11 Things You Will Find in Every Czech Home

In this winter season, we tend to spend a lot more time inside drinking coffee, tea and hot chocolate; cuddling up in our jammies and blankets; and having germ-collecting contests. The early evenings are made better at least when we can see the winter wonderland accumulating outside.

Moar snow! Give me all the snow!

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And spending more time inside, I started to notice something. Czech houses in the countryside have got a lot in common – more, I think, than American houses. Czechs, being very practical people, have perfected their cozy way of life and for an outsider, it’s got some tell-tale signs.

11. Sádlo and škvarky

sadlo
Via humr.cz

As I wrote in my post about Czech food, before I came to CZ, I could never imagine eating animal fat – as a spread on bread, as oil to fry things… Lard has got some nasty connotations in our healthy lifestyle-obsessed food culture. But here it’s made in families or by a local butcher – natural and possibly even a better alternative to butter or margarine. Meanwhile, škvarky is very adaptable. I’ve seen it in bread (or on bread, eaten as a topinka [toast] for dinner) and in savory pastries. Some people salt it and eat it alone. They’re like little savory snack cubes (as long as you’re not vegetarian). I’m lucky that I have a Czech family to keep me in business 🙂

10. A frozen or preserved stockpile of food

If the apocalypse comes, no country I know would be better-prepared than Czech Republic. You could live for months off the meat, home-grown fruits and veggies they keep in standalone freezers, or the pickled goods they keep in the pantry. Pickles, cabbage, beetroot, tomatoes, onions, all kinds of fruit jams, utopenec (a kind of pub food, pickled sausage served with onions) – Czechs can ’em all and keep ’em in stock.

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I might survive half a week.

9. Actual tools… which the man and even women of the house actually use

If American men have got a toolbox or a toolshed, I’m pretty sure the only reason why they power up the drill is to seem manly. I’ve been shocked by the practical capacity of Czechs to design and build their own houses, fix what’s wrong in or around them, and actively continue to make improvements over a long time.

Czechs who have large front or back gardens seem to always have a never-ending list of projects. Planting, harvesting, decorating, cutting wood, caring for a water well, building a lake, I don’t know what. Invariably there’s a shed bursting with deadly-looking tools which actually look used (AMERICAN GASP!). One’s house is a huge source of pride and Czechs take it very seriously.

People with larger gardens might have personal greenhouses, chickens, rabbits, or fields of potatoes to take care of! I’m pretty sure most village youngsters have operated a tractor.

If you want to impress Czechs, learn the (funny) name of one tool you’ll see in village fields all over: bagr, pronounced bugger, which is an excavator.

8. Skis

Czech Republic may not have the sea, but it has got lots of mountains and is much less expensive than the Alps. Its citizens take advantage of this by going on many winter ski trips, and most students, starting at age 12-13, go on ski trips through their schools (another thing I could never imagine happening in many parts of the States – you’d get sued if anything went wrong!).

Many kids start learning from the age of 3, and it is so cute to see these tiny people populating the bunny slopes. Since I had never skied before coming here, I don’t know if that’s common. But nearly everyone has skis in reserve for the major season.

Observe my prowess on the slopes:

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Wipe-out.

Everything I’m wearing in this picture was borrowed from Czech friends.

Cough cough that was two years ago cough I’m way better now cough.

7. A front room (předsíň) with a closed door

Czechs are obsessed with draughts (průvan). They are absolutely sure they will get sick if even a small breeze blows across them. To prevent this (it’s actually pretty smart), there’s a front room to take off all your shoes and winter clothes, and to put on papuče (see below) before entering the main house. It’s super warm inside, but a shock when you go out in the morning and are smacked all over by the frost in the front room.

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A model example thanks to Google

6. These doorknobs

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Thanks Google!

I don’t know why, but these three-option open knobs are somewhere in EVERY house. They are even on my windows and screen door in the first picture but it was too dark to see them.

AND these

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which you can see in the picture of the front room.

5. A separate bathroom and toilet “room”

Czechs learn British English. Which puts Americans at a distinct disadvantage when they are doing the wee wee dance.

I can’t even count on my fingers the amount of times this happens:

  1. I ask someone to show me their bathroom,
  2. I close the door,
  3. I turn on the light,
  4. I find I am in a room with a bath/shower, sink, and laundry machine.
  5. I wonder briefly if I will ever learn to communicate effectively.
  6. I pine briefly for other Americans who understand me.
  7. I wonder briefly if I should pee in the sink to avoid embarrassment.
  8. I decide that will embarrass me more.
  9. I go to find the “toilet,” a small narrow room with just a toilet and sink.

Of course, it’s not always easy to find without the host’s help since every room has the same door and doorknob and they are usually all closed to keep out the draught.

10. I smile and proceed to do the exact same thing the next week.

However, I do acknowledge how brilliant this is, that when someone is hogging the toilet you can actually brush your teeth somewhere else than the kitchen sink.

4. A dual-flush toilet… and a bidet

These dual-flush toilets are economical, environmentally friendly, and all over Europe (and Israel) but Americans are late to the party.

Sometimes I still panic and think there are too many options.

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I believe in what it stands for but I still can’t bring myself to use it.

3. This kind of Czech-made ceramic cup

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As you can see, I’m working up quite a collection myself.

2. A working fireplace, and a woodpile in the backyard

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Winter going strong! Notice the wheelbarrow on the left…

Those cozy days of my childhood are now just a memory, when my family would designate a Saturday evening as game night, pull all our Scrabbles and Mancalas and cards and cushions and blankets into the living room, light the fire, make some cocoa, and spend the evening.

No, at one point my parents got tired of cleaning it and of the inefficiency of our chimney, which was very old, and the fires were replaced by a bunch of ceramic cats and frogs to disguise what was once a fireplace 😛

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Czechs have very modern, innovative fireplaces, and thus, their fires are going strong, with the chimneys puffing all over and looking exactly like the picture-perfect stereotype of quaint European towns and villages. Cat-approved.

1. An impressive collection of papuče / pantofle in every possible size

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This needs a bit of explaining. Many Czech houses don’t have carpeting, so in their front room, after taking off your shoes, you will be required to put on slippers (papuče).

You got it right. Required.

If you resist, you will be told that the floor is cold (in all seasons except summer, and maybe even then) and you’ll get sick and die if you don’t wear them. You will get many disapproving looks. Socks are not an excuse.

papuce

It’s tradition, and is strange to refuse.

From one perspective, I understand it, because my mom also had a “no-shoe rule” to keep out dirt – another reason why no Czechs walk with shoes in their house.

If you want to go outside but not put on shoes, there is another collection of pantofle, which are outdoor shoes or “slippers” like Crocs, which students wear in school (yep – while teachers are allowed to wear shoes, students are not, and must change in the “locker room” before entering).

Czechs, do you agree? Did I miss anything in your house?

Categories Czech Customs, Faux pasTags , , , , , , ,

79 thoughts on “11 Things You Will Find in Every Czech Home

  1. Great post – especially liked the fact that there are working fireplaces and a woodpile in the backyards. Looks so cozy. Growing up in Canada, we could have used those outside!

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  2. You missed very important point. Practically all houses built before 1989 have gardens with different kinds of fruit trees!!

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    1. Another point, you did not mention that is very different from USA is “sleeping culture”. Czech predominantly sleep in 100% cotton sheets and cover themselves with blankets filled with goose down or sheep wool.

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      1. Thanks for your comment, Irena!

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  3. As Czech I must say this is a really great and accurate article. When reading it, I looked behind my back on the door, which is open to předsíň, but also remembered, how much my everybody in my family hates, when I keep them open. Chuckled again, when i realized that this door is equipped with the exact door handle you showed 😀 When reading about papuče, I was like “Not in our flat, hardly have any… Oh, yeah we got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… 6 pairs, but that’s like nothing.”

    One more thing I hear often from foreigners is that they are surprised by the quantity of books in every Czech flat. Even less educated families, that you would expect not to read very much, usually have huge bookcases and you will always find some great classic authors in there…

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    1. that’s true about the books, but I didn’t want to assume… it’s seemed so silly to say “Czechs have more books than other people” since I can’t possibly know that! but thanks for your comment 🙂

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  4. What a fun and wonderful little piece. Of course, it’s spot on!

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  5. Not sure just my family or not but always a lot of plants, flowers and a Cactus or five.

    Also always a fine Czech pivo not too far away 🙂

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    1. yes! Not always, but in many houses!

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  6. well observed – love particularly the slippers and the draught obsession – that is true of most Eastern European nations. I have written a blog about ‘steady slippers’ – my memories of growing up as a female in Czechoslovakia. It’s that kind of details that makes up our cultural reference.

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    1. I will be sure to check it out! Thanks for the follow!

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  7. I am Slovak and most of these apply in Slovakia as well. And also for apartments, not just houses. Except the bidet, fireplace, and wood pile.

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    1. I imagined so, but since Czechs whip girls on Easter and Slovaks throw them in rivers, I didn’t want to make assumptions 😉

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      1. Not quite, check your sources 🙂 Some Slovaks whip, some pour water. I have yet to hear of a case of anyone being thrown in a river.

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      2. When I was in Ždiar, I met two girls who said they were, and one who was thrown in a shower in the middle of the night 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Villagers giving Slovakia a bad name (I’m a city boy).

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Peter K.: LOL .. .so true ! 🙂

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  8. 2 out of 11 and that’s only because the dual flush toilet was already here when I moved in and that ikea tools set is a thing everyone should have.

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  9. It’s really nice and informative article for person like me. I am Indian and visited Prague 3-4 times and feel like at home. People are very warm and helpful. Your article has helped me to enhance my knowledge. We Indians are common with Czech for stock of pickles 🙂 which we made during summer (mainly pickles made from mango which is called “King of Fruit” in India).

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    1. wow, that sounds DELICIOUS! did you ever see the price of mangoes in Prague? 🙂

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      1. Unfortunately not…. But I have gifted few of my Czech friends “Alfonso ready to eat or drink” tin pack…

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  10. My grandparents came from small towns in Slovakia near Trencin & I’ve been there years ago. My mother didn’t speak English until she learned it in first grade here. I often stayed with Czech cousins in Germany while doing my Junior year abroad in Italy & learned a lot of their customs & some of the language. I think that both Czech & Slovak people always felt close to the land & we always had a big garden while growing up. It has inspired many of the grandchildren into living much the same way.

    I was very close to my Babka & learned so much of life from her life & experiences. They came to this country around the beginning of the 20th Century & still kept close ties with relatives in the “old country”. I’m very proud of my Slovak heritage!

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  11. At my grandparents house, on the farm and later on when they moved to the city, in the mornings there were always at least 3 types of homemade Czech pastries on the kitchen table? They stayed there and were replenished from the wee hours of the morning until the table was cleared for lunch. Every meal was massive and needless to say, I would always put on a few pounds after every visit of more than a couple of days! My grandma was a great cook! Grandpa and Grandma Kovarik’s was always a real treat for all of us kids! Great memories! 🙂

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  12. As a Canadian Czech (1968 at age5) I love the article. Papuce were not a big thing in our home, so I would put Becherovka in that slot (it cures everything). I would also add at least one beautiful, hand painted, ceramic tile to the list. Every one of our Czech family and friends has one, often in the kitchen. Door knobs…on one of our recent trips to Praha, my hubby (he is not Czech but Ukrainian) purchased a couple of antique knobs. In his haste to pack on our last day, he shoved them in his carry on bag. We flew from Praha to Amsterdam and then on to Toronto with very little time to catch our flight to Winnipeg. Airport security in Praha and Amsterdam thought nothing about door knobs in a carry on bag. But in Toronto the knobs were deamed “dangerous weapons”! While the security agent was demostrating how they could be used to kill, and threatening to confiscate them, we came close to missing our flight. With only 2 minutes before gate closure, my hubby managed to put the knobs in the mail and we made our flight. Moral; Czechs love their homeland, no matter where they make their home, and we all have a little piece of Cesko close at all times.

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    1. Hi Eliška – one thing I love about this part of the world is that they are so easy-going about some things that raise Americans’ blood pressure. For example, kids here walk around throwing small “fireworks” at the ground and making explosions; back in 2014 when I first heard it behind me while walking down a dimly-lit street, I was sure someone had a gun and my life was going to end. I promptly ran to a friend’s house, crying and panicking and then was told what it really was. I didn’t understand how such a thing is allowed to disturb the peace, but alas, many things – like drinking in every public space you can – is live and let live.

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  13. Perfect breakdown! My Moravian family immigrated to the US before Czechoslovakia became the Czech Rep. My whole life was shaped around making sure there wasn’t a pruvan!! LOL If anyone was sick, once a day at least, you’d have to cover up in blankets and my mom would “vyluftovat” or open all the windows to make sure the germy air would leave and fresh air would replace it. Also my parents would weird out all my friends by offering them papuce when they came over. Whenever we go home to visit, my parents come back with jars of skavarky and bottles of slivovice. We never travel anywhere without some sandwiches… usually rye bread with schnitzel. My dad was detained for a couple hours at the airport because my babicka (grandma) had hidden a salami in his luggage… My mom definitely has a collection of crystal glassware that is only used for new years eve or birthdays. I’m getting all nostalgic now! 🙂

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    1. That’s so cute about the salami and the papuče 😀 my (American) mom just weirds everyone out by making them take off their shoes. Now, though, I really understand how strange it is not to take off your shoes at home like so many Americans do. And the schnitzel is classic. I wrote in my post about Czech food how whenever we go hiking here, I’m mostly excited about the schnitzel and not the trip. 🙂

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  14. Bang on! Congrats on your excellent study of my people. 🇨🇿 We immigrated to Canada in the 80s, but my parents’ house still has all the stuff on your list, minus the house layout. My dad’s woodpile is super impressive! I agree the booze and fancy glass and ceramics are good additions. And my poor mom is definitely obsessed with pruvan. I thought she was the only one! I look forward to reading more. 😀

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    1. Thanks for your lovely comment, Jitka! Glad you enjoyed. Do your parents live in the countryside?

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  15. Do not obsess about the lard. The alcohol 🍺 cuts the fat.

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    1. That’s the common knowledge! 😀
      also, potatoes.

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  16. Solid list. It is always intriguing to read lists like these, because it makes you realize some of the cultural quirks and idiosyncrasies that one takes for granted as a Czech citizen. Also, it is wonderfully positive!

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    1. I live in a small town, and I know too many people (or rather, too many people know me) not to be positive XD

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  17. Isn’t it lovely in Czechia?

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    1. As a resident of Moravia, I have to take personal offense 😉

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  18. I am an American married to a Czech. We have an apartment there. We have lots of noise shoes for our visitors but I never wear them and it drives the in laws crazy. One thing I didn’t see on your list was a collection of crystal or painted glass. Younger people don’t seem to be collecting it as much as on the past but most people have at least some beautiful glass. The home canned goods made me laugh. My mother in law used to cook and can rabbit and bring with her when she came to visit s in he United States.

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    1. That should be house shoes. Auto correct is crazy.

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    2. My mom is a jewelry/antiques collector and believe it or not, I know about Czech glass (and garnets) from her – but if I see it here, it’s mostly in the collections of older people (but it does make coffee / slivovice shots much more glamorous).
      Leave it to Czech people not to trust American food and bring their own 😀 Though admittedly rabbit is delicious. Everyone I know who has visited the US either made their own sandwiches and brought them everywhere, or ate only fast food (also because of price).

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    3. I agree that collections of Bohemian crystal and pink china should make it to the list. Also, the classical living room shelving unit as e.g. in this picture where these items are carefully displayed, often on decorative crocheted cloths hardened by starch to keep shape.


      It is true that young generation is trying to get rid of these but they still represent a staple of classical Czech and Moravian family houses which you are writing about.

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  19. Nice article, you have great observational skills! I can easily imagine a sequel to this collection but I think you got the basic part. When I saw the first picture at the top, I actually expected one of the entries to be about this particular type of blinds which you can also find in almost every Czech home:)
    Also, did you notice how perfectly tight the Czech windows are?? Quite a contrast from New York’s loose, falling apart windows through which you can hear wind blowing and see rain and snow falling… I bet it has something to do with průvan as well.
    (A couple years ago, my mom in Moravia got all the windows in our house replaced. Afterwards, you could feel a teeny-tiny stream of air coming through one of the windows when putting a finger on its edge. And she made a really big deal about it and made the company repair it. In NYC, we just apply self-adhesive insulation and pray for the winter to end soon.. )
    As for the preserves, papuče, předsíň, obsession with průvan, sádlo, škavarky (and yes, slivovice) – those things made my childhood and they have so much sentiment for me now after living in US for ten years that I almost want to cry…
    BTW, that collection of papuče you have there is nothing compared to what my mom has in her předsíň… three times as big, believe me!

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Johanka! For some reason yeah, windows are really important… I think about my childhood home where my mom has been complaining about how ugly the windows are for years, but we don’t do anything about it. Plus you can barely open them because they are old and don’t have handles. I couldn’t imagine something like that here.
      I’d love to see that papuče collection 🙂 feel free to send a pic through the FB page!

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  20. My great-great-grandparents came here from Moravia and I am researching our history… I loved reading this! I have never been to the Czech Republic but I really want to go. And now I understand my drive to stockpile food….

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    1. Haha! Well if you visit, I’d be happy to be an English-language guide to Moravia.

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  21. Slivovice and/or Becherovka 🙂

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  22. You nailed it! Love it! (I’m czech living in us) I would add Slivovice (moonshine). But that may be more in Moravia part of Czech Republic (:

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    1. Yep, I definitely missed slivovice, you’re right. How is it for you in the US, are a lot of things surprising for you?

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    2. Not necessarily. Even one hour outside Prague, near Sedlcany so deep in the Bohemian hinterland we drink a hell of a lot of Slivovice.

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  23. I love it. It’s very accurate.
    Eva ( married to French Canadian and live in Montreal ). I can’t buy good lard here.😆

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    1. I make my own.

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    2. You may ask your butcher if he can spare some fat from pork. Usually, they may give it to you free of charge or for a minimal price. You just cut it in strips and then to little cubes and place it in slow cooker no low. Within hours you will have your own lard.

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    3. What is different for you culturally in Canada? I’d love to hear!

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  24. My grandfather was born in Czechoslovakia but my grandma was mostly English, born here. My grandpa died before I was born, but my grandma and mom and aunt were obsessed with worrying about drafts, especially when a baby was around. But, I found as a young mother, it is much colder the lower to the floor you are, and babies aren’t very warm on a blanket on the floor, or even a playpen. So, they were so right! Also, I had to wear a triangle scarf around my head and tied under my chin on windy days when walking to school ( in the USA) up until the 5th grade when I said “no more!” In pictures I see my mom, aunt and grandma in them, as well. I see them in lots of pics of Czech Republic. They do keep your ears from the wind, that is true! I use ear muffs now, lol. And yes, there is always lots of coffee and tea all year around. Thank you for your article. Carla Wald Dolan. My grandfather’s name was Ruzicka.

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    1. I find myself resisting a lot of these cultural requirements too, until I realize that they’re right 😀 For example, Czechs also love “changing the air” (opening all the windows for a time) despite their fear of draught. I do the same, and I also now religiously follow the slippers rule!

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  25. This article is perfect😂😂😂, like a Czech girl i haven’t noticed many things until I went to my Erasmus to Greece. We are really wierd national, but I love it ☺

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    1. I’m gonna post soon about my trip to Greece. I’d love to hear what you found different! These cultural clashes are one of my favorite things 🙂

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  26. Hia, love your post. But you missed “cibuláč” the original blue painted ceramics….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know about it of course (though I didn’t know the name)! I haven’t seen it in many homes.

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      1. We have a full collection of it, cibulák to be precise. Also lots of pieces of the pink porcelain. Not to be used for drinking, just for decoration! 🙂

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      2. Maybe you haven’t seen it because it is often used for special occasions only. We only eat from the “cibulak” plates at Christmas Eve 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      3. They were the most famous in the 80’s or maybe later. You know, this ‘folklor-traditional-stuff’ revival. So in my mum’s head for example it is a reminder of communistic fashion… 😉 maybe that’s ehy they are not much around these days…

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  27. Fun comments on the cultural stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. After reading your article, I’m really starting to think that there might be something about draught when it comes to Czech people. I am Czech and I study English as a major at a uni and a lot of my teachers are native speakers. One of them, British, asked the other day why are all Czechs obsessed with draught. ‘And such an ominous word, průůůůůůvan,’ he said. I’ve never noticed myself (but apparently, I’m a weird Czech, I usually also refuse wearing slippers in other people’s home (I never wear them at home) and yeah, they are looking at me like ‘well, okay, you’re weird, you probably don’t care you’ll get sick.’ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why do you think you have “missed” this cultural fear? 🙂

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      1. Well… I’m not really sure about it. My family doesn’t complain about draught, only when I leave door to the pantry open, which is logical since there is no heating and it’s really cold in winter. My family usually leaves the rest of the door open so our cats could roam the house as they wish. And on the contrary, in summer we open all the doors and windows to make a draught, so the hot air would come in (our house is old and made of bricks, so it keeps constant temperature even during hot summers), using it to warm the rooms without having to turn the heating on. And yeah, I find the breeze really pleasant. On the other hand, my grandma visited me today and told me something about closing doors and draught, so yeah, I guess it’s a stereotype. Come to think of it, especially the elderly people are cautious, because they are worried about their health, their bones and so on.

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    2. Right on ! But must add, you notice things others would not. That’s a what’s growing up in different culture does to you. I am Czech-born, but live all my adult life in the United States. In States, I never take my shoes off, anywhere, and nobody cares. Here, people believe shoes are part of your “uniform” and your “uniform” should not be compromised. Not so in Czechia. Czechs always considered me (very) rude for not taking my shoes off. Some of them even think I was brought up by pack of wolfs and would avoid inviting me to their homes. Sorry, but for some reason, I have never found appealing wearing papuče after they they were worn by hundreds of strangers before me. As for the other observations – dual flush toilets are new phenomena in Czech Republic. So are bidets. Trust me, you would not want to visit pre-1989 bathroom in Czechoslovakia. That would be an experience you would never forget. Skiing is a culture not necessarily practiced by everybody, and considered by many city dwellers to be a part of social status. Don’t get fooled, as lard and škvarky are still an animal fat that will kill you no matter where in the world they are served. As compared to other cuisines, Czech food is actually very unhealthy and high in calories. Enjoyed your post !

      Liked by 1 person

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