Daniel Markus, an Australian ex-pat who has been teaching English at Bratislava's Gymnázium Matky Alexie for seven years, gave his English students (16 to 17 years old) an assignment in November: write a Letter to the Editor based on something they read in Vol. 5 No. 38 of The Slovak Spectator. Here is some of what they wrote:
I would like to react to the 'Culture Shock: Do you have a complaint? Nech sa páči' by Sharon Otterman. The first time I read it I was upset. Like - who gave someone the right to write something strong and rude like this?
But then I thought about it and found that I really liked it. It makes you think. My first impression of America when I went there to study was that everyone was smiling, was so kind and willing, everything was cool and easy and awesome and great... and it all seemed so fake and unnatural to me.
After the third week I was driven crazy. I really wanted someone to 'kick my ass' or 'beat me up' because I was totally fed up with all those empty compliments and flattery. They called me modest even though my friends back home called me self-confident.
Americans have a different past and history, a higher standard of living and more facilities available.
Our nation went through many hard and complicated situations, and we are happy and proud that a term like Slovakia still exists. Do we complain? Yes, it's the truth, maybe more than Sharon is used to "in the happy empty bubble over the Atlantic Ocean," but I wouldn't call the situation that dark and desperate.
20. Dec 1999 at 0:00