There’s always loads of differences when you move countries, hell that’s why you move in the first place, to experience different cultures. There are things that you love and things that you complain about intensely. I know from various Facebook groups that fellow Czech people always miss different types of flour that are so widely used in our homeland. For me, not being much of a baker, this was never a problem. Same with food in general. I actually never missed Czech food, probably because I never experienced the great family kitchen in our household. There were some things that have shocked me in a negative way moving from the UK/CZ to Australia, one was the wide presence of chauvinism in the workplace and the “innocent” unknowing racism. Lot of things have surprised me in a very positive way and others I have just accepted without further thought. Either way, the six years in Australia, without barely having travelled home, have shaped me more than I could imagine. Especially being a parent only there and nowhere else, I took a lot for granted. So not realising how much I have changed or how much I have adjusted to my new life, moving back to Czech Republic, my actual homeland, I was shocked at my culture shock.
The biggest one of all was the realisation that when you are a parent, you are so utterly uncool. Unless of course, you are one of the few that build their Instagram personas around parenthood. Actually utterly uncool is an understatement. Here, in this country it goes: the homeless, gipsies, mothers on maternity leave. I do not exaggerate. Parents are not welcome and their kids either. Basically when you become a parent, you can just forget that you used to love going to pottery studio openings, liked to drink good coffee and preferred places other than the playground. Oh no, you wait for your kids to be old enough or better yet, if you want to go, find a babysitter. One that will obligingly go to the playground and please don’t take public transport because who would like to listen to loud kids on the bus. Or you brave it, you do what the fuck you want and enjoy the stares. Because my kids are horribly behaved, spoiled and loud. Yes, I have been a mother for three and a half years and only in the last three months, I have heard all of these for the first time. I have also found out that if I don’t start managing them (seriously managing them) I will completely burn out and they will get out of hand. Bahahaha. A neighbour invited us to come and cuddle her puppies. I asked if I could bring my kids. She asked if they can be quiet. Let’s just say we are definitely not going to this neighbour’s house.
That’s not just people without kids, it’s not just the men, it’s mothers themselves that seriously agree with this general notion that kids are a nuisance, they are not simply part of life, they are loud and they shouldn’t be in public space too much and if they “misbehave”, they should be taken away until they are bearable again. My mother herself told me why don’t I go to a place where they have the kids corner instead. Well I don’t know mum, probably because the coffee there is shit. In general though, I try to avoid public dining and drinking these days because to be fair, it is not exactly enjoyable to be chasing a one year old, entertaining my three year old whilst also having a conversation, but at least when I did it on the Gold Coast, nobody gave me a second glance.
It’s so uncool to be a mother that mothers themselves often say that they hate the playgrounds. Why? Mostly because of the other mothers. They are too tense, too annoying. Well I am not surprised that they are so tense when everyone judges the shit out of them everywhere they move. Seriously, how weird is this cultural setting? When even the mums themselves, who know how hard it is to take care of tiny humans, the only people around you that also couldn’t pee in private that morning, have no understanding for you? On the Gold Coast, I went to the playground exactly for the other mums, to have a conversation, to know that I am not alone, to have a coffee with them in the afternoon and beer on a Friday evening because hell, it’s hard enough why do it alone? Why the judgement?
This is something that I didn’t expect, probably because of my Instagram bubble, I thought it would be just the same. Things are changing though, I have been told. Certainly not countrywide and not fast enough, it will be different for the next generation though. For now I just want to say to the lady serving me tea recently: there’s nothing that will happen to your pumpkin decoration when toddlers touch it.
On the other hand there were things I did expect, but it doesn’t make them easier to accept. The rude people. I have been called a dumb blonde because I parked in a place where it was absolutely allowed to park. The same gentlemen also informed me that it’s no longer communism, not everything belongs to everyone. He didn’t listen when I told him that I was born in 91 and that I didn’t actually experience communism and he further refused to either deny or confirm whether it was his private property. I got comments on my outfit from a guy on his cigarette break after I walked out of a pub. Why he thought I was interested in what he thought about my jacket baffles me. I got more than a few aggressive gestures from fellow drivers. Granted, it took me a few weeks to get used to new rules on the road, but nothing that required people losing their shit over it.
I also went to buy terracotta pots for my plants (to really start to feel like home) and the pots (the exact same pots, made in Italy) cost three times the price as they did in Australia. That’s often the case for a lot of things, yet the disposable income here is so much smaller. My therapist told me: and are you then surprised that people are so tense, so nervous, so stressed out? This frustration has to come out somewhere. Yes, I agree, frustration has to come out somewhere, but nothing is an excuse to be unkind to other people.
This sadness at general unkind behaviour and a lot of criticism of me as a parent has been countered by a lot of our amazing friends. Lot of which have come to visit us in our cottage regardless of the conditions of the house and I have been so unbelievably grateful. There have been some wonderful conversations happening here between the crumbling walls. Lot of wines have been finished and lots of breakfasts have been eaten in a joyful atmosphere.
I am not going to start on how expensive good quality healthy food is because I feel like I have said enough on this topic. Although when people travel to Poland and Germany to do grocery shopping, I seriously wonder whether the Czech history of occupation has shaped us into a submissive nation that just accepts anything that happens without much of a fuss. And please, for the love of god, stop forcing heavily processed sugary foods on my kids. It is not a treat a treat is treating them like equal humans with their moods and their emotions. I agree that in a country where lots of people eat their emotions in a form of a cake, it’s hard to understand, but I am tired of explaining this. Nobody needs sugar. Nobody.
I don’t think there has been much more that has surprised or shocked me here. It is, after all, my homeland. The longer I am here, the more I am starting to find what I need, the more it is starting to feel like a home once again, despite having left it for so long.
The fact that I am once more taking control of my life is really helping me to stop feeling like I am drowning. Yesterday I missed my therapy session because Lukas was working on our new terrace, kids were demanding as always at this hour and I have barely seen my phone at all that day so I missed the reminders and I missed the phone call. I month ago, I would have cried myself to sleep feeling like that very last piece of self care was taken away from me. Today I got through it and I actually had a beautiful morning. I dropped Josie in kindy and took Seby for a walk in the beautiful autumn sun in the historical part of our city (I call it our city now). I also managed to do something that wasn’t an absolute need but something that was purely for pleasure – after three years of owning this, I have gone to a frame shop and got my original Butterworth framed. I can’t wait to hang it. Things are turning around. I can smell it in the crisp autumn air.