Found yourself a Czech mate? Forget the navel-gazing psychobabble, get sporty and make sure you get on the right side of his Mamka if you want it to work out, says Lisette Allen.
It’s more than a fling. He’s not just a Czech mate – or kamarád with benefits – but your potential life-partner. What now?
Falling for someone from a different country certainly throws up more challenges than hooking up with the boy next door. Here are some pointers for those of you who’ve decided to ignore the bad press Czech men receive and take the plunge.
1. Compromise – but not too much
If you’re dating someone who comes from a different country, compromise is both inevitable and essential. As Czechs tend to be practical, let’s think logistics. Will you shower in the morning or the evening? Spend Christmas together or apart? And of course, there’s deciding where to live. One of you will inevitably be far away from the support network of family and friends you’ve grown up with – a big ask. Some give and take on both sides will be required but don’t become a doormat.
2. Moving abroad: problem or opportunity?
I don’t want to suggest that cross-cultural relationships are all about sacrifice though. Upping sticks for love can present exciting new opportunities – coming to a new country might be just the excuse you need to ditch an unfulfilling career and pursue a different path. “Being in Prague has given me a new lease of life,” says Sarah, a teacher who recently launched ABC Activity, an after school club with the aim of improving children’s English. “Setting up my own business in a foreign country is something I never could have predicted before moving here – meeting my Czech partner gave me the chance to do that.”
3. It’s not a Czech thing – it’s him
When dating a native, it’s easy to put down every quirk of theirs to the fact that they have a different passport. Don’t explain away too much of their bad behavior simply by saying with a shrug, “It’s a Czech thing.” If you’re unhappy about the fact that he’s spending almost every evening with his mates in the pub or if his directness crosses the line into tactlessness, you’re allowed to say so.
4. Be nice to Mamka
Getting on the right side of your prospective mother-in-law is a bit of a no-brainer. Here in the ČR, where family plays a greater role in people’s lives than in the UK or the US, it’s not just advisable but essential. Expect to spend one weekend a month visiting his parents’ place, especially if your Czech man no longer lives in his hometown. And don’t try to compete on the Czech cuisine front – your potato dumplings will never be the same.
5. Ditch the psychobabble
Czech men find the forensic examination of their every emotional nuance at best irritating, and at worst, a deal breaker. When indulging in this over-analytical behavior, Anna’s* Czech partner once screamed at her in frustration: “I will not be the scientist of this relationship! My English is not perfect but you know what I mean.” She certainly did. That’s because Czechs like to tell it how it is. Nothing is sugarcoated, but once you adjust, this can be refreshing.
6. Learn to say more than miláčku
Yes, mastering Czech is challenging – but the advantages of learning more than a few terms of endearment are obvious. First, he’s your boyfriend, not your PA. You shouldn’t expect him to make mundane phone calls on your behalf or to constantly take time off work to act as unpaid translator. Practice on his relatives: learn five small talk questions that you can recycle on every visit to Babička – she probably won’t even notice that you’re always asking her the same thing so long as you eat all the zákusky on offer.
7. Embrace the Great Outdoors
The Czechs may be a nation of beer drinkers but they’re also a sporty bunch. At the weekend you’re just as likely to find them skiing, cycling, roller blading, Nordic walking or scrambling through the forest mushroom hunting as slobbing around on the couch in their tepláky. Even though Suzie’s* first weekend away with Honza was in Cornwall, she still experienced culture shock: “I had pictured a Bridget Jones style mini-break – what I got was hardcore hiking.” Even if you’ve never set foot in a gym, if you’ve fallen for a Czech guy, you’re going to have to get off your butt.
8. Be prepared for prehistoric attitudes
Sometimes dating a Czech guy can feel a little like you’ve received a sharp blow to the head and woken up in the year 2011 B.F. – Before Feminism. Sadly, even the most enlightened Czech guy can display depressing sexist attitudes. My advice? Put your foot down early. Don’t let him play the “but a Czech girl wouldn’t think twice about ironing my socks” card. Flattening out the creases in a pair of curtains may be good housekeeping, but no human being ought to waste time pressing smalls.
9. Be a spendthrift not a shopaholic
Czechs guys are considered mean by some but their thrift means you’re unlikely to end up saddled with huge debts. While your salary is obviously your own, they won’t be impressed if you fritter away most of your income on shoes and handbags or worse still run up a huge credit card bill to attend your friend’s hen do in Morocco. Learning to be less materialistic can leave you not just with more money but more free time – is wandering around airless shopping malls in search of that retail fix just because you had a bad day really so much fun? If you really can’t kick your shopaholic habit, hide the receipts.
10. Don’t constantly criticize his homeland
Yes, the waitresses are surly, the bureaucracy is Kafkaesque and the cobbled streets are guaranteed to trash your heels. You chose to be here though so suck it up. If all you can do is whine about the minuses of being here, it’s time to book your flight home.
* Names have been changed