Pissing in the Streets

Urination customs in the Czech Republic

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 24.01.2006 01:19 (updated on 24.01.2006) Reading time: 3 minutes

Written by Terje B. Englund
Re-published with permission

Nobody would be particularly surprised to learn that the Czechs urinate in the same way as people in all other European countries. What´s surprising, though, is the incredible benevolence with which the Czechs tolerate urination in public places.

Take, for instance, this real-life situation: you are travelling by bus to a village in Western Bohemia, when the bus-driver stops suddenly because the car driving in front of you pulls over and blocks the narrow road. The chap behind the wheel jumps out of his Škoda, takes a few steps towards the ditch – and starts urinating blissfully in front of the fifty bus-passengers. Not a single word of condemnation is uttered, be it against the car driver´s tasteless behaviour or the delay he causes.

Basically, public urination is confined to two segments of the Czech population: children and adult men (most feminists would probably say that this is practically the one and the same group).

When it comes to children, the tolerance towards public urination is both understandable and praiseworthy. Contrary to Western countries, where children use diapers almost until they become teenagers, Czech parents regard it as a matter of personal honour to teach their children to use the toilet before they reach the age of two. From time to time, this inevitably implies the use of a bush in a public park or even the gutter as an improvised toilet, but thanks to the educational character of the act, nobody complains.

The tolerance towards men´s public urination, though, is not that simple to understand. Obviously, it´s fair to assume that the extremely high frequency of this phenomenon is somehow connected to Czech men´s equally extremely high consumption of beer. Consequently, the bladder of the average Czech male tends to be under far greater pressure than male bladders elsewhere.

Nevertheless, this pressure should not give them carte blanche to terrorize their surroundings through urination. Even the most run-down hospoda in the country has a lavatory of some kind, and the network of public toilets is often better than those in Western Europe (see: Central Europe). Why, then, do so many Czech men so often feel free to dispose of their bodily fluids in public places?

It´s hard to give a scientific answer. Some pundits would claim that it´s because the Czechs, not influenced or morally guided by any strong and visible nobility, are an utterly plebeian nation with plebeian behaviour. In this connection, there is a well-known story about the time that Jan Masaryk (see: Defenestration), Czechoslovakia´s ambassador to Great Britain in the interwar years, was invited to dinner at an English nobleman´s mansion. “Maybe you would like to wash your hands,” the host suggested before dinner started, discreetly hinting that the ambassador might need to visit the toilet. “Oh no, that´s not necessary,” replied the quick-witted Masaryk. “I just washed them behind the tree in your garden!”

According to a less widespread theory, the public urination-syndrome merely reflects the domination of Czech society by male chauvinists, who don´t care about their surroundings. And then, of course, there are those who see it as a nation-wide problem with alcoholism. In any event, a foreigner in the Czech Republic should better be prepared: a man, who is waving his genitals in public, is not necessarily an exhibitionist, but more likely an ordinary chap on his way home from the local hospoda.

Terje B. Englund is a Norwegian journalist, writer and translator. Educated at the University in Oslo and the Institute of Slavonic Studies at Charles University, he has been based in Prague since 1993, covering Central and Eastern Europe for Scandinavian media. Englund is an affectionate cyclist, mountaineer and diver, and he also enjoys the company of his French bulldog, Gaston.

“Czechs in a Nutshell” can be bought via Internet at www.baset.cz and in bookstores throughout Prague.

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