I remember when I first came to the Czech Republic. I was experiencing first impressions every five minutes!
Firstly, the language. OK, yes, I know I laughed at Lenka… but when you’re learning a language in your native land, you tend to only encounter the things you’re learning. You’re out of context. When you arrive at your destination and find yourself completely surrounded in the language and totally out of your depth, language takes on a new meaning.
Secondly, the people. When I first moved here, I moved to a small town in the mountains. And I noticed how lovely the people were. Everybody was so excited to meet the new English girl. They offered me presents and cakes and smiles. Nothing was too much trouble. I was never in the way. I wasn’t allowed to help. It was a lovely way to be greeted.
Contrary to this, I noticed how there was a very specific attitude to serving customers. It seemed that everyone took their job very seriously and a smile would make you think otherwise. I watched how grandmas would pout their lips like children to get the post office woman to stamp their envelope. I did think this was a little strange.
Oh and paperwork. I accumulated more papers in my first weeks living in the Czech Republic than I had in the previous ten years in England. There’s a paper for everything. There’s a paper to ask if they can give you another paper. And another still to say they gave it to you.
The food was a fun discovery. Different to England, the main meal is at lunch time. Heavy food. Lots of meat and potatoes. Soup to start and usually something sweet to finish. Even on a hot summer’s day. I was surprised that it was nearly always the women cooking (… and clearing away). And, despite the fact that she had probably spent all morning preparing the meal, it seemed like race to see who could eat it the fastest 🙂
The countryside dazzled me. It’s beautiful. So free. You’re allowed to wander anywhere in the mountains. And the Czechs love to be outside; walking, climbing, biking, swimming, skiing, rollerblading, mushroom picking… you name it. One of the things that struck me when I explored more was how quickly a big thriving city turned into happy rolling hills and trees, and you were suddenly in the depth of the countryside. Lovely.
And that was eight years ago. I was only meant to stay for a year… the place must have made a great first impression on me 🙂
I laughed at Lenka’s impressions of England, and I shouldn’t have. Different people take in a new places in different ways.
Some people arrive with a library of research and are eager to have each learned fact proved true. Others arrive like a blank canvas waiting to be painted. Some people are struck by all the differences to home. Some are surprised by the similarities. For some, it is the big things that make a strong impression, and for others, it ‚s the details. Some absorb their impressions the way ink dissolves in a bowl of water. Some stand still in amazement.
And others, like Lenka, allow the place to have an impact on them, and it is this that makes the impression. I quite like that.
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