28.06.17

What would I miss about the U.S. if I moved back to the Czech Republic

The article I wrote last week about missing the Czech Republic broke all records for this blog readership. Thank you! :) As I promised, this week I’m going to write about things I would miss if I had to leave the USA.

 Daily motivation to be better
As I mentioned last week, life overseas is quite challenging compared to that in the Czech Republic. Back at home, it is relatively easy to live comfortably and to succeed, even if you do not do anything exceptional because there is hardly any competition. It’s easy to rest on your laurels. Here, it’s the opposite. People are always striving to succeed at all costs, which is stressful because almost everything has been done before by someone else and there is massive competition everywhere. On the other hand, it is extremely motivating: imagine you go out with three friends, one of them trained for a triathlon race in one month on top of his work; the second wrote a novel in a month; and the third immersed himself full time into keeping fish and now sells his exotic fish all over the world. Every other person does something special that means a great deal in their world. I always wanted to achieve more but in the Czech Republic all I did was just constantly talk about it: One day I will train for a marathon, start writing a blog, publish my diary, learn how to cook healthy meals. Who knows what would have happened if I did not move? Anyway, I have a feeling that in Prague I was in real danger that all my dreams would remain in the bar, fuelled by a couple glasses of wine.

Support for crazy dreams
This is connected to what I wrote previously. Whenever I said in the Czech Republic that I would want to achieve this or that one day, the usual reaction I got was “Come on, what for?” or “You’re not normal, are you?” or an even better one: “In my opinion, a woman of your age should sit comfortably at her butt at the house and take care of three kids.” The concept of normality with numerous opinions and unsolicited advice added was probably one of the greatest cultural shocks I’ve ever experienced. Because it’s been a different story over here since the first day I arrived. Suddenly nobody wanted me to be normal; no one criticized me and immediately gave me their opinion. On the contrary, they all respected my own opinion (or at least kept quiet if they disagreed) and usually the crazier the idea, the warmer the reaction. Do you want to go back to school with eighteen-year olds even though you’ve passed the thirty year mark? So what?! Do you want to interview Ivanka Trump? Write to her! (No reply yet, but never mind.) Do you want to run a marathon eight months after giving birth and collect $2,500 for charity? Go for it, here is your first hundred. Here, as everyone is so busy, they don’t have the time and the urge to meet “for one” all the time, and they don’t have time to constantly talk about whether this or that is a good idea. Either do it or don’t do it. Simple.

Smalltalk
So just today: My neighbor complimented my shoes (DSW, $25), a bass player in a café liked my dress (second hand, $19), in the shop I got a tip from the cashier to go with my bag of spinach, “try to mix it with a little tahini in the pan”. I don’t know if this chitchatting with total strangers is for real or pretend but it lifts my spirits every day. At the same time, I keep wondering if this is the reason why here overseas, at least for a while, you can speak with anyone. The Americans do not find it strange that there are twenty people at their BB they have never seen before but they are all somehow connected through their neighbor who has invited them all. In the Czech Republic, it’s different. This year I verified to myself once again that it does not matter what event I put on, I will always have five people who don’t turn up at all, another five pretend the invitation does not concern them (I did not write to them personally, only a general message on a social network), another five will make up some excuse and twenty will send me a message on the day of the event that they would say something like "rather go for a coffee where I don’t have to share you with another twenty people I don’t know." On the contrary, Americans know that time is precious, especially for someone who lives 6,000 kilometers from home and so consider each new encounter as an opportunity. The Czechs find it annoying. I am always sorry about it when at home.

Delivery services
Although they also work in the Czech Republic, the US services (at least those in a large city) are unique. And I’m not just talking about deliveries, pizzas, raw materials, and recipes for dinner, fresh vegetables to mix green juice or flowers. Just a few clicks on my phone means I will have the book I wish to read tonight delivered in a couple of hours or allergy drugs or a pack of baby diapers when I suddenly discover I am down to the last one.  Delivery is often free of charge or you pay an annual fee (Amazon, Prime, for example), other times it is conditioned with a minimum purchase at a certain price, but not very high. I cannot imagine the situation that I found myself in while visiting the Czech Republic in May. I ordered some goods and paid 150 Czech Crowns for delivery. After three days the courier called me: “Young lady, so I’ll be delivering your package today. What do you mean you’ll not be home at one p.m.? Well, in that case, you’ll have to pick it up yourself at the Post Office. I finish at two and won’t be coming back. Don’t care – sorry.”

Comfy traveling with a stroller
I became fully aware of this when I had to travel with a stroller in Prague in early May. If I didn’t have my mom with me, who helped me take it up, hold it, take it down again, I haven’t got a clue how I would have managed. I'm not just talking about the metro and public transport; though these were the places I missed the platforms for the disabled (and moms with prams) the most. When I forget about New York, which is specific, in the United States I have never seen a subway station, a train, a bus or anywhere else that would lack equipment for a disabled person. Actually, I am often quite surprised where disabled people are able to get to, usually in relatively complicated and busy places. That’s because there are access platforms, special large buttons for spontaneous door opening, spacious toilets, and other things. As a mother with a stroller, I can truly appreciate this because I don’t have to drag the stroller anywhere or ask someone for help or hold the door with my elbow, the wheel, or my back when I need to get through. On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised in Prague how many people (especially men!) stopped and offered to help me with the pram so that my mom did not need to take it down the steep steps in the tram.

Family
B. works here and I love him; we have a son who has his grandmother and grandfather here. We are family, so we are together. If I was to move to the United States knowing what I know now, with my school knowledge of English and tipping thirty years old, to start all over again, I would not do it. When I left the Czech Republic a month ago, my dad asked me the same question he has been asking me for four years: “What do they have in America that we don’t have over here?” “Clean houses without graffiti,” was the first thing that came to me because this time, the ruined facades of the houses in Prague upset me the most. Anyway, the truth is I can come up with fewer and fewer things each year. The Czech Republic is changing. For the better. (Really, believe me!) But, what do I know? Maybe in a few yearstime, the lines above - talking about what we yet don’t have in the Czech Republic - will sound like memoirs. The one thing that will still stand tough: I would miss the bus that I can jump on in front of our house and less than four hours later find myself on Times Square in New York. This to me, even after four years, is something of a miracle. Every time I am on it, I feel like I am dreaming.




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