Every Morning In The Village – 4 Slovak Housekeeping Tips

Slovak Housekeeping

May 12, 2012

Allan Stevo

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.

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  • I’m pretty much sure that every elementary/high school student is required to change his/her outdoor shoes into slippers in school.

  • You got that right, including shoes at school. I think all schools require change of shoes. I think it’s because american schools have carpet and you don’t see dirt on dark carpet as quickly as on the linoleum floor. I’m not sure, but I do know cleaning ladies clean school hallways during lessons and classes after school everyday, or at least they used to :) At work place, I think it’s more matter of comfort, who wants to sit at the desk in boots or high heels all day. Sadly, in this case I’m more american than slovak :(

  • I heard someone call the indoor shoes “healthy shoes” at that school you mentioned. I thought she meant that students would be wearing shoes that were better for their feet than the trainers they wore to school.

  • yes, you are right . Slovaks are obssessed with tidying up, especially in villages the house has to be “groomed” on Saturday and kept spotless during the week in case somebody drops in. Pedantic women would insist on taking off shoes although they might be easily shocked by an American wearing the sock with the hole, which is another difference between Slovaks and Americans. Slovaks are very “what the people say” – conscious .

  • I am from Slovakia and in our home( also in many other) it is ususal to vacuum and wash the floors(if possible) in all rooms on Saturday. Also whisking down spider webs (off the tall ceilings in old houses) is very common. But it´s nothing opposite the big cleanings that happen before Christmas of Easter. And all elementary and high schools require changing shoes into slippers. Teachers don´t allow you enter the room in outdoor shoes or wearing jacket. You left your shoes and jacket or coat in coatroom. For me it´s more comfortable to wear slippers instead outdoor shoes indoor.

    P.S. : Hope my English is not too bad.

  • wearing slippers at school is rather a matter of hygiene, because it is very unsanitary and unhealthy for your feet to be crowded in boots all day long. Apparently, your feet need to “breathe”, it means the less you wear on your feet the better. Espacially in winter it is impossible to wear outdoor shoes inside. However, in summer, if it’s not muddy outside, you can trick the guy in charge of shoes (usually the doorkeeper) and flip-flops or sandals all day. But still, if the teacher spots that you are not wearing slippers, he or she can make you to change it. I think that the lack of understanding is based on different concept of slippers here in Slovakia and in the USA. As far as I know, Americans only wear cute warm fluffy plush slippers in the evening, maybe after they have shower, but we have many kinds of slippers, from more formal for work to those warm and homy ones. And we definitely aren´t obsessed by cleaning! cleaning once a week is completely appropriate, sometimes even more often if necessary. But it doesn´t take too long, if 2 or 3 people put their shoulder to the wheel, everything is done in half an hour.

  • You haven’t mentioned a quite important aspect of shoes – slippers. Almost everybody wears them inside and they are the reason for phrase “papučová kultúra” (slipers’ culture) — stay at home, sit in front of TV wearing slippers instead of going out to a party.

  • I’m American, and I really like the custom of taking shoes off at the door.
    I’m not sure this is the appropriate place to ask this question, but I teach journalism in Bratislava, and I wondered if you would be interested in speaking to one of my classes? If not, no worries, of course, but I think the students — who are mostly Slovak — would be interested in your perspectives.

  • You dont follow these simple rules in America? I am astonished!
    In summer we do another thing, washing carpets outside the house at the courtyard. In villages many people have own well with electric pump. So we clean carpets with simple brush and soap and then wash it away with water from well. Whole family helps and it is quite fun.
    Greetings from Slovakia.

  • Another interesting article, Allan !! I agree with three of your four Slovakian Village Cleaning Tips: I find it hard to take apart my bed and lay out the bedding. It may be an Amerian Cleaning Tradition to ‘make your bed’ in the mornings, which is what I do. Don’t feel good if my bed isn’t made.

    I tidy-up before bedtime so that I have less cleaning-up to do in the mornings when I have to feed my cats and get myself ready to exercise, go to work, or to do other chores.

    I love the habit of opening windows in the morning; my Moravian mom did this diligently. I open them only when it’s cool outside and the air is fresh and not polluted with smog or smoke.

    The Slippers of Slovakia !! I had no idea that this seemingly Asian habit of using slippers indoors is so pervasive in Slovakia !! I tried it, and I don’t like it because I need more support on my feet cuz I walk around my sprawling house and yard a lot. And most importantly, since I go in and out of my house a lot because of yard duty, wearing slippers would be impractical because I’d be changing my shoes over a dozens times a day !

    My father liked wearing slippers. In fact, he wore them outside as well so they ended-up getting dirty and as far as I’m concerned, didn’t serve the purpose as ‘house slippers.’ He was also frequently cold during winter and I suggested that he should wear running shoes because they were warm and gave him more back support than his slippers did. He didn’t like running shoes.

  • I am Czechoslovakian, 80 years old and still wear my slippers in the house. And Yes, the cleaning at Easter and Christmas was something else!

  • What about the changing of the curtains in the spring for Easter and then again the fall.

  • Well, you know what, Martin? I am astonished at how Slovaks fail to follow the “simple rules” of getting on an elevator or off a bus. There is no need to get on either before people get off. “Simple rules” in one culture aren’t in another. Live with it and stop being provincial and judgmental. If it isn’t your house, don’t sweat it, and don’t comment.

  • Hi Larry, I am afraid you missunderstood Martin. Hi did not mean to offend you. I am so used to such habbits as mentioned Slovak tips above that I always thought that it is done everywhere all around the world. So I was also surprised that Allan offers it as tips for non-Slovaks

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