pragueBlog

2004-10-18  

EVERYTHING'S RELATIVE: In a comment to my story about the non-opening wardrobe (now happily opened) and the sleazy movers (never to be hired again), a student asks, "is living in the Czech Republic a struggle for foreigners? I am writing a school paper about it."

One of those questions that make you stroke your chin thoughtfully, sigh, and say "ah, yes. Now, where to begin?" You'd need a day of hard work and two coffee breaks just to get a good start on that one.

I've never really felt entitled to kvetch about my status as a foreigner. I have experienced relatively few "incidents" directly related to the fact that I'm an alien fellow, of essential strangeness, otherness, one of something else and not one of them. When I rant and rave it's about the same stuff that Czechs are ranting and raving about. I have had some run-ins with the scary battle-axes in various bureaucracies. So what? Everybody else has, too, Czechs and foreigners alike, just as we've all been jaw-droppingly badly treated by waiters, shop assistants and toilet attendants (the single most frightening species). All the usual problems you hear foreigners complaining about, bad service, crap quality, shiftiness, disrespect - the Czechs deal with those things, too.

All I know is the following: 1) A lot of foreigners, especially from the west, make life here a bigger struggle than it need be because they do not learn to deal with the Czech language adequately; and 2) straight out: foreigners like me frankly have it easier than others simply because I'm a westerner, I don't have a Russian or Ukranian sounding accent and I'm white. Them's the facts.

I went to see that new film Horem Padem recently. It's fictional, but perhaps our student questioner should go and see it. That'll put some perspective in the picture. There are foreigners in this country, and then again there are foreigners. Comparing my experiences with those of some people who end up here is like a bit of the old apples and oranges.

Here is his address in case anybody wants to send him some insights: madlicka@volny.cz.

Steve | 13:14 |
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