Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gender roles

Gender roles seem to be more cemented in the Czech Republic than in western Europe. Women look after the house and men go to work

I believe the root of this is the maternity/paternity laws, that give mothers 1-4 years paid maternity leave and give fathers zero paternity leave. The maternity leave is tiered in some way so that the longer maternity leave you take, the less money you get each year. This could lead to either or both of:
  1. Women who have children get slowed down in their careers since they have a gap of at least one year for each child.
  2. Employers know that if they take on a woman younger than 40, there's a risk that she'll be gone for 1-4 years, possibly more than once. For the company, this would mean:
    1. getting a substitute (cost in hiring, training etc.). This training and all experience gained on the job would be lost if there's not space for the substitute in the company once the maternity leave is over.
    2. the woman, once coming back is unlikely to have developed professionally and may even need some training to get back into the job.
No employer should of course take this into consideration, but I suspect quite a few do. The solution seems obvious: let the mother and father split the child-leave between themselves as they see fit. Why is there a need for the government to tell the mother and father who should stay at home with the child? This is the model used in some western countries (England, Sweden etc.).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Red man means STOP!

In Czech, jaywalking is strictly forbidden. Walking against red could land you a £20 fine, and if you're within 50 m of a zebra crossing, then you must use that crossing. And the law is strictly followed. I see people stand waiting at a crossing when the road is completely empty. And it's not because the police takes much notice of jaywalking. Maybe it's a respect for authority that lives on from old days or a lack of tradition for civil disobedience. The harsh consequences for a British streaker in Prague springs to mind.

This is a stark contrast from the west where people often jaywalk. Especially New York stands out, where in winter with slippery roads, they have guards holding chains between them to stop people from rushing out in the street.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Low country morale

There seems to be a sentiment among Czech people that the Czech Republic is not as good to live in as western countries. Of course not everyone thinks this way, and maybe it is more common among young people, but it seems to hold true for a lot of Czech people. When people hear that I chose to relocate from west to Czech, I often get asked why with a stare of disbelief. It's as if people think that the standard of living is better outside of eastern Europe.

From what I've seen so far, your standard of living is less dependant on where you live and more dependent on what you do. You maybe earn less money in eastern Europe, but things are priced differently and you have other options of what to do with your time. I think media is largely responsible for the low attitude among Czech people about their country. Media often equals money and consumerism (buying gadgets, travelling, spending money) with happiness and success. Maybe this has lead to people striving for those things and not seeing the great things around them that are free.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Buy banana in Czech: fail!

I went to a big supermarket on my lunch break to buy a sandwich and a banana. When it was my turn at the till, the cashier said something too advanced for my Czech skills, and looked at me. She then confiscated my banana and put it to the side! I asked if she spoke English, but she didn't, but with a few stumbling questions in Czech, I managed to learn that I should have gotten a sticker for the banana by the fruit section. I felt a bit embarrassed when I had to walk away without my banana!

I later found out that in some shops the customers weigh fruit and veg themselves, and then get a sticker with the price that they attach to the item. Apparently this is not uncommon in eastern Europe, but I've never seen it elsewhere. Maybe a good idea since it saves some time at the till when the items don't have to be weighed there.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A dog nation

In Czech, every second person seems to have a dog. And it's not the dangerous fighting breeds that are too common in London. It's dogs of all shapes and sizes, often wagging their tails happily. So far I've seen dachshunds, poodles, airedale terriers, irish setters, yorkshire terriers and a host of things I'm not sure what they were. It's fun to see when taking a walk!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mr Driving Licence

I had to go to the doctor shortly after arriving in Czech. I had my czech health insurance number, but the official card was still being printed.

I went to the doctor with a czech friend to back me up when my language skills wouldn't be enough. The doctor seemed very professional and quickly diagnosed me. I was asked for my passport, but since I didn't have this with me, my non-czech driving licence was accepted.

The doctor printed out papers for my sick leave and gave me a prescription. We thanked and hurried out to get to the pharmacy before closing time. When I got home, I looked at the papers for my sick leave. Under the heading for name, it said "K├Ârkort Sverige" - literally "Driving licence Sweden"!

  • the doctor was as friendly and helpful as any of the best doctors I've had in the past. No saw was pulled out and they didn't try to amputate anything on me :)
  • in my opinion, getting the name wrong of your patient in this way is a complete no-no. Interestingly, my czech wife feels it's an easy mistake to make. Her argument is that if I was given a Chinese driving licence, then I would probably also assume that the largest words were the name. Maybe I would, but I would ask the patient to show me the name on the licence or at the very least, I would confirm that I got the name right. This point could be related to the one below (doctors are always right in Czech).
  • in western countries, we respect doctors because they've spent a lot of time and effort to go through medical school. But we also know that med school is no IQ measurement and that doctors are humans that make mistakes. In Czech, there's an attitude that doctors are like oracles. To question their wisdom would be frowned upon. This is a stark contrast to how western patients often question why a treatment is necessary and what the alternatives are.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A western perspective

So, I have recently moved to the Czech Republic. Until now, I have only lived in "western" countries. In this blog, I'm planning to gather observations of Czech as seen through my western eyes.