In their quest for ‘local voices’ Lonely Planet last year invited me to contribute a list of 5 things I liked about the Czech Republic. Then, earlier this week I answered 5 questions for Igougo.com as part of their new ‘member spotlight’. In those two cases, and indeed with most of the words I’ve ever strung together regarding the
‘Here we go’ you say, ‘another rant from a foreigner about Czech waiters’. Well, no. Actually I don’t think they’re that bad. Of course if you blabber at them in some foreign language and wait expectantly for an answer some of them are going to be a bit curt, just like waiters in any other part of the world. Overall I think Czech waiters are fine. ‘It wouldn’t hurt them to smile’, people say. Yeah but why should they? It’s a difficult job for crappy pay and most of their customers are unnecessarily demanding. And why should they try to be your friend? Are you really that interesting, I know I’m not. I’m happy if they just bring me my food. It’s not the waiters I dislike, it’s the way everybody else complains about them.
Change on the counter
When I’ve paid though (and tipped) but the change is dropped onto the table beside my outstretched hand, I always get a little put out. It feels to me like a handshake declined or by extension, as if you’ve held your hand out for something and it has been thrown on the ground at your feet. I don’t understand why people here do that. Is it some hangover from communism (the old standby explanation for anything a foreigner doesn’t understand) or does it have something to do with not being ripped off by sleight of hand until the money has been counted out? Any theories…?
I always hold my hand out for any change that I’m due. In the same way that I always ask for Kofola in bars that have exclusive contracts with Coca-Cola. I usually resort to drinking mineral water, but lately I’ve had some success with people putting the coins in my hand. I have no idea if this is a habit that’s changing or if it’s just the random selection of stores and cafes I’ve been wandering into. I’d like to hope the former.
Anyone who thinks restaurant service is bad has never stood in line at the Živnostenský (business license) office for three hours only to be told that he was standing in the wrong line and needs to go to door 366 because this door only handles applicants whose surnames begin in A-F. Or at the wrong window in the post office only to be told buying stamps is not possible. Not the number of the window that does sell stamps, just that at this window it’s not possible.
Or to get your visa registered at the foreigners’ police in
This is the inside of the foreigners’ police office. You’re not really supposed to take photos in there, but officers, if you’re upset about it, you know where I live. If you line up at my front door by , I might give you a number about lunch time and be ready to talk to you at about . On odd-numbered Mondays and Wednesdays in months without any vowels in their names.
Czech roads are dangerous places because for the most part, Czechs are crap drivers. It’s not that they don’t have skill. In fact the national newspaper today has a big article about 19-year-old Grand Prix race driver Erik Janiš (a local boy from
This is the big one. If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing about this country it would be this. I’m not saying every Czech is a closet neo-Nazi or that every Gypsy is an innocent lovable angel, but most of you who are reading this know what a raw deal the Romany people get. I won’t bang on about it too much, but it has to be a keystone of any list of negatives about the
If it’s so crap here, why don’t I just pack up and go home? Let’s see; 5 negatives, 1032 positives. I’ll get back to you when I’ve done the math…