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I'm an observer, but I wanna know more about your culture and people

photo: Eva's archive

Eva, from Madrid, visited Prague in 1987 for the first time without knowing that one day she would be living here, bringing up her children with a Czech husband. I was wondering, how she is feeling about living here...
Eva, how long have you been living in Prague?
I live in Prague since year 2005. It’s 9 years now.
What do you do here right now?
Now I’m working part-time in the field of Spanish language teaching and also elevating my children. The youngest one is only three.
How it is for you to keep in touch with our society?
My husband is Czech, so for me it’s not difficult to observe how Czech people live and behave. But integration is another thing. I don’t consider myself integrated. I’m only a privileged observer.
Are you planning to go back to Spain? Or to a different country?
I feel that I have yet some work to do here in order to fully understand the country where my children and husband were born and where I have lived what probably will be the best and more intense 9 years of my life. I’m determined to go deeper into the Czech culture and people in order to understand better the persons I love and live with. BUT, the place where I feel better is and will be my own country.  I’d also love to live in France, a place where everything would be easier for me because I speak French fluently and the culture and way of life there are closer to my own.
What do you like here?
I like the size of the city. Not big, not small. I find it calm and safe, if you compare it with other European capitals. I like the architecture, the river, big parks (Petřín, Kinsky, Stromovka) and secluded corners in the old town. I like cinema Aero, the iron bridge in Výtoň, Vyšehrad in winter, the old cemetery of Malvazinky in autumn...
And what you don’t like?
Let me think.... ok, for example, I don’t like the effect that tourism has had on Prague. The city center has changed and it is much more ugly than 20 years ago. Too many shops and restaurants for tourists. And also, the style and type of some advertising used in this country: many adverts are disgusting, stupid and sexist. If this kind of publicity works amid the Czechs, it would be really worrisome.... Any how, I prefer not to think about what I don’t like.  Many times, the foreigner finds something annoying or wrong because he/she doesn’t understand properly the situation or the social codes used in this country. 
When you  came, what was new for you?
What I found most difficult to understand is the way people relate with other people. Of course, Czech language is very difficult and it can be a very big barrier. For me it’s clear that without a good level of Czech you will never be a full individual here. That can be terribly frustrating. In general, when you live abroad you discover that people behave in a different way in most of the contexts and you need time to realize it and to react properly. You have to forget your own prejudices and make a complete reset of your  mind.
In Prague I found it particularly difficult to accept the codes of behaviour in Czech shops, very different from those we find in Mediterranean countries (Spain, France, Italy...): communication reduced to the minimum, no positive interaction... Even now, after so many years living here, sometimes going to the butchery is a great challenge for me.
Also, I didn’t expect to find in the streets of Prague so many ultraexpensive luxury cars and at the same time so many homeless people in such a disastrous state.
Are there any habits that suprised you?
One thing I didn’t know before coming here is that there exists a courtesy of the distance: don’t ask too much, don’t touch too much, don’t invade the space of the other.... Very different to what I was used to: the courtesy of the familiarity present in southern countries. Here if you try to be friendly or talkative many times you can annoy someone. Also, I learned to think that if some people are not very nice, it doesn’t mean they have something against you. Both ways are OK. You only have to know it.
More specifically, one of the things that struck me most was the formality present in some situations: graduations, birthdays.... When the family gathers to celebrate the birthday of someone, this ceremony of congratulating the person and giving the present.... that surprises me all the time.
Tell me, please, how do you celebrate birthdays in Spain?
I don’t think there is a standard way of celebrating birthdays. Only it seems to me that we don’t make a big deal out of it. It’s something that happen to everybody every year so.... At least it was like that among my friends and family.
You're from Spain, a country of fashion. Do you like the Czech women's fashion? I mean, how women dress, how they make a make-up, how they behave ... ?
I don’t like specially the way Czech women dress. But I like that they look confident and comfortable in their clothes. I think they are prettier than Spanish women  (in general) and strong built women that don’t invest a lot of money in clothing. Nevertheless, they are naturally feminine and take care of their image, that’s clear. In Spain, women tend to dress less sport and more formal, I think. Also, it is difficult to look elegant hidden under your „bunda“ and your „čepice“ during the long winter months.
Also, in summer I must say that Czech  women tend to show much more flesh than Spanish women. That surprises me and sometimes I find it embarrassing. Don’t forget that I grew up in a Catholic country, in a society much more puritanical and represive than yours. Thank’s God Spain has changed a lot for the better in the last decades.
On the other hand, I think that due to historical reasons (the development of our  nations has followed different paths and at different speeds) until very recently Czech women have been more free and educated than Spanish women. I recognize that many times I have found myself reading with surprise and envy what certain remarkable Czech women did in the past when in Spain women were living a life full of limitations of every kind.
What do you think is actually the first difference between Czech and Spanish woman?
In terms of body shape, Spanish and Czech women are differently built. We are smaller and rounder. Less athletic. In terms of character, I’d say that we express feelings differently. But it’s difficult to make generalizations. Now we all see the same TV movies or series, so....
As for work patterns, I think we are more or less in the same situation, striving to make compatible the effort of building a family with our carriers.  We have to give up on many things in order to give our children what they need and deserve. But I think that’s a problem in all developed countries. Anyhow, it is very difficult to speak about Czech women and Spanish women. Surely between young women there are more similarities than if we compare women beyond 50 years old. There surely we could find many more differences.
Is there something that you like specially about Spanish and Czech women?
I like women in general, we are fantastic, don’t you think so?
Yes, I think so. :-) Do you have any Czech friends here?
I know Czech women due to my work and I have contact with some neighbours, but I would not call them friends. I came here to live with my couple when I was almost 40 and I have had two children since then, so my situation has not been ideal to go out every day and make a lot friends. I was not a 25 years old girl going abroad to study or work.... you know what I mean.
Thank you very much for the interview Eva and good luck! :-)

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