Is Slovakia Stuck in the 1950’s? – 13 Examples of How It Is

1950′s

March 30, 2012

Allan Stevo

Many people consider the past to be both old and bad.  I try not to assume that what is old is bad.  Nor do I believe that time necessarily brings progress.  For example, there are times when a person can look back and say, “We took a turn back there and it might have been  bad decision.”  Though time may have passed, spending years going down the wrong road is not progress.

Below I have listed items that I consider both admirable and worthy of mention.  These are aspects of Slovak culture, that, for all practical purposes, Americans once had and have generally parted with.  While I did not live in the 1950′s, so many Americans visiting Slovakia have said to me about Slovakia “Well, that’s sort of like how it was in the 1950′s,” that it’s hard to ignore this comparison.

I’d like to know what you think.  Does it sound like Slovakia is “stuck” in the 1950′s?  Is some of it good?  Is some of it bad?  I don’t intend to inspire any mindless nostalgia, but perhaps a discussion on what things about America’s past and Slovakia’s present are good and worthy of repetition.

Example 1 – Dressing Up to Go to Town

I’ve often been in situations in the U.S. where I see unsightly men and women going out for groceries in a way that makes them seem even more unsightly than they already are.  Perhaps they might wear pajamas or poorly fitting clothes, clothing with holes, or clothing that is so loose and revealing that it should only have be worn in private.  All of these and worse might appear at the grocery store, or the nearest Walmart, or on a person bouncing around town running errands.  Americans, in general, tend to be quite casual about how they dress in public.

Slovaks tend to have a very different attitude about how to dress when going to town.  It seems to be the case whether going to work, going shopping, or going out on both romantic and friendly dates.  One must make an effort to look good in town.

How very impressed I continue to be to see the insistence that many Slovaks of all ages put into dressing up. In Slovakia it is very clear that there is one type of acceptable wardrobe for the home and garden and a very different acceptable wardrobe if you plan to leave your property.  And especially elegant, in my opinion, is the standard by which many Slovak women dress to go to town.  Running for a bus on cobblestone, dressed well, in high heels somehow does not seem to faze a Slovak woman in the slightest.

On one’s property, it’s interesting to note that little more than one’s skimpy underwear is sometimes worn by both sexes when working out in the sun in Slovakia.  This can be an unflattering sight.  When leaving the home, even if just to run a few quick errands, many people take care to dress up.

Example 2 – The Observance of Sundays

Many American churches are packed on Sundays.  I won’t pretend that the same is true in Slovak churches.  In general, American churches seem to be a bit better at packing people in the door, but I’ve seen both extremes in both countries.  While it may not be a very strong time for organized religion in Slovakia, the Sabbath is observed nonetheless.  When I first came to Bratislava, the difference was VERY noticeable.

On Sundays there is little traffic, cars are clearly left unmoved, fewer people are out, most businesses are closed, even restaurants might be closed all day long.  Stores close up early or stay closed all day.  People stay at home or go to the garden.  Families lounge around.  A nicer meal is often eaten for Sunday lunch than what would be eaten during the rest of the week. The family might even all sit together at one time at the table.

Sunday is a different day than all the rest in Slovakia and you get the feeling that there is something sacred and special.  Not everything is for sale.  Across the border in Austria, which is in many ways much more westernized than Slovakia, aside from a church it is very difficult to find anything open at all.  It seems this tradition of honoring Sundays is widely appreciated.

A friend, whenever she would teaching the novel Like Water for Chocolate used to do an exercise with students where she asked them about their favorite traditions.  Often students would mention Sunday lunch as a favorite family tradition because it meant that the whole family would be together, which wasn’t true at other meals.

In the capital, Bratislava, this tradition is waning slightly, but it still seems true that many Slovaks, atheists included, consider their Sunday afternoons sacred time.

Example 3 – Train Travel is Elegant and often Pleasant

The communists did not plan for a car to be the birthright of every human being over the age of 18.  The tight traffic in Bratislava shows that the city was not ready for the current influx of cars.  This tight traffic happens even though many people still do not own a car.  The difficulty of parking in high density residential areas further illustrates this.  In some residential areas, every available piece of sidewalk doubles as a parking space and double parking tends to be normal.  The traffic problem was clearly not well-planned for in other cities around Slovakia either.  Public transportation, however, was encouraged by the government and the extensive train system remains from prior times.

There’s something classy and dignified about travelling by train.  You can get from point A to point B in style – legs crossed, sitting on a wide seat, which is akin to a stiff couch, in an enclosed compartment, separated from people trying to brush their way past you.  In such a scenario you might as well not have a care in the world, because you can’t help whether the train is on time or not. So, you unfold the newspaper that you’re carrying under your arm and enjoy the latest happenings of the world.  When you get there, you get there, as the beauty of nature zooms past you outside. Like a wealthy steel magnate being chauffeured to work, you can watch the landscape, dream about your next big plan, or heck, if you want to, just close your eyes.  Even if you just opt for second class with a seat reservation, the train will take you all over Slovakia in style.

Example 4 – Clothes Dryers

As I was not a child of the 1950′s, I have no idea how many American households in the 1950′s owned clothes dryers, but I’m guessing that they were an appliance of convenience and excessive wealth that came later in the century.

Out of the hundreds of homes I’ve been in around Slovakia, only once have I seen a clothes dryer (and that household was actually an American’s).  In Italian homes I’ve seen clothes dryers, enough so that I assume that they are commonplace in Italy.  This can be expected since Italy is part of the lazy and luxurious West.

In Slovakia, however, every single family seems to have a foldable-6-dollar-drying-rack that they cart out when the laundry is done and fold back up for storage the next morning after the clothing dries.  Even in the tiniest of apartments I’ve found this to be the case.  Before arriving in Slovakia never would I have been able to imagine that I did not NEED a dryer. That’s because I never had to imagine that problem.  That’s sort of a take on necessity being the mother of invention I suppose.

When I first got here, someone had to show me what to do with my wet laundry, and I was probably of the opinion that Slovakia was a backwards and messed up place when I saw no clothes dryers.  But it’s good to be placed into a situation where you’re forced to challenge what you think you know.  Before long I found myself wondering “Why on earth do so many Americans own clothes dryers?”

I’ll admit, when there’s something you really want to wash and wear that same day, not having a dryer can be a hassle – it does require extra forward thinking. Sometimes clothes get linty in Slovakia  (no dryers = no lint traps).  Sometimes jeans don’t regain their shape quite right.  And, on cold days, when nothing would feel better than a pair of socks or a sweatshirt right out of the dryer, it is easy to miss having a dryer.

In my opinion, in the year 2011, Slovakia is two steps ahead of any country that is reliant on dryers.  It’s more efficient; it’s cheaper; it’s not so hard on the clothes.  It makes Slovaks seem smarter for not needing such a cumbersome contraption to do such a simple job.  Sort of reminds me of the thousands of dollars of taxpayer money NASA spent on developing a pen that could write in outer space, upside down, and never leak.  The Soviets told their cosmonauts to just use pencils.

Example 5 – Pre-Lawsuits

I think that the term “good old-fashioned fun” in the U.S., somewhere under the surface, has something to do with a time where America was more relaxed and less litigious.

This one is not entirely fair to compare, because, well, we have no idea how lawsuit-happy Slovaks would be if their court system were able to be trusted to even occasionally accomplish anything in accordance with a semblance of justice and ethics.

More than once I’ve been asked by friends to go “collect” money from someone who owed him or her a debt – an invitation I’ve decline each time.  The implication was that a threat of force was needed to make the collection process more successful, the appearance of “muscle.”  The threat of taking someone to court in Slovakia is just so darn meaningless.  The process is long, you might get a judgement in your favor, and the judgement will probably not help you collect the money both you and the judge believe you are owed.

But the fact is, no matter what the cause of the scenario, Slovaks are not litigious.  When you step onto a bus in Bratislava, you can tell who is American and who is Slovak.  The American does something stupid like stand next to the gigantic, powerful, iron, door-closing-contraption. Where an American comes from, the gigantic, powerful, iron, door-closing-contraption would never exist because it’s so dangerous.  The Slovak on the bus, from the littlest nincompoop of a child to the most hunched over elderly miser, has the sense of not putting his foot next to the closing contraption.  Inevitably, the American will eventually learn that doing so is a bad idea – you will get hurt, no one will feel bad for you, the ambulance won’t come for you.  If you finally do convince the ambulance to come for you they are going to charge you a lot of money for making them come to you for something so incredibly frivolous.

The Slovak on the other hand, seems to behave more responsibly at all times as if thinking  to himself or herself “I am in charge of keeping myself safe, if I do not keep myself safe, despite the many promises of my government, I will most likely be left to die right there on the street, as people walk by me and avoid eye contact. And if I am rescued, I will have earned the unceasing ridicule of family and friends for my lack of commonsense, so much so that I will come to question whether it might not have been better to have stayed laying on the sidewalk with my broken leg until I died of dehydration three days later.”

Yes, I even believe that just three minutes sitting on a bus in Slovakia can make an observant American think “Man, are we a bunch of common-sense lacking weenies.”  Or maybe he or she might think “This place is senselessly dangerous.”   Either way, there is a noticeable difference in what safety means and who is responsible for keeping a person safe.

Everywhere you turn in Slovakia there are holes, things you can trip over, slip on, have dropped on you, run into, or poke an eye out with.  There is really death right around the corner, yet people don’t fall into, for example, the sewer on the path near my house that was left uncovered for about four years.

Nope, Slovaks are street smart in many ways.  And they often aren’t weenies either.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a random elderly man or woman brutally fall and then pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get right on the next bus, so they could go home to nurse their wounds.  Calling the ambulance here usually seems like something that is just outside of the Slovak character.  These people can be tough.

And, well, back to the issue of “good old fashioned fun.”  There’s a place called Slovensky Raj that has the longest, ricketiest, most wet and slippery ladders around.  It’s a national park filled with natural waterfalls, where you can just scramble up a five-story ladder as a water fall sprays you in the face.  It’s pretty stupid to do and as I have said – SO MUCH FUN!  If you are in Slovakia, and able-bodied enough to do it, you must hike Slovensky Raj, especially the “Sucha Bela” trail.

I would give Slovensky Raj about three days in the U.S. before it were closed down by court order.  The name, incidentally, translates as “Slovak Paradise,” and that it is indeed.  A trip up Sucha Bela means you will be hiking through river beds, scrambling over wooden ladders that are still standing, scrambling around old fallen wooden ladders, pausing to admire the amazing gorge you’ve found yourself in, walking though a waterfall, trying not to slip off of tall ladders as you get spritzed in the face by that waterfall.  It’s the kind of hike that makes you feel alive.  The hike is mandatory annually for my friends and I.

Because I’ve been on the hurt end of a Slovak 911 call (I wasn’t the one hurt), I am pretty certain that if you did fall off a ladder at Slovensky Raj and live long enough to call for help, the first thing that mountain rescue would do (provided that you were not mortally wounded) would be to badger you with questions that made you admit your own stupidity before they pressed on tender and painful spots to torture you, and then would take a few minutes to laugh at your stupidity before finally tending to your concerns. If you were mortally wounded, I think they would hurry to take care of you much more comfortably.

This is not a litigious place because, it’s not a place, often enough, where you can get away with successfully blaming others for your own stupidity.

The lack of litigiousness puts much of the blame for self-protection in the hands of the individual and allows others to offer opportunities for a great deal of fun.

A Jewish professor of mine once told me one difference that he perceived between a Jewish family and a Christian family.  In a Christian family, the parent’s love is unconditional.  In a Jewish family Mommy’s love is unconditional, Daddy’s love is conditional.  If you screw up, you’re gonna remember it.  If this professor of mine spoke the truth, then love from strangers in Slovakia is a lot like his Jewish father – conditional.  You cannot expect a stranger to cry over your own stupidity and you seldom can expect it from a friend.

That common Slovak attitude does not welcome litigiousness.

Example 6 – Eating Lard is Allowed

Lard is consumed – Yes, lard is consumed.

In case you do not know what lard is: Huge chucks of fat are cut from a pig and then cooked until all the liquid comes out.  The liquid is cooled and then called lard.

In Slovakia, it’s eaten on bread.  It’s used for cooking.  The tastiest food has lard in it – from pie crusts to biscuits.  While in the U.S., it’s socially and medically verbotten to eat lard and has been for decades, health and fitness commentators like this one or this one would all say that Slovakia’s got this one right – natural lard, and butter are better for a human body than artificially engineered alternatives like margarine.

Pork is also eaten in Slovakia, plentifully, especially the fattiest parts.  Calories, diets, running, food groups, nutrients are all things that might be discussed from time to time in Slovakia, but in all honesty, no scientist, no dietician seems to have any more of an understanding of what is good and nourishing for a child than that child’s own mother.

Our American way of dissecting the diet and trying to build it back together around acceptable nutrients feels so artificial.  Lots of the things we eat don’t really even qualify as “food,” according to author Michael Pollan in his books The Omnivore’s DilemmaIn Defense of Food, and Food Rules.  Pollan also makes this argument about the American diet while juxtaposing them with the traditional diets of other cultures.

The Slovak idea of nutrition seems so natural and ingrained in the culture.  You take some potatoes and add cheese and bacon and you have a meal.  Every few days, you make sure you get some meat, eat it with potatoes and you have a meal.  Always start a meal with soup, but make sure you have bread with it.  Never eat eggs without bread, it’s bad for you. These are all ideas I’ve been exposed to regarding proper diet in Slovakia.  I’m sure there are hundreds of other cultural “rules” that I see around me, but that I’ve never had verbally pointed out to me and that are probably seldom verbalized in Slovakia.

Somehow, without any scientific theories, Slovaks seem to know what to eat and what not to eat based on how they are feeling.  They know how much to eat and how much to exercise based on how they are feeling.  I wonder if anything new can be taught by nutritionists following the American method of deconstructing every meal.  For example, in Slovak culture, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if your mother’s homemade sauerkraut is rich in probiotics that benefit your gut and that your bacteria flora is so important for your health that it’s referred to as your “second immune system” by some, such as Tim Ferriss in his book 4 Hour Body. You just know that you like it and you’ve always liked it.  It seems like   America has no national cuisine to speak of.  Slovaks do and it keeps them alive.

With the news reporting every ten minutes that some food is either 1. bad for you or 2. a cure for cancer, there’s much comfort in how Slovaks just eat the meals they know: the meals that make them feel nourished.  It offers something to hang onto in this sea of turbulent health imperatives constantly being flung around.  There’s a lot of money to be made in making someone paranoid about their health, which means I always need to be careful when some expert on TV is trying to sell a book, or a diet, or a new contraption, because it’s hard to tell when he or she is entirely telling the truth instead of simply marketing a health product.  Even if it is the truth, it’s easy to forget that scientific theories are only theories, ready to be tested and disproven at any moment.

No credible scientist can claim to know the absolute truth, only to put forth a theory that may one day be laughed at, one day be lauded. When we forget that the job of scientists is to theorize and support and the job of media is to blow things out of proportion, well we have a society in the hands of a bad combination.

Centuries of experimentation go into the construction of a national cuisine.  While America is in a period of little thought and much action about cuisine, it is nice to be exposed to Slovakia, where nourishment is often not worried about, but rather intuited.  And sometimes, in all honesty, sacrificing myself to this Slovak intuition is hard to do, but offers much potential for learning.

Example 7 – Drinking Alcohol is Allowed

Drinking Alcohol is Allowed and Encouraged in Polite Company – do business with a Slovak of a certain age and there is practically guarantee that homemade hard alcohol will make an appearance.  It’s part of showing hospitality.

It’s even acceptable in many other areas of culture.  On the job, for instance.  An attorney from Pennsylvania once told me that the seminal moment that caused him to fall in love with Slovakia was when he was driving down the road about 8 a.m., saw a construction crew and one of the guys put down his shovel to take a tall swig from a bottle of hard alcohol.  Not forbidden here, encouraged.

Most Slovak bartenders couldn’t make a decent cocktail to save their lives, but that’s just because Slovaks take their alcohol straight up.  As long as a person can control himself around alcohol, there doesn’t seem to be many societal prohibitions that dictate when a person is an alcoholic.  There are no prohibitions against morning drinking, there are no prohibitions against social drinking, there are no ways to identify a wino, other than the fact that you see he can no longer control it or himself.  Alcohol is A-OK here in Slovakia.  A part of life.  For many it is a part of jokes and humor, something forced into your hand when you enter a friendly house, and poured for you when you sit down for a meal, pulled out on a long hike, or a hard day of work.  The signal to your host that you want more is not that you asked for it, but simply finishing what you already had.  It is always there as part of the culture.  Nothing taboo about it.  Nothing to make you feel bad.  I watch a show like Mad Men, and I see, well, Slovakia.  If there is any truth to the show’s portrayal of the ease with which Americans of the 1950′s sat down for a drink, then it’s a whole lot like Slovakia, where there’s no social stigma to going for a cup of coffee or a beer when out with a friend during the day.

The lunch lady at the school I used to teach at brought a bottle of champagne once and served it to all the teachers in the 15 minute break between the 2nd and 3rd hour class.  They toasted, drank up and headed to class.  No one got drunk and most likely no one was off their game during the next hour.  Responsible consumption of alcohol is a welcome and accepted part of life here, with few exceptions.

At the same time, interestingly, there is a zero tolerance policy toward drinking and driving.  One would not expect this to go hand in hand with a cultural policy of responsible drinking, but perhaps that is evidence that drinking and driving is a problem in Slovakia.  Some historians go back and read the laws of history to determine what the concerns of the people were and the crimes that were common in those cultures.  From their reading of history, it is unlikely that a law against robbery would be put into place if there was no robbery, or if no one was bothered by robbery.  For example, most American states do not have a law on breaking glass with your bare feet in a public place because few people feel concerned with such a problem.

Example 8 – Pig Killings

In this article from last year, I sing my praises of the Slovak tradition of Pig Killing. Many boys and girls in Slovakia grow up with an understanding of how to raise a pig, kill a pig, butcher a pig, and make traditional foods using virtually all of its parts.  This is true whether or not they live in rural areas.  You’ll regularly even find people in Bratislava who know this practice. Slovaks seem to have a very close relationship with their ancestral villages and with the cycle of life as well.

When watching how naturally Slovaks of either gender and all ages get along in this environment, it is hard to feel anything but admiration – it really feels like a way man was supposed to live.  It really feels like a bit of knowledge that every human should understand.  As with other things on this list, that tradition has enjoyed a resurgence in the U.S. – being far from the earth doesn’t cut it for some people.  Some American companies even gives lessons in the U.S. on raising and butchering the Mangalitsa pig (which is from Central Europe) using the technique of seam butchery (also from Central Europe).

At least among a small group of people, butchering a pig at home seems to be enjoying a resurgence in the U.S.  How ironic that Slovak culture is beginning to abandon this more traditional way of life, while some Americans are looking back to the past for a less modern way of life. Perhaps a lesson to be learned from America’s mistakes is that tradition should not easily be dispensed with.  While I don’t imagine that every American butchered his own meat in the 1950′s, I do have the idea that Americans, even urban American, had a more intimate understanding of nature and the life cycle than many urban Americans do today.

Example 9 – Eating Out

Eating out is not common among Slovaks

It’s really a special thing when a family goes out for a meal together.  A daughter’s graduation from university, a grandmother’s death, a son getting married, a father turning fifty.  These are reasons that I have seen Slovak families out for a meal together.  Less true in Bratislava, more true among the other 95% of Slovakia.  Instead:

Example 10 – Homemade Meals

A homemade meal is very common in many families.  In fact, even a homemade meal made from scratch is common.  Despite so many women in Slovakia working, the idea remains that a mother who would not see to it that there was a warm meal for her family to eat, even if it means each member of the family heating it up themselves, is a mother who is not playing her part in watching out for her family.

The responsibility of the woman in the family is so great that I wonder if an argument can be made that Slovakia in some ways is a matriarchal society.  But that is a much different topic, perhaps for another time.  Mom makes sure a meal is cooked; mom often cooks; eating out is an infrequent option for many families.   Does that sound like the U.S. in the 1950’s?

And an aspect of that homemade meal is:

Example 11 – Cooking from Scratch

They are often made from scratch.  When I first came here, it was almost impossible to find pre-made mixes for anything.  The biggest grocery store I knew was tiny and the pre-made items were just plain bad or pretty darn scarce.  It seemed like there was simply not much of a market for pre-made foods, and that’s speaking about Bratislava, by far the most westernized part of Slovakia.

Just a few years ago I was in Terchova (where the Slovak folk hero Janosik is from) in the North of Slovakia and that Friday afternoon I wanted to stop in at the local grocery store to find a piece of meat.  I was going to cook a pot of gulas so that my friends and I would have food all weekend long. I had a hard time finding what I needed, so I approached one of the clerks who was standing near the lunch meat and asked “Where can I find a piece of meat for gulas?”

She responded, as naturally as could be: “Tuesday.”

Grocery stores have become increasingly convenient options for homemakers over the last decade, but to this day flour takes up a significant amount of space in grocery stores.  While the pre-made foods market is surely growing, it is clear that Slovaks buy flour for more than just baking a cake for a special occasion.  Buying simple items and making a meal from scratch continues to be how many recipes in many Slovak kitchens are regularly made.

Just look at websites like SlovakCooking.com, or Eastern European Food, which have many recipes that do not use pre-made ingredients.  Things like microwave dinners and pre-made halusky every few months are increasingly finding more and more space in grocery stores shelves, but these foods still seem to be part of the exception rather than the rule.  Mixes for cakes, breads, puddings, pasta sauces, soups are all becoming increasingly common.

I understand cooking wholesome food can be time consuming.  At the same time, the more processing a food goes through, the more nutrition it looses.  Based on my time in Slovak homes, it is clear to me that mixes are a helpful addition in the cooking process, but that many families continue to appreciate eating foods that have not been pre-processed.

Example 12 – Political Correctness is Unwelcome

No such list would be complete without an attack on political correctness.  The concept of political correctness is that what is unpopular is incorrect.  Political is attached to the term because it even actually goes a step further, because not only does it make judgments about what is correct or incorrect before hearing any argument, it also makes prescriptions about how one should speak, based on what is understood to be correct for politicians. It is the idea that one should speak at all times as if he or she were running a political campaign and attempting not to say anything difficult for a voter to hear.

The idea of being aware of who you are speaking to when in a conversation is important.  There is no need to insist on hurting a person’s feelings.  Not everyone is ready to understand your view of the world just because you are ready to express it.  The movement of political correctness makes it difficult for a person to share those viewpoints even with someone who is ready to hear it.  There is a whole list of things that should not be mentioned, or questioned ever and that list is essentially determined by what would feel right to say if you were a politician running for office trying to speak with as little substance as possible and to offend as few people as possible.

This ideology has been very difficult for America, because it has harmed some of our public discourse.  Instead of being open and honest, it is considered most important not to offend.  In reality, if the ultimate goal were not to never offend, we would have to always use words with as little substance as possible.  Before the internet began to catch on as a medium of communication, I genuinely believe that political correctness had the potential to limit all thought provoking controversial expression from American media and perhaps even from academia.

The internet has prevented that possibility.  The internet became an outlet for anyone to say anything to anyone who will listen.  Instead of now needing a large investment to buy ink, paper, and a printing press, now virtually anyone has their own printing press on the internet.

Coming to Slovakia and seeing how drastically differently Slovaks approached this topic was like a breath of fresh air to me.  These two points are closely related, with a small distinction:

Slovaks are Straight Shooters

Ask them what they think and they will tell you.  Beware!!   If you ask a Slovak “Do you think this business model will work?”  or “Do you think he’s the right man for me?”  or “Would you trust this doctor with your life?” or “What do you think of what President so-and-so just announced?” you will most likely be in for a brutally honest appraisal of the situation, one that will leave even the most ardent supporter of a plan curious if he’s perhaps a little too sure of himself.  One will learn quickly here that asking the opinion of too many people will guarantee stultification.  At the same time, it feels good to be successful, yet firmly grounded in reality by those around you.  It feels good to know that you don’t have to look far to find someone who won’t pull punches in their appraisal of you.

And this type of attitude bears some relation to Slovakia’s lack of interest in political correctness:

The phrase “I’m offended” is virtually meaningless here.  Even Slovaks who speak amazing English and try to use that phrase don’t seem to use it quite right.  The idea that hurt feelings are a reason to stop an intellectual discussion does not seem to cut it in Slovakia.  The idea that the truth must be tempered based on whose feelings might be hurt doesn’t cut it in Slovakia.  Interestingly, despite the American guarantees of freedom of speech, we have developed an ability to see to it that speech is not really all that free.  At the same time, Slovaks, with an extended history of a lack of freedom of speech are entirely unwilling to hold back on what’s on their mind in many situations.

One key example is with a guest.  With a guest, a Slovak is likely to tread lightly.  You might not hear the full extent of what your host is thinking, but give the host permission to speak freely and there is no limit to what might come out of his or her mouth.  Any –ism you can think of may be expressed by any person in society.  Slovakia is not a place for the faint of heart, not a place for those who were raised to believe that it is their God given right to never hear an offensive thought spoken in their presence.  In this way Slovakia can feel base and mean, but I must tell you that it also feels so very refreshing sometimes to hear what’s on a person’s mind, even if that is the most stunningly perceptive criticism of that which you hold so dear.

This concept goes beyond the idea of decorum that I have come to understand of America in the 1950′s.  It might feel just rude from an American perspective today or in the 1950′s.  The idea that there should be self-censorship that limits a person to suggesting only ideas that may be “politically correct” seems like an American idea that developed in the later part of the 20th century.  In an intellectual debate, anything goes in Slovakia.  Often, in any kind of open discussion, anything goes.

Slovakia is a place that lives largely ignorant of the American blight of political correctness.

I don’t know if this is descriptive of America in the 1950′s, but it is an example of a country that has yet to see (or has perhaps rejected) a movement toward political correctness.

And finally.

Example 13 – A Slovak Man Should Always Be a Gentleman to the Ladies

A man meeting a lady should take her hand in his and kiss her on both cheeks, should open a door for a woman, should carry her groceries, should be courteous at all times.  Even some of the more feminist American women that I have met in Slovakia swoon just a little when they are treated by Slovak men as the fairer sex.

American men, me included, have been left confused at where a nearly culture-wide feminist pursuit of equality in America leaves such displays of kindness.  Will a woman be mad at you?  Will she feel offended?

Slovak men, largely, do not care.  They will even go so far as to scold a woman who will be so proud as to not let a well-intentioned man do something kind for her.  Women are the fairer sex and there’s nothing wrong with a man showing a little bit of human kindness.  This is yet another lesson that Slovak men might have to teach American men.  A little less sensitivity and uncertainty in holding a door for a woman and a little more determination will probably leave both the man and the woman feeling a little better about the kindness shown.  Be looking for opportunities to show kindness to another person help and act on those opportunities unapologetically.

So, to return to my question.  Does it sound like the 1950′s in America?  Does it sound like an older era, no matter what country you’re from?  Does it sound like Slovakia is “stuck” in an age of development that others have passed through?  I don’t mean anything negative with the word “stuck.”  Being stuck on good behavior is a good thing from my perspective.  And, of course, I must ask.  Are any of these qualities better?  Are any of them worse?  If Slovakia is “stuck” in some of its traditions, isn’t being “stuck” in a good tradition a good thing?  I think you know how I lean on these matters, but I’d like to hear some of your thoughts.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com.  He is from Chicago and spends most of his time travelling Europe and writing.  You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com.  If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email.  You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Comments

  • My children (born in Bratislava) grew up in America and as adults greatly appreciate going “back in time” whenever visiting Slovakia. Altogether it seems to be a better environment. What puzzles me, is the wide acceptance of the amican culture (or lack of), american goods, ideas, traditions, even the changes in language that happened after the fall of the “iron curtain”. Slovaks were frozen in time, development hindered by the communist regime, so they are behind. This gives them a great opportunity to see the outcome before taking the same path, and in many areas they still blindly follow. Why is that?

  • love your piece – agree to everything. You forgot smoking though.

  • John Bartko Pennsylvania

    Mar 31st, 2012

    Hi Alan, another of your wonderful writings. Dakujem. This is really hitting home for me and articulates so very well why I appreciate visiting Slovakia and talking to Slovaks.
    Well done!

    PS. I am still waiting for you to present the recipe for bread to which you alluded in the gulas article..
    dovidenia John

  • Lauren Alderman

    Mar 31st, 2012

    I’m so enjoying your articles. I’m 40 and old enough to remember when America was a more free, innocent, less jaded, less politically correct, litigious place, and I hope the Slovaks continue to embrace the best of traditional American values which were so evident in the 50s! Thank you for teaching me more about my Slovak heritage! So much of my own family memories (growing up in the Cleveland, Ohio area) of food, Sunday dinners and “straight talk” are reflected in the things you write. I will continue to be a follower of yours!

  • Allan, you hit the nail on the head again. From your first example of dressing up to go to town, you reminded me of my experience of going to church with relatives last year. My cousin took one look at me in my casual America attire and the next thing I knew I was in his suit, shirt, tie and shoes. Good thing that we are both about the same size.
    Many of your other examples help me understand why my parents thought and acted the way they did. And looking back I now understand why I am drawn back to Slovakia. Being there is like being with family.

  • Michael Charnego (Cernega)

    Apr 1st, 2012

    An excellent article ! I have visited family in Eastern Slovakia many times since 2000 which was my first trip. I left thinking that what I saw was just like I remember from growing up in Western Pennsylvania in the 1950′s. I was especially struck by a Sunday afternoon in Kosice. Families were enjoying a warm September day in the Centrum by sitting around the fountain, strolling along the streets, children running around happily, etc. They were still all dressed up as I assumed they had come from church. The relaxed atmosphere was wonderful and just like a Sunday afternoon in the 1950′s in PA.

  • Thank you, Allan. Very interesting and brings back memories. Next write something about health programs, visitng doctors office, shopping and dealing with people working at the stores.

  • Marycay Doolittle

    Apr 1st, 2012

    I lived some of this in the 50′s. We always dressed to go out, never would walk around the way I do now. Clothes dried outside or in the winter in the basement, & we had a wringer washer. I don’t remember when we got a clothes dryer, I think the early 60′s. Sundays were wonderful, stores weren’t open and we had a special Sunday dinner in the dining room with the fine china, silver etc, My mom told us about eating lard on bread, but I never did. She said it was because of the depression , but others informed me that it was tradition/something Slovaks did. I do use it for pie crust/baking, but that’s it. Whenever an uncle came to the house it was always a shot of whiskey, I don’t remember anyone getting drunk & my mom did tell us about my grandfather making “holy water”. Eating out was a treat, not an every day occurance, meals were made from scratch & almost everything was homemade, a sign of that it was going to be much better than store bought. One neighbor was known to sue folks so my parents didn’t want to give her a ride to church for fear of something happening & then she’d sue them. She never did sue and they gave her a ride whenever we saw her walking so this might have been neighborhood gossip. The rule was never to discuss politics or religious or an argument would result. If this is the Slovakia of today, they are living a good life, I miss those days. A friend said they couldn’t go to the Easter service because they had to work all day in a big lots store. Stores were closed for Good Friday and Easter Monday was tradition, a time to visit relatives and to sample their Easter foods. I think there is a lot to be said for the “Good Old Days”.

  • I enjoyed this article so much. It took me back to my childhood in the late 50′s and early 60′s when we’d go to my Baba and Didi’s house for a big dinner every Sunday after church. Baba cooked, cleaned and kept a beautiful, colorful garden until she passed away at 81, when I was 14. I remember when all of the stores were closed on Sundays in the US (although family-style restaurants in the area would be open). I can also remember both shock and excitement being expressed by adults when the first store closest to where I lived in eastern PA announced in the newspaper that they would be open on Sundays (this was in Allentown, about a 45 minute drive from my hometown in the heart of the coal mine region). That seemed to be the beginning of the end of the ‘age of innocence’ in the US. I’d love to visit Slovakia to get a taste of my childhood again. My grandparents came from Volica and Zbudska Bela in Eastern Slovakia and my goal is to visit there someday. In the meantime, thank you for the wonderful trip back to my childhood as it was here in the US years ago.

  • Funny, based on my experience here, Slovaks (yes, even in Bratislava) dress fairly casually compared to say, Italians or French, especially the men (women seem to be a little more on top of it). In small rural villages, I don’t think people really dress up unless they’re going to church.

    As for the lack of political correctness, before reading that bit, I thought you were going to touch upon the openness with which some people in this country, quite sadly, express racist or xenophobic sentiments without any sense of hesitation. But as for the brutal honesty, that is a trait I’ve encountered with people from Germany, France, and Italy as well. I usually find that kind of honesty refreshing, but there are some occasions when it can be a bit tactless.

    Love the bit about lawsuits – I’m always noticing comically perilous things when walking around Bratislava. America really is law-suit crazy; it’s like people don’t want to take responsibility for their own actions or acknowledge that maybe they just weren’t paying attention.

    I suppose I’ve never thought of some of these things as being akin to the American 1950s. To my mind, they really just seem, well, European.

  • I like your assertion, Allan that Slovakian culture may be stuck in the 1950′s !!! As an offspring of old-generation Morav-Slovaks, I’ve been personally accused of behaving or thinking in ways that are similar to those of the 1950′s !!
    Like expecting responsibility from a man in a relationship. Like not wearing designer clothes. Like shopping for bargains, living conservatively and cooking from scratch !!

    Call me a 50′s broad, but hanging laundry on an outdoor clothesline in sunny southern California is really something to brag about !! Being in the sunshine in a beautiful yard, knowing that the elastic in your clothes will last longer because it isn’t getting beat-up in a clothes dryer, is something to cheer about !!! Not to mention being able to work on your tan and on a tall…………cool drink!!!

    And the self-responsible mentality found in the lack of lawsuits is so uncanny. I just thought my Slovakian father was rude when he would threaten me when I was a young adult that it would be ‘my fault’ if I got pregnant. Usually in America you’d expect the girl’s father to blame the boyfriend !!

    And I didn’t even consider suing the City of LA because I was groggy, tripped on the broken sidewalk while I was jogging, and subsequently skinned my hand and knee badly. I didn’t even go to my doctor. I bandaged it up myself. Had other things I’d rather do than sit in a doctor’s office. I gave this personal experience as a contrary example to the goof who allegedly is trying to sue Los Angeles because he was drunk one night, tripped while walking on a broken sidewalk, and had some mysterious injury from that. I think the judge will throw out the case.

    And I agree that it’s uncouthe to wear torn, dirty clothes out in public unless you were in a life-threatening emergency. Wear something decent and clean, for heaven’s sakes !! And take a shower and fix your hair too !!!

  • So enjoyed the part about political correctness. . One, early, fond memory I have of my Grandmother was her debating politics with the men at a family gathering. My Grandmother was the only woman doing so! She was Slovak but all the men were from the English side of the family. None of the woman from the English side took part. This was the early 1960′s and it left an indelable impression on me at around age 10. I wanted to be like my Grandma!!!!! Free to speak my mind to whomever, wherever and whenever!!!! I know my Grandmother treasured that as a Naturalized American, she could VOTE!!!!! She was not a Subject of the Kingdom of Hungary. She was a Citizen of America and as a woman she could vote! I’m so proud of her! In comparision to the other women role models I had growing up, my Grandma was way ahead of her time. Thanks Grandma!

  • So precise, I am 32, I do have a dryer but really use it just for drying bedlinen and children clothes, still stick to hanging the clothes :) also as per processed food the only thing we occasionally buy is frozen pizza, even in my fridge the dumplings or chicken stock that is stored there is the one I made from scratch;) maybe my children will do it differently who knows;)

  • Ivona,
    Thank you for the compliment and thank you for the insight into your home – especially the made from scratch food and the economical use of the dryer.

    I’m going to need to start my mental list of “Slovaks who own dryers.” You are number one, but my guess is that lots of others are out there. Drying those duvet covers for beds sometimes can be hard to do especially when it is cold or damp outside and bedding takes up so much room. I have to use every wooden chair that I have (and a fan) to get the bedding to dry sometimes.

    Thank you again for writing.

    Allan

  • Elaine,
    Wow. What a neat example. It sounds like that Grandma of yours was a positive influence on you from a young age. I like the way that you conveyed her toughness. Thank you for sharing your memories of such a compelling role model.

    Allan

  • Cynthia,
    Great examples.

    I like that you didn’t go to the doctor. I’m not saying that people should diagnose terminal illnesses with no medical advice, but self-diagnosis of simple problems (like a sprain or a cut) is part of being responsible. I like that you didn’t even think of going to a doctor or complaining to the city you simply said to yourself “How can I fix this problem?” and then “How am I responsible for this problem?” Awesome.

    That’s great about the example of your father and how he put the responsibility squarely on your shoulders. He sounds like a great role model. I like how you just thought him rude but now you look back on it differently after more distance.

    My guess is that you consider it a compliment when someone tells you that you belong in a different time. I think lots of 20,30, 40 somethings (in America) are increasingly looking to the past and seeing that there are aspects of the past that we shouldn’t have dispensed with so easily. Maybe other generations are doing the same, but I can only speak to what I have noticed personally and I have noticed that behavior increasingly from people of those age groups. They see what is “modern” and “trendy” and they don’t consider being modern and trendy good enough tests for evaluating what is good and bad.

    Thank you for writing Cynthia.

    Allan

  • Jeff,
    Thank you for the observations. I’ll keep an eye out for Slovaks v. Italians and French. While typically more formal than Americans, perhaps Slovaks are less formal than some Western European cultures. My experience in villages has been varied. If someone is going to be working with their hands all day, then they won’t wear their Sunday best. But when it’s time to go to town or time to go to work in a professional setting or to church as you point out, I’ve seen a lot of Slovak folks in villages dress up.

    I agree with there being a fine line between honesty feeling open and honesty feeling tactless. I usually try to see what I can learn from the people around me and to try to see what a culture can teach me in my travels. As a result I give others the benefit of the doubt. I know xenophobia exists all over the world and that it’s a part of how a culture might defend itself. I don’t find xenophobia an appropriate style of expression for myself, but I surely understand why a Slovak might find me, an American and not like the fact that I have penetrated so deeply into Slovak culture and have access to so many places that foreigners usually would not find themselves. That can feel threatening to some and I understand why. At the same time, if I am to appreciate Slovakia the way it is today, I need to have some appreciation for the culture defense mechanism that brought it to this point in time.

    Yeah, what you say about lawsuits really rings true in my experience. Lawsuits are out of control in the U.S. It saddens me regularly to see how Americans are looking to constantly blame others. I have yet to sit down and think about this topic in very much depth, but I imagine that this attitude of so quickly suing people and putting the blame on others has a deeper psychological impact on a culture in which it becomes hard to have a healthy relationship with yourself and taking responsibility for one’s own actions. I don’t consider Slovakia an ideal problemless society, but I strongly respect how often people are blamed by their elders for screwing up.

    Thank you again for writing, Jeff.

    Allan

  • Gina,
    Thank you for the kind words and for sharing some of the memories from your upbringing. This is especially powerful for me:

    I can also remember both shock and excitement being expressed by adults when the first store closest to where I lived in eastern PA announced in the newspaper that they would be open on Sundays (this was in Allentown, about a 45 minute drive from my hometown in the heart of the coal mine region). That seemed to be the beginning of the end of the ‘age of innocence’ in the US.

    What an awesome appraisal of the situation. Maybe 100 years from now historians will be looking for a time where something changed historically in America and will point to your comment as an important moment of change.

    Thank you again, Gina.

    Allan

  • Marycay,

    What a fascinating recounting of things you’ve enjoyed about the world. I do believe that an increasing number of people who are becoming adults at present are looking to the past and seeing what worked in the past and what didn’t work. My guess is that Sundays, drying clothes outside, lard, a cocktail now and then, making nourishing food at home, taking responsibility for oneself will be more trendy for my generation. I can tell you that you and the others who have commented about what they like about the past are helping me personally learn about why those things may have been good. Thank you for that. I don’t think Slovakia is a perfect place, but I think a lot of what I’ve written in these pages are accurate descriptions of general trends in Slovak culture. Each of these thirteen trends are aspects of Slovak culture that I appreciate. Thank you for sharing your insight on this, Marycay.

    Allan

  • Melania,
    Thank you for the compliment. I will think over these topics and will try to figure out a way to fit them in. I definitely have a lot to say about official medicine and folk medicine in Slovakia as well as customer service. Thank you for highlighting these topics.

    Allan

  • Michael,
    Thank you for sharing your memory of Kosice on a Sunday in September. I’m always doing something, working on my next project. There’s something unsettled about it. Lots of Americans are like that I think. If we aren’t doing something, we are filling the silence with something – TV, talk radio, a movie. I very much appreciate the Slovak tradition of going for a walk through town. Usually it’s done with one or a few people and you entertain yourselves and enjoy your time together. Money doesn’t need to be spent, and there does not have to be any goal. It’s just people being with each other walking and talking. It’s very nice. If I could develop the discipline to spend more of my life talking to people I love, just like you describe in Kosice or Pennsylvania half a century ago, I think I will have learned to do something that will make my life feel further enriched.

    Thank you, Michael for sharing your observation.

    Allan

  • Ha!!
    Ivan, that’s great. What a good cousin you have. I still don’t know in these situations if someone is saying “This poor man doesn’t have the clothes to dress up” or “I’m embarrassed to go to church with someone not dressed up” or “He’s too shy to tell me that he needs to borrow nice clothes, so I will just force him into these other clothes.” Or maybe it’s some other option that I’ve never thought of. I don’t know how to ask that question in a way that would elicit an answer. What a neat memory. Thank you for sharing that, Ivan.

    Allan

  • Lauren,
    Thank you for the kind words. Sometimes people will say that prejudices are the result of a weak mind, but that doesn’t mean that culture does not impact us. Some people from some places tend to behave differently than people from other places. There’s something to be said about who raised you and who raised them and what culture they came from. Your comment points out for me, in my opinion, that there are cultural values and that an individual (especially in the American melting pot) learns much about himself or herself from studying the culture that his or her ancestors came from. Thank you for sharing your observation on this piece, Lauren.

    Allan

  • Thank you, John.

    I want you to know that I always have about 3,000 things that I would like to get done, but don’t get around to all of those things. You are encouraging me to get the bread recipe up here by continuing to bother me about it. Thank you for doing that! In a few days I will visit a friend and he’s asked for me to making him a pot of gulas. Because of your insistence on the issue, I’ll probably also bake a loaf of bread to go along with the gulas.

    The bread recipe isn’t that easy to put up because the bread recipe isn’t written anywhere. It’s “a lot of this and a little of that” kind of recipe. The fact that I learned to make it on a wood burning stove makes it even tougher to write out. I’m going to have to spend a few hours playing with the recipe. If you would please do me the favor of bothering me one more time about the bread recipe, it is likely that some time toward the end of next week, you’ll be looking at your hoped for bread recipe on the front of 52 Weeks in Slovakia : )

    I’ve long believed in the adage “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” John, none of this is tongue in cheek, all of this is sincere. Thank you for encouraging me to share something that you are so interested in.

    Allan

  • Jan,
    You are so right. I didn’t write about smoking and smoking probably belongs in here. The only exception might be that I can’t find anything good that I would want to say about smoking. However, I imagine that there are some good things about smoking. For example, a relative who fought in Africa during WWII told me that smoking kept the mosquitoes away and protected the smoker from malaria. If that’s true, that sounds like a pretty good reason to smoke : ) Nonetheless, smoking would fit well on this list. Thank you for pointing out that omission.

    Allan

  • Livia,
    Interesting that your children looked at is as going back in time. It sounds like lots of folks out there agree with the idea that the analogy to the 1950s fits. What you write here is so important:

    This gives them a great opportunity to see the outcome before taking the same path, and in many areas they still blindly follow. Why is that?

    Slovakia does have a golden opportunity in the world. Slovakia has a chance to see what life has been like for everyone else since WWII and to make wise decisions learning from the mistakes (and successes) of others. But, perhaps Slovaks in general are not doing that. Insightful observation, Livia. Perhaps someone else might be able to answer this question of yours with a theory. Can anyone help Livia (and me) better understand this phenomena?

    Allan

  • Can anyone help Livia (and me) better understand this phenomena?

    I, as a Slovak person living in Slovakia, can give you my subjective opinion on this matter.

    Why we do not grab our opportunity as much as we could? I would say it is because of following:

    1.) Low self-confidence. We tend to copy trends coming from abroad rather than coming up with our own ideas. We look up to the countries of Western Europe and to the US, so we tend to believe that trends coming from there must be good for us.

    2.) Corruption. Corruption is a big problem in our country and lots of our resources get sunk in it.

    3.) Consumption oriented society. After 40 years of communism people were hungry to buy wide range of goods from the West, to go traveling abroad, etc. During last two decades people were enjoying the opportunity to buy “all the nice stuff” and discussion about values and civil society was pushed into the background. This is slowly changing though. Communist propaganda was very much oriented on teaching people “the proper values” but since it was forced from above, people became ironic and desensitized about it. So only now after consumption hunger is becoming sated, we start to think about where is our country going, what do we want to take care of, etc. This is true especially for the younger generation.

  • Thank you Allan,

    as a Slovak, I loved your article. Thank you for pointing out the positives in what we sometimes perceive as a backward country. As a matter of fact, we really should be rather greatful for what we have. The thing with dryers seemed a bit strange just because I NEVER EVER really thought about getting one at all :D

    I thought you´d talk a bit about the xenophobic and racist opinions expressed in Slovakia (and there´s plenty of them at times), as mentioned above, but nevermind, still a brilliant article. And most importantly, if I was to choose, I´d always rather go for hearing things I don´t like then not being allowed to say what I think.

  • Nice, I did enjoy reading your article.

    However, I would say that many points you raised refer not only to Slovakia but to (continental) Europe in general. I lived in Slovakia until 2006 and since then I’ve been in Germany, so I can compare those two contries. For instance, your example 2. Well, there are many (most?) shops / restaurants opened on Sunday in Slovakia. But in Germany (Austria) you would not find any opened shop on Sunday. None. Zero. You would even have a problem to find an opened restaurant on Sunday. And I live in a big city (Frankfurt:) Obviously, everthing is closed because of the law requiring to close all shops on Sunday. There is no traffic on Sunday in Germany. And Germans do all the things on Sunday that you described above…

    And also, the other examples remind me of Germany (example 3, etc.)

  • Dear Allan,

    I fell in love with your article. I used to travel quite a lot and met a lot of people from the “west”. As a woman from the Eastern block I´m always happy and grateful to meet somebody who is opened enough to see the real value of things… Thank you for going deeper ang letting Slovakia to show you it´s beauties… DAKUJEM… I only wish more Slovaks could see what you have seen as a foreigner…

  • Michaela Bačíková

    Apr 3rd, 2012

    Dear Allan,

    thank you for this very nice article about my home country. After reading it, I really came to realize what I always knew and what I always liked at my country. That our traditions, our life here is very precious to me and I don’t want it to change the into the current American lifestyle.
    Yet so many people don’t see the value of this kind of life, the value of our traditions. They want to be more modern, more “cool”. Many Slovak people around me think that anything from our country is not good And that what is good is foreign. That because we are a small country, we don’t know anything and everyone else is better than us. And anyone who prefers anything from our country and supports our country is accused of a strong nationalism.
    We’re starting to buy foreign food, foreign products. And we forgot, that we have food and products of our own, and of a very high quality, often higher than the foreign. Currently many Slovak producers of food and stuff are not getting well. Because they can not sell their stuff, they do not have the money to continue and their companies go bankrupt.
    It is as like we lost our national pride and started to look for something that looks better and cooler than us.
    I fear the future, when everything will change and the life will be so hectic and stressful, I will be at work the whole day and I will eat food from a microwave. Because I know it will not be healthy for me and the stress would kill me.
    Therefore I can not understand this need of my people to be “cooler”. I think they don’t see the value of what we have.
    I think every Slovak man and woman should read your article, Allan, to open his eyes and see that we have something valuable and precious here and we should not just let it go like that. Thank you again for this article.

    Michaela

  • This is one very well-thought through article I’ve read in the recent past… thank you for pointing these things out. Most of the Slovak people should read it and think about the values you find so positive and rethink their point of view on them. Thank you again. :-)

  • Hey!

    I’m not going to write something long, because I feel like you have done really great job with this article. I just want to say thank you for letting me know, my country is not that bad as I though and we still have something to offer.

    Thanks!
    Gorazd,
    Slovakia

  • As a Slovak, I must say, you made some really good points there. I agree with pretty much everything stated:) As Jeff said, in many western-European countries people dress up a lot nicer when going out, perhaps even when compared to Bratislava – but you have to take into account the average salary, which is still one of the lowest in the EU. And the other thing is, people tend to compare European countries with the US rather than one another. Back when I was an exchange student in WA, I was, at first, really surprised to see people in sweatpants wandering around Walmarts:-) – but especially in school. People here wouldn’t “underdress” intentionaly like this very often (sometimes for gym class or just to be comfy), because we really tend to connect the physical appearance with a social status, and not many people would want to look poor (or to show), whether in school, in the street, or anywhere else. But more and more people do not care about this anymore.
    And, another thing I’d like to bring up is, that we’re often described, and sometimes even describe ourselves, as envious – or jealous. A phrase goes “Keď mne zdochne krava, nech aj susedovi” – basically says that “when one of my cows dies, let one of my neighbor’s die as well” :)

  • Great article!
    I burst out laughing several times while reading. It’s amazing to see all these things I take for granted pointed out by a foreigner (who has acclimated to our culture quite successfully I would say!).
    Thanks for the honest and fresh tone. I think a lot of people in the US may raise their brow at your candid depiction of some of our customs but I love it. It makes me want to come back home and overlook the fact that currently it’s not necessarily the best place for young people to follow their dreams (that is, if you’re not studying IT or management).
    Either way, my children will grow up speaking Slovak and visiting their babi regularly to cook jaternice for them. I made that commitment a long time ago :)

  • We can find both pros and cons in the past and customs associated with the past as well. As a person who was born in Slovakia and still live there I have to say that this article is nice, you noticed everything (with exception of ugly communists architecture), on the other hand all these things are true just in general. Thanks to God we do not buy pre-prepared goods in shops :) alcohol is big problem in Slovakia, but when I was in abroad, it was almost same – Friday and Saturday were considered as days of drinking and celebrating end of week.

    I would like to read more your articles about Slovakia and gain more opinions of foreign people about my country to help it grown in a positive way. Sorry for grammar mistakes

  • Allan,

    I absolutely fell in love with the article. As a Slovak living in the UK, I do tend to notice a major difference in the upbringing and the overall behaviour of Slovaks and Scots.

    This article sums it up very nicely. Thank you very much for putting those ideas into words, it really made my day.

  • Thanks Allan, great article (as always).
    While reading it I remembered a story from a visit of Boy Scouts of America on a Slovak camp. We took them both to Sucha Bela and Kvacianska dolina and actually one of them fell from the ladder with his mother looking. Luckily nothing happened so we did not have to call an ambulance.
    I never needed a dryer at home but I have tried just once to dry my things on a chair during my stay in Maine. With such high humidity it was almost impossible to do so.
    Thanks again for the article

  • looks like someone is missing Slovakia very badly : ) well done Stevo! For me, it is one of the best post on this site!

    Katka

  • Hi Allan,

    Article very well made for stranger! Even when I disagree with some little things here and there, I must say that your observations are mostly accurate and often goes really under surface. Only thing I miss is pointing out also negative aspects of slovaks, but that’s probably just my bad side speaking; well maybe in another article. Again, job well done, have a great time of life and keep up good work!

  • Great article…i can agree with what you said about old people here.They are pretty tough :P . I remember how my grandfather got stroke and the other day went mushroom collecting-half paralised.He returned dirty and hurt with filled backpack of mushrooms.

  • Basp Uant

    Apr 4th, 2012

    you forgot a few things:
    drinking… You can drink in public… try that in North America.
    also like others have said, i don’t think it has anything to do with Slovakia, more a european thing, remember when the french president had to make special arrangements for a store to open so that the Obamas could go shopping on a sunday…. what a pathetic thing to do, go all the way to France and go shopping…..
    Unfortunately Europe in general is slowly north-americanising itself….
    since i moved to Austria, the amount of SUV has more than tripled, yes, living in Vienna they all need this really big 4×4 pickup truck to bring the kids to school….

  • Aaaaaahhh…somebody has put at least something on the paper, now I know what Im running from :-D I have never worked in Slovakia, and Im not planning to live there. Well, we couldnt choose where we were gonna be born, but we can choose where we are gonna live :-) Life is great, why to f*ck it up by living in the 50′s!

  • You article is very eloquently written, poignant and it made me laugh out loud. I’ve been living in the UK since I was a teenager and although I’m fairly ‘naturalised’ here, certain behavioral traits are firmly rooted in my Slovak background. I have been told, on millions occasions, that I can be too ‘forthright’ and ‘brutally honest’ at times. You can imagine that it does not always go down too well among the uptight Brits, it’s often too much even for the generally more open Scots:-) That’s how my dad brought me up. Say it as it is, no pretence. I think your observation about the Slovaks’ oppression for years could be the reason for such open and forthright expression, is rather interesting. I never considered it from that point of view. Food for thought. I just suggested to my Scottish partner to read your article, maybe he will be able to understand me a little better:-) (although he loves anything from the Eastern Block, I am lucky that way)

  • Until now I thought we were a dumb, underdeveloped and maliciuos people, but you make us seem reasonable, intentionally down to earth and somehow, clever :-) Do you have forefathers from here or do we cherchez la femme behind this generosity? :-) I loved the article, thanks!

  • Truly hits the bulls eye!
    I’ve spent some time in the US, thus had the opportunity to observe from the other side. Well, as a 100% Slovak, I must have been a cultural shock for my American friends :)

  • I was so proud of my homeland, Slovakia, during reading of this article. It is very-well written and all of this facts are true. I really grow up and live in country without clother dryers, I have a special clothes for housework and other spending of my time at home, I know how to raise, kill and cook a pig (and I have done it many times).
    And it´s such a good feeling live here, have this original customs :)
    Thaks Stevo – for remembering me all of that!

    Bola som veľmi hrdá na moju vlasť, Slovensko, počas čítania tohto článku. Je napísaný veľmi dobre a všetky tvrdenia sú pravdivé. Skutočne som vyrástla a žijem v krajine bez sušičiek na oblečenie, mám špeciálne oblečenie na domáce práce a trávenie času doma, viem ako vychovať, zabiť a uvariť prasa (a veľa krát som to už aj urobila).
    A je to skvelý pocit žiť tu, mať tieto originálne zvyky:)
    Vďaka Stevo – za pripomenutie mi tohto všetkého!

  • Hi Allan,

    we’ve met a few times, but I don’t expect you to remember me :) (Jozo S. ‘s friend)
    my short remarks :) :
    1. completely right
    2. has to do with hangovers from Saturday ;)
    3. nowadays, has to do mostly with students traveling from/to home
    4. probably has to do with the fact, that most of the people you met originated/came from villages…where you have a garden you leave the laundry to dry :P
    5. the justice here doesn’t work. I don’t think it ever did. Authorities have the power to threaten you with a law; but you can’t do the same as a person…
    6. that’s a special kind of “lard”…old tradition, even though i’ve never fancied it
    7. yep slovakia, and especially the middle and east, are known for that :P
    8 – 9 – 10 – 11 all coming from villages, people working hard, doing what they can to survive…and celebrate their work once a year (pig killings)
    12. the political corectness is kept mostly in the upper-left quadrant of the Europe…(germany, france, benelux, UK, nordics). I think you’ll find the same disgust over the fake “topic-avoiding” and “God-forbid-my-opinion-to-be-said-aloud” when you go south, to more open and hot-blooded nations.
    13. I don’t think this applies to all men here…but you’re right – we’re just simply not afraid of being accused of being gentlemen :P according to point 5. – there will never be a lawsuit because a man opened a door for a woman (…because she can do it herself, so he is proving her lesser…what a stupidity)

  • I have to say…it is a really great post you have written:))) well done and keep going;)))

  • Hello there. One of my friends posted this article on facebook. I need to point, that I am born in Slovakia (still living here for 24 years) – sorry for bad english). When I first saw your article and especially the heading, I thought to myself: yet another idiot who dont understand our culture. Please take my apologies. The fact is, you warm my hearth and even “re-teached” me some of our cultural habbits (and I am relatively young one).

    The problem here is, that Slovaks want to be fast and modern and everything, but they forget about values they’ve been teached from parrents. You can see the difference in thinking in 17years old and in 15years old (it’s like totally different generations). I am big technology and inventions fan, I am big fan of the western culture in some ways, but I am still proud to be Slovak. I like the way we hang with family on weekends or in the city (not in shopping centre). I am proud that I know how to make my own bread (no, I am not from village, I am from Kosice, yet I know it), I am proud to our National park.

    But, there is a big but. We have so much to learn from western world :) You know, the politics you mentioned, the hard working for your dreams, communication skills and so much more.

    Thank you for reminding me why I am so proud to be Slovak :)

  • I’ve just had one of my best laughs ever “Example 5 – Pre-Lawsuits”" awesome post

  • Allan,
    Just wanted to say huge thank you! I enjoyed reading the post immensly!
    I’ve been living in London for over a decade but after reading your article I just realised how extremely fortunate I was to be born and brought up in Slovakia! You actually made me homesick! :)

  • You know, when read the title of the artictle I thought You are reffering to (Czecho)Slovak fifties, beginining of the comunist rule, nationalisation, monster processes and all the ugly stuff . Needless to say that the reading was a delight and pleasent surprise, it gave me something to thing about at mainly to maintain some good traditions. Cheers for that! I just thought You might appreciate the irony in the different views of 50s, although I guess the US 50s were not that idilic for everybody either.

  • Hi Allan. I just found out about this site today, I saw this article reposted on facebook by a couple of my friends. Great site and great article, I think you know more about us than we do. You are probably ideal for this – Slovak enough to understand us while foreign enough to retain some neutrality and some outside point of view. A couple of points, sorry if I make some English mistakes:

    1. This is so true, I am always surprised for example when I see people in American movies going to the store in their slippers or generally clothes that I would only wear at home. I wash my hair even if I’m just going to the corner store which is 20 metres from my house to buy cigarettes.

    On one hand, it could be just a nice “tradition” but on the other hand, it could also show one of our negative traits – “malomeštiactvo”. Malomešťan and malomeštiak are two words that when translated literally mean the same (small-towner) but while malomešťan is a neutral word that simply means a person from a small town, malomeštiak is a negative word which describes a shallow person (the origin of the term is from people from small towns and villages trying to pose like people from big cities), a hypocritical person trying to look like someone he is not (for example a person whose house looks unkept and ugly from the inside but has a pretty expensive facade, a poor person who tries his best to look rich in front of other people, someone who drinks the cheapest wine at home but orders the most expensive wine in the restaurant acting like some wine expert etc.). Unfortunately this trait is very common in Slovaks.

    The last part about skimpy underwear made me laugh because it is very true.

    2. The Sunday lunch was indeed one of the favorite traditions during my childhood. It is also common to spend Sunday lunches with your extended family, for example we used to go to grandma’s house on Sundays and there we would always have lunch with the families of her other children – my uncles, cousins etc. It really helps keeping the family together.

    3. I enjoy trains because I love to talk to strangers I meet and travel with in my coupe. You get to know many interesting people and the ride gets much shorter. There are many things to complain about when it comes to Slovak Railways but the rail network is really decent and you can get to most of the major cities faster and more comfortably than by a bus or a car. Cheaply too.

    4. I never really thought about this but I guess it’s true. I bought my first dryer only last year and still I am probably the only person I know who has one. I don’t really need it and I could easily live without it but I do have to admit that it is very convenient.

    5. Again, I can only agree with everything. And I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing (well, except for the part about courts), it teaches us common sense. In fact, all those funny lawsuits in America (like suing Starbucks for burning tongue on hot coffee) are a source of many jokes here.

    It’s true that our old people are tough. Like for example my 84 year old grandpa rolling down the basement stairs, drinking a shot of pálenka to numb the pain and then continuing working on his small field. :)

    And Slovenský raj is indeed a paradise.

    6. Again, true, although our own cuisine that used to be good for us is slowly becoming bad for us since our lifestyle is changing. For example, we consume a lot of fat. It was good in the past when we led active lifestyles with lot of exercise but now when few people work manually we have one of the worst obesity rates.

    7. This whole part made me laugh, everything is true. The construction crew story especially, I can imagine it very vividly. As for bartenders, they are often more drunk than their customers. :) The society is also very tolerant towards underage drinking. We started drinking when we were about 15-16. And we never had any problems with people refusing to sell us alcohol either. And in villages it is common to drink a shot or two before lunch and dinner (sometimes breakfast and sometimes after too :) ). You can even see people with open beers in their offices during work, I imagine your boss wouldn’t like that in USA. There is also this tradition called “oldomáš”, basically having a drink after finishing some work or closing some deal. Another one is “kapurková”, drinking a shot on your way out, for example leaving after visiting your friends or when a bar is being closed late at night (from the word “kapura” – meaning gate in eastern dialects). It is often followed by a second shot “aj do druhej nohy, aby si nekríval” – “for your other leg too, so that you won’t limp”. :) As for drunk driving, yes, driving while drunk is shunned upon and the laws are very strict, but driving after a beer or two is socially acceptable and many people do it.

    It’s probably bad when alcohol is such a vital part of your culture, but I can’t really imagine it any other way – we wouldn’t be Slovaks without it. :)

    8. “Zabíjačky” are indeed great and I love them, the whole family gets together to have fun and the food is delicious.

    9. Yes, the last time me and my family went to a restaurant was when I graduated (although eating cheaper lunch menus is very common, even every day). My family also goes out for dinner when we have something really important to discuss, like changing careers and so on.

    10. and 11. Sadly, making home-made meals from scratch is becoming less common, especially in cities. And women from the youngest generation often can’t cook at all. But still, there is nothing like grandma’s cooking.

    12. This lack of “political correctness” is what I really like about Slovakia. We often watch in horror how political correctness is taken to the extreme in the west. This might make us sound too rude, vulgar or even racist and xenophobic for foreigners but I really like this blunt approach we have in everything. This is quite unique nowadays, not even Czechs who are so similar to us in every way are so straightforward.

    A funny example of this are protests. In Czech Republic, when you have some demonstrations you can see all kinds of witty and funny banners (country of Švejk after all) while in Slovakia you will see mostly variations of “Go f**k yourselves!” :)

    13. We had this American girl from Chicago studying at my university and one day I held the door open for her. She started shouting at me how sexist I was and how I was trying to show her my dominance. :) I was simply shocked.

  • I enjoyed your article and it is well-written. At the same time, I fail to see the correlation of Slovak customs to the 1950s. Just because things are done differently in the United States doesn’t make one right. So people lack a filter and use pig killing as community building in small villages. Perhaps it’s more “modern” to eat at McDonald’s four days a week and not know your neighbor’s name.

  • Thank you for sharing this with us. I have to say as a child of immigrant Czechs or Bohemians as they were called back then it filled me with the longing for a simpler more noble era. Sunday was a very importent family day in our household growing up ,and I still love the smell of air dried clothes to this very day.

  • George Sterpka

    Apr 6th, 2012

    I totally enjoyed this article. I am from both Slovak and Polish decent and am the better for it. I have traced my namesakes to Kocice and would like any of my relatives to respond.

  • I’m American, currently living in France, and I lived a year in Eastern Slovakia about 5 years ago. Some of your observations on SK are very true and brought a smile to my face. BUT (and it’s a big but) I strongly disagreed with how you compared it to American culture.

    I’m not sure where you’ve lived in the States, but some things you characterized are simply not true. Where I come from (Louisiana), we cook from scratch, there IS a regional cuisine, we do eat lard, there is frequent and enjoyable consumption of alcohol in public, and men treat women like ladies.

    I loved SK. I still miss aspects of it, and I think it’s a wonderful country with great people. However, comparing the culture of a tiny country with a fraction of the population of the USA (and largely homogeneous) is very unfair – as is your thinly veiled putdown of American culture.

  • The title got me confused right at the beginning, but this article is great! Good read.

  • Alan,

    your part about clothes dryers made me laugh. I am 33, Slovak. When we were flat hunting, as a just married couple, one of our conditions was a balcony to hang wet clothes there. :D We bought a nice flat with two large balconies. Today, while having supper, my husband was trying to explain me, that we need a washing maschine with higher rotation speed, that is very efficient for clothes drying machine afterwards. However we have a baby, I still prefer the natural way of drying. It costs nothing, clothes feel more fresh, less shrank, and even when they get totally frozen in winter, my doctor says the freez kills all the germs :) ….I felt really funny while reading your article. I`ve never looked at myself from other perspective. I have always fouond natural drying the best option and thought that the dryers are only for people who don. Under pressure of my husbnad, I might be added to your list od dresses dryer later on… will see. We mihght move forwards from the 50ties. but I sweared to my husband today, that I won`t ask for the dryer in the future ( however our second baby is on the way). Will see :) But I can`t admit he might me right now, can I?

  • Hi Allan!

    I LOVE this article. Thank you for making these on-the-mark observations about Slovak culture. I am 50% Slovak and have grown up having immigrant grandparents in New Jersey. Their house is indeed stuck in the 1950s. I agree with you 100% on the part about getting all dolled up just to go into town to do errands– my relatives will sit all morning with hair up in rollers and then go out in a fancy babushka and frosty peach-colored lipstick to go to the post office, etc. Lard has always been on the menu, Sunday lunch is ginormous, and clothes are always hanging on the line– never a dryer in sight. P.S. The only time I have ever gone out to eat with my Slovak grandparents in a restaurant was to Old Country Buffet for my 6th grade graduation, which was nearly 15 years ago. I think they chose Old Country Buffet due to the fat content.

  • Vladimira

    Apr 7th, 2012

    Hi, what a great article! It made me laugh out loud many times. The picture of fathers in thier white undershirts and striped boxers and mothers hanging up the laundry in their bras was the higlight! We live in rural Canada and people here do hang up their laundry on the clotheslines. But not owing a dryer is unheard of. Well, only until this wierd slovak family moved to town. We do kill a pig anuall y(to be precise we have it killed at the farm and deliverd with skin and blood and hooves and everything) and use every little bit of it. My children love bacon and i use tons of lard.i make my own chicken stock and this fat free nonsense doesn’t cut it for us. How come you guys are so skinny when you eat so much fat? is the most common question we get when our canadian friends and neighbours see what we eat. I cook, is my answer. I cook everything from scratch. And i do wear high heels for my weekly two hour long handbell practice where i stand for the whole time. Yes my feet are killing me but i just couldn’t wear sweatpants and my gym shoes to town:-) even when i am wearing my home clothes to get my daughter from the bus stop which is at the end of our driveway i always think of my mom’s disaproval:-) never ever leave the house in your home clothes she would say. I don’t know what america looked like in the 50′s but i guess we brought bits and pieces of it to the area with us and after ten years we are still going strong on them and people like us. Not that anyone would give up their dryer or go to the troubles of making their own chicken stock but people got used to my husband’s brutal honesty(i myself am much more diplomatic and always been even back home) and accepted us. They still probably think of us as those wired europeans but i guess we should be proud of it! Oh, and you forgot the custom of visiting unanounced. Thank you for the wonderful article about my beloved home country .

  • Thank you Allan.

    Excellent right up, it’s all right on and made me very homesick.

    Ďakujem.

  • You have just shown how we can do a little time travel on our vacation – Sundays, lard and home cooking. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

  • I want to 1st thank an old school friend for posting this article & I want to say Dekejem to Allen for writing it. I was raised in the traditional Slovenian home. Both sides of my family are from there. I was lucky enough to have parent’s that were able to take a trip there when I was 13 then again @ 15. Your article brings back many memories & also the realization that I still follow many of these things. I will Not go out unless I’m dress nicely, no torn or worn cloths off the property…lol Many of my current friends always look at my funny for that, “We are Only going to the corner store, why do you have to change?” I wish I could return there someday, however have lost touch with the extended family, my aunt’s & uncles are long gone now. I would like to make a comment about my Grandmother on my dad’s side….I never met her or my grandpa, but they raised a wonderful father. I remember my dad taking us to her grave site & placing a tombstone there. When she died my dad was in WWII (he was born here, but taken home @ 2months). His brother’s had to dig her grave by hand while ducking & diving from enemy fire. They were only able to mark her resting place a wooden cross, which over the years was falling apart & almost lost. I loved it there & almost met my 1st love there. lol my sister has returned & I guess he’s married now too, but like me, we will never forget each other. Thank you again for bringing back so many great memories & allowing me to share this with my family. :-)

  • Very very, bad politicians we have. And the worst politics in the world. In slovakia is 99.9999% very poor peoples and 0.00001% abnormal extremely rich peoples. This rich peoples parasite on peoples on slovakia. We have bad ways after year 1995, more holes and broken. Money from tools go to politicians, no to repair or new ways. Politicians buying hotels, pensions, land and islands- money from the poor of the Slovak people. We have 20% VAT, and very small pension (300-400€ per month) (go to pension after slovak have 67 years old)
    diet is expensive than in Germany…
    MORE MONEY GO TO POLITICIANS

  • Hey Allan,
    I am from Slovakia, and I love love love your article..
    You are soooo right. I ve been in the U.S. for three years now, but I miss everything back home. I can not wait to get done with college and move back home. People do not realize how awesome their country is until they move to aa very different one.
    The longer I am in the U.S. the more I love Slovakia, and the more I cannot wait to go back there :)
    Thank you so much, it really helped me to realize how much I miss it!!!

  • Mirrco: You know yourself that you are greatly exaggerating. While I agree that our politicians are corrupt and we would do much better without them stealing, you are making Slovakia sound like 90s Russia. “99,9999%” poor people? Slovakia has one of the best Gini coefficients (basically difference between poor people and rich people) in the world – better than Western Europe, USA, Eastern Europe… Only Sweden has better numbers and Sweden is a very socialist country. Look at the map:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c5/GINIretouchedcolors.png

    “Bad ways after year 1995″? 1995 was an era of deep Mečiarism (for foreigners: Mečiar was a wannabe-dictator in the 90s, because of him Slovakia was called the “black hole of Europe”). Times of incredible corruption (he basically gave out all the state companies to his friends creating a new oligarchy), even political murders – dead and beaten journalists, witnesses, people got kidnapped, mafia reached the highest levels of the government… If you say that Slovakia is corrupt and then say that it was better in 1995 then it doesn’t make sense. And all the large companies and financial groups that influence and corrupt our politics got their economic power during Mečiar’s wild privatisation.

    And more expensive life than in Germany? Have you ever been to Germany? And how old are you if you think that 90s were such a great time? Because I doubt you remember it well.

  • this is an excellent piece on slovak culture – lifestyle. Right on! Great writing!

  • It is an interesting point of view. We (Slovaks in Slovakia) do not think about the things you mention or do not pay much attention to them, we just accept them as they are.

  • Very slovak-ego-pleasing article that obviously came from lover person (as opposite to hater type).
    This is gonna be rough comment from critical lover (soft hater?):

    To be politically incorrect, we (slovaks) are (political) retards.
    It’s amazing how people can think that 100% of politicians steal their money and everything is corrupted. IMHO this comes from saying “don’t do what you dont want to be done to you” that is applied here as “If I had their opportunities, I would be stealing as well and so are they”. In short, our nation is nation of haters, people with little self respect and distrust. Rest is masquerade, the mask we keep on dering day. I think our people should give deeper thought to old saying “If you want to know whos at fault, look into mirror”.
    If you ask seller whether his is good. He will say “yes” from his hearth. Problem is that it’s good because *he* will earn money, not because it has superior qualities.

    Also we are easy to make our minds, if your neighbour says that politician is ${&[ (swear word), you will pass it on later with little thought about whether its truth or not. Nice example from comment above, Vladimir Meciar. Dictator, one person to blame. This has roots in cult-of-personality.
    From my POV and several talks with my grandmother who knew Meciar since he was 10, all he was and is – the guy with big mouth and bigger ego.
    The kind of guy who had bad grades in highschool and used to say “when I grow up, I’ll show you”. The guy who once said “I am state” paraphrasing Luis of France. Corruption in slovakia is to big extent based on the fact that Slovakia wasn’t ready for radical change and transition to free market (without any regulations in first years of new republic). 90′s were gold ages of Slovakia, you were basically free to do anything and succeed with craziest things imaginable (pyramid games that 1/10 of population felt for). Newborn companies signed contracts only to get capital, bankcrupt (eg cash out) and then create new company (something that still common nowadays). And everybod fell for it. Slovak people were not ready for illusion of freedom and we hit the wall pretty bad.

    We are short-minded, retarded people with illusions and ghosts from past and we well deserve politicians that we currently have.

  • Bla bla bla , yes christmas and easter some traditions are nice and would be nice to keep them BUT why if life is so nice in Slovakia so many people leve to west and newer come back ? Becouse if you just travel or wisit Slovakia you see nothing but try to live there everithing is coruptet . Hed of state is retard ,hed of court is mafiafriendly and prime minister is something like all capone . There is no future there and all traditions food ,architecture,clouth ,dance, even lenguage witch we spoke for centurys is desappearing . Its wery nice to come to slovakia but after week two i always got depress and frustrated . When I look at mountins ,woods , people I have feeling like we are compleatly lost our mainds I wish to be wrong

  • janekovie16

    Apr 15th, 2012

    My reaction to TomasP:
    my dear, how I see your comment.
    Probably you are quite young when you can say it this way.
    About corruption, it’s product of comunist era and was there for good 50 years. Don’t want to say that such thing wasn’t present before…
    Also your state about politicians, that comes from comunist times. Slovakia is very small place where almost everyone has somewhere relative or close friend. And in that situation, one can find way how to get out of problems even when permanently do them…
    About golden era, it wasn’t so easy to do mentioned things. If you didn’t have someone to protect you.
    About deserving politicians which we have. It’s common known that 30-40 % of whole population is very easy manipulated. Which procent of electorate use to have Meciar, president Gaspar…? Similar as Fico.
    Same sort of problems are across east of Europe. And all that area was ruled for half of century by one class.

  • Allan, you did something amazing there. Made a lot of Slovaks realize their homeland is not so bad after all :) We can be very critical of it and tend to feel like we are doing worse than everyone else (slef-pity is not a good trait). And here comes a foreigner and opens our eyes and makes us realize, hey, this country isn’t so bad after all :) Good job :)

  • Jan Fidrmuc

    Apr 15th, 2012

    As someone who grew up in Slovakia and now lives in the West, I find this write up rather naive and condescending at the same time. The lack of dryers is not a virtue but a sign of economic backwardness. The lack of political correctness is deplorable: frequently, it is nothing less than open racism or sexism. Pre-made mixes were available since I can remember (I’m 41) although it is true that microwave dinners are not as common as in the West. And these days, for most Slovaks observance of Sundays involves a car ride to their local mall or hypermarket.

  • Allan,

    i read your article and it is very funny. So… I dont understand whats wrong on Example 13, i can only say that americans are barbarians. Example 12 – Political correctness is cancer, ok lie all to yourself and be correct. Wold dont need political correctness, world need solve problems! Political correctness – two stupid words. 11 – cook from your chemical pre-mixes oh no!! its no good that you make it, you eat then industrial shit 10 – not all families doing it so 9 – this is not true, are you sure you were in Slovakia? :) 8 – i was never by a pig killing, but is something wrong on it? And fish killing is wrong too? 7 – in Slovakia is officialy drinking Alcohol in work forbidden, but ok some people do it, very big problem. How much Americans use hard drugs in work? Please write about this.
    6 – americans have very healthy lifestyle :D there are all fit ok :) 5 – the part with Slovensky raj was extreme funny, i have new joke for my friends
    4 – Clothes Dryer is for me so very necessary like personally space station
    3 – you mean Slovak train? Traffic in Bratislava is terrible, but which bigger European city has no problem with parking and much traffic?
    2 – i dont understand whats wrong, should i have stress on sunday too?
    1 – not my problem
    Wake up america, you are in the 1950! – but with your thinking. Or better in 950 – but you have political correctness.

  • The truth (from someone who was born and raised in SK):
    1)Dressing Up to Go to Town – people only do this because they care too much about other peoples opinions.
    2)The Observance of Sundays – similar to 1), many people do this because if they did not go to church other people would spread gossip, especially in small towns.
    4)Clothes Dryers – It has to do with the fact that most people dont have the money to buy things that are not considered necessity.
    5) Pre-Lawsuits – true
    6) Eating Lard is Allowed – It maybe is allowed but not everyone eats it. I do not know anyone who would eat that. Maybe because I dont live in a village.
    7) Drinking Alcohol is Allowed – Yes. Everyone drinks and you are considered an idiot if you dont :(
    8) Pig Killings – only people from villages do this. Everyone I know finds it horrible.
    9) Eating Out – There are not a lot of good AND cheap restaurants (outside of Bratislava) and not many people can afford to go out for a lunch.
    10/11) Homemade Meals/Cooking from Scratch – We do this to save money.
    12) Political Correctness is Unwelcome – True but the people here are also very fake and talk behind your back.
    13)A Slovak Man Should Always Be a Gentleman to the Ladies – ??? maybe 1 in 100 guys is like that.

    Please stop glamorising this country. Its no 1950s America.

  • Of the 3 foreigners that visit Slovakia every year (2 of them are the guys who guard the Stanley Cup when it makes an appearance), we need to be happy that Allan found our country a pleasant place. What if he wrote: this place was a dump, don’t go there, you would bitch about that too. So be happy you are fortunate enough to live some other place and have the mobility to visit periodically. I have been in the states for most of my life but will retire in SK with my yank wife, as $hit is f*&ked up in the states or any other place where one may choose to live, but let’s face it; when you get old and your money has to go much further than before and you want to be able to walk to get your milk and bread, states is not the place, but SK will do.

  • Miso Polak

    Apr 16th, 2012

    Hi Allan!

    First of all let me say that I really appreciate the effort you put into article. It is always refreshing to see view of nation & country from different point of view than you have as being born in Slovakia. To quickly introduce myself I spent around 29 years in Slovakia before deciding to go and live abroad mainly due to job reasons. Although I not always agree with what you liked (some of your points are exactly what I dislike :) ) ), I find your article excellently written. Now, some of my musings:

    5. Courts proceedings –

    True. Something Slovakia needs to really improve. Imagine I am small entrepreneur waiting to collect receivable. But the a..hole I have business with decides to not pay it out. If I am nice person then I try to solve it via court. And as you pointed out it takes so long time that at the end even if I win, my cashflow status is highly in red numbers or worse I was forced to declare bankruptcy.

    About the holes, bumps, ugly iron doors in buses and so on. I don’t think that’s something we should be proud about. Such things are not thought well in Slovakia. Like that hole you said about. To take four years to fix it, that’s just horrible. And it is due to fact that person(s) responsible for roads do not care.

    Regarding the older woman who fell down, I just hope somebody approached to help her. And yes, old people realized that they must care for themselves because government and hospitals does not care much about them. Elders have tough times in Slovakia, country just does not think about them much. If they do not have family which cares for them, they are lost in the system :(

    As for the mountain rescue service who was rude to injured person I can say only this:” He/she was just as.hole, very unprofessional approach”. I hope patient put this issue further and the idiot in mountain service got punished in some way. I do not understand how you can praise such behaviour. It is something which I hate generally in Slovakia. People are rude. I got countless times into arguments with waiters & shopkeepers & train conductors, because their behaviour was just off-limits. I would love that rudeness becomes tabu in slovakia and persons who behave like that would be shunned upon. But I am afraid this needs still time. It has something to do with 90s when many people learned that being rude & aggressive is the way how you can accomplish many things.

    7. Alcohol

    It’s not that great as you say it. The problem is that guy sipping from little bottle did not have apparently one or two sips. Gradually over the morning he sips more and more and then is drunk. Which is dangerous for him and the work he is doing. But on the other side, yes, if you sit behind computer all the day, then you and your colleagues can bring up that hidden bottle of wine and finish at the end of the day without nobody protesting or making threats at you. It is true that alcohol is strictly forbidden during working time in Slovakia but thankfully common reason prevails and thus nobody is going to bash you for that wine or for the beer you had during lunch break. But this happens also in other central europe countries, not just us. I think it’s mostly typical European attitude :) )

    alcohol tolerance with driving:
    One explanation crossed my mind. As I know Slovaks quite well, the reason for zero tolerance is this. If let’s say one beer is allowed then most of those who would have one beer, would take one or two more ;) . That’s just Slovak thinking:” Nothing could happen to me, if I bend the rule a little bit” . More generally, if there is rule Slovaks will always try to find way over it. Because we are good in that :( .

    9. Eating out:

    The reason why Slovak people does not go eat to restaurant is twofold:
    1) The restaurants offer in that part of Slovakia is basically shit. Unfortunately it still happens, although comparing from 10 years ago, there is definitely a progress.
    2) People are not used to go out, partly because of their budget. Keep in mind that average Slovak monthly salary in 2011 was 780 EUR. And also because they have not yet realized that there are restaurants which they can really enjoy.

    As a personal story, I come from town, where the offer and quality of restaurants is very limited. Most of them are nonquality schnitzel & fries (greasy-spoon style) where they screw up all kind of a bit more complicated meals like steaks or pasta. Actually I know about only 3 good restaurants there.

    During 2007-2009, there was really good restaurant with price level about mid-range (10-20 Eur). However they had to close it because there was not enough interest. Reason for that is again partly
    1) budget
    2) but also not being used to go out. Because average Slovak guy does not have problem to go and drink for 15 EUR in bar per weekend. So it looks like we still value more alcohol than good food :)

    Lard eating & similar:

    Have you checked out mortality rates of Slovak’s ? Because our daily cuisine is not exactly the healthiest. Sure, it is ok to have two times per year “zabijacka” but there are people who just eat fatty stuff all the time. Coupled with no regular exercise, those guys are just walking cardiovascular bombs :( .

    To shed some light why is our cuisine so ” heavy & strong taste & fatty “, you must understand that it was formed by two things from distant past:

    1) it had to be affordable
    2) as most slovaks in previous centuries lived through hard manual labor, it had to contain lot of energy.

    So lard, bacon, potatoes and so on…. . But now, sometimes I think that Slovaks like everything what is fried & fatty. It is not general truth of course, but I see this behavior here and there.

    So to sum it up, Slovakia needs change. Yes it can keep Sundays, guys being gentlemen, pig killings and such but it needs much more effective state administrative & court system, it needs better laws. Good thing is, it is changing. Many young people go abroad and see how it works there. Some of them come back and want to put that in action as well. They are the ones who are very important for country. Because
    1) they know how things could be done better as they saw it
    2) They like Slovakia

    I am just afraid it won’t work so easy because one thing we should take from US guys is this one:” admire & value success somebody else made.” I think that is common in US, but in Slovakia there is long road to that. I would say some of Slovaks are pretty jealous group and and instead of admiration they can only envy.

    In comments, there was sentimental thinking like all the western values are wrong and this kind of stuff and we should keep what we have. I disagree. We should keep only what is beneficial to us, not what harm us. Incompetence, blatant disregard of rules, “russian” way of governing the society, being redneck ( meaning not using intelligence and critical thinking to solve issues, not coming from rural area) is something we should get quickly rid off. It can be refreshing for you when comparing with US but coping with such things for 28 years makes you only angry.

    So to answer question whether we should stay in 50′s or not, I say: “Let’s move!” :)

    Miso Polak

  • Great, after publication of article on SME, platoon of wise-arse Slovaks came rushing to this website only to present their infinite wisdom on the internet. To sum it up – yes, showing a little gentlementry to women is expected and you look like an arse when you dont do it. Zabíjačka is popular as hell, if you dont know anyone who ever been on one or likes it, you are living in a very small world. Everyone in city has some family in countryside and in every village there is annual zabíjačka. Deal with it. Homemade meals are beeing done because they are better and because your grandmother would see you skinned alive if you´d refure her Sunday lunch. Is there a corruption in Slovakia? Yes, why thank you captain Obvious. You try to talk PC, you die. Period. And if your friends are talking behind your back about you, I have some bad news for you. 99 percent povetry and other bull are for the mindless soap opera watcher who never took their noses out of this country, just few kilometers to the East you have Ukraine which prays to be on our level. You want even worse? Go to Romania, see for yourself how shitty can one live. Or even better, go to Moldavia or if you do not value your wallet and life that much Transnistria is the right place for you. Maybe before you strat complaining like little bitch, look around you. Things here are far from perfect, things that should work do not and I could build a Death Star from promises that I am hearing before every elections but rest asured you fare better than 90 percent of land-mass of this planet. If you dont want to be gratefull for that, do not but at very least realize it and accept it. Things could´ve been much, much worse than they are.

  • Milo Velebir, Perth Australia

    Apr 16th, 2012

    Great and so enjoyable reading, mate. I’ve been away from my homeland for over two decades, but the sentiments are still there. Reading this helps to understand why I so often feel weird in this western society. Of course! I am Slovak! I am stuck in the 50′s – although I have not even been born in 50′s, but you are right. Great. Good on ya.

  • Dear Allan,
    thank you for the nicely written article without exaggerating criticism. I believe many open-minded people in Slovakia may appreciate it a lot when they see it through your eyes. It is true – the more I travel, the more I am in love with my country.
    As for the negative comments, we express our feelings and opinion directly without trying to be polite sometimes. You probably now how critical and negative thinking Slovak people are sometimes, therefore do not take their opinions as an offense but take it as a lesson about our culture. I believe it is usally people who haven’t travelled around the world that much; and did not get a chance to get to know other cultures and appreciate the one that we have.
    Thank you again and good luck in your travels!

  • Nice reading. Thank you!

  • Hi Allan,
    what you’ve told about us Slovaks is quite right ;) …I have never been in US so I have no source of comparison, but reason of what you have seen here I see like this: It’s not so long ago Slovakia didn’t existed. All the time there was Uhorsko, Soviet Union, Czecho-Slovakia….and all the time we, as “lieges”, bended our backs. So after getting independent we started from scratch only with mentality and morality of simple men. It has became part of our genetic make-up. We care about ourself and others co-lieges :D , we admire nature, because IT was here for us in all those bad times and gave us what we needed (and it always is, if we’ll need it again sometime), we worship women, because they are beautiful, sensual and birthplace for future caretakers of our beloved country. We prize life and without truth around us there is no way to furfill it in one lifetime, so we don’t spare with our worries and opinions to others…

    God bless your steps and visit us again ;)
    Martin

  • OH and one last thing!

    In 2012 THERE IS END OF THE WORLD!!!!
    …if you wanna survive, COME TO SLOVAKIA – we are 50 years late!!! :D DD ;)

  • Adding to the irony of Slovakia’s globalization is the fact that I was led to this article by a Slovak friend who posted it to Google+ While such liberating information sharing was impossible in the 1950s, I often express to my Slovak friends and family how much I hope Slovakia retains what is wonderful and refreshing about Slovakia even as it adopts new technology and (hopefully) some less corrupt politics. Although I am a second generation American (who has taught and visited family in Slovakia a number of times), your article explains things that many of my more American friends find mystifying about me and my upbringing (consuming alcohol when we were children, cooking everything from scratch still today, and going nuts over our litigious and anti-personal responsibility approach to life among a few!) . You’ve provided very enlightening explanations about some aspects of a culture that are still very engrained in me. I’ve passed the link along to friends in hopes that they will begin to understand and appreciate Slovakia and Slovaks!

  • @janekovie16:
    Don’t think that corruption weren’t present before communists era as well.
    Some extent of corruption is present pretty much everywhere. Problem is that nowadays is come out easier due to whistle blowers (often people that haven’t got their cut on time). I personally tolerate some level of corruption, as long it’s on second, third place after wealth of people.|
    I think it was Missouri state that had motto “salus populi suprema lex esto”, which can be translated into “wealth of people is supreme law”.
    I also think that they got this motto after incident in which vigilantes rushed into prison and killed some prisoners and also sherif who wanted to stop them. I don’t care that some politician lands his cousine a job. What I care is whether they follow “peoples wealth first” rule. Currently most politicians do. Does not mean that I support their actions, it only means that it ain’t that bad as people tend to portrait it.

  • Excellent article. As a Slovak who spent some time in the US I can just say that you are right. I recommend reading The Lonely Crowd by David Riesman which deals with this issue of changing society.

  • Nobody I know has a dryer at home :)
    I love the fact about Slovaks that we take the blame on ourselves- I mean, if I fall, it’s my fault, not LA’s fault. I am the one ending up wit scratched knees hands whatevs, not the city. If this happened in Slovakia (now I’m starting to laugh out loud actually :D ) at the lawcourt they’d just tell you ‘are you f*cking kidding me’ and send you home :D I mean, this is ridiculous. Suing a city, really? Hahahahahha NO WAY this would pass in Slovakia. If this ever happened in Slovakia, that guy would be a subject to laugh at- for the whole country. Seriously, I can’t stop laughing right now :D We Slovaks are tough- or just intelligent enough to look out for ourselves, because nobody else cares. They care enough to judge what we’re wearing, but nobody gives a damn if we get hurt. Or they’ll just laugh. Some neighbors hope something will happen to you :D you forgot to mention we’re all so jealous of each other and can’t wait till something bad happens to the other person. But it’s still funny.

    And this article is hilarious as well, I still can’t stop laughing. So true.

    Also, the reasons why so many Americans are overweight/fat/obese/looking like mutant pigs- they don’t eat normally cooked home-cooked meals from scratch. I’d die if I had to eat fast food every day- I can’t stand it! Nothing easier than fixing a healthy plate at home. Pre-made mixes, half-frozen food just to be heated in the microwave.. no way you’d find that here. What’s the big deal about making your own spaghetti sauce. Or salad dressing. Or cookie dough. Or anything, really. 90% average people don’t eat take-away or fast food (on a daily, even weekly basis- I hardly eat fast food ever and I’m 18) or anything pre-made. We’re not lazy.

    Keep up with the good work Allan, this is truly awesome.

    Ali

  • George Sterpka

    Apr 17th, 2012

    Now I know why I am the way that I am. Slovak-Polish blood runs deep.

  • Great article. I’m an American Expat who has been living in Slovakia for nearly 13 months now, working as an English teacher. I’ve been trying to pinpoint what I love about this place so much. It’s so different from my home (Phoenix, Arizona). The climate, the weather, the attitude. I’m 33 and I’m finally beginning to understand the world that my baby boomer mother loved so much. I just sent her this article because everything you’ve described you’e hit on the head.

    I do however, miss good Mexican food – the place in Bratislava is good, but most definitely not Mexican – and hot wings. Aside from that, I’ve lost more than 40lbs eating pork, lard, and potatoes daily (so much for America’s designer diets).

  • May I be the man in the middle here? I am neither American nor Slovak but I have visited both countries several times. Alan’s gentle observations strike a chord with me; he has seen many positive aspects of Slovak society which were once common in the west but have now vanished. On balance, I think he is saying that Slovaks should hang on to their way of life because we in the west have adopted some crazy ideas which have damaged our societies. Slovakia still has the chance to avoid these mistakes.
    I personally applaud Slovakia’s Sunday observance, pig-killing, easy attitude to alcohol, smoking and diet, courtesy to women and the trains. ( Here I digress to record my admiration for the wonderful custom of the station master, standing to attention at the main exit, wearing his/her red-banded hat while the express train passes through his/her station. This is how to run a railway or indeed, any business. The top man or woman is out front. not hiding away in some office or behind some Public Relations officer. In 40 years of using trains in the UK, I have never seen or met a station master – probably because he is too embarrassed by the useless, overpriced service provided by his employers and that in the country which invented the national railway.)
    I’m with Alan all the way on his observations about the Slovak legal system or lack of it. The last thing Slovakia needs is the current USA/UK-style legal system ( Slovaks are quite right to laugh at legal systems which penalise MacDonalds for serving hot coffee) but a new, honest court system for enforcing debts and contracts should be a top priority.
    That’s enough of today – time for bed

  • Well…. article by itself is not bad but I guess an author is trying to put up Slovakia really high… Maybe he hasnt experienced real everyday life, maybe he was only around people who were really nice and kind but a lot of things are untrue. First of, dressing to the town… really? I think just today in 3 hours being around the city I have seen about 50% of people wearing sweatclothes and sportstuff… I havent read a whole thing, but another thing that was interesting was describing the trains, maybe this guy was using just high class Inter City trains but normal people who want to cross Slovakia for a decent price know that the trains are packed and usually you have like 5 people sitting around you, touching your knees, stepping on your shoes (its really pain in the ass)… Another thing is the chapter that belongs to the men kindness, theres no such thing like opening the door, or being a gentleman, its about pushing in the busses, trying to get throught the door as soon as possible… And the last thing… I have experienced how it is to be with an American here, a lot of people are not kind, they are rude and impolite. Just because somebody doesnt speak Slovak or is dressed in different way. Actually I think we are just entering the phase where America was 10-20 years ago-spreading the fast food way of life, not caring about people around you, busy way of life, traffic problem… They already passed these things, most of them care about themselves, do jogging, support the sports at schools, at least people at the stores, bus drives and other stuff that comes to the touch with customers are NICE, POLITE and they smile and wish you a nice day…. Well… in conclusion, some parts I really liked and they are true, but I dont think we are like in 50s. I think we just have our own way how to do a certain things… :-)

  • Very interesting and brings back memories. Next write something about health programs, visitng doctors office, shopping and dealing with people working at the stores.

  • Hey Allan,

    Awesome piece!!! You’re very talented!!! – Absolutely no question about it!

    It’s refreshing! It’s much easier to complain about all the bad things here than point out all the great things (and there are still so many of them).

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE!

  • Hi Allan,
    very well-written article, though I expected something else from the title. But I assume you took the pretext of those American friends of yours saying “looks like the 50′s here” to redact an article about the biggest discrepancies between Slovakia and America.

    As a French guy who did not visit (yet) Slovakia, I will not judge any of the aspects you’re dealing with about this country.

    Anyway, I have been many times to the USA and I have some friends on both sides of this huge and tremendous territory. Hence from my own experience, you did make all of your 13 points about USA.

    In return, I can not agree with the confusion you are maintaining all along your article, by matching USA and “Western” countries.
    Indeed I do think that into Slovak people’s mind, France is utterly part of those “Western countries”. Yet France is million miles away from USA’s habits and quirks in most of the points you are developing here.
    To defend it, I will not come over each of your examples. But for instance I am part of a French well-off family, and neither do my family nor my friends and relative have dryers. As you mention Italy as well, all my Italian friends do not have any dryers at home.
    Furthermore, as part of the French gastronomie, I will not even mention the culinary traditions!
    In that matter, most of your other “examples” are also moot to my opinion.

    Europe and America have a very different culture, and these disparities are shrinking a lot when comparing two European countries one to another. Even when it comes to matching lands situated on opposite sides of the former “wall of shame”.

    Anyway, as regards American aspects, you article seems to me entirely true and I would even go further than you do in “Example 12 – Political Correctness” by asserting that Americans are hypocritical in relationships, and to my eyes that is their worse foible.

    However (and in order to avoid shifting the debate to French-American considerations), I must say that U.S.American people are delightful people to know, and usually much more open-minded that our (stubborned) French media want us to believe. And what shall I say about their breathtaking landscapes!

    cheers from France,

  • My husband and I love this article. We were laughling out loud. We were both born in Slovakia and have lived in the US 17 years. Everything you described brought some memories from home. It makes you appreciate and miss what we left behind. I can’t even tell you how many times my husband was made fun of for being a gentleman. One time he was even stopped by security guards for carrying my purse. They thought he stole it. What kind of men would carry a women’s purse? The part of common sense is 110 % right. You are responsible for your own safety and don’ t blame anybody else for your stupidity. Slovaks make lot less money and yes they might not have 10 pair of jeans and 5 pairs of tennis shoes but they take pride in the way they are dressed and take care of themselves. In the US you might get asked if you going to a party since you are so dressed up. You forgot to mention some manners that Slovak kids are taught since they are little. They all know how to properly use forks and knives, cover their mouth when they yawn, or make sure they say “hi” to their elderly neighbor first. How about new mothers who have 2-3 years of maternity leave available compared to 6-12 in the United States? It’s nice to see somebody who was not raised in Slovakia appreciate the Slovak ways of living instead of making fun of it. Thank you for your article.

  • snehulienka

    Apr 28th, 2012

    Hi, it love it! please write more: here is something you can write about. My american family was surprised about it.
    1. Slovaks eat raw bacon, usually cut on board, with fresh bread and onion.
    2. Slovaks drink the water from fresh sauerkraut..which is considered as disgusting in America.
    3. Americans eat eggs, sausage and jam for breakfast. Eatting jam with salty food is weird.
    4.Slovaks go to Mc Donalds for family lunch, or dinner. It is expensive for them, but they want to look like Americans.
    5. Slovaks cars are with stick shifts, just few people, drive automatic cars.
    6. Slovak mothers breast feed until at least 6months, if possible longer (till 1or 2years old.) I heard american dont like to do it.
    good luck..snehulienka from Bratislava

  • I’ve just returned from one week in Slovakia which I understand doesn’t make me an expert, but I found everyone to be very kind, helpful and patient with me as I attempted to communicate in my “broken Slovak.” Store clerks, local hotel staff, Motorest wait staff, lekaren staff and even the doctor we visited were wonderful to us.

  • Hi,
    I have to say that most of the things you have written about Slovaks are true, but still Slovakia is my home and always will be even I have been living in the UK for nearly 8 years. Reading the article made realise what I am missing and what I always look forward to do when I go home to see my family and friends. Although you have missed to mention our great national meal Bryndzove Halusky, beautiful nature, lot of historical places, etc…Hope you have really enjoyed staying there and you will visit SVK again…

  • Spot on! Im just deciding whether to come back to SVkia after several years abroad and you made some good observations. Don’t know how about now but the 90′s in SVKia were still pretty much like you depicted.

  • I like your article, and you make some good points, well perhaps should give you more credit, but … I can’t really judge your point of view as I’m Slovak, 26 – too young to understand what you’re comparing my country to(the 1950′s in the US).
    And this is where I’ll agree to disagree w/ you;
    * Just like the US, you have different States/regions and you’re not really proving anything by saying this is how it’s in the US(even though, yes, some generalizations can be made); So it’s w/ Slovakia. I know it’s a small country(basically the size of a US state(judging both by the standard of population and land) ), but the differences between the regions are significant to a point where I’d ask a passer-by to consider re-thinking some of the generalizations made.
    I live in Bratislava, and the mentality here has been rapidly changing to a post-catholic society, just like u’ll see in the Czech Republic (bigger cities). We don’t observe Sundays to the degree you describe (and yes, they probably do elsewhere in Slovakia, simply because there’s nothing else to do).
    Consumerism is very big here, and I wish it’s a mistake my country would avoid – simply let’s say by learning from the US.
    I will try and do my best to teach my child that happiness is not found in the thrill of the moment, and that most times happiness is found in the balance of all things. The idea that Americans “NEED” this and that and always “need” something, however much it keeps the machinery going, I think it’s killing the society on all levels.
    Men. I will right out disagree with you on this one. Perhaps, yes, there’s still some left-overs of chivalry, and feminism taken to extreme measures in the US … catered for a real contrast in your eyes, I can see how that happens, and it’s a valid point you’re making. But I have lived in the US for 3 years, lived in the UK for over a year. Maybe it would be helpful to state that I am a female. Well, anyways. Out of the places I’ve lived and the others I’ve visited, 95% of the relationships in Slovakia – the women get a raw-er deal than in the US(not counting the fundamentalist Christian homes, though there are many, yes) and the UK(again, turning a blind eye to the Islamist sub-cultures, etc. …). Slovak men have big ego’s and nothing to back it up w/ really. US men treat their women nicer. In Slovakia, it’s almost like the woman needs to fight for the man, only to become his door-mat.(we have discussed this topic w/ friends who have lived both in SVK and abroad, and who better qualifies to comment than women?).
    *train travel – not sure if you were being sarcastic(“in style”), or you just got lucky w/ your travel route/time, but … others have commented, so I’m not gonna go on and on, just not sure if you’re not trying to fit a smaller frame to a bigger picture.
    * food – yes, lard is consummed, but probably mostly by old men, who already have “beer bellies” and don’t give ********* about how they look. The good looks in young women comes w/ a price just like in any other country, so anorexic and bullemic behaviors are just as present here as in any western countries.

    OK, further on – I’d just like to wish you happy and safe travels on your journey.

  • Hello,
    this is really an observetion of an American who noticed and observed the way of life of Slovaks and their country. This comparisons of American and Slovak culture are interesting and reflection of an American to Slovak culture. For example using clothes dryers, although not so many Slovaks use clothes dryers, I think they use them more than in the past and more than only few families. It is right than Americans still use them much more than Slovaks do.I strongly agree with the information of drinking alcohol. Slovaks really drink quite a lot and on very many occassions, almost everywhere but it is very strongly forbidden when driving a car. Policemen are very strong in keeping a law not to drink when you are driving. I would like to express myself to pig killings. It is very true that this used to be very strong tradition by Slovaks and in Slovakia. Many people used to be farmers, they used to work on their fields and growing many animals including pigs. Killing of pigs occured in almost every family in many villages in the past. Nowadays, this event is not practised so much at all but the tradition is still kept although much less.What deals with eating at home, I thing the situation is starting to change. It was not usual to go and eat out in the past, usually home-made meals were preferred.When celebrating birthday, wedding anniversary or having college graduating ceremony in the past was not common to go out and have a meal with family somewhere out in the restaurant. However, nowadays it is different. People usually meet in restaurants on such occassions in such cases nowadays although some of them prefer to have it at home.This fact has been changed. When talking about home-made meals, it is true that Slovaks still prefer to eat home-made meals instead of cooking from pre-made mixes. Mothers although beeing employed, they must spend much time by cooking at home. It is usuall in Slovak families.The standard of men to be polite to the women is kept in Slovakia but it also depends on family. Some men refuse to do it and some women do not wish such politeness to be done for them. At the end, it can be conluded that many things has been changed and some of them are the same.

  • I couldn’t agree more with what you wrote. Anyways, written from an American perspective it might be in the 50s – I may add that when comparing it to other Eastern European countries you may find Slovakia in the late 70s, beginning of 80s -that makes it 30 years behind the region. I’ve been here for a while, but believe me, I am still struggling to understand the Slovak way of thinking and doing things. Just from my personal point of view, I find them to be way way way behind any country in the region (well, probably on the same level with Bulgaria or a bit ahead of it). I’ve been to Poland and you can see that their immigrants really brought some fresh air when coming back from the West lately, I’ve been to Hungary and I liked the way they paid attention to details and the fact that they are proud of what they are, Czech Republic and their rather strange mixture of Slavic way of thinking with German-Austrian one and American capitalism. Despite what some other poster said, I liked Romania because you can clearly see they are on the right track, I liked the people there, the fact that they really learned something from their Western experience. In a way, Romania is pretty similar to Poland and makes them a success story in the region. Slovakia on the other hand … I am currently living in eastern Slovakia, and while some people might say that this region is rather underdeveloped compared to other regions, there aren’t really so big differences – look for example at Bratislava – it’s biggest advantage is the proximity to Vienna, and that’s about it. I cannot understand how can there be so many differences between CZ and SK since they were together for almost a century. The mentality of the people who would not work and consider they should be paid for staying home, the decaying block of flats, the grass growing in the pavement – 2 meters high, giving you the impression that you are in some jungle, the fact that it is a very unsafe country – I’ve lived in several countries in Eastern Europe and this is the first one where I had my car stereo stolen twice in only 2 months. That’s when I understood why there are no cars on the streets and why there are so many decaying concrete garages. It really amazes me when people tell me that it is normal to be harassed by the police, or to have your card scratched on purpose or to be burgled, because you’re a foreigner. Mocking about other countries (CZ, HU, RO, BG, UA) is also a national practice, from calling the Czechs or Hungarians names, to talking about how underdeveloped the others are – probably that makes them feel more important or more developed ?!?. I still wonder how they managed to enter the EURO zone, let alone E.U. I find very strange to be mocked/shouted at because of not speaking English. If you plan to stay here you’ll come in touch with their Police, Kadaster Office etc – I can’t stress enough, be ready for an Orwellian/Kafkaesque experience. The fact that Alien Police doesn’t speak a basic English or that the Ambulance/Police dispatcher does not understand what you are saying when you have an emergency really makes it a bad place to live in. Most of all probably I don’t like their way of mocking at their one country and back-stabbing each-other. I haven’t traveled to Ukraine yet, but considering that the Slovaks here say that it is a country like any other, and Polish say it is 1940s Siberia, I think I have a clear view of what’s there and indirectly also given you a clear view of what’s in SK.

  • It’s funneh to read how foreigners see our country. Let alone the oh-so-advanced US. There are soooo many false views in the article and then in the comments it’s not even nice to read. On the contrary, we have many things in common with US and Western world – for example: economic crisis, media brainwashing, corporate reign (as seen in the US for example), corrupt government+public services and a system of education going “the western way” (i.e. let there be no intelligent people for the love of god or else they might actually think).
    Then for example meals “from scratch” – ye well, the obesity rate compared to US is indefinitely lower.
    Trains are comfortable? You probably never sat in a train before.
    Drying machines? Well newsflash, we have more than 1 set of socks to wear.
    Going out specifically dressed for occasion? Are you serious? Maybe you never met people younger than 50.
    Observance of Sundays? Ye maybe in the East or Villages, where the people go work into fields etc. But not in the cities (where there are many centres)

  • [...] I liked the Slovak sweets he thoughtfully brought to our meetings. And I’ll never forget how he carried my suitcase all over Frankfurt, because a gentleman won’t let a lady do it [...]

  • Well. Interesting article, some good points, many of them are true. Born and raised in Slovakia.

    Hopefully Slovakia will go its own way or still being stuck in 50′ instead of copying North American mistakes based on spoiled over-consuming society, laziness complaining safety, lack of common-sense, right-less rights, hidden racism and slavery for successful world-wide company for competitive wage. Than you can enjoy healthy low-sodium crap dinner purchased with plastic money Sunday late night at Wallmart after coming from family lunch at McDonalds. Getting stuck in traffic in best- in- class fuel efficient V8. You can have a diet coke with artificial sugar, and than have a home-maid medicinal herbal smoke sitting on your deck on plastic chair made in China overlooking smog covered backyard sized of your flat screen TV while watching disco lights of police vehicle, ambulance and two fire trucks next door, because your 600lb neighbor cannot wipe his ass. Check your health insurance if hearth attack is covered, and even if you got one there might not be ambulance available for you, because they are busy serving your welfare neighbor, and trust me, it takes a several hours to help him.

    But we have a nice word for any bullshit, just to be a politically correct. GOD BLESS AMERICA because they really need it. I’m surprised Americans do not sue their own country for that.

    BTW: after 10 years living on West Coast didn’t find such a good bread like I use to back home. Fresh bread, good smoked bacon and onion….best diet ever. When people ask me What I eat and still in shape?? GYM??? My answer is: got worms. I.m looking forward every year to go to Slovakia, just because of excellent food and “something special” you wont find in on far west.Going back to Canada I never look on board at the airport. Just follow worst dressed people….never got lost.

  • Research, research and more research. You make few good points but it doesn’t seem you see the whole picture Allan.

    It’s very hard to compare US to anything. As a country with the most smart as well as the most stupid people, most fat and most skinny people, etc – US is huge and very diverse place but it doesn’t make Slovakia’s values and traditions united everywhere you look.

    Stuck in the 50s? How about all the old tracks and illiterate people in the Mid West? Where are they stuck then?

    Please – don’t get me wrong – I’m happy that you’re trying to educate and you are certainly succeeding with generating some mostly useful debate here – but I’d suggest you to try to get the whole picture about Slovakia first – before you make any conclusions. Generally speaking – there’s not just Dallas TV series and Texas Chainsaw Massacre into Texas. There’s also Austin or Huston, etc… It’s virtually impossible to generalise and be precise… although – stereotypes exist for a reason ;)

  • [...] Ak by som mal odporučiť len jeden príspevok, bol by to článok pojednávajúci o tom, či sa Slovensko zaseklo v 1950. Časť o záchrankách a cestovaní v autobuse (nachádza sa v kapitole Example 5 – [...]

  • Hello Allan,
    I have read your article about Slovak..and it was very interesting to read..you have had a good time here :) ..I have some family in US (Milwaukee) never seen, they run from Europe in 1890 to US..It would be very nice to met them..go ahead..Thank you
    Gabriela

  • brian bayer

    Nov 13th, 2012

    ahoj Slovakia! I truly love every one of you! when I was in Surany for 9 months, it was truly a great time! everyone was so kind and courteous, I felt at home though half the world away. I will get back there one of these days, maybe a longer stay this time around. Truly amazing and good at heart people I had the chance to meet, learn from and drink plenty of Saris with! lol, this makes me miss it badly!

  • Its interesting you hit our mentality somewhat spot on. But you there are few things you are too idealistic and you havent seen the true face of few things.
    For start here people as you said rely on themselves, because well, here if tough gets going, people bail, you are left alone. We are not solitary like other countries, thats why we have so many problems. You said people hate politics, thats correct, because every Slovak guy, knows how the “goverment” here works. Here, there is no goverment, its just a closely knitted families, who steal, cheat and take unimaginable quantity of money, yes here police wont help you, they are actually the first guys who run, officials wont help you, unless you are family or close friend…or have money. That brings me to another thing, in Slovakia if you have money, you have everything, I think it works everywhere, but here its super effective. You can literaly buy everything, from car to friendships, everyone here is so corruptable, its kind of deppressing. You said that Slovaks are tough and intelligent…thats somewhat truth and not. Yes we are physically tough, we have to do alot of stuff manually and schools here are pretty hard…but people here are not patriotic nor psychically tough. So many Slovaks fall for alcoholism, they become passive, they just go to work, drink and go home to watch TV. Really just mindless drones, tough drones, somewhat resourcefull smart, but drones. Here people dont stand for themselves, we are afraid to stand up, because well we have been oppressed so much trough history, that people just want to have peace, that Slovaks just want to have peacefull life, so in the end we submit. Slovaks somewhat hate eachother but love visitors, yes you may have felt the lukewarm hi from everyone, but when we meet eachother and dont know eachother as friend, we can be very, very hostile to eachother. Its common that people here just insult eachother on street for minor stuff, people start fighting for no apparent reason, it seems so “cool” in Slovak eyes. We hate ourselves and thats big – for us, we were raised to repress our heritage, we were under Hungarian rule so hundreds of years, we even insult our country and ourselves on regular basis! People here are kind of false, alot of people here are false, they look kind and sweet, good hearted, but in reality, they just think about themselves, they try to use you, manipulate you, even family members, its hard to trust someone here, thats why people rely on themselves. Lastly, Slovaks gentlemen?? Dont make me laugh, you must met the minority of Slovak men, if Slovak man is a gentleman, he is a real gentleman. Otherwise he is just a big hillbilly. Here on regular basis women has to hold door for men, women get yelled on, women get harrased if they look good, no courtesy, just bang and let go. Here many women are getting physically or mentally hurt by their husbands or partners, its just too common, that I am sick to even be part of this barbaric group. The gentlemen here are somewhat scarce, but when you find one, he will be a true charmer. Otherwise be ready for alcoholic beatdown and making up roullette. We have light sides as you mentioned, yes, but we have far too many darker sides to our mentality, far too many.

  • [...] Only a non-native can spot the culture habits – 13 Examples of How Slovakia is stuck in 50` Leave a reply Below I have listed items that I consider both admirable and worthy of mention.  These are aspects of Slovak culture, that, for all practical purposes, Americans once had and have generally parted with.  While I did not live in the 1950′s, so many Americans visiting Slovakia have said to me about Slovakia “Well, that’s sort of like how it was in the 1950′s,” that it’s hard to ignore this comparison. via 52insk.com [...]

  • Slovakia will always and forever be nothing but a small eastern Euro ghetto land. Also, Slovakia does not exist as such – it is a Hungarian land.

  • Branislaw, opinions are indeed like assholes, yours complete with hemorrhoids and inflammation.

  • I’ve been reading readers comments re: Slovakia Stuck in the 50′s and am amazed of the many animosities I read on these pages. My parents relatives emigrated from Czeckoslovakia, Hungary and Poland in the early 1900′s but I never really knew why they left their homelands. My fault, I was never inquisitive enough when I was young, my own life got in the way. I only know that when I was growing up in the 40′s and 50′s life was so simple, black and white, good and bad, free and safe, had enough to eat but not rich, a typical American kid. I’ve been around the world but America is my home, now and forever.

  • Christian

    Apr 1st, 2013

    I’ve lived here in Slovakia for 10 years and I love it. I live here with my wife (who is Russian-American) and it has been good to us. We complain about some things but it is also those things we appreciate. People mind their own business and you DON’T call the cops for every little thing. People are much more independent and tough. There are downsides and upsides but overall life is much more simple and less stressful here. Overall, Slovaks are quite kind and straightforward people and you pretty much get what you see. The business culture is new but it matters who you know. If you have a good idea to keep an income here, it’s a great place to be. No guns either….only the cops have guns or the mafia. There is a small if significant amount of corruption…it’s the only bad thing. However, getting credit is much more straightforward, not like big brother USA. If you have the income and you don’t owe debts or loans, it’s usually ok.

  • I come from Slofuckia. I moved abroad after I finished masters degree at some ridiculous university here, app. 10 years ago. Last summer I came back for a while, im fuckin shocked! NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN LAST 20 FUCKIN YEARS!! horribly looking exteriors, low minded people full of negativism, arrogants and ignorants on the streets, on the roads, in state offices, at doctors, fuckin everywhere! there is no money here, IT univeristy graduates working for 800eur!! people are ripping off each other, limited thinking is influencing them to the bone! dont get confused by many expensive cars on the roads, this is all they have. this is what they think they are, the big bosses riding an S8 Audi.
    anyway, im getting out of this shitty republic asap, it is worse then iraq where i was working for a while.

  • Sheep-221

    Apr 9th, 2013

    Hello,

    Thank you for displaying mostly Slovakia in bright light, but there are alot flaws in your article that I must correct.

    Slovakia is really crappy place to live, yes I mean live day to day life, the things you mentioned such as dishes, some traditions and so on are not compensating for the never ending bureaucracy and corruption, the lack of opportunities in careers, education and employment. The roads and tracks are in terrible condition and I guess you would really need to do deep search to find other place in the world which has so many holes in the roads and sidewalks as SK has. The streets are dirty. Salaries are low, taxes high, and living expenses are rising from year to year, most people who work very hard and are educated well are set to dept for life just to buy small apartment and able only to pay for living expenses.
    How society in Slovakia works and how are people in general:
    People are very offensive and hostile to each other.
    School and workplace abuse and bullying is found almost everywhere.
    Boring and negative, terribly lacking imagination and unable to discuss any more complex problems.
    When outside and when travelling public transit, men never help women with baby bogies or disabled people.
    We are very jealous and greedy.
    The judicial system is corrupt and malfunctioned this much that if you steal something from petrol station you get 5-10 years in prison. When you murder someone you get 3, if you have money and connections at the right places you could freely kill several people and you won’t get to custody at all.
    The public finances are instantly robbed by politics as well as citizens with access to them. Alot of people are avoiding to pay taxes, working illegally and so on and do the most just to steal from others. This everything makes our system suck so much.
    Our embassies in other states are not helpful and we also lure our own citizens for human trafficking abroad.
    The alcoholism is alarming as well, in fact you won’t find friends when you don’t want to drink. Drinking in workplace and during work hours is very common and widespread.
    Property crime is most prevalent and is very high, you can easily find your apartment, house or office robbed, the thieves today even rob schools, kindergardens and hospitals. The cables and communication/power lines are frequently replaced because all the time someone steal them.
    Violence and vandalism is also high.
    The night life is non existent even in largest cities such as Kosice or Bratislava, there are alot of clubs and discos but you either go there to fight or drink till you die. There are hardly any events held here, almost no concerts.
    The major airports are not offering almost any destinations to fly to, you mostly have to travel to other states by car or train to fly from there.
    We are geoblocked from alot of web services which are even available in third world.

    And much much more…
    There are dozens of really nice places to visit here around Liptov and High Tatra counties,the healthcare is free and has good availability which is really good, but rest is just terrifying, or visit your relatives, but otherwise do yourself a favor and go home, don’t waste your cash and time in this hellhole of the EU.

    Another thing I must point out are your raw comparisons of entire US and Slovakia. Europe is no longer hosting the bunch of sovereign states, that’s long gone as a traveler you should know it.
    The comparison of 300 million federation comprising fifty states vs single one is really accurate and fair.
    If you are so hero compare Pennsylvania vs Slovakia, or US vs EU.
    Everyone feels proud when he can compare large jurisdiction to something incomparably smaller.
    Thanks to lying US government you at least think you can say you are single entity and cover deeper problems inside so they are not well seen to the others outside. I’m sure there are at least 10 states in the US with level of life equivalent to Slovakia. I love america, but I don’t like how badly you see the rest of the world as well america itself.
    The comparisons were also irrelevant in the way that traditions or activities you described you said were US-wide, which is also incorrect. There are less cultural differences between US states than EU states but come on, the federal government never meant that now all the people in america are the same and did the same things.

  • Allan, I am British and nearly 50 years old. I have just returned from Kosice where I was staying with my Slovakian friend and her family.

    Many of the things you wrote in your article I saw and experienced and are fresh in my mind.

    I found Kosice and Presov to be lovely friendly places. I noticed the absence of litter including cigarette ends on the streets as well.

    I think the Slovak people are proud people who like to show you the beautiful parts of their cities and country but are also realistic about where they have come from. They have become expert at making the most of what they have and are way ahead if us now when it comes to recycling, composting, growing their own fresh fruit and veg and avoiding waste. When things break they are repaired not simply replaced and thrown away.

    The young people are interested very much in talking to travellers and learning about other places.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my week there and am planning to go back.

    I recognise much of my childhood time in Slovakia today. Family time, simpler way of life, Sundays ambling around the town.

    They do have a lovely way of life but I recognise too they have had it hard too. Not since the 40′s and 50′s has the UK known how to practice the art of thrift as my friends in Kosice do now.

    We may earn more here but I wonder who has the better life

    Cheers

    Mike

  • My heritage is Slovakian, some polish, Hungarian and Austrian thrown in. I grew up with grandparents who refused to get rid of the old ways. Being farmers, butter was churned, pigs were slaughtered and rendered into delicious smoked meats and bacon, eggs were stolen from the chickens and those chickens that didn’t produce ended up on the Sunday dinner table. Bread was baked fresh and no one, I mean no one ever mentioned cholesterol and any detrimental effects on the body caused by the foods we ate. I could go on and on but I can attest to the fact that the foods I ate when I was young did not keep me from living to my present age of 75.

  • I got to this website searching some material for my seminar paper on coffee culture. I am glad that it leaded me here even though I did not find what I was looking for. I found more. Something like cultural selfconfidence. I am Slovak. It was nice to read positive stuff about Slovaks. Reading Your article it felt like living in Slovakia would be almost living in a land of dreams :) . Why do I want to move out then? :)
    Do you really think our railways are so good? I just see so many flaws on them…

    And about the dryer. Living abroad I was forced to use it, but I would never buy one myself. It is environmetally unfriendly, it makes noise, it requires a lot of space, it damages fabrics and most importantly the clothes from it never smell as nice as when it is dryed in fresh air. Today, people who can afford to buy a dryer can afford to buy enough clothes too, so there would be no trouble waiting for clothes to dry naturally. If someone wants to wear warm clothes one can always hang it over a heater (it is probably different than in US, where you have heating hidden in floors) or iron it. Therefore I do not see any good reason for a dryer and probably most of Slovaks think similar.

  • Hello, i´m from Košice (Slovakia) and i find your article very funny, it is interesting to see that things completely normal for me are such a mess for other people :D i had fun reading this but i also disagree with some things as a Slovak girl i eat outside a lot, but i also cook at home, because eating outside is expensive, there is also the thing about drinking alcohol during the day, i think especially teachers you wrote about they shouldnt do it, but of course you can see older men drunk at 7 in the morning.. a lot of things are different among younger people but it was really fun to read :)

  • [...] Stevo has pointed out that in some ways Slovakia is stuck in the 1950′s: alcohol, lard, and pig killings are appreciated; political correctness doesn’t exist; and [...]

  • Well hi,
    honestly being Slovakian and living in a foreign country I do not agree with sooo many opinions you have.
    The fact that we live as we live is maybe not because we are far back ´stuck´ in 1950´s, but maybe you should consider this being a different style of life that we follow by choice and traditions. There is many things about Slovakia I am not proud of, but the ones you mentioned are definitely not any of them.
    Especially cooking from scratch! I live in London and honestly buying those pre cooked meals and quick bites is the worst thing I had to put up..It tastes so bad, not mentioning how it influences the health. Why do you think obesity is not such a problem in Slovakia?
    And driers? Firstly, maybe you should have visited more households, and secondly as it has been mentioned, what about the environment? There is absolutely no use for them if you can just hang your washing before you go to sleep and by morning everything is dry.
    Men being gentlemen? Well, no offence but in a month I have met more gentlemen in London than I have ever met while living in Slovakia..
    And I can tell you, trains are just a financial choice and are definitely anything but comfortable and ´in style´..
    I am not even going to go on.. I just think that once you decide to write an article you should know a country and not make assumptions based on few visits and words from friends.. Maybe the problem isn´t that Slovakia is stuck in 1950´s but that America is just too out of control.
    Slovakia is beautiful and terrible in many different ways, but the things you have described are just nonsense especially as there is soo many other countries still up keeping their traditions, just because America was stupid enough to forget about them doesn´t mean they are ahead..
    Thanks

  • I found this article between the posts from a friend on facebook. Although I don´t agree completely it really made me laugh at some points.
    Few years ago I had a friend visiting from UK – and it was his perspective that showed me how many things I don´t notice anymore. Simple things – like – well you can to talk to the bus driver, or to a train driver. He was amazed so many people walked – not taken a bus for one stop, that we dressed up nicely when going out etc.
    I have visited many countries so far, but still I love living in Slovakia, I cook almost on daily base – even though tired from work, I never buy pre-made food, I know pig killings :-)
    We go out for a coffee or drink – nowadays more often, but still a dinner in a restaurant is like a special occasion for some celebration, or just a special treat – there are many great restaurants, I think much has improved over the years.
    We use our common-sense – that I agree completely – stuff like – do not heat your cat in the microwave, or similar – doesn´t appear on the list of how to use your new appliances, because I think the people would just die laughing how can someone do something that stupid.
    Children are getting dressed nicely to school, adults to work, to the shops, we do care how we look even when we are working out, women and many men take care of themselves pretty much…..
    I admit we can seem to be rude sometimes, or harsh…. For example in UK as I noticed – children (not all) are allowed to do anything, anytime, you can´t correct them, cause that can be called an abuse, here still most of the children are polite, well behaved and know their limits – but the influence from the west is here and growing.
    And I don´t have a cloth dryer and never will :-)
    And yes men are mostly polite, they open the door for you, carry something heavy, or a bag for you :-) I would never shout at a man that does so :-)
    I like your article :-) but I cannot compare it to the America in the 50´s so I cannot comment on that.
    Thanks :-) for making me smile

  • I am an American who grew up in the 50′s. My grandparents were immigrants from turn of the century Slovakia when it was Hungary. They lived first in Chicago and then moved to a farm in Michigan.

    I remember that, year round, my grandmother had soup on the stove and, of course, the noodles were home made. She served it to my brothers when they replaced her roof during one of Michigan’s humid summers. They loved it!

    You’ve given me an understanding of my grandparents and to a great extant, my father. They all showed little sympathy for injuries brought on by stupidity. I laughed out loud when reading that section, thanks!

    I plan to visit my grandparents places of birth within the next year and you’ve provided much insight.

  • Everything you said is about right. But it is about right for about everywhere in Europe. You are making a comparison between the USA, and possibly the afflicted UK, and continental Europe. Slovakia is only incidental in this. If you had gone to Denmark, or Serbia, your comparison would have been identical.

    On the other hand however, you miss the negatives. Slovaks are totally useless at management. When it comes to anything more sophisticated than farming or hunting, they are Neanderthals, or they might as well be. The last thing you ever want to have anything to do with is a Slovak manager, boss, prime minister or president. They are blinkered monkeys at best.

  • Yeah, I just noticed the comment above by sheep 221. He or she basically kinds of nails it, but you know, it’s about elitism at the end of the day. When it comes to primitive people like the Slovaks, they’re either in the driver’s seat shouting a lot, or in the backseat being pretty nice. What you saw was the backseat.

  • What reminds me of America in the 50s in Slovakia is the emergency rooms in smaller towns. In Stara Lubovna, the hospital has a bench for you to sit and wait your turn. Then you will be seen by a doctor who has no equipment. They will draw your blood for testing, and you go home and wait several days for the result. Nurses have no formal training. I can’t speak about Bratislava, but in rural central and eastern Slovakia, it is best not to get too sick.

  • Well, most likely this is the first comment I’ve ever left :) Anyway, good ideas and good discussion.
    From the perspective of Slovak, raised in Slovakia but travelling a lot (including US) I would say, you are almost right. The “almost” mean what I would like to add – US and Slovaks are nations which could teach a lot from each other. Because:
    - Slovaks are independent, open-minded and quite self-aware (but US are quite alibistically, over-ruled, politically correct and artificialy possitive and smiling)
    - US are self-confident, easy-going and rewarding (but Slovaks are quite shy and “small”, reserved and more oriented on criticism than support)

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