Sunday, October 22, 2006

Who is the Emily Postova of Prague?

Because I need to meet her, or at least read her book. I mean, I thought I knew a few things about Czech manners. I knew to always take off my shoes when I walk into someone’s house, even if they tell me not to. I knew to always offer someone something to drink when they first arrive in the office. I knew to eat with both hands showing above the table at all times and to keep my fork in my left hand instead of switching it back to the right. I knew how to use forks and knives as signals to my waiter that no I’m still eating (fork and knife at 8 and 4 o‘clock on my plate), or yes I’m done (fork and knife neatly aligned at 3 o’clock). I sort of thought I had my protocol down.

But then.

Just a few days ago, I was out with a good friend of mine, eating Chinese in the middle of nowhere. It was very bad Chinese food, and we were the only people in the restaurant, but it was also the only restaurant within a kilometer of where we were working. So there we dined. And suddenly, my friend said:

F: Julia, why are eating your food that way? Where’s your knife?
J: A knife? For all the giant pieces of identifiable meat that are not on my plate right now? What are you talking about?
F: Because it is bad manners to only eat with a fork.
J: Next time I’ll ask for chop sticks. We’re eating Chinese you know.
F: I mean, generally. You’ve got to always eat with your knife and your fork, like this. Didn’t you realize? (He demonstrates.)
J: Aha! Now I see!! (The light breaks and years of wondering why Czech people needed a pusher to get food on their fork are suddenly clarified.)
F: And if you want to be very polite, you keep your arms tucked by your side. No elbow flapping.
J: (Considering my elbows) I really hope everyone knows I’m an American when I eat out or they’d think I had horrible manners.
F: Don’t worry, they do.

And with that, we changed the subject.


morskyjezek said...

I think I had some interesting comment, but it was lost as I was redirected while signing in to blogger beta. :-(

But great story anwyay! :-) They need things shaken up around here a bit, sometimes, even if it is the small things like knives and elbows.

tuckova said...

The worst violation of etiquette is correcting the manners of others. Of course you can't tell your friend that without getting stuck in some Mobius manners loop, but you could think it quietly to yourself. And then write about it.

Gar, Czechs telling Americans how to eat Chinese food is a jumble.

Julia said...

In this case, he told me with the best intentions, and I am more glad to know than not, despite feeling a bit chagrined. But I'll trade momentary embarrassment for a story almost any day!

lemuel said...

Sorry to say, but your friend sounds like an asshole.

EuropeanTop said...

Hello and thanks for the opportunity to read and post on your blog.

I’ve just posted an article related to travel tips for seniors on my blog and I thought maybe you’d be interested in reading it. Here is short preview of some of the areas I covered:

- Prefer a backpack on wheels instead of a suitcase, you could pull it behind you when your back hurts or you are exhausted.
- Consider checking your bag in with the airlines, because it would become an unnecessary burden to be dragged all over the airport or the city if you are going to have a short visit.
- You could stay outside the city, in a hostel maybe, because it is cheaper, less crowded and the air is much fresher, but you have to walk or use the transport more, to get in the city or to the station.
- Most museums, some concert halls, railways, airlines, bus lines, ferry and shipping lines have a discount policy for seniors.
- Electronic devices are useful but sometimes they can give you a lot of headaches. You could help yourself with a micro-tape recorder to record your notes. It would be easier than to write and you would put them down on paper later, to share your notes with your family.
- If you bring a camera with you to keep the beautiful images alive along the time then make sure you know how to handle it or you might fail to record them not only on that camera but also in your eyes.

For more resources on visiting Europe you are welcome to visit my blog, where you can also get acces to some excellent maps of Stockholm and maps of London, together with information on hotels and restaurants.

Best regards,

Michael R.

Prague Hotels said...

I didn't know about these specific manners, although I'm half a year here. Thank you for this information, now I know what should I do and what I shouldn't.