entire country.

>> I am just telling what the Eurostat web pages show
What do they show? I doubt that they show that the GDP of the CR is the same as that of Germany.

>> I am not sure if you are able to differentiate individual Federal States in Germany
Again, your xenophobic assumption that all foreigners are ignorant is coming to the fore. I have been to Germany about a hundred times, speak fluent German and have a pretty good idea of the regional differences.

>>Prague, Brno, Hradec offer much better living standards than many of those regions.
You have to be kidding. The salaries are half, and, with the exception of the central area of Prague, are run-down, dirty and covered in graffiti. Cities in Germany are prosperous, clean and full of new cars.

>>more poverty even in the avarage, old federal states of Germany than in the Czech Republic.
Again, you are living in a fantasy. Give me some figures.

16.37.59 26.04.2017

I have thougth so.

16.31.56 26.04.2017

No doubt not every member of the aristocracy was pro-Hitler. However, what their families are saying now may be different from what actually happened at the time: this is often the case with the Third Reich. Have a look at the correspondence between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and their friends in the families of Hessen, Coburg, Hanover, Hohenzollern and Waldeck-Pyrmont families. These people strongly supported Hitler because they believed that he would bring an alliance with England.

16.29.54 26.04.2017

>>certainly not the social consilliation the Czech society has developed and keeps maintaining

Where else can it come from, other than by extracting it by force from the people who earn it?

>>I know people for instance in Denmark, who tell me they are happy to contribute to their system.
Some people enjoy being spanked. But this doesn't make it any less of a violation for those who don't.

>> tax which it cost me isn´t draconic.
About sixty percent of all the money you earn is taken by the government. If you are happy with that, fine. But your pleasure at being robbed doesn't make it right to rob other people.

>>We go to the polls in September so minor changes are being discussed.
As with the old CSSR, there is no way out. All the parties support government theft.

>> it simply has chosen the way of building a society with minimum social variance
You are right. The state has chosen to steal money from people. There is nothing that you or any other normal Czech citizen can do about it, any more than you could have overthrown the CSSR.

>> the social distinction that caused the epidemies of violence
You are saying that in order to stop violence you have to commit violence. In other words, 'War is Peace'.

16.17.21 26.04.2017

Not really. Prussian aristocracy were soldiers, Hitlers military system replaced their whole well established structure and made them losing their positions, incomes, influence. The aristocracy of Bohemia and Moravia were, after declaring the protectorate, put into the decision to either swear an oath to the Third Reich and then maybe keep their properties or not and then lose everything (and leave the country). I suspect that was a model that proved after Anschluss of Austria. It anticipated to accept the Third Reich Citizenship of course. There were collaborants but many members of the Aristocracy lost everything and emigrated instead - just look at the history of Schwarzenberg family.

16.03.51 26.04.2017

An example of stealing people´s resources is for instance, British imperialism or German Third Reich, certainly not the social consilliation the Czech society has developed and keeps maintaining. I know people for instance in Denmark, who tell me they are happy to contribute to their system. Which is costly. It has to do perhaps with their religion and also the fact that they have built a very modern social system. I do live here in this country, bring kids to the school, have the best hospitals I have ever seen at my reach, and cannot complain comparing to other countries I know, have worked in or know people from. The public sector is very good, the tax which it cost me isn´t draconic. We go to the polls in September so minor changes are being discussed. It could be better. I understand people who are more individual and do not agree with it, but it must be hard living here because since the republic has been declared here, so about a century, it simply has chosen the way of building a society with minimum social variance. Its perhaps the common cognition here that knows that it has been the social distinction that caused the epidemies of violence, so I do not expect the course to change in the decades to come.

15.51.27 26.04.2017

The German aristocracy loved Hitler, as did, of course, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

15.42.53 26.04.2017

Are you able to differentiate an Ukrainian from a Czech. I doubt it. I have not seen a building crew in the streets composed from Czechs for a decade. I am just telling what the Eurostat web pages show - would not lose any second with any ČSSR data - they were all made up.
Iron Courtain does not exist anymore, Germany is no ´Western´Country. I am not sure if you are able to differentiate individual Federal States in Germany but Prague, Brno, Hradec offer much better living standards than many of those regions. In the meantime, there is more poverty even in the avarage, old federal states of Germany than in the Czech Republic.

15.41.38 26.04.2017

>>An aristocrat can never be a socialist.
Funnily enough, the most famous and longest-serving socialist in the UK - Tony Benn - was an aristocrat.

Obviously, there's no reason at all why somebody can't be an aristocrat and still believe in socialism.

>>no state ´forces´ you really to contribute to the social system here.
Obviously it does. You or your employer would be prosecuted for not paying.

>>What´s wrong with social solidarity.
'Social solidarity' suggests a voluntary coming together of people. This isn't voluntary.

>>Neanderthal people 200 000 years ago did it.
I very much doubt that Neanderthals would have survived for long if they had tried to extract food out of each other by force.

15.34.16 26.04.2017

Socialism is socialism: it can only ever be based on stealing people's resources. There is no essential difference between socialism in Western Countries, socialism in the CR post-1989 and the socialism of the CSSR or the USSR.

15.28.32 26.04.2017

>> Prague and Central Bohemia are among top ten European regions what concerns living standards.
I'm not sure where you're are getting your data from. The average salary in the CR is about 27,000 Kc per month. The average salary in Germany is about twice that amount, and ditto for anywhere else in Northern Europe.

>>The ´socialist´ Czech lands have nowadays, the least unemployed people in Europe, so the argument about lazy Czechs isn´t really valid either.
The unemployment rate isn't a measure of laziness. The measure of laziness is low productivity. Watch a building crew, or a gang working on the street, in Prague: one person will work and the rest will watch. In Western European countries they all will be working. The low salaries are a direct result of the low productivity.

>>´socialist´ was even the first president of the republic.
I agree that the Czechs seemed to have afflicted socialism on themselves, initially. However, it was, obviously, kept in place by the Soviets. I'm sure you haven't forgotten about the 1968 invasion.

>> the lowest at-risk-of-poverty rate - 14%
By the standards of Western Europe most Czechs live in poverty. A scale of 'risk of poverty' is entirely meaningless, in any case: everyone in the world is 'at risk' of being in poverty.

>>old cold war schooling sentiments are irrational.
This has nothing to do with cold war propaganda. In fact, cold war propaganda actually made people think that the standard of living in the East Bloc was higher than it was, because they wanted to create the illusion of a bigger 'threat'.

My comments were based on having visited the countries of the East Bloc during the socialist period and comparing salaries and the costs of living.

14.58.18 26.04.2017

That's right, of course. I'm sorry.

12.29.36 26.04.2017

We, or I do not in my comment, I think it is obvious if you read it.

12.21.45 26.04.2017

The first, if we talk about the Czech Republic.

12.18.11 26.04.2017

Havel was the 9th, not first, wasn´t he. Yes, he was very socialistic, in the modern way.

11.57.55 26.04.2017

Vaclav Havel was a socialist? Who is not today?

11.53.05 26.04.2017

And no aristocrat could serve Hitler.

11.33.53 26.04.2017

Adolf Hitler was an Austrian working class thug which streets were full of after the War. Otto von Bismark was a Prussian duke. An aristocrat can never be a socialist. Your HRH Prince of Wales can distribute all his incomes to hospitals, orphans and run-down monuments and he still will be no socialist.
By the way no state ´forces´ you really to contribute to the social system here. The only obligatory minimum is the healthcare system contribution, which is really everywhere in Europe, and which is quite low. Unemployed people, students, pensioners are free of that duty, but obviously they can get sick and need a hospital, too. What´s wrong with social solidarity. Neanderthal people 200 000 years ago did it.

07.41.23 26.04.2017

Optics of ´Eastern Bloc´ taken for judging any social aspect in the Czech Republic and namely, Prague, is very vague. Prague and Central Bohemia are among top ten European regions what concerns living standards. Same, doubts for ´Western Europe´- what is it. France, Belgium? They do not really seem have any living standards in much of towns and cities at all.
The ´socialist´ Czech lands have nowadays, the least unemployed people in Europe, so the argument about lazy Czechs isn´t really valid either.
The mistake the people who do not know much about this country do as well is the fact that they connect socialism with the Russian invasion. But as a matter of fact a ´socialist´ was even the first president of the republic. This republic was once declared by mostly very poor people, most of the Czechs have their ancestors among the poorest population of the 19th century Habsburg monarchy. The country went through turmoils and clashes in the past hundred years that I suppose no one of us would like to face, but today, the Czech Republic has - again, official stats - the lowest at-risk-of-poverty rate - 14%, while the ´Western´Countries (better not speaking of the Southern Countries) usually reach 20%.
Things do work here and old cold war schooling sentiments are irrational.

07.16.34 26.04.2017

>>which actually is not traceable at all anymore
The standard of living of the former East Bloc countries is still a fraction of that in Western Europe, even after a generation, and the socialist legacy is obvious in most areas of life. Socialism is a cancer which takes decades to eradicate.

18.58.16 25.04.2017

>>who was hardly a socialist in Prussia
A lot of people would argue that Hitler wasn't a socialist, either; but his regime developed the national health service still further, and pumped money into a national network of cancer centres.

It any case, it's hard to argue that a state-controlled system which takes people's money by force and uses it to provide services which would otherwise be provided by the free market is anything other than socialist.

16.13.17 25.04.2017

Its principles were invented and implemented by Otto von Bismarck who was hardly a socialist in Prussia (Germany today) half a century before anybody could think of any ´Soviet´ Union. I think one of the most useful things all the regimes and establishments in our part of Europe have ever come up with since -

15.02.17 25.04.2017

>>You probably have no experience with anything Soviet Style.
I travelled extensively in the USSR when it was around.

I'm not suggesting that the medical standards in the CR are as low as they were in the USSR, but rather that any state-controlled health system is essentially socialist. They all suffer from the same pitfalls of lack of choice, the fact that people who look after themselves have to pay for those who don't and that treatments and screening are determined by bureaucrats rather than by the patients.

>> I wonder if the countries considering themselves as ´developed´(UK, Spain, Belgium etc) will ever achieve medical and health standards that are common and available to absolutely everyone in this country.

They all have universal (i.e., Soviet-style) health care.

14.43.32 25.04.2017

Soviet Style insurance? You probably have no experience with anything Soviet Style. I wonder if the countries considering themselves as ´developed´(UK, Spain, Belgium etc) will ever achieve medical and health standards that are common and available to absolutely everyone in this country.

07.51.18 25.04.2017

Interesting article. In my opinion it is obvious that the author comes from the US - stressing the ´Eastern Block´ period which actually is not traceable at all anymore - apart from few souvenir shops with babushkas on the shelves. I also think that the lady voice on the line A announcing stops has not changed since 1978. But the trains changed since the 90´s.
What I never understand is the cliché about ´black soot´ - the town has never been more coloury, and it used to be so in the early 2001 already. Probably you have no comparison with the 80´s and early 90´s. Žižkov is a different story of course, it must have been shabby the first day after it was built. ´Bohemian Landscape´ picturing fields with blooming colza is a nice accidental contradiction, because nothing used to represent the ´new Czechia´, ie country entering the EU, more than those yellow fields. I also do not believe much in any similarity between Prague and Tallinn, with all respect to your experience, they are two different worlds, 1 700 kms between them. Different history, different people, different architects.

07.46.04 25.04.2017

>>. I assume it's something that you would need to get for the VZP as a non-EU
I agree: it's not the rate which somebody would pay if they were insured.

>>citizen wishing to stay here and live off your own funds
In other words, a tourist. Anyone staying more than three months needs to sign up to the Soviet-style health insurance, as far as I am aware.

>>This is not something that a Czech would pay.
Czechs do pay that: it just comes out of somebody else's social security payments.

>>there were plenty of internet cafes by the time I got here in 2004/5, but I don't think you'd be able to write professional articles from there as well as in the comfort of your own home.
Whatever this is, it isn't a 'professional article'. The only two pieces of concrete information in it are wrong.

14.34.06 23.04.2017

I have personally never paid so much for a check-up (in fact, I have never paid more than 30 CZK). I assume it's something that you would need to get for the VZP as a non-EU citizen wishing to stay here and live off your own funds (i.e. no Czech contract). This is not something that a Czech would pay.

With the internet - there were plenty of internet cafes by the time I got here in 2004/5, but I don't think you'd be able to write professional articles from there as well as in the comfort of your own home.

19.43.39 22.04.2017

>>Such an arrangement would not have been possible in 2001, when email remained the main purpose of the Internet which was only accessible in scheduled half-hour blocks in the school computer room.

Internet was widely available in Prague several years before 2001, and certainly wasn't limited to email. Don't you remember the Terminal Bar?

https://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminal_bar

17.16.55 19.04.2017