The slight feeling of regret: What I miss about the Czech Republic

I miss the Czech Republic. Sometimes I feel that way, but now I am surprised at how quickly it came. It’s hardly been a month since we returned to the United States. I put it down to the fact that this time, I left Czech Republic with an extremely heavy heart because for the first time in my life, I’ve admitted to myself how many things I will miss. (And no, Czech bread is not one of them).

This is definitely the highest price I pay for my life in the United States. When it was just me and B., it used to trouble me that my parents lived so far away; however, with Ben, that feeling grew much more intense. Even though we regularly call, Skype, and Facetime each other, it’s not enough to stop their impression that they are missing on Benjamin’s huge development progress. Of course, I would have the exact same feelings toward my American family, in case we moved back to Europe. But, back in the Czech Republic, I also experienced what an invaluable help it is to have a grandmother and grandfather so close by to babysit and how precious is not to be alone with my child. Here, for most of the day, I am on my own, which I regret for both of us, myself and Benjamin.

Czech contentment
Life in the Czech Republic is very simple compared to life overseas. It is relatively easy to have a pleasant lifestyle and let the time go by, relax, go out for a drink in the evening, and discuss unsolved philosophical questions, such as where the fat disappears to when we lose weight or why adult life passes so fast. In short: contentment (Now that I’m at it: This is also the name of many Czech restaurants!). Contentment is not very motivational, but sometimes I miss it because it’s different here. Life in America is tough, and that’s probably why to the Americans it’s a second nature to always work, strive for excellence and keep convincing others about it. In my opinion, that’s why they are not able to put their feet up and simply – live their life. When they finally have some time off, they look for fun, but nearly always either extremely passive fun (watching TV) or - at least according to my European taste - fun which resembles performance again, from overpriced meditation weekends to even more expensive theme and entertainment parks with not much between. Maybe that is why everything French is so popular here, because the art of life comes naturally to the French people. To Americans, not so much.

Going for “one” (beer)
This is connected to the previous paragraph. In Prague, I was always surrounded by lots of people. Sometimes there were so many of them that it started bothering me, because I almost had no time for myself. We often went out; all anyone needed to say was: “Do you have time tonight?” And yet we went. In the United States, though, it is different. Even though we have many friends and acquaintances, we cannot simply say: “What about having a drink tonight?” Nobody lives close by in this huge city and no one will visit us when they have to drive two hours to our house and two hours back in constant rush-hour. Visits must be carefully planned here, sometimes even several weeks in advance due to busy work schedules. Also, in ideal scenario, visits have to be connected to something else like stopping at doctor office or store so the trip is really worth of taking. When a visit eventually does take place, it is usually just for “one” only – not like in the Czech Republic, where the expression “let’s go for one” is often synonymous for “to closing hour”. (I am quite curious where the big Czech lie let’s go “for one" actually comes from).

I became fully aware of this during my stay in the Czech Republic last month. I went for run in the early morning hours and ended up in Prague Castle – ALONE! And later once more in the Lesser Quarter, Újezd and across Charles Bridge. I was surrounded by such beauty, peace and quiet, that I stopped running, sat down on the grass in Kampa Park and listened to the silence. When I think about America and the adjectives to describe it, the first word that comes to my mind is - noisy. I don’t mean just restaurants, where you cannot hear yourself talk. What I mean is that when I go out on the street at any hour of the night or day, there are always cars and people. The shops, coffee chains, 24-hour creperies, a supermarket, a drugstore, a pharmacy; they are open, there are always people going somewhere, driving, buying something, short to say: something is always going on. If I didn’t know what day it is, I would not know the difference between a weekday and the weekend, between an ordinary December day and Christmas. I miss the moment when, especially during Christmas time, the whole world around me stops for a while. It never happens here. Maybe that's why I feel that life here is going by so fast?

By this, I don’t mean I’m afraid to go out with a stroller. Not at all. But when I do go out, I usually see someone who looks weird or suspicious to me. A couple of times, I caught myself crossing the road to the other side or turning the stroller and to opposite way. One of my friends says that the bigger the country the larger amount of strange people — Moreover, in America, they are more visible because all “normal” folks are hiding in their offices or in their cars. Many times, when those strange people talk to me, I’m afraid of them. And I also have to admit that at such times, it is hard for me to get rid of the thought which comes to my mind almost instantly: Does that man have a gun under his shirt? What would I do if he pointed it at me? It’s usually a brief thought, but – it’s there. I’m pretty sure the local news with daily reports of shooting incidents has an effect on me. Back in the Czech Republic, I was accustomed that, except for some exceptions, a shooting takes place “somewhere else", far away from where I live. But here, the shooting happens too close for my liking. Many times while watching TV, I catch myself thinking: “Oh Lord, I was on that street the day before yesterday.”

European coffee and quality of services
European coffee was until recently quite rare in the US; a bit like finding good quality vegetables in the Czech Republic. Now you can get it, though, for example, shops which offer a good cappuccino — and by that, I don’t mean a half-litre of coffee dyed milk — I can count on one hand. Besides good coffee, I also miss certain services. In the Czech Republic, I regularly visited the hairdresser, beauticians, and treated myself to pedicures. Nowadays, I mainly remember how I was always relaxed there and enjoyed the feeling that my hair and body were truly being taken care of. Here I don’t go anywhere. First, services here are being done in super speed mode: you’ve hardly sat down before you’re already leaving to make room for the next customer, and where they just tickle your face, forget a thorough facial or careful removal of hardened skin on the heels — such services I am yet to find. Second, it all costs a small fortune, which I do not want to waste on just a few minutes and dubious quality. And third, I do not like the bizarre smiles at the end of a treatment when the person waits for me to tip her on top of the small fortune that I already paid. I never know how much tip is enough. Either I seem to tip too little or unnecessarily too much.

Of course, if I needed to leave America tomorrow, I would also find things I would miss. Actually, now, while thinking of it, there would be quite a lot of those. So that’s the topic for next week. :)