US visit confirms Culture Shock hypothesis
It was very interesting, amusing and also very good for my soul to read the story "Culture Shock: Slovakia refuge from mindless materialism", by Matthew J. Reynolds [Vol. 6 No. 6, Feb 14-20]. Mr. Reynolds wrote that on returning to the US after a long stay in Slovakia, everything had seemed "so big." For me, when I came back to Slovakia after a month in Washington D.C., my country seemed small and overcrowded. My flat felt like a small foyer compared to American housing. And again I started to cook - a Slovak traditional meal for my family almost every day, no fast food and restaurants. In American towns, you can't smell the aroma of Sunday lunches as you can here - beef or chicken soup, schnitzel or baked meat and potatoes, buns and cakes...
On the other hand, we too have useless, wasteful consumer items - terrible plastic things for the kitchen, monstrous ceramics and crockery, little boxes for nothing, artificial flowers. I don't like it, but at the same time I own a dishwasher and have no intention of going back to handwashing dishes. The four members of my family are always busy and have no time to work at home, so the dishwasher is an enormous help.
I also missed shopping late at night in supermarkets, smiling, polite faces on the streets (even from beggars!), the comfort and cars which each working man or woman is able to afford.
I remarked on how similar are the habits of the inhabitants of the capitals of two different worlds - Washington and Moscow. People in both cities rush and jump the line on subway stairs, and have a love of cold foods even in the winter - Russian people eat ice-cream year-round, while Americans always drink very cold cola from the fridge with ice-cubes. American ladies wear galoshes on their shoes in rainy weather just like Russian women do, and drink just as much champagne at the theatre as men do.
After my first three days in Washington, I said to myself "Stay in the US? Never!" But after a week I thought it would be nice to stay here for a few months or for a year. Why? I like the museums, theatre, creative art and I like getting to know a new country with different people. But after comparing Slovakia and the US, I completely agree with Mr. Reynolds - owning things can never be a source of lasting happiness. Comfort, perhaps. But, contentment, no.
City University feels left out
I was perplexed that Matthew J. Reynold's research for "Berlitz teachers bolt for greener pastures" (Vol. 6, No. 6, February 14-20) did not include City University (Bellevue, USA) and its Intensive English Program (IEP) among his survey of private schools offering intensive English courses in Bratislava.
Your readers might find it of interest to know that the IEP currently serves over 500 students Slovakia-wide at its sites in Poprad, Trenčín and Bratislava. We offer intensive ESL courses (20 hours/week) taught by qualified, experienced, and highly dedicated Slovak, American, Canadian and British instructors in six proficiency levels. Ours is the only academic preparatory ESL programme in this country. Students who complete our sixth level continue on to the BSBA programme (Bachelor of Science in Business Administration), completing their American college degree entirely in English, focusing on courses in marketing, finance, and international business. Successful graduates have gone on to work with prestigious local, regional, and international companies such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, TetraPak, Slovnaft, Matador, and Heineken.
City University's IEP provides a highly professional ESL curriculum, a competitive compensation package, a dynamic and challenging work environment, and student success.
IEP Manager, City University (Bellevue, USA)
Let down by restaurant recommendation
While I was reading your article called Slovak Lunch Spots [Vol. 6 No. 6, Feb. 14-20] it came to my mind that my friends from Germany were coming to visit me. Both of them wanted to try typical Slovak cuisine, and I thought that the restaurant called Slovenská Pivnica would be just the right one to go to.
When we entered, Sunday at noon, we were very surprised by the unpleasant smell in there, reminding me of when you use too many chemicals when cleaning the toilet. The restaurant was almost empty, there being only two other guests besides us. Later on, we found out why.
You probably know the famous Czech movie called Dědictví. If you can recall the part where Bolek "Bohuš" Polívka entered the restaurant and wanted to order water, the waiter from Slovenská Pivnica provided the same sort of service. I don't expect friendliness from waiters any more, and I am happy if they just notice that I am there. Our Slovenská Pivnica waiter noticed us very soon, and was so 'friendly' that I was about to leave. He gave us approximately two minutes and then asked what would we like to eat. When I told him that we didn't yet know, he left with a very unpleasant face.
The food we ordered, on the other hand, was quite OK. Still, it's quite difficult to eat if you see what the person before you was eating on your fork. Fortunately, we noticed that quite early, and were able to exchange our cutlery.
Another pleasant experience was the toilet. If you decide to enter this restaurant, please, make sure you don't have to visit the restrooms. They are disgusting. My German friends told me that in 'west' Germany, everybody thinks the eastern part of Europe is dirty. Now I know why they thought so. The whole restaurant looked like a bad communist dream. For my friends it was interesting, because they can't experience something like that at home. But I was ashamed that I had taken them there.
If your friends are here, or you have a strong desire to eat something Slovak, the restaurant Slovenská Pivnica is really not what you want.