While I was sitting on the balcony of my house recently (coincidentally writing a blog post) and trying to suck up the last of the afternoon/evening sunlight before winter. hits. hard., my Czech grandpa expressed shock at my outfit.
Let’s say it was about 18° C (64.4° F) at 6pm and I was wearing soccer shorts, a fall sweater, a scarf, and knit socks. (I wasn’t trying to be fashionable.)
“Aren’t you cold?!” he asked incredulously.
“I’m wearing a scarf,” I answered apologetically.
“Be careful,” he responded. “All illnesses start in the legs.”
Well, that’s a new one. And I’ve heard a lot of health maxims in CZ the last few years.
It is true that Czechs are terrified of průvan (draft, as of air) because the slightest one will make you sick. Czechs do have some pretty interesting ideas about health (as well as a completely different health care system) – here are a few.
No matter the time of year. The floor is cold and you will get sick. (Huh… I guess the illnesses in the legs thing isn’t so new…) If you absolutely cannot be bothered to protect your health and wear slippers, at least wear socks your grandmother knit you. It’s the least you could do.
Open and close your windows strategically
Just because průvan is the devil incarnate doesn’t mean we should never open our windows. We do, often, in the summer (as there is air conditioning in very few houses – and bugs are a fact of life) and to occasionally air out the rooms – or as I’ve heard it phrased, “to change the air.” I haven’t figured out exactly when the draft is okay, aka when it’s necessarily airing out the rooms, and when it’s threatening your life.
Drink black tea
This is the ultimate cure-all. Apparently for non-serious illnesses, your doctor will simply send you home with this “prescription.” Why not trendy green tea? I don’t know. It’s like Czech Windex – from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. BLACK TEA FTW.
Or: special mineral throat water!
Vincentka is mineral water from a spaaaaaa in Luhačovice. Cheaply bought in the supermarket (~30 czk), and an easy, natural cure!
Wear a scarf around your neck
To protect your throat. This seems logical, but I was never told to do it as a child in the States. Here, it’s a requirement as soon as that “itch” starts up.
A shot of slivovice a day keeps the doctor away
Especially true during flu season. Plum brandy is an extremely strong, often homemade, clear alcohol. It is basically the bacteria-fighting Thor of alcohol. I have been widely regaled with stories about intelligent Czech travelers in foreign countries with suspicious food and water quality who managed to miss getting sick while all his companions did, simply because he followed this Czech Golden Rule of Health.
To pack a punch, make zazvoračka, as we call it in my house – slivovice mixed with lemon, ginger (it’s in the name) and honey and left to “steep” for a few weeks. It’s a magical cure-all!
Have soup with lunch
A Czech requirement. All formal sit-down meals – in school cafeterias, at restaurants, or Sunday lunch with family – include soup, even at the height of summer. It “prepares your stomach for more food.”
Eat lots of fermented foods and garlic
Czech food may not be the healthiest overall, but it has many healthy elements! Garlic and cabbage (used to make homemade sauerkraut) are often seen. The most typical example, a national food, is vepřo knedlo zelo – “pork dumpling cabbage.”
And what pub menu would be complete without česnečka, garlic soup?
Drink beer to help you digest heavy food
Czech culture involves a lot of meat. This definitely helps.
Eat light dinners
Huge difference from American food. A typical example is bread and jam, buchty, or vegetables. I don’t know how people survive, and haven’t been able to adopt it myself, but it could be one of the major reasons why people are fitter here. Another one is:
Bike, run, hike, roller skate
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’ve never seen so many octogenarians on bikes. Men and women use their free time for sport or exercise at a much higher rate than in the USA.
Small PE classes
Remember how American gym class was basically useless? Yeah, here you’ll actually be spotted not doing those squats or sprints. Typical classes are 20-30 kids.
Get “whipped” once yearly on Easter
Yeah. Women only (aren’t we lucky!). Beauty, youth, all that’s been explained here.
A few more in-depth medical topics I don’t have the time to discuss at length, but to which I have heard “to sem neděláme” (we don’t do that here):
-it’s unsafe to get your wisdom teeth removed under anesthesia (and I’ve done that) (American opinion here)
What’s your experience with Czech home health care? Does it work for you? 😉