If you are an expat living in Prague chances are you visit expats.cz. It’s the bible for the newbies in Prague, and that old stand by for those of us who have been here a while. It’s all in English and has everything from Visa help to movie show times. Their “slogan” is – Expats.cz, helping you adapt – Their “mascot” is that white CZ plug adaptor that we all have. It’s a catchy little slogan, except that they named the damn thing “Pluggy”and make you look for it in weekly contests now. But that is beside the point. The point is that when living in a foreign country – you need to either adapt or go home.
Personally I think I have done a pretty good job of adapting to my “new” country. The changes have crept up on me, and they are subtle, but they are all important parts of living in a different place. For example – somewhere along the way I noticed that I have replaced the word “apartment” with the word “flat”. This annoyed my friends in America to no end. I now have a ingrained habit of taking off my shoes when entering a home. Any home. My knowledge of the language still sucks, but I am at least trying to rectify it. Language is not something I am good at, but ironically it makes me a better English teacher.
But not all expats come here looking for a new experience or are eager to change. I know of a few people here (who shall remain nameless) who not only refuse to adapt to the Czech way of life, but are PROUD of the fact that they don’t. One friend of mine – we’ll call him Bob – wakes up every morning and watches “The Today Show”. Not only does Bob think this counts as news, but Bob says he just can’t start his day without Katie Curic. (barf) Bob also can’t drink “Czech” coffee. He has his mom send him “American” coffee from the states, or spends a gazillion crowns on buying (hateful evil corporate) Starbucks. I once asked Bob why he is living over here if he can’t find anything about the people or culture to enjoy. His reply stunned me. He informed me that he loves it here, but he is a “proud” American, and shouldn’t have to give up everything that makes him American. Which, I guess is consumer products and television. I think its also important to note that Bob has only dated young Czech women. Just saying.
Another friend of mine named… um… Fred is the same. He goes out of his way to buy the more expensive juice or soap or whatever because it has an American brand. Which, I guess would be fine without all of the pompous American attitude that comes with it. I look at someone who spends three times the amount they need to on juice and just think they are stupid, but that’s just me. Fred also won’t buy clothes here and is waiting for his mommy to send him some new things because, “Its just different here”. No shit Sherlock. You ain’t in America anymore. Fred has deemed it “dumb” to wear house slippers and refuses to do so. When I pointed out to him that it is disrespectful of the culture he is living in his reply was, “I ain’t Czech. I am American.” Dumb ass. I think it is (again) important to note that Fred’s girlfriend is a young Czech.
I think as a guest in a foreign country, especially a guest who plans to make it a home, you owe it to yourself and your new country to be a little more open minded. Hell, you owe it to America to be more open minded. There is a reason a great deal of Europeans think Americans are rude idiots. We are. I think its funny that when a foreigner comes to America and doesn’t speak English, people yell at them to “Get out”, or “learn the fucking language”. But take an American to another country and watch how OFFENDED they get when that country has the audacity to not speak English. And this is the irony that is eluding both Bob and Fred. You are the visitor – YOU have to change.
I hope that if Bob or Fred reads this they get a little something out of it. Maybe they will go out and try some Czech food. Maybe they will decide to learn a little Czech out of respect for the country they live in. Maybe they will finally buy some house slippers. Or maybe, just maybe they will go back to America. Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.