Long live mixed marriages
Greetings to all you 'members of the mixed marriage club'. I am Czech, and got married about a year ago in the UK.
My husband is English, but there's more to it than you could guess. He's half Nigerian and half Norwegian. How about that - a Czech-Nigerian-Norwegian couple? Do you wonder what language we communicate in? Well, you know how hard it is to teach someone Czech or Slovak, so we talk in English. What else on earth would we speak? (just joking). But my mother probably thinks we communicate on some primitive level, as you would find in a Nigerian tribe dancing with monkeys screaming in the background etc.
Although my husband has suffered a few Czech lessons, and his English has improved become a kind of "Czenglish" (as my friends always call it), the effort was unappreciated, or at least unacknowledged.
After reading the article ("Mixed couples: A bumpy, enriching ride", by Tom Nicholson, Vol. 7 No. 18, May 7-13) I must agree with some parts, especially that regarding 'family difficulties'. You all know how hard it is to live here without your best friend, the people you love, those who are close to you. I don't understand it when your family turns on you and demand a choice - "It's either us or your husband!".
In first introducing your partner, you may get endless embarrassing moments, unbreakable silences and language confusion (i.e. when you speak in English to your Czech mum who doesn't have a clue what her poor bewitched child is talking about, or when you blab out a few words in Czech to your confused husband who thinks you have gone mad).
And then you top it off first thing in the morning by asking your Dad in Czech how he is! (In Czech, we never ask people how they are when we see them on a regular basis, unlike the English. It makes no sense and sounds very odd in Czech to ask "hi, how are you?")
My language pet peeves: why do people over here always ask a) Hi, how are you? b) are you sure?
It gets a bit complicated sometimes. But isn't all of this exactly what life's about? Full of everything - joy, love, happiness, sorrow, disappointment and hurt, understanding and misunderstanding, determination and failure, surprises, questions and answers?
Nothing beats a good old silence
This was a great article ("Culture Shock: A bare-bones approach to pleasantries", by Matthew J. Reynolds, Vol. 7 No. 20, May 21-27). Having been in the US for more than 6 years now, and often travelling back to Slovakia, I think I can relate pretty much to what the author describes. It took me some time to get used to being constantly asked about my "day", and to learn to respond "fine, how's yours?" without thinking. Now I take it as a regular part of every exchange between people, much the same as eye contact or a handshake. I still sometimes get annoyed by the pretence of friendship on the part of some people here, but I think I have learned to distinguish when people really mean it.
I must say that a bit of small talk makes everyday life a bit more pleasant, but nothing can beat a good discussion, or even a moment of silence, with old friends back in Slovakia.
Thumbs up for sincerity
I am very pleased with your article ("Culture Shock: A bare-bones approach to pleasantries", by Matthew J. Reynolds, Vol. 7 No. 20, May 21-27). Having lived in the US for almost 14 years, I still have many difficulties finding honest friends in this very controversial country. I'm glad you recognise the sincerity and honest friendship still to be found in Slovakia.
American friendliness can be misleading
Concerning your article ["Culture Shock: A bare-bones approach to pleasantries", by Matthew J. Reynolds, Vol. 7 No. 20, May 21-27], I observed a couple of years ago that in the US one can experience the "image of friendliness". But real friendship is often missing. In the US, is there any other acceptable answer to the question 'How are you?' than 'Oh, I am fine'?
If you grade the possible responses from negative to positive, in the US it starts with 'good' and ends with 'great, marvellous'. In Slovakia you start with 'bad' and go to 'good' (sometimes 'very good'). This sometimes leads to some confusion in communication between Slovaks and Americans.
Slovaks should treat their urban animals better
When visiting Bratislava for the 10th time, I was extremely upset over the treatment of stray cats. In America, we have a pound or refuge to care for these animals. Is it too much to ask for this programme to be started in your city? I am ashamed at the indifference shown toward these animals by the general public.
Old national theatre sets the standard for beauty
Concerning your story ["State theatre saga drags on" by Matthew J. Reynolds, Vol. 7 No. 20, May 21-27], I was fortunate enough to have had the recent opportunity to see the ballet The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the current Slovenské národné divadlo (Slovak National Theatre) in Bratislava. Although it is extremely small, the theatre is exquisitely adorned. It will be very difficult for the new theatre to match its predecessor in such splendour.
3. Jun 2001 at 0:00