As I have learned in the last few years, Central/East Europeans and Americans have completely different ways of expressing their enthusiasm.
Here’s a helpful chart!
It’s obviously exaggerating, but stereotypes can be true in a general sense. I’ve witnessed the “enthusiasm disparity” personally to some degree about Czechs, Germans, Poles, Slovaks, Hungarians, Croats and Ukrainians, and it’s of course more true for older people.
And many people can testify that one typical giveaway of Americans is their boundless enthusiasm. Sometimes I get so carried away with how “AMAAAAZING” or “AAAAWESOME” something is that even my boyfriend Ondra is like, ‘Dude, your enthusiasm is killing my chill Czech vibe.’
It’s also obvious that some words get trickily adopted by the language you are trying to learn. They are sometimes so sneaky you barely notice them. What I’m talking about right now is the Czech word oukej for our English okay. Sounds exactly the same, spelled suspiciously different!
But there’s something else up with the concept of OK in Czech.
When I found this chart, it made me think of a convenience-type store I have seen on walks in Brno called Okay Market.
Okay Market? Okay, well that’s… okay… the food must be okay, I guess?
Then I had the sneaking suspicion I had seen other stores in Brno and *around* that followed this trend. A quick Google search revealed at least four stores in the near vicinity that had “OK” or “Okay” in their name.
Huh, I thought, this must be some kind of trend.
I don’t know where it comes from, but honestly… this has got to come from a misunderstanding about what “okay” means. For Americans (and obviously I am extremely biased), saying something is “okay” means it’s fine, it’s middle of the road, it could be better but it will do. Even on the chart above, *objectively* “okay” is actually worse than the average of good and bad 😛
Let’s go back to the “enthusiasm disparity.” What is less-than-average to average for Americans is clearly better enough than average for Czechs to be acceptable advertising of quality in store names!
Here you can see the examples of an electrical goods store (left) and a toy store (right).
Am I overthinking this? I don’t want my coffee grinder or my phone cord or my board game or my fidget spinner to be just “OK,” I want it to be at least GREAT! 🙂
Clearly, Czech has changed not only the spelling of “okay” but also the meaning. It has redefined “okay” completely.
So guys, in terms of advertising… at least to the very specific group of American expats such as myself… you are doing it wrong. And I’m not sure you realize it. You are mis-advertising yourself! At least I can say this to be true in the case of my serendipitous Brno hairdresser, which is called:
I got an absolutely fabulous haircut there (<– American enthusiasm alert), and I could recommend it to anyone.
On another note…
Burčák season is upon us!
As the Foreigners.cz blog notes, burčák (young, fizzy wine) is a “sign of fall” in the Czech Republic. Find some tips for drinking it – for example, poking a hole in the bottle cap so it doesn’t explode as it gives off CO2 (this has happened to me) – over there.
How is it different from normal wine? Spoon University answers:
[T]he difference lies within the fact that burčák has to be closely monitored right from the start because within five to eight days, it enters the “burčák,” or active, stage of the fermentation process. Once it does this, the batch could be good for five days, ten days, even up to three weeks. However, if you drink it after it has exited this phase, it takes on a bitter, sour taste, and continues on its way to wine. The young wine, as it is often referred to, is stored in big vats.
Why should I drink it? Well, other than it’s sweet like juice yet still has alcohol in it, there are health benefits.
High vitamin B and lactic acid levels, along with the instant energy boost from the fruity drink, make it a very popular alcoholic option. Additionally, burčák can aid and speed up digestion.
Drinking too much or too fast, however, can have repercussions… trust any over-enthusiastic first-timer in CZ.
How much alcohol is in it?
[W]hen bought, the fermenting wine has usually 3-5% alcohol content. However, because it is still well in the fermentation process, it continues to grow in alcohol content even after you have finished your glass or bottle. It is not uncommon that the burčák rises to have an alcohol content of 10-12% inside of your body. This is where, if not consumed responsibly, the danger may lie (or the fun, the line can be pretty blurry).
Burčák season lasts til at least mid-October and sometimes into early November, so enjoy the opportunity for this awesome tradition while it lasts.