May 12, 2012
The fact that so many Slovaks smoke (or spend time around smokers) and so many Slovaks use down pillows and comforters, which are hard to launder, could lead one to conclude that Slovak homes smell. But it’s very common to find Slovak homes 1. Spotless – you can practically eat off of the floor and 2. Devoid of odor – the indoor air smells as fresh and clean as fresh air outdoors.
Below are 4 tips from the Slovak village on making sure your place doesn’t smell. At first, I didn’t think much of the importance of these practices, but then better understood the importance of them when rooming with an American friend who had quite a smelly room after just a few weeks.
- #1. Each morning when you rise, open the windows for 10 or 15 minutes – do this every morning regardless of the weather. Let the fresh air come in. When it’s not deathly cold out, you can do this for a longer amount of time. By doing this every morning, you avoid that uncomfortable situation in which you have no idea whether or not your living space smells, but everyone else that walks by it definitely knows that it smells.
- #2. Unless the weather is rainy, each morning lay your bedding in the window. You can leave the bedding out extra long on really sunny days. Just take the bedding off your bed and lay it on the windowsill of the open window. These first two tips seem to be religiously followed in villages that I have visited, but I regularly see them being followed in big cities as well.
- #3. Every morning after you rise, walk around and spend 2 or 3 minutes picking up your things – never leave anything dirty laying around – like sweaty clothes, smokey clothes, or unlaundered clothes. Put away the things that don’t need to be left sitting out. A noticeable difference between most Slovak homes I’ve been in and many American homes I’ve been in is that clutter is more acceptable on the left side of the Atlantic than on the right.
- #4. Each Saturday, spend an hour tidying up around your home – do it for an hour each week and you won’t need to spend more than an hour doing so at any one given time. Vacuum the carpets each week, get down on your hands and knees each week to do the wood and the tile. Many a times I’ve been told by a Slovak girl (not usually a Slovak guy) that she spent part of her day Saturday “tidying up.” It seems to be part of the Slovak tradition to constantly tidy up.
Plus one more step from Slovak homemakers for the most diligent of you out there:
- This one might take a while to get used to, because I know quite a few people who like to wear their shoes when they are at home, but it’s a Slovak tradition to wear outdoor shoes only outdoors. Take off your shoes at the door. This is a cultural divide that it takes Americans a while to get used to in Slovakia. I have even heard Americans tell me they felt insulted that they were asked to remove their shoes at the door. Based on this cultural divide, one would think that Slovaks must be used to hearing sentiments like “Those unfortunate Americans are so uncultured that they grow up learning that they don’t take off their shoes when they walk into their own homes.” On top of that, Slovaks are so darn nice to their visitors every chance they get. Slovaks are so nice that they will even violate one of their own cardinal rules of housekeeping by saying to an American guest “Oh, don’t worry, it isn’t too muddy outside, you can leave your shoes on if you’d like.” That’s a way that you know your host or hostess is bending over backwards for you. You should then bend over backwards for him or her by entirely ignoring everything they are saying to you and removing your shoes that very moment against any protest they try to mount against your shoe removal efforts. You might be surprised how much less dusty a place is when you don’t wear your outdoor shoes inside. Some Slovaks even go so far as to take off their shoes at work – yes, the sandals and socks combination is a popular Slovak workplace ensemble. I even once worked at a school where all 400 students were commanded to dust off their shoes at the door, remove their shoes, and then either change into their schools slippers immediately upon entering the building or to walk in their socks to the coatroom where they would then put on their school slippers.
Those are 5 Slovak home-making tips that I’ve spied taken place and have reported back to you. Did I get any of these wrong? Did I miss any good Slovak tips? Do you have any easy and logical cultural housekeeping tips of your own that you have seen done in some cultures but not others? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Please share them with me in the comments section below.
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.